When New Englander Kaitlin Crehan got pregnant with her son Hudson, she began whipping up on-the-go cookies for her mom friends to help them boost their milk supply. When she started receiving multiple orders from friends—before their babies even arrived—she knew she was onto something. Kaitlin decided to take things to the next level, and launched Mama Needs Milk, a line of nutrient-dense, gluten-free lactation cookies to support nursing moms. They come in delicious flavors like Oatmeal Chocolate Chip, and are made with clean, superfood ingredients like chia and hemp seeds for healthy fats and brewer’s yeast for milk supply. We got to chat with Kaitlin about startup challenges, her love for chocolate, and connecting with her “mom tribe.”
R.K.: What made you start your brand? How did you first get the idea?
K.C.: I first got the idea because I was pregnant and had a bunch of mom friends pregnant all due before me. Everybody needs something when they’re pregnant, but as women we don’t tend to ask for help. In my circle, I knew the moms were all hoping to breastfeed and wanted to try that route. I went to a couple support groups for moms and on my own was working with a therapist because I was really worried about postpartum depression. We talked a lot about nutrition and how important it is for breastfeeding.
I had seen recipes here and there for lactation cookies, and loved the idea of having a quick, grab-and-go snack that tasted good but also packed a punch of health benefits. I tested recipes and gave them to my new mom friends, and I had a bunch of orders before their babies even arrived! I had one friend who ordered three dozen before her baby came, and she called me saying she needed another three dozen because her husband and her ate them all! The cookies are safe and good for everyone to eat, but the ingredient in it that helps promote milk supply is the brewer’s yeast.
R.K.: How do you source your ingredients and come up with the recipes?
K.C.: I have a mix for people to make for their friends, and also pre-made cookies! The chocolate chip one is the most popular, and they love that little treat as a pick me up in the afternoon! I get my ingredients from Whole Foods and Thrive Market, since I can get affordable ingredients.
For the recipe, it took a little trial and error to figure out the perfect combination especially because I wanted it to be healthy and not full of sugar, and just be a nutrient-dense cookie rather than spiking someone’s blood sugar. I made maybe five or six different batches to get exactly what I was looking for, and I had friends to taste test so their feedback was super helpful. At the end of the day, it wasn’t just for me to consume.
R.K.: What’s your favorite flavor?
K.C.: I love chocolate, so I have to go with the chocolate chip! I think I’ve eaten the most chocolate ever in the past year.
R.K.: What did you have to learn the hard way? Any particular challenges along the way?
K.C.: It’s still new, so I’m working through challenges right now just as far as getting all the appropriate things in order. It’s been a lot more work than I realized! I just thought I could make these cookies and sell them on Etsy, but there’s a lot of things that have to happen on the backend for it to run full speed ahead. And things are very different state-to-state. When I first started, I was in Massachusetts and wanted to do farmer’s markets which ended up being a lot of work as far as permits and such. I’m now in Connecticut so we’ll see how that changes things.
R.K.: Has there been a benefit to starting your business in the New England area that you don’t think you’d get elsewhere?
K.C.: It’s hard to say because I’ve only ever lived in New England. However, if you find moms-to-be, there’s a market anywhere. Being in New England and Boston in particular was the perfect market for the cookies! There’s just so much support and mom groups. The community was a huge benefit! A wonderful couple started a Boston Babies Children Swap, which was a great way to connect with parents-to-be and meet people.
R.K.: What would you love to see in the New England food and wellness scene that you don’t now?
K.C.: I feel like a lot of people are very misinformed or they see something on TV and think, “Oh I need to eat this way.” I feel like there needs to be more of a focus on eating for your health and wellness, with less focus on deprivation and the fad things. More trusted resources and attainable goals for people!
R.K.: What other local food and wellness brands are you a fan of?
K.C.: I’m a huge fan of Downeast Cider and Spiked Seltzer while we’re on the topic! 88 Acres is great and their Apple & Ginger bar is my favorite! I also really like LesserEvil Popcorn out of Connecticut. And I’m a huge fan of Teddie Peanut Butter!
R.K.: Who has been the greatest influence or role model in starting your business?
K.C.: Everyone has been super supportive. My mom and all my mom friends have been cheerleaders along the way. Family. My husband. All the important people!
R.K.: Do you have a favorite quote or business mantra?
K.C.: “The dream is free. The hustle is sold separately.”
R.K.: Where do you hope to see your brand in the next two years?
K.C.: I would like it to become more well-known, and have a little mom tribe of women that is interested in Mama Needs Milk cookies or mixes. I’m really passionate about the concept and I just want to be there for other moms and moms-to-be! I want to be able to offer the same support to other moms especially those who are new to an area or having a hard time meeting people.
R.K.: What advice would you give someone looking to start their own wellness or food business?
K.C.: Just go for it! You’ll come up with so many more reasons to doubt yourself than you will to give yourself the go ahead to just do something. I said, “I’m just going to do this and go for it!” I went for it and now I’m figuring it out after. If I had done all the research I probably never would have done it. Go for it and try it, and if it doesn’t work out the worst thing that happens is that you tried it!
R.K.: Here at The W.E.L.L. Summit we like to say, “Your vibe attracts your tribe.” How would you describe your vibe?
K.C.: I would say that my vibe is pretty approachable and compassionate. I feel like I meet a lot of people who just want to tell me about their life within five minutes of meeting me, so I must give off a compassionate sort of vibe.
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