Nikki Lamb was holding her 3 month old son and trying to make formula for him as he fussed and cried. Her husband asked her a question, and when she turned back, she’d completely lost count of how much powder she’d put in the bottle. One more scoop? Two more scoops?
In this chaotic moment of motherhood, Lamb was hit with an idea that critics hail as genius. What if there was a way, she thought, to make a cup of baby formula in the same way one uses a Keurig to make a cup of coffee?
Much like a baby, the idea for FormulaNow was born right then. It starts with the packaging of the patented NowCup, which is like a Keurig cup but with baby formula. It has shelf-stability like powders, Lamb explained, but the seal prevents it from premature exposure.
Part of what makes this possible is another patented technology Lamb and her team developed, called the internal puncture unit. This ensures that the formula makes no contact with the machine itself. This way, you can also use the FormulaNow for juice, coffee, hot chocolate, etc.
“The baby formula could go in, and the very next thing could be a French roast for mom,” Lamb said at 1 Million Cups Fargo yesterday.
Rather than create their own product and compete with major labels, Lamb decided FormulaNow would license their product out and give the NowCup option to those labels. Two years ago, a company got on board with their idea, and they toured the country talking to industrial manufacturers.
Now, Lamb said, they are working on an iteration of the next cup, which they hope will be finished in 10 weeks. After that, however, the company has to do accelerated shelf testing.
“So we won’t be selling the product for a minimum of 18 months to 2 more years,” Lamb said.
The entire process has required a lot of patience, she said. From when she first wrote the business plan in 2008, to getting patents and going through paperwork, to making phone calls to manufacturers around the world…it’s taken much longer than Lamb would have hoped.
And yet, the competition still looks the same as when they started, Lamb said.
“Manufacturers don’t like the ideas that are out there for something like this, for sanitary reasons,” Lamb said. “The formula goes through the machine which causes caking and cleaning afterward.”
They were able to get their product up and running with a lot of help from state resources, Lamb said, such as funds from Innovate ND, which they received twice. It took a lot of personal investment, too, a number which Lamb said, “she doesn’t want to think about.”
“We just had to show up,” she said.
Her advice to anyone at those beginning steps is to have bucket loads of confidence.
“Make those phone calls, and act like you’re important. Act like you’re somebody,” she said. “If you believe in yourself, the people you are talking to will believe you, too.”
Lamb encouraged the community to check out their blog and share their company name, as they prepare to take over the Keurig for babies market.
Photos courtesy of FormulaNow.