Two years ago, Crystal Harris, 34, left her job as a work-from-home training developer to take a contract job in the same field. A mother of two, Harris and her husband decided that once the two-year contract was up, they would try for a third child.
Just one month into the two-year contract, Harris found out she was pregnant, leaving her to negotiate maternity leave in a position that otherwise did not offer it.
Having worked from home when her other two children were born, Harris was well-versed in nursing while taking calls and executing her work day. Going back to work outside the home, however, left Harris with the need many mothers have when returning to work—she would have to pump.
Pumping typically involves some level of disrobing, something that is difficult to do in the work place, especially as so many are ill-equipped when it comes to meeting the needs of their female employees. This thought landed Harris in her craft room.
With an elastic band and a few snaps, Harris fashioned the prototype for what would eventually become the Brauxiliary Band, making it possible for her to pump hands-free and work simultaneously.
When Harris returned to work after her negotiated leave, she learned that taking time off staying at home with her baby meant she had sacrificed the title and salary she had worked toward.
Harris headed to the nursing room and sat to pump using the apparatus she’d made for herself at home. She then got on the phone with an intellectual property attorney about her breast pump innovation.
This attorney began looking into Harris’s idea and found nothing like it that had been patented, so Harris got to work.
In April of this year, as she was researching for her product, she joined a Facebook group and found out about the InnovateHER challenge by the US Small Business Association. This competition “provides an opportunity for [women] entrepreneurs throughout the U.S. to showcase products and services that have a measurable impact on the lives of women and families, have the potential for commercialization, and fill a need in the marketplace.”
Harris entered the competition.
As an entry requirement, she first had to win a local qualifying competition — which she did, in Georgia. Now, she is one of ten hopefuls nationwide who competed in a live pitch competition Oct. 26. in Washington, D.C.
While Harris did not win one of the three monetary prizes, she said she plans to “keep growing the business online and will be rolling out an affiliate program for birth professionals and lactation consultants who want to represent the product.”
In speaking about the competition, Harris said the product was “well received for sure.”
Harris wants professionals to see that women can be everything—mother, professional, inventor—and still be just as efficient.
“People see a pregnant woman or a nursing mother and automatically think their work ethic and efficiency will suffer,” Harris says. “What I want people to see is that women can be everything, that, as our tagline says, ‘Boobs do it all.'”
Harris chose to take on this task for women everywhere, she says, having hard conversations along the way with men in leadership, giving them perspective of something they have not previously experienced, making space for women to be all that they are.
“My boss had not had this experience of being a woman, of having a baby and of having to supply for a baby while working,” Harris said. “When we make our voices known, we make it easier for everyone in the workplace.”
Photos: Courtesy of Crystal Harris