How a Pediatric Emergency Doctor Transformed Into an Entrepreneur
Fueled by the health system's indifference to pain, Dr. Amy Baxter developed Buzzy, a simple medical device that uses ice and vibration to relieve patient pain.
With Mother’s Day just around the corner, we thought we would celebrate the special holiday by highlighting successful mompreneurs, and the companies they’ve created. From a serial entrepreneur to an emergency room doctor turned small business owner, here are five of our favorites.
Donna Harris, Co-Founder of 1776
When we sat down for an interview with Donna Harris earlier in the year, we learned a lot about what it’s like to juggle a thriving career and a family. As the mother to a young child and a serial entrepreneur, Harris is an example for mompreneurs everywhere, balancing her role as co-CEO of 1776—the global incubator and seed fund she co-founded—and the demands of a family. Yet Harris doesn’t mince words when she’s identified as a “female CEO.”
“Yes, I’m a woman, but could we please focus on the fact that I’m a successful entrepreneur as opposed to the fact that I’m female?” she told Free Enterprise. “I think that demonstrates where we are, which is we have an enormous recognition—finally—that the ratio is imbalanced in the tech world. And I think it’s great that we’ve recognized it. However, we’re short on solutions, so we end up having a lot of conversations about the problem instead of focusing on the things that are working to get to the point where it becomes irrelevant in terms of your gender.”
Lara Fitch, Founder of Strolby
For Brooklyn resident Lara Fitch, having a young family was, in some ways, the inspiration for Strolby, the company she founded in 2013. The idea for Strolby, an e-commerce platform that sells artisan products from small and local businesses in a number of U.S. cities, came from “strolls” Fitch would take around her neighborhood with her children.
“I’ve always been interested in small shops and at one point, living in Brooklyn, I just realized how much easier it would be if I could shop online in the little shops in our neighborhood than having to go to them on the weekends, which is when I had time to do that,” Fitch told Free Enterprise. “Out of that came Strolby.”
Though it initially only featured merchandise from a handful of Brooklyn-based shops, Strolby has expanded since then to include independent purveyors in Austin and Marfa, Texas; Chicago; and New York’s Hudson Valley.
Sharon Standifird, Creator of Ignore No More
Sharon Standifird has a long, impressive resume: She was in the military for more than a decade, she was a teacher, and now she’s an entrepreneur with a budding app empire.
As the creator of Ignore No More, Standifird caused a firestorm of publicity last summer when she launched her app, which enables a parent to remotely lock their children’s smartphones if they’re unresponsive. Once engaged, the app will only unlock if the child calls his or her parent, making it impossible for the recalcitrant youngster to ditch a parent’s calls.
As Standifird told Free Enterprise, her own children motivated her teach herself how to build and create her own app. “Last year around this time, I started talking to my husband about the situations we were having with the family,” she said. “The real frustrating and repeating one was that our kids were not answering our calls or texts when we needed to touch base or have them do something for us. And so I decided to start my own company and get into developing apps.”
Standifird doesn’t plan to be a one-hit wonder, though. She’s currently developing a number of other apps through Mountaineer Technology Ventures, the company she co-founded.
Dr. Amy Baxter, Creator of Buzzy
As a pain researcher and pediatric emergency room physician, Dr. Amy Baxter was intimately aware of how painful routine vaccines could be for young children. When her son had a very painful needle experience, Baxter began investigating what she could do to help improve the experience for him and other children.
Born of that quest was Buzzy, a device she spent years designing and developing through MMJ Labs, the company she founded. Resembling a friendly bumblebee, the original pediatric Buzzy works by desensitizing a specific area of the body; it’s then slid toward the brain to disrupt sensations from the actual needle poke. Since launching in 2009, Buzzy has found a spirited following, with some 1,200 hospitals and more than 45,000 users adopting it.
As Baxter told Free Enterprise, running a small business has been a rewarding experience for her, although not one without its challenges. “Doing the business part is exhilarating because it’s exercising a whole bunch of areas of my brain that I wasn’t trained to use,” she said. “But it’s also much more anxiety provoking because there are not absolute right answers, and I’m having to learn as I go.”
Tracey Johnston, Founder of Kickety Split
Tracey Johnston came up with the idea for Kickety Split after learning that one of her children had low muscle tone. Even though physical therapy greatly helped her daughter, Johnston was discouraged by the lack of high-quality active wear available for young children. Fueled by this realization, she founded Kickety Split, which designs and creates that kind of specialty clothing.
Though it at first focused solely on young girls, Kickety Split has since expanded to include a line for young boys. Fueled by the enthusiastic response she has thus far received, Johnston is looking squarely toward the future, with plans to continue growing her product offerings and reach over the next few years.
Alice Phillips and Christy Ambrose, both communications professionals with extensive corporate experience in several different countries, started a brand strategy and communications firm while on maternity leave before taking the leap to become self-employed full-time. They find their distance–Christy is on the west coast, while Alice is in London–is an advantage to their clients: They offer a global perspective and flexible, around-the-clock service.
Their roles as mothers help them frame the work they do for clients. Phillips explains on the firm’s blog.