Creating Opportunity Cassie Hodges  | January 31, 2018

How cookies and baby steps led this pregnant mom down the road to business success

“There’s got to be a better way.”

The thought constantly ran through Dina Carey’s head, especially when she reluctantly stuffed yet another tasteless, calorie-filled lactation cookie into her mouth, trying to train her body to produce nutritious milk for her newborn daughter.

She was having problems producing milk, so she ate the cookies. The more she ate the cookies, the harder it was to lose weight. It was all taking an emotional toll. And the answer didn’t seem to be “eating these cookies,” she said.

“I really wanted to get back on track while still being able to healthily nurse my new daughter,” Dina said.

She’s hardly alone. In the United States more than 8 out of 10 mothers begin breastfeeding their babies at birth. As a healthy option for newborns, breast milk contains antibodies that help babies fight of viruses and bacteria. That number drops drastically to about 2 in 10 after six months because of the difficulties associated with breastfeeding, including consistently producing enough milk.

“But the options to breastfeed while losing weight are not good,” Dina told Free Enterprise.

Finally fed up, the nursing mom, who moonlit as cake baker, went to the kitchen and got to work.

‘Absolute Chaos’

After months of perfecting the recipe and getting the blessing of the Board Certified Lactation Consultants and Registered Dietitians, the recent culinary school graduate and young mother was excited to get these out on the market. Dina launched MILKFUL in October of 2016, starting in her house when she was pregnant with her second child.

But the journey to creating and building MILKFUL into the company that it is today – one that recently hit over $ 1 million in sales in just one year – hasn’t been all that sweet.

Between the balancing act of starting her own business, maintaining her day job, and baking nights and weekends while pregnant, to say she was a little in-over-her-head would have been an understatement.

“It was absolute chaos,” she said. “I was working part-time in local bakeries in Charlotte and baking our MILKFUL bars at night while trying to learn how to run a business and raise a family.”

After many conversations with her husband, Dina knew she would either have to give all of her energy to MILKFUL or she would need to walk away from this dream.

“I was trying to figure out what my path would be, and launching MILKFUL was the perfect platform to mix my passion for baking with my desire to help women,” explained Dina.

“I had to focus on what would be best for me, my goals, and my family, and after thinking through those things, I felt called and sure in my decision to leave the healthcare industry and move full steam ahead with MILKFUL,” said Dina. “

‘A life changer’

MILKFUL prides themselves on not being a “lactation cookie”, but rather a yummy and craveable snack – without the artificial ingredients, preservatives or unhealthy additions like hidden sugars that fills a void in the market place.

Sure enough, women flocked to the brand. Dina has heard from thousands of women who have shared their story and how MILKFUL has positively impacted their nursing routine.

“When I heard back from the women I have helped, I am confidently reminded that MILKFUL is more than just a food product – it is a life changer.”

In the spirit of being more than just a manufacturer of a food product, Dina has made it a priority to make her business a cornerstone for women empowerment. MILKFUL has built an educational component around the brand by equipping women with resources to help aid them in their journey to be a successful a new mom.

“We want to help mommies meet their goals and lend a hand during this stressful time. The most important aspect of our business and community is women – they are our inspiration,” explains Dina.

Dina had the honor to hire her first woman employee and make the move from small business owner to job creator in late 2017. “Becoming a job creator helped me grow into a better leader and think more strategically,” said Dina. “I think small business owners and entrepreneurs will agree with me when I say that it is scary to take the initial steps, and it can be scary throughout the journey.”

When asked on advice for budding entrepreneurs, Dina explained that you have to take entrepreneurship in baby steps and remain confident in your passions and ability. “To start your own business is not merely one big leap, you have to think big but start in small steps,” said Dina. “I think people intimidate themselves ‘Oh, I could never do that’ or ‘I’m not that type of a person,’ but I had to start thinking ‘Wait, this could be me, I could do this!”

“You have to be flexible, and you have to take failures in stride as educational experiences.”