The International Milk Bank, a Sparks-based company and future commercial breast milk provider, has been named the regional winner of the Small Business Administration’s 2016 InnovateHER Challenge, a national competition.
Eight competitors competed in the local InnovateHER Challenge competition, hosted by the CUBE at Midtown, a startup community center and business incubator in Reno. The competitors showcased products and services that meet three criteria. The product or service must have a measurable impact on the lives of women and families, the potential for commercialization and it must fill a need in the marketplace.
“International Milk Bank has truly embraced the vision of improving the lives of women and children by meeting the very real need of breast milk shortages around the world,” said Jill Tolls, adjunct professor of communications at the University of Nevada, Reno and one of the judges. “Their unique sanitization methods provides the safest substitute breast milk available for infants and provides an economic and altruistic benefit to the donors. In the end, women on all sides and the babies they nurture live enriched lives.”
According to Glenn Snow, chief executive officer of the International Milk Bank, the International Milk Bank plans on becoming a breast milk provider to hospital neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) and to mothers in need of additional breast milk.
“Our goal is to make sure if there is any baby that needs breast milk, they are going to have access to it,” Snow said.
Snow and his wife have been in the human milk industry since 2009 and created onlythebreast.com, a website dedicated to mothers looking to sell their excess breast milk to other mothers with babies in need.
“We ended up with so many mothers, literally 2,500 mothers a month, coming to our website to sell each other breast milk,” said Snow. “There’s such an overwhelming amount of donors that want to supply baby’s breast milk through our website and so many babies at the hospital level that don’t have it, it’s become our responsibility, really our calling, to put the two together and process the milk.”
Mothers who want to donate their milk can apply through onlythebreast.com. They will be linked over to the International Milk Bank, where they will undergo an in-depth screening process. The International Milk Bank will then process and sterilize the milk to ensure safety to the babies receiving the milk.
“We actually set up International Milk Bank to do two things: to serve the mothers needs and reimburse them for their milk, so they can continue to pump and provide it to us so we can process it, and then sell it to the hospitals where the premature babies are, where it’s life or death for them,” Snow said.
Snow said the International Milk Bank plans on selling the breast milk for a fraction of the cost of their competitors.
“We serve the mother’s needs,” Snow said. “That’s how we’re founded, that’s how we’re built. That’s really the heart of our company – to serve the mother’s needs first so they can serve the baby’s needs.”
According to the CUBE at Midtown, the annual demand for breast milk in the United States is about 72 million ounces, and only 8 million ounces of breast milk are currently being supplied each year.
The International Milk Bank hopes to close this gap with the help of their donor network and the development of their breast milk processing facility.
“We have the most significant processing, manufacturing facility ever designed in the world that’s being located in Reno, Nevada,” Snow said. “Reno, Nevada, will actually be the home of the world’s largest, highest volume, most advanced, human milk processing facility.”
The International Milk Bank will now compete against more than 100 winners of other regional competitions in the United States for national honors. Cash prizes for national winners are $40,000 for first, $20,000 for second and $10,000 for third. Microsoft Corp. provides the prizes, which will be announced in mid-March.