Rachel Jackson runs one of the hottest startups in town, Rachel’s Remedy, which raised nearly $250,000 in seed funding and will soon be stocked across the United States at stores such as Babies “R” Us and Buy Buy Baby.
It’s been a whirlwind ride for Jackson, a corporate attorney who owns the law firm Jackson & Jackson with her brother. Since being challenged by her father to act on the idea she had long discussed – a moist-heat pack for breastfeeding women – she rapidly developed a prototype, got it approved as a medical device by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and pushed Rachel’s Remedy into the market. The company, now situated at the Z80 Labs technology incubator on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, generated early revenue in independent pharmacies and lactation stores. It’s an encouraging start. And it sets Rachel’s Remedy up for an ambitious next step: becoming a nationally recognizable brand.
What: Founder of Rachel’s Remedy
Where: Product found locally at the Care Connection in Amherst, Baby’s Sweet Beginnings in Lancaster, Reliant Rx in Amherst, Buffalo Pharmacies in East Amherst, Parker Pharmacy in North Buffalo and in the gift shops at three local hospitals: Women & Children’s, Sisters of Charity and Mercy.
I’d been practicing as a corporate attorney for 11 years by the time I was breastfeeding my first son. I experienced really painful and common conditions and I found there was no adequate remedy on the market. I actually had a lactation consultant tell me to lean over a bowl of warm water on my kitchen counter for 20-minute intervals, four to eight times daily. That sent me over the edge. I knew I had to invent something because I could easily see why women quit breastfeeding because of these frustrations and the inability to treat their conditions.
People can’t believe there’s nothing out there, that it has to exist because it’s so simple and obvious. But I did a ton of research to make sure it didn’t exist; a lot of patent searching and asking around. We formed the company in July 2014 and dove in full-throttle. When I do something, it’s all or nothing. We had a prototype by the end of August. We settled on flaxseed and I knew I wanted an organic cotton option because that’s what touches the skin. I knew I wanted it to be waterproof to protect clothes so women could wear it and be hands free because that’s the whole purpose of the invention. I wore them everywhere and I made my friends wear them everywhere. People would come to our house and I’d say, “Put this in your bra and tell me how long it lasts, how it feels.”
Right after we had the prototype I went to my patent lawyer and filed a patent in October 2014. Then I started asking people about manufacturing and ended up asking Arjang Assad (a family friend who was then-dean of the University at Buffalo School of Management). He introduced me to Tom Ulbrich of UB’s Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, and Tom introduced me to Marnie LaVigne at Launch NY. It was through Launch that I met my manufacturer, A Lunt Design in Orchard Park.
During my conversations with Tom, he asked if I had started the FDA clearance process. I told him I didn’t see this as a medical device. He said, “This is a medical device.”
We received our clearance from the FDA in five months, in May 2015, and now it separates us from all the other products on the market, along with our design and our technology, because it allows us to be reimbursable with insurance.
Regarding the long-term vision for the company, it could go several ways. We’ve already been approached by two big companies that want to white label our product. I have an email with a request for a first order being, like, 30,000 units. But I had to say no thank you with a tear in my eye because we are trying to build a brand and to start off white labeling would hurt our brand because we’d be competing against ourselves. Our technology can be used for so many different things like post-surgical care or women’s health products. It might be a matter of either really developing those or selling to a bigger company.
I feel like a year from now, we’re going to have a real platform in the big-box stores and in pharmacies, but also there is a real medical need for this in hospitals, doctors’ offices and with lactation consultants. I just talked to a head nurse of a local maternity floor. They’re still using diapers with hot water on some women with breastfeeding problems.
Perseverance is everything when you’re pursuing a startup company. That and having a great team. People are going to try and talk you out of it and there are so many ups and downs. You have to be able to get through the downs and know the ups are coming.
— As told to Dan Miner