_Pregnancy & Newborn Magazine
Get to know: The founder of Kiinde
What happens when an engineer who studied at MIT becomes a father to two girls?
In the case of Kailas Narendran and his business partner (another MIT engineer), it meant developing a revolutionary breast milk storage system and starting their company, Kiinde, to put out products designed to help make busy parents lives a bit easier.
Narendran recently talked to P&N about his family, company inspiration, and told us just what it takes to start a business in the competitive parenting market space:
What was your inspiration for starting the Kiinde brand of products?
I have two daughters and our products are inspired by our experiences as new parents. My wife is a physician and felt very strongly about wanting to breastfeed both of the girls for at least the first year. Of course, life has a way of making these things not so easy! My wife was in medical school when our first was born, and started her internship by the time our daughter turned 7-months-old. Needless to say, her work schedule required that she pump and store milk, and I took care of many of the feedings.
The experience of trying to accomplish breastfeeding goals (requiring collecting, storing, preparing and feeding breast milk) was the primary inspiration for making a better system. Everything available on the market was woefully disappointing! At the end of the day, they did get the job done, but the whole process was much more complicated than it needed to be.
As an exhausted parent pulled in a million directions, we wanted something that required fewer steps and made our lives easier, as well as yielded a more natural experience for our baby. That was the genesis of Twist.
How did your engineering background play into your decision to start Kiinde?
My business partner and I are both engineers (friends from college). We’ve started a few companies together and always wanted to try something in the consumer space.
Being engineers definitely gives us an advantage because we don’t need to rely on any other party to make a quality product. At the end of the day, we believe that the quality of the product and service we provide is what matters most and our core skill set allows us to do that best.
Having that skill set under our belt was helpful for getting started as it mitigated a lot of the risk associated with starting something new. It’s pretty difficult to find good engineers as well as good designers, and fortunately that was one search we didn’t have to do!
Tell us about your family. Has your experience being a dad influenced your business strategy?
I’m the lucky dad of two smart and beautiful girls and husband to an intelligent physician. It’s hard to say what specific impact that has had on business strategy per say, as it’s something that is quite pervasive and must impact every decision I make to some degree. Being a parent definitely provides plenty of inspiration for new products, as well as an easy to access sounding board for various ideas.
If someone has an idea for a new product, what would you recommend they do to turn it into a successful business someday?
We love to encourage people to follow their dreams, especially as they apply to entrepreneurship. It’s the engine of our economy and a very fulfilling endeavor. That being said, it’s not for everyone! The odds of success are not good, and there’s plenty of stress: work, personal, and the intersection of the two!
The biggest piece of advice we give folks is that they need to understand the market before they get into it. Take your time to look at comparable items and make sure that you’re making something that people will actually buy. Think about how you’re going to distribute and promote it. Understand how you’re going to build and support it, as well as scale up when the time comes.
What is next up for Kiinde?
We’ve got quite a few ideas that are still in the transitional feeding space. Our brand has been defined by our disruptive offerings in segments that are quite stagnant. We have exciting ideas to continue that trend over the foreseeable future, so make sure you keep your eyes open!
Twist Gift Set
"Cutting down on bottles—or eliminating them all together—is amazing, and with the bottle warmer and other accessories included, you get some serious bang for your buck."
As a breastfeeding mom who recently went back to work, I’ve spent a great deal of time evaluating the many options for keeping my little one on breast milk while I’m gone during the day. As you might imagine, I was super excited to try out the Kiinde Twist, a breast milk collection, storage, preparation and feeding system. I’m happy to report, it didn’t disappoint.
I kid you not, it felt like Christmas morning opening the Kiinde Twist Gift Set because each item came individually packaged, so I got to “unwrap” everything one by one! I was a little bit intimidated by all of the pieces and parts, but I sat down and read all of the instructions once through, and it came together quickly and turned out to be quite easy to use.
The Kozii (bottle warmer) is awesome, and the best part is that it can be used not only with the Twist pouches but also with other brands of storage bags, plastic or glass bottles, and even food jars! It comes with a simple chart with suggested times for warming, taking the guesswork out of how long to heat milk/food. The only thing that would make the warmer better is if it made some sort of sound to let you know when the bottle is done heating. If you listen closely, you can hear an audible click when it shuts off, but there’s no alarm to tell you it’s ready. Fortunately, the warmer has a great safety feature that makes it safe if you forget to grab the bottle right when it’s ready—the warm water drains from the reservoir, so your bottles won’t overheat.
The Twist Pouches (breast milk storage bags) are durable and freeze well, and the fact that you can throw them out (no washing required!) is amazing. However, like many women, I don’t always have the same milk output at every pumping session, which means the bags often have uneven quantities when I pump directly into them. I found myself having to consolidate bags to make the right quantities to store, which then leaves a wasted bag—and no one likes that. (Especially because the bags are a bit more expensive than other brands, which, I imagine, is due to their handy caps (instead of the more common zip-style closure.) I ended up pumping into bottles and pouring the milk into the bags in the quantities I needed for storage. To me, this is the biggest downside of the Kiinde Twist Gift Set because the fact that you don’t have to wash any bottles was so attractive! However, I still have a lot less bottle washing to do, so even with my MacGyvered method I’m saving in that regard.
The Kiinde Squeeze (feeding bottle) is really unique. It’s a shell that holds the Twist pouches that the Active Latch nipple attaches to—in other words, it allows you to convert your milk storage bags into bottles and feed directly out of them. My little one is only 2 months old, so she isn’t holding bottles on her own, but I love the fact that she will be able to easily grasp the unique shape when she’s old enough. The Kiinde Twist Gift Set comes with Active Latch nipples with different flow speeds and cases for each. They have been great in helping my baby go between bottle and breast without any confusion or issues. You also get two nipple cleaning brushes that are handy.
The kit comes with several Direct-Pump adapters, so you can use your own breast pump to pump right into the storage bags. I had no trouble finding the right adapter and hooking up my Medela Pump In Style Advanced for leak-free pumping.
The Kiinde Keeper (breast milk holder and organizer) is a nice milk storage accessory for the fridge or freezer, but it only holds 12 Twist pouches, so it’s more of a daily use thing than a stocking-enough-milk-to-feed-an-army thing because its capacity is limited. It does fit other brands of millk storage bags as well.
Even though I personally have issues with getting even milk output (causing me to pump into bottles and then pour into bags), I would still highly recommend the Kiinde Twist Gift Set system. Cutting down on bottles—or eliminating them all together—is amazing, and with the bottle warmer and other accessories included, you get some serious bang for your buck.
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