Jane Chen, Leeda Rashid, and Casey Georgeson on sav­ing pre­ma­ture ba­bies

Bloomberg Businessweek (Europe) - - CONTENTS - BY KAREN WEISE

● THE SO­CIAL EN­TRE­PRE­NEUR

JANE CHEN helped cre­ate the EM­BRACE Warmer for pre­ma­ture ba­bies. She wants to ex­pand its use in the de­vel­op­ing world.

Q: WHAT IN­SPIRED THE EM­BRACE

WARMER? A: There are 15 mil­lion preterm ba­bies born ev­ery year, and one of the big­gest prob­lems they face is stay­ing warm while reg­u­lat­ing their body tem­per­a­ture. In In­dia we saw there was of­ten no elec­tric­ity for in­cu­ba­tors, plus no­body was trained on how to use them. Then I started go­ing to vil­lage set­tings. One of the first women I met was a mother in South In­dia who gave birth to a baby two months pre­ma­ture. She took her baby to a vil­lage doc­tor, who told her to go to the hos­pi­tal. The hos­pi­tal was over four hours away, and she didn’t have the means to get there, so her baby died. We re­al­ized we needed a so­lu­tion that worked with­out elec­tric­ity and is easy enough for a mother or mid­wife to use. We came up with the Em­brace Warmer. It looks like a sleep­ing bag for a baby and uses a wax­like sub­stance, which, once melted, main­tains the same tem­per­a­ture for eight-hour stretches. We’ve helped more than 200,000 ba­bies in 14 coun­tries.

Q: WHAT’S NEXT? A: It’s hard to just rely on do­na­tions. We still are owed pay­ments from two years ago that we’re prob­a­bly never go­ing to get. We wanted to im­ple­ment a Toms Shoes model, which is buy one, give one. We’ve just launched a prod­uct line for the U.S. mar­ket called Lit­tle Lo­tus. It’s a col­lec­tion of swad­dles, sleep­ing bags, and blan­kets for healthy ba­bies. On the inside, they use mi­crons of the same wax we use in the Em­brace Warmer to keep ba­bies at the per­fect tem­per­a­ture. Par­ents are telling us ba­bies are sleep­ing longer. The for-profit spinoff will hope­fully fund the ex­pan­sion of the baby warm­ers in the de­vel­op­ing world.

● THE IN­TER­NA­TIONAL DOC­TOR

LEEDA RASHID has seen how Em­brace can make a dif­fer­ence in places such as Afghanistan, where she runs a health non­profit.

Q: HOW DID YOU CON­NECT WITH EM­BRACE? A: My hus­band, who’s also a physi­cian, and I looked through the tech­nol­ogy and some ba­sic re­search that was al­ready done at Stan­ford on the Em­brace, and we thought, my good­ness, this is very ap­pro­pri­ate for hos­pi­tals in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is no­to­ri­ous for poor grid ac­cess. If you’re a hos­pi­tal that hap­pens to be in a neigh­bor­hood that has a lot of rolling black­outs, you’re not go­ing to be able to use a lot of the med­i­cal tech­nolo­gies out there. Through our non­profit, we’ve de­ployed up­wards of 75 to 80 of the warm­ers [in Afghanistan]. We’re in four of the largest public­sec­tor hos­pi­tals. We’re at a lit­tle more than 10,000 uses over the last three years. We’re now work­ing to do what the min­is­ter of health wants. He says the prod­uct needs to go out to ru­ral Afghanistan. That’s where a lot of the de­liv­er­ies are hap­pen­ing, and there is vir­tu­ally no elec­tric­ity there.

Q: THE RU­RAL SET­TING MUST BE EVEN MORE COM­PLI­CATED. A: Our first step is to start us­ing them in pub­lic am­bu­lances. On a re­cent trip, I was as­sess­ing the am­bu­lance sites to see if Em­brace can be used dur­ing de­liv­ery be­tween some­one’s home, or from a ru­ral clinic, to the larger, dis­trict-level hos­pi­tals.

● THE CON­SUMER

Lit­tle Lo­tus, a spinoff prod­uct, will also con­nect moms around the world, says mother of three CASEY GEORGESON.

Q: HOW DID YOU LEARN ABOUT LIT­TLE LO­TUS? A: I went to busi­ness school with Jane. I was hav­ing my third lit­tle girl. My lit­tle one was about 3 months old when the fi­nal prod­uct came out. We had been us­ing swad­dles and had just switched over to sleep sacks, and that tran­si­tion was re­ally hard. Jane sent me one, and I was, like, OK, we’ll try it. I was skep­ti­cal. I put it on her for a nap, and I kid you not, she took a three-hour nap. She had been tak­ing 30- to 60-minute naps.

Q: HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE BUY-ONE, GIVE-ONE MODEL WITH THE EM­BRACE WARMER? A: I gave a Lit­tle Lo­tus to my cousin at her baby shower two weeks ago. She opened it, and I told her the story of how Em­brace is lit­er­ally sav­ing the lives of ba­bies around the world. All of these moms and grand­mas and aunts and un­cles were just so touched. It’s an amaz­ing way t o con­nect with other moms around the world.

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