Always be thorough. Taking shortcuts never results in positive long-term results. Whether it be in the R&D phases or in marketing endeavors, always be able to show why your product is the best and how it can be life-changing.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Ayal Lanternari and Asaf Kehat, co-founders of nanobébé, the newborn feeding product line disrupting the multi-billion dollar baby care industry by transforming the baby bottle as we know it. While the product only launched a year ago to the retail market, the company has quickly captured the eye of the media and the industry being named as one of the Best Inventions of the Year by TIME Magazine (winning the health and wellness category), labeled the “Smartest Baby Bottle Ever Made” by Business Insider, and recently featured on global television distribution of the Ellen DeGeneres Show. Best friends since childhood, Lanternari and Kehat share a mutual interest in innovation that set them up for an award-winning future. Both attended the notable Technion Institute of Technology where they were not only provided top-tier biomedical engineering degrees, but also the entrepreneurial tools for success. Nanobébé’s award-winning products have quickly become the brand of choice for modern breastfeeding families for being health forward without compromising on convenience and style. They have been flying off of the shelves and shipping into homes of new parents worldwide from retailers such as Target, Walmart, buybuyBABY, and Amazon.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Like many new fathers, I was appointed late-night feeding duty with our newborn. Many babies are used to instant gratification of breastfeeding, but when feeding from a bottle that needs to be warmed, crying is prolonged. With the goal of getting my son fed and back to bed, it occurred to me that the traditional shape of the baby bottle was inefficient. Not only does it take a while to warm milk, it also isn’t optimized to preserve the nutritional qualities of breastmilk. I reached out to my childhood friend and fellow biomedical engineer Asaf and we quickly realized that a change in the longstanding design of the baby bottle would make a significant contribution to babies’ health (through nutrient preservation) while adding additional convenience and filling a longstanding gap in the multi-billion dollar industry. Supporting new parents through their infant’s feeding journey is a mission we both strongly connect with.
Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
We had a unique journey to success. We saw huge opportunity and promise when signed with Babies-R-Us, the largest retailer in the baby industry at the time. We saw overnight success upon our launch, selling out twice within the first 2 weeks. When they suddenly declared bankruptcy, we had to quickly re-strategize. Making adjustments to our sales and marketing approach, we also had to navigate the ever-changing advertising landscape — specifically Facebook changing its visibility opportunities for companies making financial spend a necessity. We built a team that we knew could evolve with the changes and really believed in the company, through lots of brainstorming sessions and dedication we didn’t just strive, we thrived! We signed major retail giants as partners including Target, buybuyBABY and Walmart in the process.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
New parents, daycare providers and medical industry personnel started to contact us saying that our nanobébé bottle was a game changer. From new mothers returning to the workforce to women who want to expand the baby’s breastfeeding journey, we received feedback that our bottle was a positive impact in their lives. That’s our goal: to increase awareness and longevity of breastfeeding. As we grow, so does our vast community of supporting modern parents, and that is extremely rewarding to witness.
So, how are things going today? How did Grit lead to your eventual success?
Kehat: Our incredible team’s grit, hard work, and perseverance has really paid off as the company continues to gain recognition as a household name. Nanobébé was recently featured on the cover of TIME Magazine as one of the best inventions of the year (winning the health and wellness category), showcased globally on the Ellen DeGeneres Show and named “The Smartest Baby Bottle Ever Made” by Business Insider. Additionally, we won the coveted Kind + Jugend Innovation award, amongst others.
Making sure the research process was thorough was key for us. We wanted to actually make a difference when parents used our products; and babies’ health is at the core of our mission. Research and feedback has shown that our products help moms breastfeed for longer spans of time, while assisting moms in getting back to work or infants having difficulty with transitions from breast to bottle.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
In the beginning we honestly thought that we could revolutionize the entire industry with one product only. We quickly realized that in order to have that opportunity in the US retail market, one needs an array of innovative products (to create a brand). Moms buy brands, and there’s something to be said about brand loyalty. We set forth on a mission to build a collection that would appeal to today’s modern parents by using the highest quality products that take a health first initiative while not compromising on convenience and style.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our bottle truly is the first of its kind. Its innovative shape serves as a direct function to support and preserve the designated fluid. Breast milk is a biological fluid and requires different care than synthetic formula. Not only does our bottle preserve precious nutrients of breast milk that help with your baby’s development, it also provides all-in-one convenience to the feeding process. You can pretty much use our entire product line while holding your little one in your other arm. Our bottles and breast milk bags are stackable and use minimal space, and you can pump, store, warm and feed all from the same bottle. Since our shape is so similar to mom, we get so much feedback that this is the only bottle that babies will actually take.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Hire people that really believe in your mission, and develop a team with as much experience as possible with a broad array of talents. This way you are set up to face the many curve balls that come your way. To thrive, you have to keep enthusiasm and drive up to prevent burn-out. We hire people that are more like family, so we work in unison to support each other and celebrate success together.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
We wouldn’t be where we are today without several people that deserve acknowledgement. We are so grateful for Gil Lemel, who is the founder of Born Free bottle, the first to be BPA-Free, which at the time was a revolution in the baby-care industry which has become the industry norm. We were honored that he saw us as the next modern-day revolution to babies’ health.
We are also so thankful for the support of Anita and Jonathan Zucker, who stand as role models for using their resources to support causes in support of children and their health. We consider ourselves lucky to have partner in our company. In addition to being wonderful people, they truly understand our mission and vision of our product line to fill the gap in the baby care market with a product that truly makes a difference.
Furthermore, our entire team is our family. Their thoughts and recommendations influence company decisions daily. It’s important for us to acknowledge how much hard work is conducted on a daily basis and how dedicated our team is to the success of our company.
Finally, we would not be a success story without the wonderful families out there buying our products and showing loyalty to our brand, it means more to us than they will ever know.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
All positive change starts with innovation, and by focusing on health, these changes can steer us in a direction of a better future. We seek to change infant nutrition and its accessibility for generations to come. We’re filling that gap in the baby feeding industry which supports global health initiatives while preserving nutrients, convenience, and style to support the breastfeeding journey was never combined. We also donate breastmilk bags to milk banks around the United States to contribute to an initiative of infant health.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Have the courage to take risks. People have used the same shape of a baby bottle for centuries, so we had to take that risk in hoping that people would venture to try something new. We’re so grateful that our innovation has helped parents be able to focus on nutrients while not sacrificing on their convenience or style.
- Anticipate obstacles and always be one step ahead. This takes hard work and a strong team. Even if you can’t see a hurdle coming, if you have a strong team that really believes in your mission and works hard toward success, you’ll come out thriving. It’s so important to provide boundless support.
- Always be thorough. Taking shortcuts never results in positive long-term results. Whether it be in the R&D phases or in marketing endeavors, always be able to show why your product is the best and how it can be life-changing.
- Be upfront and honest. In the long run, it’s always best to be open with stakeholders and employees (which also comes with never taking shortcuts). If you really focus on building a relationship with everyone in your company, monetary success will be much greater in the long run than if you were to not put effort into building that part of the community.
- Never settle. There is always work to be done, and you can always strive to do more. We’re always innovating and expanding our product line. Even if there’s trial and error, the only way to progress is to keep that vision of success.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Making infant nutrition a focus through education and accessibility to all. There is a wealth of benefits breast milk provides newborns and infants both in their early years and way beyond, as defined by both the World Health Organization and the American Association of Pediatrics. If new parents can be educated to them, it only goes to support the health and well-being of our youngest citizens.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Of course! We’d love for you to be a part of the nanobébé family.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!