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!