Dina Carey discovered starting your own business requires a little humility, and a lot of support.
“I’m very honest with myself about the challenges that come with running my own business,” says Carey (BBA ’07) founder and CEO of Milkful, “so the team I’ve surrounded myself with is so important.”
Milkful creates wholesome, lactation bars for nursing moms looking to support their breast milk production. Carey started the company in 2016, and now has several founders of other successful consumer packaged goods businesses, marketing executives and a functional medicine physician on her advisory team. All are instrumental in the success and growth of Milkful.
“My team has given me the most confidence in my business,” she says. “Leveling up my team with people who have been there and done that and grown businesses in this space — there’s nothing more valuable.”
Carey’s journey with Milkful began after the birth of her first daughter. Motherhood can bring newfound joy and perspective, but this milestone for Carey presented an unexpected challenge — and an opportunity.
“I experienced challenges with breast feeding and low milk supply,” she says. “When I couldn’t provide for my daughter the way I wanted to, it was really devastating and impacted me in ways I never anticipated.”
Carey quickly realized she was not alone, and it spurred her to action.
“I had several friends that experienced it,” she says. “This is a common problem that a lot of women face. So, I started digging into the research, investigating ways to up my supply and searching for products that were out there that might be able to help me. I was shocked to see that, at the time, the only food product available was a cookie. I saw it as an opportunity, and I decided I wanted to try and create something better — a more wholesome snack that was effective for moms looking to boost breast milk production.”
Carey experimented with different ingredients and recipes in an effort to shape an effective, nutritious lactation bar for women. In October 2016, after several months of research and product testing, Milkful was born.
“As soon as I heard from the first couple of women telling me they had seen increased production, and they were able to hang onto nursing longer because of my product, it lit a major fire in me to pursue the opportunity whole-heartedly, and was the start of an incredibly rewarding journey for me” she says.
Milkful’s growth exceeded Carey’s expectations, surpassing $1 million in sales in its first year alone. The success has spurred a new line of products, with the Milkful brand transitioning to “Nourisher” in the coming months.
“We are now working to become the trusted brand supporting women throughout the entire motherhood spectrum — not just with nursing, but with pre-conception, pregnancy, and postpartum needs as well,” she says. “Our next product line is a Pre & Postnatal Nutrition bar line with superfoods to nourish pregnancy and support postpartum recovery, as well as probiotics for gut health.”
Carey looks to the future with confidence, having survived the growing pains of starting a business and now has a company people rely on and return to again and again.
“Consumers are craving real food solutions and quality ingredients,” she says. “They want their food to serve a functional purpose to better meet their needs.”