This article was written for our sponsor, the Town of Chapel Hill.

Thanks to resources like Launch Chapel Hill and the Kenan-Flagler Entrepreneurship Center, Chapel Hill has an established reputation as a hotspot for startups. But as the startups fostered in the town grow, it’s also becoming a base for nationally recognized companies, as well.

Take Sweetie Pie Organics, for example. After working with several instant formula and baby food companies, founder Liliana Cantrell recognized a need for organic, functional foods for breastfeeding moms. While she started her business in Chapel Hill, it has since grown to a nationwide level, with distribution in Target, Walmart, Harris Teeter and more, as well as on Amazon.

“More and more, moms want to breastfeed, and about 80 percent of moms actually make the decisions to breastfeed before they give birth to their baby. But 70 percent of these moms have a problem with their milk supply,” said Cantrell. “I created Sweetie Pie Organics to help these moms solve a problem with their milk supply and boost it. It’s a fast-growing market, and many people don’t realize how important breastfeeding is.”

Sweetie Pie Organics offers breastfeeding mothers products like lactation smoothies and bars and nausea relief drops. Each product is made with vitamins and nutrients made specifically to aid mothers in increasing and supporting a healthy milk supply.

In creating Sweetie Pie Organics, Cantrell took part in the Launch Chapel Hill Accelerator program, giving her access and exposure to the area’s vast entrepreneurship ecosystem. Cantrell was also mentored by an Entrepreneur in Residence — a qualified entrepreneur or resident selected by Launch Chapel Hill to aid several startups in the program every year.

Each ER brings a different skill set to the Launch program, from financial savvy to service-oriented experience.

“What Liliana was trying to do was raise some initial capital so that she could go out and hire one or two people and expand her sales and marketing. She was in a position where she was essentially selling what she could make and generating enough cash to keep the doors open, but she needed to get a little bit ahead of the game by raising capital,” said Scott Albert, Cantrell’s ER and a venture capital and angel investor focused on technology investments. “She needed to put together a more complete set of integrated financial statements, which is pretty boring, but every company has to do it — because once you figure out how much money you need to raise and when, you can then start to focus back on who the potential investors might be.”

With the help of Albert, Cantrell was able to get connected to the right resources and people that helped her meet these financial benchmarks. Sweetie Pie Organics had the benefit of Cantrell’s prior professional experience, but thanks to the Launch program’s ability to meet entrepreneurs where they are, the resources are helpful for companies in any stage.

“What we try to do with any company is look at what stage they’re in and be able to moderate our advice and our input based on where they are. If they’re a pure startup, they’re not going to have a true financial model, because it’s going to be at a very early stage. In that case, we would shift our advice and counsel to helping them do things like identify their market opportunities, value proposition, beachhead market and so on,” said Albert. “With Lilian, she was an established business person who had good experience, so she was able to come into Launch with an existing product and leverage the resources and people at Launch to get plugged into the community.”

For Cantrell, Sweetie Pie Organics is a way for her to support mothers throughout the nursing period. Since launching her company, Cantrell has discovered just how sorely more resources for new mothers are needed.

“Only half of moms actually come back from maternity leave to their workplace, and the number-one reason is lack of professional medical support — especially if you are breastfeeding and this is your first baby. But if they have adequate support from a medical professional, this number greatly increases,” said Cantrell. “With that in mind, we’ve launched a new venture called iMama, which offers lactation support on demand, like telemedicine. We hope to see employers offer this as a benefit for their employees.”

Not only will the iMama solution help support new mothers, but Cantrell also sees it as saving money for companies in the long-term, since they won’t need to hire new employees if a new mother leaves.

Formatted as a digital health platform, the service will offer breastfeeding tracking, virtual access to a lactation consultant and cumulative nursing data. The company already has their first client, and Cantrell hopes as more people in the workforce seek out jobs with family-friendly benefits, iMama will gain more steam.

With both Sweetie Pie Organics and iMama, Cantrell sees the unique entrepreneurial environment of Chapel Hill as being a significant factor in her growth.

“It’s a great place of business. Chapel Hill has people who have expertise or have started their own businesses, and you’d be surprised how helpful people are and how generous they are with their time,” sid Cantrell. “As a part of the Launch ChapelHill accelerator, I got access to the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Since I started the business alone, it helped me get exposure and connect with so many people that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to meet.”

This article was written for our sponsor, the Town of Chapel Hill.