May 2, 2016

Vermonter to meet journalist who inspired her company

Sascha Mayer, co-founder and CEO of the Vermont-based company Mamava, has been invited to Los Angeles to receive a once-in-a-lifetime award.

But the Burlington entrepreneur said, “I’m not going, that’s how thrilled I am.”

She’s thrilled — not to miss out on the award ceremony — but to be in Vermont so she can finally meet the woman who inspired her vision.

“It’s the exact same day,” she said, referring to Tuesday, when she gets to meet Jodi Kantor, the New York Times journalist who inspired her company.

Kantor wrote a story in 2006 that sparked the idea for Mamava. On Tuesday she will speak at the Vermont Women’s Fund at the University of Vermont.

“She was very much a part of our origin story,” Mayer said.

After reading the story, Mayer and her co-founder, Christine Dodson, decided to create a freestanding pod for mommies on-the-go to use a breast pump or if they choose to breast-feed comfortably.

Jodi Kantor

Jodi Kantor

“They decided to act,” Kantor said Thursday on the phone from New York. “They wanted to find a way to fix the problem, so they spent a decade developing Mamava. Now 10 years later, they’re about to ship their 100th unit.”

Kantor said one of the most touching moments of her life came when she received an email from Mayer, filling her in on Mamava and thanking her for the article.

She’s thrilled — not to miss out on the award ceremony — but to be in Vermont so she can finally meet the woman who inspired her vision.

“I continue to be very moved by what they’ve done because I think they are a real example of the way journalism can move people to action.”

Kantor was even more humbled recently when she spotted a Mamava pod in LaGuardia Airport and — after just giving birth to her second child — she got a chance to experience it for herself.

“It felt kind of miraculous. … That was one of the most touching and moving moments of my career.”

During the Women’s Fund event, Kantor will speak about some of the work she has done in recent years on gender equality in the workplace and technology.

“My goal is to take the audience behind the reporting process and how we conduct these in-depth investigations.”

Kantor said she’s lucky in that she has months and months to work on a story which involves hundreds of interviews and several moving parts, including multi-media packages. She picks the topic and then must keep the story under wraps until it’s published.

Meg Smith, director of the Women’s Fund, said she had been doing research on speakers and came across Kantor’s name and bio under a story that she did onlast year.

“It caught my eye and I started doing some digging and realized her beat was gender, politics and workplace issues,” Smith said. “That’s right up the alley for the Vermont Women’s Fund.”

Kantor’s style is also something that Smith said was captivating.

“She’s not going after stories with a particular angle. She’s just interested in what makes people tick and then she starts looking at issues.”

The benefit from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday will also spotlight, an initiative of the Vermont Women’s Fund, the Vermont Commission on Women and Vermont Works for Women. This collaboration aims to fast-track women’s economic well-being in Vermont.

Tickets for Tuesday’s event are $50 per person and are available online at

As for the award that Mamava is receiving in California, Mayer said Dodson will be there to represent the startup.

But in the end, she thinks listening to Kantor’s keynote and meeting her for the first time, in the flesh, will be well worth it.

“I love that she has this tie to Vermont and to us. She’s an advocate for working people and families,” Mayer said. “She gives a voice to many people who don’t have a voice to speak out.”

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