When UC Berkeley alumna Anna Sadovnikova launched her successful social enterprise devoted to helping pregnant mothers overcome the challenges of breastfeeding, she never expected that she would need to reinvent the entire program — transforming an in-person breastfeeding simulator into a virtual training program.
But that’s what she and her team did this spring.
Sadovnikova, who is pursuing a MD/PhD at UC Davis, realized that COVID-19 meant that “breastfeeding mothers were not going to have access to their usual in-person support.” In order to continue breastfeeding support while avoiding additional clinic and ER visits, a virtual platform for breastfeeding education was imperative for both mothers’ and newborns’ health.
For their novel innovation and successful pivot from the challenges posed by COVID-19, Sadovnikova and the LiquidGoldConcept team are taking home the Grand Prize Pitch award for the Big Ideas Scaling Up Contest, an annual contest that provides former winners of Big Ideas the opportunity to compete for additional funding of $25,000.
LiquidGoldConcept first won the Big Ideas Contest in 2016 for their Breast Massage Knowledge Bank, a platform that provides evidence-based, tailored breast massage videos in order to educate parents and health providers, and eventually grew into an in-person, simulation-based training program for healthcare professionals and trainees in clinical lactation.
In response to COVID-19, their pivot took place while Sadovnikova and her colleagues were finalizing their submission to the Big Ideas Scaling Up Contest. They shelved their in-person breastfeeding simulation operation and instead launched the Lactation QBank, an online training program for healthcare providers to build clinical decision-making and technical and counseling skills relevant to lactation support.
Sadovnikova presented the Lactation QBank on June 23 at the Big Ideas Contest Scaling Up Grand Prize pitch event before a virtual audience and panel of judges from the Rockefeller Foundation, +Acumen, and University of California Office of the President.
This year, four finalist teams (see sidebox) hailed from three universities, focusing on gender equity, sustainable food production, education for refugees in underserved communities, accessible medical care, and spanning from communities across North America, Africa, and Asia.
Big Ideas Director Phillip Denny said that although all four teams received high praise, the judges were particularly impressed by LiquidGoldConcept’s ability to transition rapidly to the changing environment.
Winning the Scaling Up award was a “surreal experience,” said Sadovnikova, “and the culmination of many years of persistence and hard work.” With the Big Ideas funding, LiquidGoldConcept will continue to develop and market its virtual platform to meet demand.
Shortly after winning the Scaling Up Contest, LiquidGoldConcept got more good news. They received a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I Award from the federal government to develop a high fidelity newborn simulator. They also have secured letters of intent from various lactation training providers from across the country and received commitments from angel investors for seed funding.
“The recognition by the Scaling Up judges was exactly what the LiquidGoldConcept team needed,” said Sadovnikova. “It was a vote of confidence in our ability to improve breastfeeding outcomes through healthcare professional education and build a great business with a large social impact.”