Laura Modi & Sarah Hardy
Laura: CEO + Co-Founder, Bobbie
Sarah: COO + Co-Founder, Bobbie
Laura & Sarah are two powerhouse moms who are no strangers to early stage start-ups and disrupting traditional markets. Both founders come from Airbnb where they were trailblazers; Sarah was Airbnb's first mom to return from maternity leave and wrote their first parental leave policy when she realized there wasn't one.
Their company, Bobbie was fueled by personal experience and a shared passion to help moms all around the world. In their own words, "We exist to bring peace of mind to parenting by shifting the scrutiny of how we feed to what we feed. Simply put, if you choose to feed your little one formula, it should be undeniably good, and we will be here to support you whatever your decision."
Sarah and Laura and incredibly inspiring and are working to remove the stigma of choosing formula and helping moms feel supported in their feeding journey. Read our full interview below on why they created Bobbie, advice on returning to work from leave, and so much more.
The Returnity Project: Tell us a bit about yourselves, your families and your careers
Laura Modi: CEO + Co-Founder
Laura Modi is CEO and co-founder of Bobbie, and a mother of three to Mary, Colin, and new baby Owen (born mid-pandemic in May of 2020) . As the operations lead at Airbnb for more than five years, she’s no stranger to early stage start-ups and disrupting traditional markets. Laura founded Bobbie in 2018 after her own breastfeeding plans didn’t go as planned. She turned to infant formula and found herself disappointed in the quality of ingredients and lack of options in the US. As a passionate mom who believes in transparency, quality, and ingredient choices, she also sits on the Board of Directors Real Food, a non-profit organization that works to improve school food. Laura raised 2.4 million from Silicon Valley investors while pregnant with her second baby and in 2019, 4 million in additional seed funding while pregnant with her third child. Bobbie launched in January of 2021.
Sarah Hardy: COO + Co-Founder
Sarah Hardy leads operations and supply chain for Bobbie as our COO and Co-Founder. She brings over 15 years experience in operations, strategic planning, project management and managing third party vendors to the team. Prior to joining Bobbie, Sarah spent 7 years at Airbnb in leadership roles for both people and customer operations, where she and Laura first partnered. As Airbnb’s first mom to return from maternity leave, Sarah wrote their first parental leave policy when she realized there was none. As a mother to a 4- and 6-year old and with countless hours spent locating and importing German formula for both children, Sarah is passionate about bringing a new option to parents and delivering to their doorstep quickly.
TRP: Tell us about Bobbie and what inspired you to start it.
Bobbie is fueled by personal experience. When I had my first baby, Mary, I was simultaneously climbing the ladder at Airbnb and chasing my career. It quickly became apparent that my idealistic view of being able to exclusively breastfeed while also working a full time job at a fast growth company could not go hand in hand. I felt like we had have been given false expectations by society. Then when I found myself quietly turning to formula, not only was I riddled with guilt but I was disappointed in the options off the shelf that had ingredients I wouldn’t feed myself (most notably corn syrup). I wanted to create a top quality infant formula, but I also wanted to create a company that calls BS on the stigma of choosing formula and helps moms feel supported in their feeding journey.
For me, I couldn’t keep up the relentless pumping schedule and realized that many friends were actually importing European formula from a black market. This totally blew my mind. How is it that American parents were willing to sacrifice safety for what they felt was a quality product? I wanted to join Laura in her mission, solve for the largest black market of our generation and build a company culture that wholeheartedly supports working parents, particularly new moms.
TRP: Many of the stories we feature on our page focus on both the challenges and beautiful moments of motherhood; specifically the return to work. What was the return to work like for you?
EXPECTATIONS! Returning to work after my first child was all about re-setting expectations! Both for me personally and those I worked with. I was a workhorse, I would get in early and stay late, I worked late into the night and was always available. This 'always on' was not sustainable after having a kid, I had a new, bigger responsibility I needed to prioritize; My daughter. The mindset shift that my daughter was now my first priority and work being second (and not feeling guilty about it!) was not an easy adjustment -- that meant not hanging out at work past 5:30pm (close the laptop and walk out), it meant being more efficient during my working hours, it meant re-setting expectations about my schedule and timeline with colleagues.
But also the most formative thing happened, I felt this new growth and confidence in myself being in work and coming home to my little one, I had new energy, fuel and ideas --I felt like the unstoppable working mom and that feeling hasn't gone away.
My daughter Bea arrived and we got the hang of breastfeeding pretty easily. That is, until I had to return to work. And the realities of breastfeeding hit like a ton of bricks.
The truth is the math wasn’t working out for me –– I simply didn’t have upwards of 35 hours a week to continue exclusively breastfeeding while working a full-time job. And I remember sitting in that pumping room at work just watching my supply dwindle. I limped my way to 6-months before quietly transitioning to formula.
It was impossible to reconcile the tension between trying to live up to the expectations of exclusively breastfeeding to be the best mom possible and career which brings meaning to my life. The experience fundamentally changed me in a lot of ways – including a decision to pivot my career into People Operations right after returning to work – to focus on programs and evolving our culture to support the parents behind me.
And today at Bobbie where we can normalize that there is no normal feeding journey –– and we are here to support parents in whatever their journey is.
TRP: How do you support parents at Bobbie returning from parental leave?
One of the hardest parts of returning to work is leaving your baby cold turkey. So in addition to a generous maternity leave policy, we do a full month of Return-to-Work, where parents essentially work 3 days a week and get paid full time -- ensuring they have time to transition to their new balance of work and family.
We've hired a 3rd party paid leave specialist who helps with one of the more confusing aspects of parental leave -- filing paperwork! The paid leave specialist also works with Bobbie parents to understand what leave they qualify for and how to design the parental leave plan that works best for them and their families. Think of it like a neutral advocate who is well versed in federal & state leave protections, as well as Bobbie's company policy.
Every parent returning to work goes through a lightweight on-boarding -- catching up not only on what's changed since they've been out, but a full overview of current priorities and changes on the team... coupled with a celebratory team moment to welcome them back
Oftentimes start-ups of our size don't prioritize benefits like health insurance or flexible spending accounts due to the cost associated with it. These are table stakes for parents, which is why Bobbie's benefits and perks have been designed with families in mind, including a free year of Bobbie and breastfeeding support.
TRP: What advice would you give to other working parents--specifically moms?
Ask for permission; There needs to be permission for personal/professional flexibility, permission to have a kid on your lap while working, permission that returning to work after having a kid will mean lower productivity -- and also, don't be apologetic about it. Set the norm by showing what your reality is rather than pretending things are totally buttoned up behind the zoom.
As a working parent you need to have ruthless prioritization in order to feel some kind of “balance.” You will never be able to make everyone happy, accomplish every single task, or reply to every email in a day. That’s ok. Prioritize, compartmentalize, go to sleep knowing you were able to check the major projects off your plate- whatever is left can be bucketed into the next day!
TRP: What are you most proud of?
I'm extremely proud of our team's steadfast commitment to change this industry and furthering our mission to shake the stigma on formula; I am in awe watching them take ownership in pushing policies, raising standards and bringing transparency to a needed market. Believing in what we do, the why behind our company, fuels us through the late nights, the zoom calls and ultimately is a priority over selling product.
In a time when women- moms in particular- are getting laid off or forced out of the workforce by the millions- we are proud to be a company actively hiring heavily pregnant moms and moms returning from maternity leave. We have 16 people on our team with 22 babies between us. We are consciously building a culture that supports moms in this new normal of remote work when we also have so much happening under one roof in a day. We know first hand that flexibility is the most valuable perk a company can offer to support working parents right now and we hold ourselves to putting that at the forefront of our company and our culture.