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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

Bodacious optimism: How to put the bounce in your business idea

No matter your industry or position, the tenets of bodacious optimism can help steer you through uncertain times. 

Bodacious optimism: How to put the bounce in your business idea
[3dsculptor/Adobe Stock]

Mamava, the company I cofounded with Christine Dodson in 2013 in Burlington, Vermont, was born to solve a problem: When breastfeeding parents returned to work, they often had no place to pump. So we designed a simple solution—a freestanding lactation pod and a mobile app that would help parents find the pods and thousands of other public lactation spaces. Almost 10 years later, breastfeeding initiation rates have increased from ~75% to ~84% in the U.S., and in many public locations, you will see a designated lactation space or one of our pods.

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Our ability to create a category that could actually put a dent in culture was propelled by a sense of “bodacious optimism”—an audacious sense of confidence about the future and the successful outcome of our business vision. Now a core company value, bodacious optimism informs the everyday culture of our workplace. No matter your industry or position, the tenets of bodacious optimism can help steer you through uncertain times.

COMMIT TO YOUR IDEA

No matter your idea, invention, or concept, if you don’t have an unwavering belief in it, no one else will. Period. And, even then, plenty will doubt you. So you need to have a steady surplus of faith in your idea to outweigh the naysayers and forge ahead. Sometimes this means bluffing your way into new opportunities. We convinced our local airport to place the very first prototype, and then we placed it at our own expense and held a press conference. The story got picked up nationally and internationally and launched the company (all this was prior to having a sales team or even a concrete business plan). As a direct result, we received hundreds of calls and emails from people who wanted to buy the product or work for the company. In those early days, all we had was a primitive spreadsheet to track all of the interest. If we weren’t committed before this moment, we certainly were after.

SHARE YOUR STORY

A lot of great ideas never turn into great products or solutions because they stay stuck at the level of abstract theory or “what ifs,” or kept secret by entrepreneurs who lack confidence to share their concepts early on. Ideas only materialize when you can clearly articulate why your idea matters, and then can convince others to see your vision. Personal experience—though not necessary—can help you understand the problem you’re trying to solve, and better yet, help others like investors and customers grasp it too. Christine and I both pumped in enough dirty public bathrooms to know that mothers deserved better.

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GET A BOOST FROM BELIEVERS

We believed in lactation spaces for breastfeeding parents on the go, but we needed to prove they worked. Bodaciously optimistic believers gave us the time and support to build our idea. Seventh Generation, the environmentally-friendly household products company, is another mission-driven Vermont brand. When we wanted to put Mamava pods in the three New York City airports, we worked with Seventh Generation to sponsor the costs of manufacture and install. They understood how powerful the idea was and benefited from the brand awareness the initiative brought. We didn’t make money on the partnership, but it was the endorsement we needed to further prove the concept was viable.

DO IT ANYWAY

When we invented freestanding lactation spaces, we also created an entirely new product category. As a result, we often lack the guidelines or standards of past products and industries to guide us. In our women-owned and dominated company, we call this “putting on our big girl pants.” Sometimes you just have to do it yourself. From figuring out how to comply with safety and building codes to building an app that allows parents to find and access the units, our commitment has been to press for progress over perfection. We don’t always know the next step, but we believe in agency and action. And, buoyed by bodacious optimism, that has made all the difference.


Sascha Mayer is the CEO and Co-founder of Mamava. Mamava, based in Burlington, VT, is the leading expert in lactation space design. 

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