When people think of technology, they often envision a man’s world but Mahmee, a female driven tech start-up, is rooted in femininity and solely caters needs of women, during a delicate time of their lives.
Melissa Hanna, Chief Executive Officer of Mahmee.com a digital healthcare company, has managed to enhance the way women experience motherhood by providing ongoing personalized postpartum support to new mothers and infants from birth to birthday.
The membership based site offers new moms one year of 24/7 exclusive access to nurses, various health experts, and support groups where they receive help with breastfeeding, pumping, emotional wellness, baby care and much more.
BlackEnterprise.com caught up with Melissa Hanna to talk how she got her start in the unique tech space, her experience as an African American women in tech, and the details of her unique business.
BlackEnterprise.com: What is Mahmee?
Hanna: Mahmee is a digital healthcare company using predictive analytics to provide personalized, ongoing postpartum support to new mothers and infants, from birth to birthday. Mahmee members have year-long access to a 24/7 nurse hotline, private video consults, and virtual support groups led by experts. Invite your own practitioners to join the community, or get connected to Mahmee’s growing network of highly qualified postpartum care providers and specialists who can help with breastfeeding, pumping, pediatrics and baby care, sleep training, diet/nutrition, emotional wellness, and more.
Tell me a little about yourself and how you became a tech entrepreneur?
I think I have always had a self-starting, entrepreneurial mindset: I sold Pokemon cards in middle school and started several clubs and bands in high school and college, including a hip-hop orchestra. My first two businesses were not in tech. The first was an event production company that I started at age 15 and ran throughout college; we organized events and fundraisers for nonprofit organizations. The second business was a gourmet dessert truck that I started when I was 22. I’m 28 now and Mahmee is my third company, but my first that is strictly a tech product.
Why did you gravitate towards the tech space?
I enjoy working in organizations that give me a lot of flexibility and responsibility in my job. At startups, everyone wears many hats and a lot is expected of a small team. The early-stage startups I worked for during and after college didn’t pay well, but because I had the privilege of receiving a full scholarship to attend Pomona College for my bachelor’s degree, I could afford to take on these kinds of jobs.
What was the inspiration for starting Mahmee?
Before Mahmee became a tech company, it was just a passion project to digitize my mother’s writings and her legacy in the maternal healthcare industry where she has built a three-decades-long career serving new mothers and their infants in the top hospitals across Los Angeles. After caring for tens of thousands of mothers and babies, she and her team can expertly spot patterns, prevent serious issues, and predict health outcomes. I saw algorithms in what my mom was doing and began writing them down. That was the beginning of the product. Now my team and I are building a robust predictive analytics system based on that work, which helps mothers and babies stay healthy and thrive throughout their first year together.
What was your entrepreneurial “ah-ha” moment?
I don’t really believe in “ah-ha” moments anymore—every time I thought I had one, I was wrong. It turns out the best ideas come from chewing on a problem (and its solution) for a long time. In my case, I spent about a year and a half doing research and analysis before the product idea became clear. There is not one big moment, but rather many little moments of clarity, between when you realize there’s an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life, and when you figure out the best way to do it.
How did you plan financially to start your business?
I started Mahmee while earning my Juris Doctor (JD) and Masters in Business Administration (MBA). I was a frugal full-time student so I didn’t have a lot of money. I built as much as I could on my own, and asked my parents and my grandma to help me keep food in my fridge during that time. A little over one year into the research/ideation phase, I met an angel investor who believed in me and my vision. She wrote the first check to the company.
What has been your experience as a black woman in the tech space?
As a black woman in tech, I do find myself combatting people’s cognitive biases more often than I’d like. To keep from all-together giving up, I have to believe that people in this industry do not have malicious intentions—they just don’t realize how wrong they are about my abilities. I hear a lot of euphemistic language from investors: “We haven’t invested in someone like you before,” “This would be a different kind of investment for us,” “You clearly aren’t a typical founder,” etc. Bottom line: the bar is much higher for anyone who does not match the industry’s pattern because you need to both prove your idea and prove yourself.
How do you plan to scale or improve your company?
We are using applied analytics and machine learning to scale and improve our business. When moms use our app, we learn what works and what does not work for them on an individualized basis. We can then use that data to refine our product and service offerings.