In Business / Rachel Jackson
When a dream becomes a new local company
Photo by kc kratt
A nursing mom determined to solve a common problem sounds like an unlikely candidate for successful business executive, but that is essentially the Rachel Jackson story. And, fortunately for legions of women who breastfeed, she’s sticking to it.
It’s been nearly three years since Jackson, Buffalo native, graduate of Buffalo Seminary, UB and University of Toledo Law School, and former corporate attorney, began selling a simple product designed to alleviate common breastfeeding ailments like clogged milk ducts, mastitis, and engorgement. The cloth-covered flaxseed pillow can be tucked into a waterproof pouch that fits inside a bra, providing either moist heat or cooling relief.
Early on, Jackson knew she had a more effective solution than the common and messy practice of applying warm wet washcloths at regular intervals. Not content to have worked out a personal solution, she developed prototype pads for her friends to try, enlisting the help of her mother-in-law, a seamstress. Jackson’s husband, Angelo Caico, who works days as a county public works supervisor, coined the term, “Rachel’s remedy,” and Rachel’s Remedies, LLC, was born. This summer will see a national rollout of the products to the shelves of Target stores. Negotiations are underway for possible co-branding with a major producer of baby products. In the meantime, Jackson is focused on positioning Rachel’s Remedies as a natural relief products company with an expanded line of “wearable moist heat” products that include breastfeeding relief packs (patent pending) and nursing pads, as well as plans for wares to relieve eye, back, and joint pain.
“Every day something new and exciting happens,” says Jackson, whose two boys are four and six years old. Now that they’re in school, she is able to devote more hours to her burgeoning business, splitting time between a home office and workspace in the Innovation Center on Ellicott Street, where she found support through the UB Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership and z80 Labs. They helped her figure out how to turn an idea into a business, from sourcing materials and manufacturing to attracting investors. An entrepreneur-in-residence from Launch NY also advised her.
Jackson, in past lives a jewelry-maker and a caterer, absorbed all the information, and, then, armed with a prodigious supply of energy and persistence, plunged ahead. “It’s really hard for me not to work,” she says. She also credits her years as a business lawyer—no stranger to the fine art of negotiating—for the confidence to keep going when others might have thrown in the towel.
“I have been surprised by how hard it is to raise money,” she says. “We need a million dollars in operating capital to fund inventory. Everyone wants to give me their two cents in advice—businesspeople and investors.” She finds much of that counsel sexist, coming from people who ignore her legal experience working on issues like labeling and licensing. So she is driven “to prove people wrong. I have accepted advice very carefully from people I trust completely. I find being honest with retailers has helped a lot as we move forward.”
Belief in her product is a key to business success, Jackson asserts: “I know this is a good product, and that it really works for so many. I get emails from women who say ‘You have changed my life with this. I was ready to quit breastfeeding.’ That kind of feedback is so fulfilling.”
Jackson early on obtained FDA clearance for her product as a Class I medical device. She points out that both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend breast milk as the best nourishment for infants, but the common ailments targeted by her treatments can curtail the time women spend breastfeeding. She is also proud to note that the chief of the neonatal clinic at Buffalo’s Women and Children’s Hospital has expressed interest “in doing a study to see if our product can help increase the milk supply for mothers who cannot nurse their babies,” as moist heat can help stimulate the let-down reflex crucial for milk flow.
Jackson sometimes gets sent pictures of thriving babies whose grateful mothers have used Rachel’s Remedies. “All of that reinforces what we are doing and why—when we feel less energized, it’s like plugging into an outlet for a charge!” To those who advised her that her business plan was seriously overreaching, that she was a dreamer and not realistic, she says, “The dreamer was right. Reaching people and making connections with those in the big leagues—it doesn’t have to be so daunting or impossible. For me, if it’s something I think is doable, I will try harder and prove people wrong. I am going to teach my kids to follow their dreams.”
Frequent Spree contributor Maria Scrivani writes on local history and people who make a difference.