Pump it up

This growing Houston company is revolutionizing the way new mothers pump in the office

Houston-based Work & Mother is rethinking how new mothers pump in the office. Courtesy of Work & Mother

A new mom returning to work is probably dreading her new daily inconvenience of taking the time out of the workday to pump her breast milk.

While some employers provide a wellness room to us, but the more likely scenario is that she will have to pump in your car, an empty conference room or the bathroom. And once she is done pumping, she'll have to wash her equipment in the kitchen sink, alongside her coworkers' coffee mugs or dirty Tupperware containers.

One newly launched company mission is to make that scenario a thing of the past.

Work & Mother is a boutique pumping and wellness center that opened its first location in downtown Houston in 2017 and is planning its second downtown location. The 600-square-foot space opened on the first floor of 712 Main St. and offers memberships to companies and individuals, regardless of whether they work in the building.

Abbey Donnell founded the company after speaking with friends who recently returned to work after giving birth.

"There were constant stories about [women] being told the use the IT closet, or the conference room, or the bathroom or their cars," Donnell says. "Some of them were pretty big oil and gas firms companies that should've had the resources and space to do better than that."

Work & Mother offers its members several private pumping rooms, private pumping office spaces, a kitchen area, member lockers and a small retail section where members can buy pumping and wellness equipment. The company's pitch to individual mothers is simple: come to us for privacy and community. But its pitch to companies is more rooted in regulations.

Per the Fair Labor Standards Act Section 7(r), companies with 50 or more employees are required to provide "a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk." Companies that aren't in compliance with Section 7(r) — and lack the resources to do so — can either purchase individual or company memberships to Work & Mother.

"The reception from moms has been incredible," Donnell says. "I've gotten a lot of support from women who are older in their fields, who talk about how [pumping in the office] was a horrible experience for them."

Work & Mother is planning its second location, which will also be in downtown Houston, but Donnell declined to share additional details. When she started the company in 2017, she took minimal investments from friends and family, she says. But in anticipation of the company's second location, Work & Mother will likely launch a pre-seed fundraising round this summer, Donnell says. No financial figures have been finalized, but Donnell says the tentative plan is to raise roughly $1 million.

The company is also hoping to open in cities such as Chicago, New York, Austin, and Dallas in the near future.

Work & Mother isn't targeting companies that are solely concerned about meeting Section 7(r) compliance, Donnell says. Rather, she's hoping to show companies that investing in the well-being of new mothers is essential to running a successful business – and it's the right thing to do.

"If there's an employer who really only cares about the compliance, then they're not exactly a good fit, because they'll convert a closet and check that box," Donnell says.

But what Donnell says she's found refreshing is that most of the companies she's interacted with have had great feedback for her. They're trying to recruit — and retain — top female talent, she says.

More soon

Courtesy of Work & Mother

Donnell has plans for a second Houston location, as well as an expansion to other major United States cities.

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Building Houston


MassChallenge Houston's 2020 cohort has been selected. Photo courtesy of MassChallenge Texas

After launching in Houston with a smaller cohort last year, MassChallenge Texas has announced its latest, full-scale cohort and is kicking off virtual programming this month.

"Today's world is up against new challenges that require creative solutions to help us get back to speed as quickly and as efficiently as possible," says Jon Nordby, MassChallenge Texas in Houston's managing director in a news release. "The incoming cohort is uniquely positioned to make an impact because of their ability to act swiftly and adapt to new market needs. These founders will go on to create the impact and the jobs that will underpin the recovery of our economy for years to come."

The program begins this month and concludes in September. According to the news release, the accelerator will operate as a hybrid — combining virtual and in-person programming. The startups will pitch virtually at the MassChallenge Virtual Startup Showcase on July 16 and 17, as well as at the conclusion of the program at the the MassChallenge Texas in Houston 2020 Awards.

The cohort represents 12 countries and 13 states — with over a third being female founded. The program is also introducing two new tracks: Sports tech, which was announced in April, and space commercialization.

Here are the members of the 2020 MassChallenge Texas Houston cohort and where they are based.

Energy and clean tech

  • Direct Kinetic Solutions (Texas)
  • PolarPanel (Texas)
  • QUEMPIN SpA (Chile)
  • TexPower (Texas)
  • ThermoAI (New York)
  • WeavAIr (Canada)

General and retail

  • AbegYa (Cameroon)
  • Dunyha (Texas)
  • FieldTrend (California)
  • FloodFrame (Texas)
  • Integricote (Texas)
  • Sensegrass (India)
  • Scout, Inc (Virginia)
  • SurfEllent (Texas)
  • Tellinga (Texas)
  • Walter's Cube (New York, USA)

Health care and life science

  • Aniluxx Biotechnology (North Carolina)
  • Articulate Labs (Massachusetts)
  • Healium (Missouri)
  • Hera-MI (France)
  • NeuroRescue Inc. (Louisiana)
  • Noleus Technologies, Inc (Texas)
  • O2 RegenTech (Ohio)
  • OrganoTherapeutics (Luxembourg)
  • PATH EX, Inc (Texas)
  • Pegwin - Patient Safety Innovation (Texas)
  • PREEMIEr Diagnostics (Michigan)
  • ReCellTis Wound Cream (Texas)
  • RedOak Instruments, LLC (Texas)
  • Steradian Technologies (Texas)
  • Solenic Medical, Inc. (Texas)
  • Starling Medical (Texas)
  • TomoWave Laboratories, Inc. (Texas)
  • Tremedics Medical Devices (Texas)
  • UniExo (Ukraine)


  • Asystom (France)
  • B2B Pay (Finland)
  • BoxMagic (Chile)
  • ByLingual (Texas)
  • CityGuyd (Florida)
  • HVACIntel (Texas)
  • Keto A.I (Texas)
  • M1neral (Texas)
  • Navigation Research Company (Texas)
  • Node App (Canada)
  • Ozark Integrated Circuits, Inc. (Arkansas)
  • Noala (Ukraine)
  • Securelyshare (Virginia)
  • SenSwim (Israel)
  • Sizzle (California)
  • Snaptivity (United Kingdom)
  • SpenDebt (Texas)
  • Tradeblock (Texas)
  • V2verify (Nebraska)

Social impact

  • Kietoparao (Spain)
  • Teaching Artists International (Massachusetts)

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