In this series, WeWork’s director of digital community selects a WeWork member to get to know better, sharing her fun findings with the rest of the community.
Thanks to WeWork team member Endi Simon, I recently learned the incredible story of Hollywood member Jill Bigelow: her invention, Mama Strut, helps new moms get back on their feet, offering the varying levels of support that they need. More than a product, Mama Strut—by Pelv-Ice, the name of Bigelow’s medical device company—helps the busy mother of three build lasting connections with thousands of other moms around the world. I spoke with the founder about improving women’s health care, a spontaneous and fateful conversation with Sir Richard Branson, and more.
Tell us a little bit about you as an inventor, entrepreneur, and businesswoman.
I wear a few hats! My background is actually in finance, focused more on hospitality and real estate, so I never thought that I’d come to be the creator of a medical device and then be the founder of a medical device company.
But if you look back at my background, my experiences do tie together nicely for this role. I was an athlete in high school and college playing volleyball, and I had a lot of soft tissue and skeletal damage from training and performing at a high level. I’d received physical therapy, MRIs, ortho doctor visits, etc., but when I had the largest injury of my life—childbirth—they gave me nothing. Just a few pairs of disposable underwear and ice inside of a medical glove. This was my “there has got to be a better way” moment, which as you know, is how many great inventions start.
Pelv-Ice all started when I had my son five years ago. Our premier product for moms is called Mama Strut because a strut is an engineering device that resists pressure. And to walk with a proud stride. Our device is the only pelvic brace that supports all sides of the pelvis with multi-directional support and adjustable ice/heat gel packs anywhere you need them.
We also have accessories for abs, lower back, and a during pregnancy support to accommodate the growing abdomen. We’ve had many A-list celebs use Mama Strut and even Olympic athletes that used During Pregnancy Mama Strut to allow them to continue to train while pregnant!
What’s some of the feedback you’ve received so far?
We just put out a survey to our customers, and over 95 percent of our customers said our Mama Strut should be given to every single mom post-delivery. So it’s been pretty amazing. We started out last year with 100 Facebook followers, and now we have 32,000. We have some very engaged users, and our moms that have purchased are really sharing with other moms. Each purchaser is sharing the information with at least two other moms and also their doctor, according to that recent survey.
I was lucky enough to have been able to also be a Mama Strut user, with the birth of my third child—I don’t think I could have recovered properly without it. I was taking my kids to school five days after I gave birth. I was bringing my newborn Marin, the youngest WeWorker, with me to the office everyday until she was 11 months old! I feel very lucky to have been able to have her with me at work—another WeWork benefit. A lot of the other people in other offices really liked seeing her, and were super sweet. She still comes into WeWork once a week.
Giving back is very important to you. What causes are nearest and dearest to your heart?
Really, it’s women’s reproductive rights and postpartum care. I think that a lot of the reason that postpartum care is neglected is because women’s reproductive organs are taboo in our culture or other cultures. So we really have to change the conversation around womens’ health to make a difference. There are countries where girls are kicked out of school when they get their periods. So imagine how they are treated after giving birth. No one will attend to their hygiene or care. And here in the U.S., we spend more on pregnancy and birth than any other country in the world, but there are 48 other countries that have lower maternal death rates than the U.S. Mama Strut will improve women’s global postpartum health care, but not by itself. I’m going to a conference in Copenhagen in a few weeks called Women Deliver for women’s health care. Melinda Gates and other thought leaders are going to be there. I’m excited to see what I can learn there and how else I can help!
Anything else we should know about you?
I highly recommend co-working—I went to business school at USC Marshall School of Business, and there’s a similar feeling of camaraderie at WeWork. There are people I’ve known at WeWork for three years! And the reason I have had lots of great entrepreneurial opportunities including meeting Richard Branson was thanks to WeWork. I met him at an exclusive event WeWork gave me tickets to in Downtown L.A. earlier this year. He was literally standing right next to me at the valet, so I took a breath and just gave him my 20-second elevator pitch, talking about helping all women around the world and my for-profit business of pelvic braces. He called over a couple of his guys, and he said, “You need to meet her, tell them what you told me.”
I am born and raised in L.A.—I see a celebrity, and I’m thinking, “whatever.” But I see Richard Branson, one of the most amazing entrepreneurs of all time, and I thought “I have to take a selfie!”
Since then, I have been talking to people in his office at Virgin Entrepreneurs, and I just wrote an article for their blog. I am going to their office in London in a couple of weeks for a meeting too. So it’s so funny—You never know what can happen when you stick your neck out beyond your comfort zone. I told my 7-year-old daughter about how cool it was that I met him, and she said, “Mommy, I want to be bold like you.”
Photos: Tom Bender