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Tuesday, Aug 9, 2022
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Black ENTREPRENEURS MONTH: Melissa Hanna Mahmee

 Navigating childbirth can be overwhelming — a feat made more trying by the pandemic.That’s where the Mahmee app comes in.Sherman Oaks-based mother-and-daughter team Linda and Melissa Hanna, and with Sunny Walia, the chief technology officer, created the online platform. Originally focusing on breastfeeding questions and post-partum support for new moms, Mahmee has since evolved to include connections with hospitals, health systems, patients and practitioners.

Mahmee has 28 employees and earns revenue through contracts with health systems and provider groups. Among Mahmee’s participating organizations: Encino’s Valley Pediatrics and Boulevard Pediatrics; and Sherman Oaks’ Pediatric Associates.  Melissa Hanna shared professional insights with the Business Journal.

Question: Tell us how and when your business started.  Answer: Mahmee was founded in 2014 following some time working with my mother, Mahmee co-founder Linda Hanna, a registered nurse in obstetrics, International Board-certified lactation consultant, MSN/Ed, and veteran health care expert who pioneered the world-class maternity and lactation programs at Kaiser Permanente and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

I can pinpoint a specific moment when I realized I wanted to help fight maternal death and injury. It was when I was having dinner with my mom, and I noticed that her phone would not stop buzzing with text messages, which I thought were from patients with questions, but it turns out they were all from doctors. She was providing these doctors with such excellent care coordination for their practices that they were leaning on her for help supporting and guiding their patients. I thought, ‘There must be a way to scale this!’  What’s the best aspect of running your own business?  Being able to help moms during the pre- and post-natal period, which is such a risky stage during these challenging times.

 And the worst?  Running a business that helps people during the pandemic has been incredible – but it also creates new and unknown challenges to overcome, some of which business owners have never had to deal with.

 As you were starting up, did you ever think about trading it all for a steady paycheck?    Maybe a few times (initially) but seeing the difference that Mahmee has made helping moms and babies across the country makes this all worth it.  Other than the COVID year, what’s been your biggest business challenge and how did you deal with it?  Keeping up with the demand and the pressure to scale up. The best way I’ve found to help navigate this situation is by surrounding myself with mentors and experts who have previous experience and success scaling companies, and by hiring people who are passionate about the industry and their expertise.   How about navigating your business through 2020’s COVID situation?  We have the highest maternal mortality rate among other similarly developed countries. We already had efforts underway to turn those statistics around. Now we have additional concerns due to the pandemic. Because of COVID-19, we have worked to further bring comprehensive care and telehealth support to families across the country. Due to new pressing demand, we brought on essential new partnerships with health care organizations to help expand support quickly, to make sure mothers can receive the care they need during the pre-natal and post-partum period.

What advice would you give someone starting their own business?  Never give up, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges. When things get really difficult, keep your eyes and your heart (focused) on the reason why you started your business.

Michael Aushenker
Michael Aushenker
A graduate of Cornell University, Michael covers commercial real estate for the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. Prior to the Business Journal, Michael covered the community and entertainment beats as a staff writer for various newspapers, including the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, The Palisadian-Post, The Argonaut and Acorn Newspapers. He has also freelanced for the Santa Barbara Independent, VC Reporter, Malibu Times and Los Feliz Ledger.
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