Priska Diaz – Giving up is not an option in entrepreneurship

January 22, 2021

Bittylab logo on Enterprise League for an Interview

In times when the American Dream feels like no more than just a fable, here comes Priska Diaz, the founder and CEO of Bittylab, to reassure us that the US is still the Promised Land. She moved to the USA when she was only 17, honed her English, got a Bachelor’s degree with honors, then a Master’s Degree, held several D-level positions at international companies, married and had children. But this is only the beginning of her entrepreneurial story. 

No mother can bear watching her babies suffer. So when Priska’s firstborn son developed GER symptoms her maternal instinct triggered her entrepreneurial skills and she found herself putting all her extensive experience in design and engineering to good use. After three years, the first air-free feeding system came to life.

When we were making the top 100 female entrepreneurs list, there was no hesitation whether Priska should be there. Her innovative mind, dedication and story are an inspiration to both men and women.

Feeling under-appreciated as an employee, a nonexistent work-life balance, financial struggles, getting out of bad relationships – these are the most common triggers that push women to become entrepreneurs. Tell us about your trigger?

My first son developed GER symptoms after introducing baby bottles to my breastfeeding routines. Seeing my baby cry for days added feelings of maternal failure to the ongoing sleep-deprivation, headaches, pain from c-section, and exhaustion. Doctors insisted this phase was “normal” and he will eventually outgrow it, but I just wanted to help my baby feel better so I could have some rest. 

Priska Diaz quote

How did you come up with your business idea?

Months of research showed that the air in the baby bottles caused the problem. My maternal instinct to help my baby turned into an obsession, and I sat at my kitchen table, day after day, for more than 3 years to design and engineer a solution. It turns out that my invention is the first air-free feeding system —and medical device to-be— for infant GER/GERD mitigation. I have extensive experience in design, engineering, manufacturing, polymer materials, and QC, which allowed me to create a product to help my very gassy and fussy baby. 

Have you had support from someone, even if just encouragement? Who was that and how did it help you?

My husband was very supportive of my idea and after I finished my hand-made prototype, he encouraged me to file for patents

Female entrepreneurs are often underestimated and overlooked. Have you ever felt at a disadvantage?

Being a woman in the manufacturing industry was, indeed, very challenging. Once the prototype and drawings were done, I needed a contract manufacturing partner. 

However, presenting the idea to a dozen male engineers wasn’t easy. The first response was “it can’t be done” followed by a synchronized side-to-side head-shaking from all the members at the table. Then I pulled out my handmade prototype and said: “If I tell you how to do this step-by-step, can you make it?” My husband always said this is his favorite part of the whole entrepreneurial journey.

Some say it’s hard work, others say it’s talent and resourcefulness that play a crucial role for success in entrepreneurship? Which traits have been instrumental for your success so far? And why?

I think being an entrepreneur makes you grow a thick skin, at the very minimum. You have to exploit every drop of talent, creativity, grit, resourcefulness, perseverance, learn how to negotiate, persuade, get over your fears, be the best at public speaking, memorize presentation, develop great social skills, don’t miss networking events, figure out how to learn things fast, test and measure, and know how and when to make decisions.

What excites you the most about being an entrepreneur?

My days are never the same. Nothing is monotonous. Although, I have been doing this for almost a decade. Every day is a different day and I get to do different things. One day is product design, the next day is website coding, the next is meet the head of giant corporation and talk about my innovation, the next is make a live video on Youtube, etc, etc. In other words, it’s never boring!

Share with us some of the worst business advice you’ve ever received?

The worst advice I heard was an unsolicited comment suggesting that I should give up. This person obviously didn’t understand the contribution Bittylab is making to this world. Getting rid of a problem that happens in the majority of a population, such as infant gastroesophageal reflux, (which affects 66% of full-term and 80% of premature babies) is an invaluable advance in the world of Pediatrics. GERD is the single-handed catalyst for other life-threatening diseases. For example, common intervention for GERD treatment, such as prescription drugs and formula thickeners have been shown to cause necrotizing enterocolitis in preterm infants. Our solution can help infants with GERD without causing these side effects.

You’ve got a high stake investment opportunity. Pitch your business in 150 words.

Infant gastroesophageal reflux, GER, and the disease GERD, affect 66% of full-term & 85% of pre-term babies. These conditions are reaching the breaking point as Ped. Guidelines suppressed the use of common interventions like prescription drugs and formula thickeners to infants under two months of age. Infant GERD is responsible for $41BN annual expense in treatments, in the US alone, where payers include insurance companies, hospitals, and parents. 

Bittylab, a WBE-certified Startup, introduces Bare® Air-free, a solution that showed improvement in 75% of babies with GERD. The technology has been live via a customer-based platform. We have achieved: proof of concept, over 100k units tested and in use, Pediatrician endorsement, and clinical validation as 75% of babies no longer had GERD symptoms after 2 weeks. Bare® Air-free is a money saver for parents, hospitals, and insurance companies.

Bare® Air-free is for sale at buybuybaby and bittylab.com/shop starting at $17.50/unit.

What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to inspire aspiring entrepreneurs?

Never give up! You can pivot, improve, and modify but never give up. As mentioned above in a question, an entrepreneur is born out of personal necessity. If one person is in need of your product or service, chances are that there’s a whole market for it. You just have to find it.

What are your goals for the upcoming year?

We are working in new products as well as engaging research facilities to expand on the effects of air-free feeding, upright feeding position, and flow and pace controlled by babies.

Any final words to end this interview?

 We are very proud to have received the WBE and WOSB certification this year. This will help Bittylab advance into the health and medical fields.

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