SINGAPORE (June 12): Yvon Bock says she is a mother first and an entrepreneur second. As the founder and CEO of Hegen, a homegrown home-grown baby bottle-maker, Bock wanted to use her business to help healthcare workers who are on the frontlines fighting Covid-19. The answer came when she met her customer who is also an operating theatre nurse who worked every day right up to the day she gave birth. This was Bock’s “Ah-ha” moment. As she tells Options, “While preparing a gift set for her, we started to wonder about the thousands of other expectant mums putting their lives on the line and braving this pandemic. A feeding set is just a small token of our gratitude for their service. More importantly, we want to spread a little cheer to these amazing women for all their hard work.”

Bock quickly mobilised her team and through research she found out that about 1,000 healthcare workers are pregnant. Bock reckons that this figure is probably underestimated, but the company had to prioritise the resources based on the budget they set. She then created 1,000 starter kits for new babies of frontline workers known as Hegen Cares that consists of PCTO (press to close, twist to open) bottles for mothers. The bottles allow mothers to express and store your milk, and then feed their babies, with a single container to minimise milk waste. The manual breast pump is also an essential accessory to encourage lactation and fully clear your breasts after each latch or pump. She says: “pregnant frontliners are putting their lives (and their babies lives) at risk to help keep Singapore safe. As Singapore’s only baby bottle brand, we must support our healthcare mums-to-be in the best way we know how — to provide them with our Express Store Starter Kit.”

In the event that all sets are redeemed before the cut-off date, and demands are greater than expected, Bock says they will launch a second round of redemptions. The Hegen Cares initiative is a year-long effort “so all our resources will be focussed on gifting the pregnant frontliners”. Right now, just over a dozen hospitals — namely government restructured- and community hospitals directly treating Covid-19 cases — are on the beneficiary list. Bock says there are plans to expand this list to other medical institutions.

Bock started Hegen in 2015 after taking a break from the banking sector. Before this, she was a stay at home mom, taking a breaking from her hectic corporate lifestyle and schedule while caring for her first child. That break allowed Bock to re-evaluate her priorities especially since she had just become a first-time mother. But in 2004, she decided to work part-time for Fitson, her parents’ business that has been producing OEM (original equipment manufacturer) and ODM (original design manufacturer) mother and baby care products for more than 30 years. When she was pregnant with her second child in 2006, Yvon took on a management trainee role at Fitson and overhauled her family business and increased revenue by over 800% in three years. Her experience at Fitson inspired her to start her own business, creating a line of mother and baby care products for mothers, by a mother.

“When I started my breastfeeding journey 14 years ago, I had over 10 separate baby care products just for expressing, storing and feeding my breast milk. I started thinking about creating an integrated system of baby products that can express and store and feed through a singular bottle, which forms the cornerstone of Hegen today,” she says.

Motivated by her own breastfeeding experiences and the gap within the mother and baby care market, Bock sees Hegen as a solution to the difficulties many mothers go through after giving birth. Drawing on her own life experiences and what she learnt at Fitson in terms of research, design and precision engineering processes, Bock started Hegen, a name taken from a German idiom “hegen und pflegen”, which means “what you hunt you must farm, what you eat you must crop”. It is a reminder to cherish what we have and take only what we need from Mother Nature.

But Bock says Hegen is not only about bottles, containers and breast pumps. The company is also about Bock’s journey as a mother having to juggle breastfeeding and work simultaneously. She admits to working long 16 hour days, often tired to the core, yet still expressing breast milk at work and latching her baby when she gets home. “But I never once gave up. I once spent a week overseas in a remote factory with a broken breast pump. Engorged to the point of having a fever, I had to manually express my breast milk with my bare hands. Again, I refused to give up,” she explains.

In the end, Hegen is about how a mother is able to successfully juggle work and family while fulfilling her wish to breastfeed. At the same time, Bock hopes to empower and inspire other mothers. It seems like she is succeeding, as she has successfully invented a system to help others just like her. Bock’s hard work has since paid off and in 2018, she was presented with the prestigious Nova award at that year’s Women’s Entrepreneur Award, which is awarded to female entrepreneurs who have been in the same business for five years that have demonstrated outstanding entrepreneurial qualities in developing and growing the business.