Jewish Values Help Beth El Couple Repair the World One Baby Bottle At A Time
Traveling to Europe is a transformative experience. For lifelong Beth El members Lauren Shapiro and Matthew Mittleman, their European vacation was more than an enriching holiday - it was the start of an entrepreneurial journey.
Shapiro and Mittleman, who first met as toddlers in preschool at the Owings Mills Jewish Community Center, have been together for ten years and married for four. The young couple first came up with the idea for CollapseAndGo - a line of collapsible baby bottles and sippy-cups - while vacationing in Europe with their daughter Lexi, then just one-year-old.
“Lauren would ask me to find something in Lexi's bag, and I would have to dump everything out and sort through tons of empty bottles and sippy cups because Lexi would drink them throughout the day," recalled Mittleman. "When you're on the go, the last thing you want is a diaper bag filled with empty bottles."
Any busy parent with an impatient toddler can relate to that struggle.
"Matt asked why we didn't just buy collapsible bottles," said Shapiro. "I said: that's genius."
There was only one problem: collapsible baby bottles didn’t exist. The Beth El couple spent the rest of their trip brainstorming a solution. Upon returning to Baltimore, Lauren and Matt drew up plans, patented the product, hired an engineer, and began their new lives as Jewish entrepreneurs.
“Jewish values are the foundation of our family and business,” said Mittleman. “With CollapseAndGo we hope to create a legacy that’s bigger than us. We want to give back to our community. We can’t do this alone.”
They didn’t have to.
CollapseAndGo launched its 35-day Kickstarter campaign on April 16th featuring the company’s flagship products — the patented Collapsabottle and Collapsacup, baby bottles and sippy cups that collapse into the size of a hockey puck. The Collapsabottle and Collapsacup hold 8 ounces of liquid yet are smaller than the 4-ounce bottles on the market. They are made of food-grade silicone to prevent cracking and staining, are tip-proof, dishwasher-safe and stack one on top of another for storage. Four stacked Collapsabottles equal the size of one standard-size bottle.
The Kickstarter campaign raised $20,605 from 393 backers, far surpassing its $15,000 goal. Of those 393 backers, many are from the Beth El community, but the connection doesn’t stop there.
“We had a Beth El baby in the Kickstarter video,” said Mittleman. What's more, the parents of Lexi’s classmates at Beth El Early Childhood can’t wait for their CollapseAndGo bottles, and Dr. Eyal Bor, Beth El's Director of Education, is a vocal champion of the brand.
Just like her daughter, Beth El's Hebrew School made a lasting impact on Lauren Shapiro, whose family have been members for generations.
"My experience at Beth El brought many incredible friends into my life," said Shapiro. "I’m still very close with them, and now our children get the same opportunities to make lifelong friends while learning their Jewish values."
For Lauren and Matt, Jewish communal values helped inspire CollapseAndGo. Among those values is Tikkun Olam (literally, “repairing the world"), which encourages Jews to improve the human condition within the Jewish community and beyond. With CollapseAndGo, Shapiro and Mittleman hope to alleviate some of the anxieties of modern parenthood.
The goal of CollapseAndGo is to make everyday baby products more functional, helping parents lead a simpler life. “If we can make parents’ lives a little less stressful, we have done our job,” said Shapiro.
For that reason, Shapiro and Mittleman designed the CollapseAndGo bottles to grow with young children. From a bottle nipple to a sippy cup top, CollapseAndGo bottles have interchangeable lids, which prevents parents from needing to buy new cups and bottles. Additionally, the handle attachment makes it easy for older babies to hold as they learn and develop.
Once a baby graduates from the bottle, parents can purchase the sippy cup accessories, which include a new nipple and handle. According to the company's Kickstarter, the CollapseAndGo bottle’s organic shape resembles the natural feel of mom. Its collapsible body allows the release of excess air as a baby drinks, reducing air intake to minimize gas and discomfort.
While these are exciting innovations, building a product and business from scratch is challenging, and the couple admits their work can be stressful. “We’re disrupting the baby bottle, a product that’s been unchanged for generations,” said Mittleman. “That’s daunting itself, let alone for a married couple, with a young child and another on the way, who are still working full-time jobs.”
But Mittleman and Shapiro find the strength to persevere in a shared Jewish heritage.
“The support of the Beth El community empowers us with the resilience and confidence to move forward,” said Mittleman. “There will always be doubters and people trying to bring you down, but our Jewish values have prepared us to handle this entrepreneurial journey.”