7 AM to 7 PM: How Elvie Creator Tania Boler Is Changing the Perception of Pumping

Tania Bohler

Tania Bohler

Parents don’t work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.—we work 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., from the moment our kids wake up until they go to sleep. This is an unfiltered look at a few days in the life of Elvie CEO and co-founder Tania Boler.

Since her creation of Elvie, Tania Boler, PhD, has become an internationally recognized women's health expert. But even before that, she held leadership positions in the United Nations and worked with various charity organizations across Africa and Asia, specializing in sexual health and AIDS prevention. She even authored a book on sexual health ("The Politics of Prevention: A Global Crisis in AIDS and Education"), and yet, even she struggled to find helpful products during her first pregnancy. "The more I researched breast pumps and pelvic floor trainers, the more I found that most of what was on the market for women was simply ineffective,” she says.

The London-based mom of two (10-year-old Joshua and 7-year-old Scarlet) was determined to create something that would challenge and change women’s perceptions of their own health—and everyone else’s views of it as well. “[Technology] has the potential to disrupt the way we think about health, and even quicken the pace at which change can occur,” she says, which she observed first-hand while working in Africa.

"I saw smartphone technology booming in Africa before [the continent] developed landlines, and [saw] how [that access] could start giving people information about their health," she remembers. "I saw that technology had the potential to completely change health at a much bigger scale, much faster than we've ever thought possible before."

Boler became passionate about pelvic floor health when she became pregnant and realized the need for more practical and current options for women who were struggling with urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse after giving birth. She realized that women didn't have to see a doctor to build pelvic floor strength, rather, It could be done at home, with technology.

Like many other inventors, that gap spurred her to co-found and create Elvie in 2013, a technology company that addresses a “taboo” topic, women’s health. “Elvie was born out of my passion to find innovative tech solutions for women and to break down the cultural norms that have forbidden women to talk openly about their bodies,” she says. “That, and personal frustration as a new mom.”

Through its products, Elvie aims to deliver smart technology that helps women care for themselves during the postpartum and breastfeeding experience. 

She began with Elvie Trainer, a pelvic floor training gadget that turns doing Kegel exercises into a fun game. (Yes, you insert it into your vagina!) Elvie Trainer helps women build pelvic floor strength, providing feedback to help users train their pelvic muscles. It also tracks progress and allows wearers control of the trainer through an app.

Designing Elvie Trainer led Boler to look into other categories of female health technology ('femtech')—all of which, she says, were designed poorly. "It was all so badly designed because it's a taboo topic," she says. "I just thought there was a huge opportunity to reinvent and reimagine it."

So naturally, the next step came in the form of breastfeeding items, the product category the brand is most well-known for. Much like pelvic health, breastfeeding products were often underappreciated. “Pumping was considered a grind, an unpleasant necessity, or a punch line if it was talked about at all,” Boler says. She wanted Elvie to change that narrative.

Tania Boler, co-founder, Elvie

If talked about at all, pumping was considered a grind, an unpleasant necessity, or a punch line.

— Tania Boler, co-founder, Elvie

Elvie offers three different products. The Elvie Pump is a breast pump that can be worn anywhere, at any time, and is completely silent. Then there’s Elvie Curve, a hands-free silicone breast pump. Finally, the accompanying Elvie Catch; slip-proof milk collection cups that can double as breast pads. All three are discreet and portable, allowing for hands-free pumping, whenever needed. 

In fact, one of Boler's favorite moments for the brand to date was when a model wore an Elvie Pump while walking in London Fashion Week at Marta Jakubowski's spring 2019 show. She strutted the runway, proudly pumping while doing her job.

Boler has faced a lot of rejection to get Elvie to where it is now, on runways and beloved by influencers and celebrities such as Hannah Bronfman, Mandy Moore, and Katharine McPhee Foster. “When I started pitching Elvie, I would arrive at meetings with potential, primarily male investors, and face almost instant rejection when talking about Elvie Trainer or if I used the word ‘vagina,’” she says. 

While that was crushing emotionally, it didn’t stamp out her mission. It only made her want it more. She hopes her children take challenges head-on as well. “[I want them to] feel the fear and push through it, because the best things in life often happen when you step out of your comfort zone. Elvie wouldn’t have started if I hadn’t embraced my nerves,” she says.

And she hopes her children also see that she’s living by the credo of never settling and always questioning the status quo. “Just because the world seems to work one way, doesn’t mean that it’s the way it has to be or should be,” she says. 

Boler believed in Elvie and its mission so much that she was determined to make it work. She credits that drive to having the right support systems in place. “I’m proud to lead the team at Elvie and champion our mission, but being a mother is my most important role,” she says. “It can be challenging, but all I can try and do is be my best every day.”

Here is how she handles a typical day of executive meetings and bedtime routines.

Tania Bohler with her daughter

Tania Bohler


Monday

7 a.m. I wake up and check my inbox. I take my skincare routine very seriously because I have Asian skin. I have more pigmentation than wrinkles. I use a lot of antioxidants, including Vitamin C. I like SkinCeuticals and La Roche-Posay. My key ingredient is SPF. I spend about five minutes on my face.

8 a.m. Getting my kids ready for school. There's so much to pack. I have the timetable up on the blackboard—what sports or what homework is scheduled for each day. It is definitely trying to get them ready in the morning, have a proper breakfast, and get them out the door without missing something.

I walk my kids to school. I really enjoy doing this as I can catch up with their teachers and other parents at the school gate. Quite often we get a phone call from the school about an hour later saying we've forgotten something, like a trumpet.

9 a.m.  I then walk to our new office. We’ve just opened in King’s Cross in London, which is very close to home. About once a month I will take the train down to Bristol to visit our research and development office which opened earlier this year. 

10:30 a.m. Meetings, meetings, meetings! Of course, this will depend on the day. Mondays are dedicated to internal meetings, and we have an executive meeting every week. In the afternoons, we have a company-wide all-hands meeting, where nearly 200 members of the Elvie team are on the call. It is a good chance to share information and for me to get to know any new people. This year alone we’ve had 130 new people start!

11:30 a.m. I attend my weekly meeting with Sarah Highfield, our chief operating officer and chief financial officer. She looks after the operations and daily running of the business, while I focus more on the bigger picture things, like product development and marketing. 

12:30 p.m. I take an early lunch and walk to one of the great restaurants around the office. I’m a big fan of a "walk and talk," so I head out with a colleague to talk through things. If you're sitting in a meeting room, you don't get any inspiration. Our office is on a canal, so it's great to walk alongside it. I like being outside in nature, whatever we can grab in London.

We'll have an agenda for our talk and it's a routine catch-up with all my direct reports. Sometimes, it can be more free-flowing, especially if we want more expansive thinking as we work through strategy or something.

4 p.m. I squeeze in a reformer Pilates session. It’s super close to the office and so convenient. 

6 p.m. Like many people, I really enjoy being out of lockdown and having face-to-face catch-ups again, so I’m off to an evening event. I'm sort of the face of Elvie in the evenings. I usually have events about three times a week. We're one of the only female-founded tech companies that has been raised to the kind of level that we are. I suppose I do quite a lot of work representing women in tech.

Sometimes there are networking events, or events supporting younger founders. I'm also starting to invest a bit in female founders. We're also an increasingly global company, and we often host partners from our global supply chain or manufacturing.

7 p.m. I am home! I am an introvert, so if I have had a long day of meetings, I need a good 30 minutes of sitting in a dark room to try to be mindful or relaxed. I have learned multitasking does not really work for me.

Then I spend quality time with the children before putting them to bed. My oldest and I watch documentaries together, or we do some reading, and then we put them to bed.

 8 p.m. After bedtime, I have dinner with my husband, Jean-David, and we have some downtime. Currently, we are binge-watching "Mare of Easttown."

I am very careful now that we use Slack for work; Slack is where the conversations happen, even more so than the inbox. I am trying to set the right example because people never switch anything off anymore. Because of COVID-19, there's a lot of burnout.

If I check anything after 8 p.m., I often cannot sleep at night because there will be too many thoughts going through my head. I do try and go through a mental exercise of what is outstanding from the day, what I need to deal with tomorrow, what I need to do differently. I tick off everything—that mental overhang. And then I generally switch off, not thinking about work anymore. Though sometimes I do bring work into the bed because I suffer from insomnia.

10:30 p.m. Sometimes I will take a bath. I love my bath. It's my one way to really relax with the candles and some nice aromatherapy. Then, off to bed!

Tania Bohler

Tania Bohler

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