Entrepreneur and Artist Aim to Curb Global Infant Mortality Rate
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
When Jane Chen and Drue Kataoka met at the Forum of Young Global Leaders in 2012, they quickly formed a friendship based on their shared passion for carrying out socially impactful work. They both came from significantly different backgrounds — Chen is the co-founder of Embrace, a startup that hopes to curb high worldwide infant mortality rates by way of the low-cost Embrace infant warmer, while Kataoka is a visual artist whose often interactive work aims to bridge the perceived gap between art and technology. Flash forward three years, and the two women have launched a unique collaboration that combines Chen’s business and Kataoka’s art to raise awareness of and ultimately decrease high global infant mortality rates.
“I oftentimes think great collaborations bring about great friendships, and great friendships bring about great collaborations,” Kataoka told FoxNews.com. “Jane and I spent a lot of time talking about infant mortality and I really wanted to create an artwork that would be participatory and that would be really impactful.”
Chen serves as CEO and co-founder of Little Lotus, a new line of baby products inspired by the Embrace Warmer, which been used by 150,000 babies worldwide. The line includes “smart” swaddles, sleeping bags, and blankets, taking the basic idea of Embrace’s incubator and bringing it to U.S. retailers. Little Lotus’s products use material initially developed by NASA to regulate infants’ skin temperature, preventing babies from getting too hot or too cold. The product line launched a Kickstarter campaign April 14. Pre-orders will take place through the fundraiser, which ends in May. Chen said that products will start to be delivered three months after the end of the campaign.
While a retail line, Little Lotus is closely tied to Embrace’s altruistic roots. For the purchase of each Little Lotus product, Chen said $25 will be donated to the nonprofit Embrace, providing one baby with an incubator in a developing country.
“Infant mortality is one of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals that we have made the least progress on,” Chen told FoxNews.com “This has to be a priority. Moving forward, you’ll see various organizations, nonprofits, businesses – stakeholders across all sectors of society working to make a difference.”
The statistics are sobering. Chen said that about three million babies die every year within the first 28 days of life. It’s a number that Kataoka said many people in developed nations aren’t necessarily thinking about on a daily basis. This is where her art comes in. Each Little Lotus product is embellished by artwork from Kataoka’s Touch Our Future interactive art project, which she has been working on with Chen. What is the art featured on the Little Lotus products? Hand tracings of mothers and infants helped by the Embrace Warmers in developing countries.