An interview with Marianne Reynolds, the founder and CEO of Sol Mama.

Did you know your nursing cover probably isn’t protecting you and your baby from the sun? These popular covers have become new-parent essentials, especially during those early newborn days. They provide privacy for parents who choose to cover when they nurse in public, and they’re great for protecting your baby from the elements when you’re out and about with the car seat.

But most of them do not have UPF protection, meaning the sun’s rays can burn your skin, or baby’s, through the cover. It was this exact reason that drove Sol Mama founder Marianne Reynolds to develop her line of UPF 50+ nursing covers and launch her company. Poppylist founder Sarah Hollingsworth sat down to talk to Marianne about the moment that inspired Sol Mama, and launching a company in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tell me more about you! Where do you live, tell me about your family, and what you like to do for fun?

I’m originally from Los Angeles but now live in Monterey, CA with my husband and two children (with a third on the way!).  I went to college in Memphis, TN, and stayed in TN for about 10 years before moving back to CA.  I loved my time in TN and will forever be a Memphis Grizzlies fan but moving back to CA was one of the best life decisions I have ever made.  Six months after moving to the sleepy town of Carmel, CA I met my husband and four years after that we welcomed our first child.  

I have always been very career-oriented and defined myself by my successes at work.  Now with a growing family, my priorities have changed and what I value most is balance – being completely present for the time spent with my kids, date nights with my husband, or my own self-care.

When I’m not chasing around 2 toddlers you can find me unwinding with a glass of wine, doing an at-home facial, or getting caught up on TV shows. My ideal day is a productive morning, an active day at the beach with the kids, and a quiet night at home with my husband playing backgammon.

What inspired the cover?

My second child was born the day before the establishment of California’s Shelter in Place ordinance. With both an energetic toddler and a newborn in tow, our family took to the solace of our front and backyards, maximizing space and fresh air. As our front yard didn’t provide the privacy and cover that our backyard offered, I used a breastfeeding cover to feed my son while blowing bubbles with my toddler. Assuming that the cover fully protected my son from the Californian elements to my and newborn’s dismay, this was simply not the case as his fresh skin was now home to its first sunburn. There is nothing more paramount than my child’s well-being, and that goes for protection against the sun and the earth’s elements. Sol Mama was developed to protect your babies while also allowing mama to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors with peace of mind.    

The Sol Mama product was inspired by my children however meant for the Mama. Sol Mama is sophisticated yet practical, functional, and safe.  It is meant to act as both a car seat cover and breastfeeding cover with the idea that harmful UV rays will not have access to your baby's fresh skin.

What makes your wrap different than other covers on the market?

Our wraps offer the privacy of 360-degree coverage while also having certified UPF 50+ protection without any additives. It is derived from natural products that also make it certified sustainable as well.

If you had to give your cover three personality traits, what would they be?

Protective, Natural, Unique … just like a mama!

What would you say to a mom who is thinking about starting her own business?

Don’t underestimate the power of strong marketing!  I have 10 years of retail finance experience so the initial stages of starting a business, i.e. business plan, revenue forecasting, margin targets, and product development came really naturally to me.  Once we went live with the product I quickly realized we had a great product and beautiful website but no one knew about us.  

What's one thing about entrepreneurship that's surprised you?

Starting a new business is very humbling.  I fully believe in the product I have created and am SO excited to share it with other moms, but I have definitely seen our fair share of rejection.  Our product is priced higher than our competitors and not everyone values quality over price.  

What are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of bootstrapping this company and working long nights and early mornings in order to come up with a successful product that really protects our next generation. I’m really proud of the protection this wrap offers in combination with its sustainability and production practices.  I hope Sol Mama can leave (or protect) its mark somehow for future generations.