Have you ever thought to yourself “I have a brilliant idea!”? Whether it solves a world problem or makes life a little easier? The Clinique Smart Ideas competition, in partnership with TED, has been encouraging women of all walks of life to share their game-changing ideas. And if you think you can’t do it, you can! Here’s some inspiration...
Each year, millions of underweight babies die because they don’t have access to incubators. That is unacceptable to social entrepreneur Jane Chen, who invented a very smart solution: The Embrace Infant Warmer, a low-cost baby warmer that doesn’t require electricity. The Embrace has now helped over 150,000 babies in India, Somalia, and China, and it will soon start spreading its life-saving magic throughout Africa.
The Wink: What inspired your design for the Embrace Infant Warmer?
Jane Chen: When my team and I travelled to Nepal and India, we learned that even when hospital incubators were donated, they weren’t used, often because of lack of access to electricity. We needed an affordable solution that could work without electricity—and be easy enough for a healthcare worker to use at a village clinic.
TW: How does the Embrace Infant Warmer work?
JC: The Embrace warmer looks like a little sleeping bag and contains a pouch of a wax-like substance that melts at body temperature. Once melted, it maintains a constant temperature of up to 98°F for up to eight hours without the need for electricity. Embrace is a very safe and easy way to stabilize a baby’s body temperature and is also reusable, making the cost very low.
TW: What was your biggest challenge in bringing this idea to life?
JC: Funding, both to bring the Embrace warmer to the commercial market, and to expand its impact around the world. Our goal is to help one million babies. Our latest solution to tackle this challenge is Little Lotus, which is like the Toms shoes of baby products—for every product sold, a baby is helped by the Embrace warmer in a developing country. Little Lotus is a collection of swaddles, sleeping bags and blankets that uses technology similar to our Embrace warmers, which keeps babies at optimal temperature. This is important since sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is linked to overheating. Parents have also told us their babies are sleeping better!
TW: What has been the most unexpected part of your journey?
JC: Nathan. He was born just under two pounds and abandoned on the side of the road in Beijing—he’s my biggest source of inspiration. After Nathan was discovered by the nearby Little Flower Orphanage (with whom we had just launched a program), Nathan was kept in an Embrace Warmer for 30 days. Thanks to the warmer and Little Flower’s loving care, this tiny infant survived! Today, Nathan lives in Chicago with his adopted family, and he's a smiling and very lively toddler. He is a reminder to me every day of why I do this work.
TW: What advice would you give to a woman who wants to invent?
JC: I think it’s critical to just get out there and create something—to experiment and prototype without overthinking. Then refine your solution along the way, but take that first step, which is always the most difficult.