Sunday, April 25, 2010

Simplisse Update: Are Simplisse & Handi-Craft Separate Companies?

After my post last week about believing that Simplisse was the same company as Handi-Craft and feeling duped after I held a giveaway of the Simplisse manual pump, I received an email from the Brand Manager of Simplisse, Steve Richardson. Here is his email to me in full:


I saw your post this morning and wanted to clarify some things. I was going to post this as a comment on the site, but just couldn’t find where to post a comment – so I got your direct email from Steve Simmons.

Handi-Craft and Simplisse are completely separate companies with their own boards, officers, and sources of finance. Simplisse is a privately-held company and is separate and independent from Handi-Craft. We are not a subsidiary, a sub-brand, or owned by Handi-Craft. Simplisse has a shared services contract with Handi-Craft. What that means is that we share certain functions like record keeping, accounting, etc. That is a transparent part of our business that we’ve shared since we first introduced the brand back in September 2009.

I assure you Simplisse has no connection whatsoever to the formula industry. Simplisse, Inc. is a privately-held company focused solely on creating products for breastfeeding moms that advances their ability to fulfill their breastfeeding goals and provide breastmilk to their babies for as long as they choose.

You asked about the reference we cite that discusses the association between pain and breastmilk quality. Our Clinical Director (who is an IBCLC) is getting those citations. We are removing some portion of the article on the web site until we have those citations, and we will re-issue the content with those references.

Simplisse was formed with two simple goals – to assist moms with meeting their breastfeeding goals by providing quality products for moms to express breastmilk as efficiently as possible when they are away from their baby, and to make the process of expressing breastmilk as comfortable as possible. We remain fully committed to developing products that help achieve those goals.

Steve Richardson
Simplisse, Inc.

I wanted to believe everything in this email, I really did. But I decided to do some investigating to see what I could come up with. I'll post my findings and allow you to make up your mind, and if you are a blogger, decide if this is the kind of company you would like to work with in the future.

First, Steve Richardson is listed on his LinkedIn page as the Brand Manager of Simplisse. However in this article about lawsuits against bottle companies for using BPA in their bottles, Steve is referred to as the spokesman for Handi-Craft, the parent company of Dr. Brown's bottles. In a press release from 2009 he's listed as the Brand Manager of Handi-Craft.

He's also listed as the contact for this press release issued by Handi-Craft.

And what of the IBCLC who Steve mentions in his email as Simplisse's Clinical Director? Her name is Dr. Jimi Francis and she is a well-known researcher. I know she is the Clinical Director because a friend who is an IBCLC received a pump in the mail, unsolicited, from Simplisse with a form letter written by Dr. Francis, "Clinical Director of Simplisse." Dr. Francis' speakers' bio on Lactspeak credits her as a clinical consultant to Simplisse. But in her own CV, which you can download here, and on her LinkedIn page, she lists herself as the Clinical Director at Handicraft from 2006 to present.

Then there was a study lead by Dr. Francis, highlighting the superiority of vented bottles in maintaining the nutritional quality of "baby milk," you know, like the bottles Dr. Brown's sells. And Handi-Craft sponsored the study. It's got its own website, which you can see here.

Steve Simmons, who is also referenced in the email, is the guy I was contacted by about reviewing the pump. His LinkedIn page lists him as the Online Manager for Handi-Craft. I hovered my mouse over the link where he inserted his company website URL so you could see it.

The link goes to which is one of the URLs that will take you to the Dr. Brown's website.

There was also a job listing in March of this year for a Quality Systems Engineer for both Dr. Brown's and Simplisse. I guess that is part of their shared services contract? Then there is this press release about a breast pump created by Dr. Brown's with the help of Dr. Jimi Francis and using a lot of the same language to describe the pump that you see on the Simplisse site.

And oh, yeah, the Simplisse site was originally registered on Whois to Handi-Craft.

Now, I'm not an attorney although a friend of mine who is is looking into their corporate structure, but she suspects that they may be listed as separate companies on paper but have all of the same employees and really be the same for all intents and purposes.

Those of you who are still with me may be wondering why Simplisse wouldn't want to be affiliated with HandiCraft. First of all, it seems pretty obvious that Simplisse is heavily courting IBCLCs. I have even heard that they have a booth at the annual ILCA (International Lactation Consultant Association) conference this July. ILCA's advertising policy would not allow a WHO Code violating company to be an exhibitor at their conference. In addition to this, every company wants to be successful. Without buy-in from the IBCLC community, a breast pump is going nowhere. And let's face it, Medela pretty much runs this breast pump game and has for the last 25 years. Ameda has a share and Lansinoh and Avent are small players. But other pump companies have never passed IBCLC muster (Playtex, First Years, Evenflo, etc) and though some moms may buy them because they are inexpensive, they are rated poorly overall and an IBCLC would never recommend them. I've gathered so far that the response from the IBCLC community is not necessarily favorable and many had misgivings about this pump the first time they heard about it.

So I'll let you decide whether or not Simplisse and Handi-Craft are the same. I know I've already made up my mind.

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