FELI* / FLICKR (CREATIVE COMMONS)

Thank you, New York Times, for inspiring me to steal my wife’s breast milk and sell it online

A business plan

A cottage industry has sprung up facilitating the sale and donation of human breast milk on the Internet….
New York Times, Oct. 21, 2013

Motivation

It’s hard for a new parent to figure out how to support a family. The economy isn’t what it used to be, jobs are still scarce, and a degree doesn’t guarantee a stable career like it once did.

I’ve heard entrepreneurs say that sometimes a great business idea will simply come to you, maybe even in a dream. But for the rest of us, there are trend pieces in the New York Times. And even though my past Times-inspired business attempts — deodorant that doesn’t deodorize, invisible shirts, and high heels for men — were colossal failures, someone probably once said that the way to get rich is to fail and fail and fail until you succeed. At selling biological material.

Which is why I read the breast milk article and ran straight for the freezer. Sure, my newborn son needs milk, but $1.50 an ounce is more than I can get for any other bodily fluids being stored in my apartment, so it would be suboptimal, from an economic perspective, to waste the opportunity to cash in. I needed to act.

Developing a Strategy

“Honey, what are you doing with all of my frozen breast milk?”
“I’m posting an ad to sell it online.”
“Can you at least pour it into a bag first? I need the bottles.”

I did worry that I would be too late to the party. Surely I wasn’t the only New York Times reader to realize this could be a liquid gold mine. I knew the market would be flooded, so I would need to stand out.

“You need to eat organic.”
“For the baby?”
“No,for the Internet. How else are we going to differentiate?”

Placing the Ad

“Breast milk. For sale by owner. White. Frozen. Mostly organic, vegetarian diet, except for Taco Bell six times a week and some pesticide that may have accidentally been ingested. $1.50/ounce or best offer. Does not come with baby, so please stop asking.”

Possible Risks

“The article says there are inherent health dangers.”
“Not for the seller!”

I was anxious that so-called “safety concerns” mentioned in the piece would scare off potential buyers. Without the media’s scaremongering, why would anyone have thought that a stranger’s breast milk, purchased on the Internet, might be contaminated?

We buy books online, clothing, shoes — and no one thinks twice about them. But, of all things, breast milk is special? You hear about computer viruses, but who knew they could leak into the milk? You used to be able to trust people — and their bodily fluids. Now, you can’t even buy clean urine for a drug test without a credit card. What has the world come to?

I decided to ignore these concerns and push forward with the plan.

Market Research

Like any smart salesman in the age of real-time edits, I did a round of A/B testing of different versions of my breast milk advertisement. A few of my findings:

  1. Just like in online dating, photos do help.
  2. Not necessarily just photos of the milk.
  3. White is pretty much the only color that sells, even if admitting it isn’t politically correct.
  4. If someone wants to talk on the phone to arrange details for pickup, you should probably have someone without a hacking, uncontrollable cough handle the conversation. Just saying, from experience, people seem particularly reluctant to buy breast milk from someone who seems frighteningly ill.

Results

Item as described. Fast shipping. Excellent transaction. Milk tasted great.
—User Review

My reviews were excellent, and sales grew quickly. My wife couldn’t keep up with demand, so we ended up outsourcing some of her milk production to a factory in China where we could get workers to do it at a far lower cost and, for the most part, without sacrificing quality. Ideally, we would have liked to keep everything in this country, to create jobs and help support the local economy, but to get the margins we needed to grow the business, we had no choice. We continue to do all the packaging here, in our garage, next to the open cans of paint thinner.

A+ service, shipping, and blood type! Makes a great gift.
—User Review

Now, thanks to all of our business success, we can finally afford baby formula. It’s such a relief.