1. Why are you considered a business savvy doula?
I value my contribution to maternity care and emerging families and my personal investment in learning and growing so I can offer the most loving and thoughtful care possible. I have terrific passion for mothers and babies and over my 17 years have kept evolving with my communities needs and my personal needs. When I had my son, 5 years ago, I couldn't stand the thought of being away from him for the undetermined amount of time a birth takes. I decided to only work with repeat clients or 2nd timers for at least the first year while I was still a fumbly new mother. In my first year postpartum I also discovered that mother to mother support is so crucial for coping (my own coping!). I created Mothers Unfolding groups as a way to support new mothers and still add to our family income. That's one example of how I evolved in order to meet my needs and the needs of others.
2. What is it that resonates with you when you hear yourself described in this way.
I have created a wildly successful business around doing the very thing I love. I've loved mothers and babies since I was a very young child. In fact, when I was 9, I wrote a book All About Me as part of a school project. In it, I answered the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" My answer was "a mother to lots of babies". I consider myself to be a mother to lots and lots and lots of babies and ideas.
3. What was a business decision you made that you are proud of?
When I first plunged into my doula path, I invested in an awesome logo and a press package that I sent out to everyone in my community who would be sending me business: midwives, other doulas, doctors, CBEs, massage therapists, LCs, chiropractors, etc. In the package I included a tiny baby tshirt with my name and logo stamped on it, my cards, magnets, brochures, and some purple jelly bellies. Soft purple was definitely a theme. I mailed them in tubes so they were handled every step of the way with care and attention – the same way I felt about myself and my budding business.
4. Who are your mentors for being business savvy or where did you start learning about the business side of things?
I've had the entrepreneurial spirit since I was a young child. In order to supplement my meager weekly allowance, I sold candy in elementary school. My mom helped me buy in bulk and we figured out how much I would need to sell each piece for in order to make a profit. I sold Chick o Sticks for 25¢ each and Blow Pops for 15¢. I also became quite popular.
I worked for a large corporation before finding my way as a doula, so I learned about business and most especially accounting from that angle.
5. Can you describe a situation when you made a poor choice that hurt your business that you learned from?
I can't think of anything here. I've learned so much over the years about what works and what doesn't (specifically that print advertising rarely pays off). But nothing that I feel has "hurt" my business.
6. When you trained to be a doula were you satisfied with the training piece about starting a business?
My training had some good nuggets about starting my business. I was thankful for that. But I also yearned for more. So I created it! I created and offered a Business Basics for Doulas workshop and offered it several times to my local community in my first 10 years of doulaing.
7. How do you figure out what fee to charge as a doula?
I asked what other doulas were charging. I definitely took my market (a midsize city at that time) into consideration. As I became more in demand, I raised my rates so I could support myself on my doula income. Within just a few years of starting my business I realized that I had passion and dedication and deserved to be compensated for that. I had worked hard in a very short period of time to learn everything I could about birth and babies from a practical standpoint (workshops, books, etc).
Over time, my accumulated experience became the most valuable thing. Now that I have a young child, what it takes for me to be on call and be away from my family and my other commitments is immense. I value my service and my presence very much and have priced myself accordingly. I don't do anything half way. I do it fully and completely and with wild abandon even. My clients feel this and know I'm throwing an intense amount of love their way. It takes a lot of organization and support for me to be able to drop whatever I'm doing to go serve a client. This level of organization is worth a lot I feel.
8. What business advice do you have for other doulas?
Networking and collaboration are key. It doesn't matter how long you've been in business, marketing is always necessary. Throwing your name out into the community and staying present will keep the flow coming. Letting others in the field know what you're doing and why you're doing it (like a recent training you've attended, a new skill, etc).
Listen to your gut. It will tell you when something isn't quite right. Trust yourself to say no and pass along a client that doesn't fit with your dream client wish list? You don't have a dream client wish list? Sit right down and make a list of the qualities your dream client possesses. Be specific. The universe is listening.
9. How do you connect the success of your business with advocating normal birth? Or do you?
I advocate people bringing all their love to whatever they're doing. Sometimes birth is normal. Sometimes it's not. But no matter how it unfolds, imagine if everyone was as loving and present as their capabilities allow for that moment? Sometimes a mother comes to me seeking a specific birth outcome. By asking the right questions and allowing some deeper exploration of what that outcome means to her, she usually aligns with her deepest, most authentic self. And when she's in that place, the outcome she's reaching for becomes less important. Her clutching to a particular outcome softens. This is what people really resonate with. It's more authentic and expanded…spacious. It's what we're all looking for, really. I truly feel this is why people keep coming to me. They're looking for more presence – in themselves. In bringing my full presence and passion to each family, I guess I show them what's possible for their very own selves.
10. What are the top 5 things you would say are the most important things to consider for a new doula staring a doula business?
1) take a full personal inventory about your beliefs about birth, paying close attention to all the absolutes, like "Birth is Normal" What does that *really* mean to you? Those absolutes and one liners are so prevalent among birth workers. Instead of regurgitating those ideas, find out what they mean to you.
2) take a full personal inventory about your beliefs about money, abundance, prosperity, again paying close attention to your agreements, stories, and beliefs about all of those. Do you value your effort, your time, your passion? If you don't, no one else will! Make very detailed financial goals, one year, 5 years, 10 years out.
3) Find support for yourself (processing births, learning from grandma doulas) and your budding business – there's LOTS of both kinds of support available. Make it a top priority to have lots of both. Many communities have free business classes. Tap into those – they're gems!
4) Get a smart phone. I don't know how i ever did this work without one. It will help you be available and connected and able to move at light speed.
5) Printed materials/advertising almost never returns what it costs. It's all about word of mouth and client testimonials. Build a strong client base who will advertise FOR you! A strong website with SEO is critical. Make a designer your new best friend. If you have a strong online presence, people will find you with more ease.
Thanks Lanell! You are an inspiration to the birth community!
For more information on Lanell:
Also, see an article where her and her family were featured in L Style G Style Magazine!