- Tell us about yourself, a bit of background.
I’m a Durban girl, married to a lovely man from the Netherlands. We met while we were both studying in Sweden and he then moved to South Africa to be with me. We have two young children together who keep us endlessly entertained with their stories and antics. We love raising them here with our multi-cultural society, beautiful weather and big, open spaces.
I trained as a HypnoBirthing teacher after the birth of my second child, because it really did make a massive difference to the labour and birth and I wanted to share what I had learnt with other mothers. From there, it was a natural progression to train as a birth and postpartum doula. I currently run my little business, Gentle Welcome, alongside a part-time office job and looking after my children.
- What were you doing before you started this business?
I have worked at a large multi-national in marketing for over a decade now. Before I started Gentle Welcome, I was working full-time but I now work part-time. This has allowed me more time to be with my children (which was the main aim) but also to market my business.
- Is your business full time or part time and why?
My business is part-time. Childbirth education is actually a great business to have together with a normal job, or alongside raising children, as classes will generally be held in the evenings or on weekends when both the parents-to-be are available. Doula work is, by its nature, extremely unpredictable as you never know when a mother may go into labour. However, I work with a doula partner, who is able to step in and be at a birth if I cannot due to my other responsibilities.
HypnoBirthing actually fits in really well with family life. I teach in the evenings, from our lounge, when my kids are about to go to bed anyway. They find it quite exciting to help me to set everything up and they know there will be leftover biscuits waiting for them when they wake up in the morning! My husband is at home at that time so he is on hand to look after them as needed. As I have been teaching for many years now, there is just a little preparation required before each lesson and I tend to do this in the evenings as well.
Doula work is a bit more difficult with young children! I have deliberately only taken on one doula client a month to avoid strain on our family, but will likely be cutting it back even more. I find the work incredibly fulfilling and a real joy but the downside is lots of broken promises to my children. If a mom goes into labour, I need to drop everything and run, no matter whose birthday party is on or if we are in the middle of a trip to the park. That is really quite difficult for small children to understand.
- Do you have a business plan? If so, can you share a bit about your strategy to make it successful?
I do have a basic business plan that covers my vision/mission, marketing plan and earnings goal for the year. I find it important to check back in with my vision quite often, and remind myself why I do what I do and why it makes a difference.
- How do you get clients/ market yourself?
I rely primarily on word of mouth to get new clients, as childbirth education classes – especially outside of a hospital setting – are very personal, and moms are reluctant to go to someone they have never heard of. This means that I need to offer excellent service from the moment that I receive an enquiry about a course to well after that baby is born. Luckily, I am genuinely passionate about pregnancy and birth and I absolutely love working with women so it all comes quite naturally.
I also have an extensive network of other professionals that are involved with pregnant women, from chiros to homeopaths and other doulas. I do have a website, Facebook page and leave business cards and flyers in doctors’ offices and other relevant places.
- What’s your biggest challenge right now?
Childbirth education is extremely unpredictable. I can have courses that are completely over-subscribed where I am literally turning away clients, and then there are months where I do not have a single enquiry. Luckily, I don’t have any fixed costs or staff to pay, so I try to be really flexible and respond to demand where and when it occurs.
- Did you need a lot of money to start off? And how long was it before you made a profit?
No! The great thing about this business is that the only really major cost is your training which can be anything from R10,000-R50,00 depending on the course/s that you choose. If you teach from home, your only ongoing costs are your textbooks, notes and tea/coffee, and then your admin related costs like your laptop, internet and so on. I was able to make a small profit after just a few months.
- What makes your business unique from other brands?
HypnoBirthing is in itself a unique childbirth education programme. It goes beyond the traditional hospital antenatal classes (which really just train you to be a good patient) to prepare you emotionally, mentally and physically for childbirth. I offer a personalised, intimate service that is tailored for the needs of each couple that I meet. Because my classes are so small, we have time to chat and get to know each other and my couples often keep in contact with me and the other couples in their class long after they have their babies.
As a doula, I also connect very personally with each family that I work with, and many of them have become friends. The work that I do is very special that way! I suppose that you could say that I am my brand, and I do take that very seriously.
- Share with us your social media links and website.
My website is www.gentlewelcome.co.za
My Facebook page is www.facebook.com/gentlewelcome