Being a birth doula and entrepreneur was a very lonesome journey in the beginning while overseas. The first few years were hard to work on establishing a continuum of care and awareness in a place where people move all the time. While I had peers who worked in the birth community here, I felt like I kept hitting brick walls as growth was ever impending on this island. There were times I felt like no one understood the dynamics of our birth community. I am lucky to have a great, supportive birth community in San Diego, but sometimes when you need someone to talk too, calling on the phone with the time difference makes it more difficult. Many times, I found myself relying on my husband to lend a listening ear and mentorship. I am proud that, even through the rough patches and learning curves, I held on to what I believed and did my best to hold up integrity.
Hindsight is always 20/20. As I reflect on the past 5 years, I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for being consistent, dedicated, and good old fashion hard work. Even through all the frustrations, ups and downs, just the sheer roller coaster ride of emotions in learning how to establish an organization and a good working relationship with others. I am happy to see what we’ve become today and how this network has grown.
I want to take a few moments to talk about how getting frustrated and integrity pertains to our profession as a doula.
Let’s look at what happens when frustrations mount with a doula trying to get her business started and gaining cliental might not be working out for her as easily as hoped for. A choice can be made. Operate with integrity or give into being upset.
What is integrity? By definition: the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.
Giving into those frustrations begins the slippery slope of what I would call The Cascade of Interventions for Doulas. When frustration develops, a doula might start throwing oneself at the foot of any expectant woman who walks by. Whether at the store, gas station or soliciting services for free. In some cases, a doula may begin pleading with the mother to have her come to the birth even when the birth partner doesn’t want a doula. If that route doesn’t work, jealousy and anger may start to rear its ugly head. The individuals may start acting out of emotion when they see other doulas working. These negative emotions often lead to hurt feelings and ultimately relationships destroyed.
For a doula that is starting to grow a business, I have found that integrity does play an important role. When confronted with situations requiring integrity, I will take a step back and reflect on what the pros and cons of my choices will be and how it could affect what I represent in the community.
Let's ask ourselves, “How can any of this benefit our expectant families?”
I want to share with you some tips that as a doula and businesswoman have worked for me and I hope can work for you.
· Be consistent. This does take time to establish when you are first starting up a business. Remember in everything you say and do, consistency leaves a good reputation with the people you serve. The external impression of your business shouldn’t differ much from the internal.
Bottom line- be consistent in what you believe about being a doula, pricing, and services you offer. Don’t be a butterfly floating from one flower to the next.
· Be a likeable and reliable. I do understand we will not jive with everyone who crosses are path, but we should respect the other person for whom they are. If we are always being negative and gossiping with a down right bad attitude about everything, people will notice and probably will get tired of being around you. Being reliable is crucial to someone being able to trust you.
Bottom line- Our reputation and relationships are all we have and it takes time to establish a good rapport within your community. I wished it were easy to say building strong relationships happen overnight. It just doesn’t. I often run into skeptics or those who’ve had bad experiences with doulas before. So their guard is up. Build bridges. Don’t burn them.
· Online Presence. *DING *DING! This is a HUGE factor in the growth of a business. With social media dominating the Internet, it’s imperative to keep integrity. I recently read an article about companies starting to research potential employees through social media. In a 2014 Social Recruiting Survey, data shows 93% of hiring managers will review a candidate’s social profile before taking on that person.
Bottom line- I can’t say it enough, people are always watching. Be mindful of mixing online friendships and business. Do you want potential clients seeing your personal profile and what’s being posted daily?
· Learn your area and audience. Every area is going to have unique differences and a diverse audience. Think about who your audience will be. Maybe you want to keep things low key and take on limited cliental. Perhaps you want to reach out and go big. What if you desire to volunteer?
Bottom line- There are plenty of pregnant women to go around. We can’t serve everyone. We each have something to contribute to our community and if it hasn’t been done yet, then connect with those who can help and get something going. Some areas will have next to nothing. It takes a lot of time and dedication to establish even the understanding of what a doulas role is. You may find yourself walking into a well established community. There’s a place for you too if we treat one another with courtesy and respect.
I hope that something can be taken away from this. I remember being that new doula and wanting to take on the world. I was willing to help anyone. I was ready to hit the ground running. Therefore, I understand what it is like to want to at least have more than one woman on the books. Integrity plays a big role in how not only how the community views a business but how long term people can trust. Be honest. Be genuine. Be humble. Treat others with respect and be courteous. Maintain healthy relationships that lift you up and get rid of the negativity.
My mission has and always will be to provide resources and a continuity of care for families in the military through the use of birth & postpartum doulas and other birth professionals who contribute their life to this amazing work.