by Annie Hill, Senior Advisory Board Member
So it’s no secret – I moved here to Shiloh, IL, (right outside St. Louis) just over 2 months ago to be with my new husband (we married in August,) and merge our families. I’m a homeschooling Birth-worker on top of that, and I haven’t made a lot of acquaintances outside of our neighborhood yet (we start with the local co-op in the new year.) While I work on getting familiar with the community, and the geography – trying hard to not get lost as I learn my way about, I’m also working to re-establish my business.
On Dec 24 (what a day to be out and shopping…) I had to run to the grocery store to pick up eggs (family of 7 – we go through A LOT of eggs) and while I was there, I almost ran over a three-year-old who chose that moment to melt down in front of my cart.
The young mom was really embarrassed by her child’s tantrum, she looked at me and said: “I’m so sorry you have to share your shopping with this.” I smiled empathetically and told her it wasn’t that long ago my own two were doing that – and didn’t think that there was anything more difficult when grocery shopping as a mom, than a pre-schooler melting down in the aisles at Aldi… but that it would pass faster than she realized. I nodded at my 12-year-old daughter who was with me and said: “She used to be the queen of the grocery store tantrum…” My daughter – she was not so amused that I was calling her out in comparison, but she still was being empathetic with this mom who had not only one but two pre-schoolers who were being unruly. My daughter’s loving behavior towards that mom and her unruly preschoolers was proof that they do eventually grow up.
We crossed paths a few times and at one point her little boy tossed plush toys in my cart. I thanked him but said they weren’t on my shopping list, and got another good chuckle out of it. By this point, the mom was pretty relaxed around me, and I looked at her and said “so, I’m new to the area, and I’m a Doula and Encapsulator… the only way moms get to help each other is by helping each other. Can I give you one of my business cards and could you maybe let your friends know that there’s a new Doula around and I have booking availability?”
Not only did she accept my card, but she shared that she used to work at the local birthing center here at the hospital 7 minutes away from me, and she gave me a lead on a 3D-4D Ultrasound shop opening up locally where I can hopefully share my info at. We had quite a wonderful conversation about the value of labor support and what the birth culture was like in our area and I am humbly appreciative of the information she shared.
Never forget to carry your business card, or a small stack of ‘em. I just gave her about 10 to share with friends as she’s really hooked into the local birth community and there evidently are very few encapsulators in my area.
Networking can be as easy as being sympathetic to a fellow human being in the grocery store. This is the second connection I’ve made in the grocery store this week. A cashier at a different store is trying to conceive and wants a Doula and childbirth educator when it’s time (yay!) and this gal from Christmas Eve was super connected to the hospital I am in the process of getting my foot in the door. Taking time to chat with each of them was a simple form of networking.
The hard part of being a Professional Doula is that you are also in sales. You and your skills are your product. If this is your path and you are making this your profession then you have to think about your marketing constantly. This doesn’t mean you should accost every mother you cross paths with or chase every pregnant woman you see down to solicit her business – after all you don’t own her birth, she does…
Because of this, I don’t go to the grocery store looking like I am in need of a shower, or in super sloppy clothing – my image counts. I try to make every connection I can and I’m always doing it in a positive manner. I don’t seek to find pregnant women or those who will be my potential clients with every trip out – I’m not a Mary Kay saleswoman on a “Warm Chat” mission”, but if I am going to cross paths with someone and it looks like a good opportunity to make a potential connection, you can bet I’m gonna do it.
At the same time – I really am out to make connections mother to mother. We can’t do it alone, and who knows what great advice/lessons I might learn from someone else that I can apply to my own day to day endeavors.
Networking is important – you build relationships based on things that are mutually beneficial. In my Christmas Eve interaction, I built a connection that will hopefully turn into not only a positive business contact but more so a connection with another mother and a friendship… and one more support as I travel down this road of motherhood as a working mom.
Don’t forget in your networking, and remember that as you gain, you must give back too. What I wrote above may be hard for an introvert to emulate in their own way, but the rewards are well worth it.
I wish you all a wonderful 2017, may it be a positive and busy year for you. Madriella has some amazing things coming up in the new year and I hope to share them with you all!