Mon, 22 May 2017
If you find yourself answering the same questions over and over (and getting super excited about answering those questions!) maybe you need to think about adding a teaching element to your business. That's what today's guest did, and we learned a ton from her!
On the Podcast
00:30 - Meet Alice + Our Surprise Co-Host
Meet Alice + Our Surprise Co-Host
Beth Anne: I’m so excited to welcome Alice Turner of Your Doula Bag.com. She’s a birth doula, a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, and an online business owner which is SO cool. She has over 10 years of experience working as a doula and has translated that into having a successful e-commerce store as well as selling online courses. She’s a mom of 4 kids and has a supportive husband, too. Welcome to the show, Alice!
Beth Anne: And I forgot to let everyone know, this is an extra special interview because Victoria from our team is also here! Welcome!
Victoria: Yeah, thank you! I didn’t want to let the cat out of the bag too early. A lot of you may know I’m also a doula as well, and I’m a customer of Alice’s business. It’s a fun connection. Hopefully, it’ll be helpful for the interview.
(Also, if you’re a keen listener, you might notice that part of our conversation got cut out at this point. Due to some tech issues, we lost part of Alice’s interview. Technology works until it doesn’t, am I right?)
Beth Anne: I love that! Victoria, do you want to jump in with a question?
Stocking an Ecommerce Store
Victoria: Alice, I would like to ask you about your e-commerce store. I want to talk about that before your online courses. One thing I’d love to know is how do you choose what you’d like to stock in your store. How do you choose which products to keep? I imagine it’s a bit different than keeping a brick and mortar storefront.
Alice: It’s definitely different! The store has been around since 2009. I really started out with just practical tools, thinking doulas mostly wanted tools for their bag. But it seems that doulas are also interested in more fun products! So I started to add fun things like tee shirts, buttons, and stickers.
It’s been a balance to know what to stock but I get some ideas when I go to a conference. I might attend a doula or childbirth education conferences, have different products on the table, and see what draws people’s attention and what they get excited about. From there I can change what I’m offering online to match the needs of my customers.
Sometimes I get emails asking why I don’t carry a certain product. Or they’ll say something like, “I can buy everything I need except one thing, can you start carrying that?” That’s easy!
It’s always fun to see what’s lacking and where I can make up.
Victoria: I do have a followup question, but first I want to say going to conferences is a good strategy. Attending conferences is a great idea for people who might be struggling to work online, wishing they had an in-person connection. Set up a booth and see what people gravitate toward on your table!
My follow-up question is this: do you have tools to manage your inventory? Do you use online tools? A spreadsheet?
Alice: My store is on the Shopify platform. It’s pretty easy to manage inventory that way. I use their built-in tools to keep an eye on it. It’s still a bit challenging, trying to balance between selling products and teaching. I thought these two arms of my business would be more alike, but they are actually very different. I thought there’d be a lot of back and forth between my customers, and that the same person who bought a T-shirt would want also want to buy a course, but it’s not the case. That has been a surprise to me!
Figuring Out Order Fulfilment
Beth Anne: My online store is also on Shopify. I love it! It’s so easy to set up.
And I do want to touch on the point about your customers being different in a moment, but I’m curious about one thing first. Do you stock everything out of your home and fulfill orders yourself? Or is there another system you’re using?
Alice: That’s a great question, and it’s changed along the way. Starting off I was all on my own with a closet full of inventory. But as the business grew with more orders, I contracted out shipping to someone in my neighborhood actually. They had all my inventory and did the shipping for me, I just passed the orders through. That arrangement worked out well until she was unable to continue doing it late last year. It’s back to me and it’s pretty challenging.
I haven’t formally announced this yet, but I will be looking for a buyer for the products part of my business sometime this year. It’s a new development, but I’ve found that there isn’t as much overlap as I thought between my customers. I think it might be time to formally separate the two businesses.
Beth Anne: Very interesting! I think it makes sense. At some point, you can spread yourself too thin, and you want to dig deep into one branch of your business instead.
Alice: Yeah, exactly. It is a time for growth, but also sad to a point. I do love the product aspect of my business but if I really want to focus on helping doulas run their businesses, I should spend more of my time there, which is my company mission. It’s all in the works.
Victoria: So our BBM ladies can follow you and keep out an eye for your all-call for a buyer! Awesome.
Rebranding & When Your Business Has Two Customer Groups
And as you were just saying, the customers of your courses and products are different; can you talk a little more about that? How did you notice? Do you have ways of talking specifically to one group and then the other? How do you manage to talk to two separate people in your business?
Alice: Yes, that’s been challenging and fun to figure out. I would say I try to do blog posts and videos about the business side. And we’ll do sales and share about that on Instagram on more of a product side since that really lends itself to pictures. But when I write blog posts or make videos, it’s not really about a product or how to use a product; it’s more about the business, like how to set up an electronic contract, for example.
Beth Anne: We’ve certainly found the same thing to be true here. Victoria runs our planner Instagram account, but when it comes to selling business courses that’s where I use webinars and videos to teach and sell.
Alice: That’s awesome!
Beth Anne: So I know you’re rebranding, going from Your Doula Bag to 100% Doula. The whole idea of rebranding seems overwhelming and scary to me. All sorts of stressful things! I’d love to hear more from you about what that looks like. What are the steps you’ve gone through?
Alice: It is very daunting. And it has taken a while for me to come to the decision to break out of the product-side of my business. I found that when I started offering different types of things like products, classes, and webinars, it was confusing to my customer.
For example, they’d say, “Don’t you sell those backpacks I love?” and I’d respond, “I do! And I also sell courses to help you grow your business.” It just wasn’t consistent.
Especially keeping the name Your Doula Bag felt more like a product-based business to me. 100% Doula was a name that had more flexibility and is more of an umbrella over all my products and services. But getting the word out has been a slow trickle. Instagram made it easy to change my name, and Twitter was super easy to rebrand. No one actually said anything after I changed those two platforms! Facebook is much harder to change, and more of an involved process. I’m not completely there with educating all my customers. A lot of people still know me as Your Doula Bag.
I have even had some customers seem sad that I was changing my business name! That’s been interesting to handle, too.
From Service-Based Business to Teaching Others
Beth Anne: I love, Alice, how you took your service-based business, which you still do, and turned it into an online business course. You have an awesome online business course for doulas, and you still practice as a doula. A lot of women out there have a fabulous skill they could teach on, but would be nervous to turn that skill set into a course. What advice would you give that woman? How did you move to that online business space?
Alice: I love being a doula. I love talking about the work, reading about it, and thinking about it. It just really gets me excited. I keep talking about attending conferences, and even though there aren’t that many, the ones I’ve attended have had a big impact on my business decisions.
When I would go to a conference and talk informally with people, I found that I was answering a lot of questions. Maybe a doula would say, “I’m trying to balance childcare and being a doula.” I could say, “That was hard for me too, but I figured it out this way.” Or I might be answering a question about how I use Twitter to grow my business.
I realized I didn’t know anyone who is out there talking about running a business as a doula, or selling products to doulas. Maybe that was something I can do. There was a gap in the offerings, and maybe I could fill it. Since then, definitely, other companies are filling that gap, which is exciting. But after I found that I was answering a lot of questions, I thought I could be the one to give information. I’m thinking about someone who might be on the fence about their business, but finds themselves often to be the person in a group answering everyone’s questions; it only makes sense that they would be a great person to teach and help others.
I’m still doing the work of a doula because it really is what I love. Some of my customers see a picture on Instagram of where I’m at a hospital at a birth and will write back surprised that I’m still working as a doula. Of course, I’m still a doula! I don’t want to give that up because I have other stuff going on. It’s a job I can learn from. And if I’m teaching about it, I think it’s important to stay relevant.
Victoria: I have two thoughts. 1) I think it’s great you noticed you were getting the same questions a lot and thought you could be the one to answer it. That’s the spark of an entrepreneur! You’ve got a problem? I’ve got the solution. Hopefully, that’s inspiring to others. You also don’t seem to have a scarcity mindset, which is really refreshing.
How Do You Run Two Businesses At Once!?
And 2) Could you talk a bit more about practicing as a doula while running a separate business? I know a lot of our ladies have many interests and sometimes you can feel crazy pursuing two things at one. How do you keep those two businesses separate? Or does it feel like one in the same?
Alice: Well in my case, the businesses are certainly connected. In my doula service business, I have the luxury of having a lot of repeat clients. Many of my clients go on to have other babies, so I’m able to slack off a bit in the marketing side of my personal doula business and spend the marketing energy on my other online programs. I feel lucky I’m able to get enough clients just by referrals from prior clients and repeat clients.
Victoria: One business can coast, and one is more in hustle mode.
Alice: Exactly. I am trying to teach more childbirth classes, and I’m working with a new group we formed of Lamaze educators here in Atlanta. Unfortunately, I don’t have as much time as I want to devote to that, but I try to make peace with that in my head that I at least keep myself in the game, but not having to spend tons of energy on growing that particular business.
Growing An Audience for Your Online Course
Beth Anne: Okay, so this is what I see a lot of women maybe struggling with. You had essentially your service-based business on autopilot thanks to an awesome referral network, but then you go online. Maybe a mom is wondering how she’ll get those first customers for her online course?
I know you have some conference connections. Was it word of mouth to get those first students in the door? Or were there other marketing strategies that helped you grow?
Alice: I think what helped with getting the course started and growing it is that I was already doing a fair amount of regular blogging and videos. I would do videos on topics related to growing a doula business, and as my email list was growing I could send them new info about what I was doing. Because the course is video based, that helped since people already knew my style from my YouTube video and could assume a course would be similar.
Before I launched the course, I was doing a few Google Live Hangouts to talk business. That helped get the word out about what I did and what I was talking about.
And, of course, social media. I tried to post about the same topics I would be teaching in the courses.
Victoria: I think it’s so great to see solid marketing strategies as a base. If you have a good base, you can turn it to whatever direction your business needs to go.
Leveraging Video Marketing
We were just talking about social media marketing and using videos and you definitely do a lot of that. And I'm a fan! Why did you start using video? What makes a good video? How do you know what makes a good video?
Alice: I love using video! When I was hearing your question I was thinking how I got started. I can’t remember what exactly forced me to turn on the camera back then, but I really love learning from video. And I just know that YouTube is so easy. When I started, Facebook Live wasn’t available, but just the fact that you can turn on a camera and reach people easily is so cool.
And blogging isn’t my favorite. I hire out people to help me write. I don’t really love just sitting down and writing; I would much rather have a conversation about the topic. If I could sit down to coffee with someone and tell them how to get clients, I would love that! But if I had to write a paper on it, I’d hate it!
So I did YouTube videos pretty regularly. And this year I’ve done more Facebook Live. They’re both good, but a bit different. The live component is really fun. I don’t mind winging it when I'm talking about a subject I love.
Victoria: With using YouTube, were you always cognisant about SEO and tagging and keywords? Or did you not worry about it?
Alice: No, I did try to get the description right, with a link back to my website. I do put thought into that. But usually, my ideas for YouTube come thinking about what I should blog about.
Alice’s Embarrassing Mom Moment
Beth Anne: Alice thank you so much for chatting with us today! It’s been really fun seeing how you’ve mastered so many different areas of business. You’re really rocking and rolling, and I know it’ll inspire other moms to get clients or students.
As we wrap up, we always ask our guests to share a funny or adorable mom moment.
Alice: I do have a funny moment, but I don’t look like the best mom in it. I was having a particularly busy day. I was probably packing up boxes, sitting in the shipping area of my house and trying to get stuff done after dinner. I was tired and busy, you get it. So my oldest daughter, who’s in high school, started telling me about something at school and I was getting frustrated with her because she was slowing me down. I didn’t say it, but inside I was thinking, “Can you just go do your homework?” I asked her why she needed me. And she said, “I’m writing a speech about why you should have a doula and I wanted to interview you.” So I don’t know if that’s a funny moment, but I felt bad and laughed at the same time. And I told her I was so sorry to be getting frustrated with her when there she was wanting to write a speech about me.
Beth Anne: I think that’s the epitome of being a business mom. You’re always feeling busy and overwhelmed, and it can be hard to always stop and be attentive to what our kids need. But our kids are always watching and viewing us as these role models even when we don’t feel like we’re being a role model.
Alice: The good news is she made a very good grade on her speech and was very knowledgeable!
Doula Labor Tips for Beth Anne
Victoria: I’m throwing in a fun question. We know Beth Anne is expecting at the time of recording, so I’d love to hear a fun pregnancy or labor tip for her.
Alice: What baby is this?
Beth Anne: This will be my first birth. We have one son, Holden, and we adopted him. This is my first pregnancy and will be my first birth.
Alice: Oh, exciting! Victoria, I can only give one!? Okay. If I could tell all pregnant women one thing, it would be to move around in labor - it’s so much better. A lot of people think (and pictures often show) women in labor should be in hospital beds. And certainly there’s a time for that, and if you’re doing an epidural, of course, you need to be in bed. But before your epidural, or if you’re not having one, move around! A lot of women don’t know they can. And a lot of nurses don’t know to tell their patients that they can!
Beth Anne: And here’s my “plan” for now: To stay home as long as I can. Move around a ton at home. Try everything possible. Then when I can’t stand it anymore we’ll go to the hospital and I want an epidural right away.
Alice: Yeah! That’s a really good plan. Laboring at home is wonderful.
Victoria: You can even move with an epidural using a peanut ball, rotating hips. And sometimes you can move a lot with an epidural depending on how strong it is. Even when you get there, keep gravity working in your favor.
Beth Anne: Yes! That’s true. I’m already so impatient. I have 4-6 weeks before he’ll be here, but I’m so ready now.
Alice: It is so hard! Those last few days are hard and can be long. I love that you said 4-6 weeks. You’ve got the range.
Beth Anne: I’m trying to be realistic.
Alice: Best of luck! That’s very exciting.
Beth Anne: Thank you! Thanks for talking with us. I love your business model and all the ways you’re using your skills and talents and passions.
Connect with Alice
Now it’s your turn to head out there and Be Brilliant!