How I Started A Business Helping Women With Postpartum Recovery
Hello! Who are you and what are you working on?
My name is Wendy Foster. I am the founder of The Mamalates Birth Recovery Method.
My main products are:
- An e-commerce site where I sell postpartum fitness products,
- A prenatal/postpartum video streaming site, and
- A training/licensing program for birth and fitness professionals.
I am currently working on my SVOD (subscription video on demand) channel to offer more content for new moms.
Postpartum women are sometimes isolated and can have challenges with the physical and mental recovery after baby. Finding an experienced professional to help them navigate this challenging time is crucial.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I’ve always been an entrepreneur! I have a knack for noticing what is missing that people will want and filling that gap. I had experience working as a therapeutic Pilates instructor for years but I never had to recover from childbirth. As a skier, climber and general movement enthusiast, I was familiar with discomfort, physical pain and enduring miserable situations but nothing prepared and humbled me like the marathon of labor, birth and postpartum.
Just offering 1-3 products as you launch your store is plenty. Even if you don’t have it all figured out. For me, it helps to works backwards from 5 years. Then you can figure out what you need to do today to make the 5 year goal happen.
After a long labor and c-section, I felt like a train wreck! I was recovering from surgery in an unfamiliar body caring for a newborn and not sleeping. I was suffering from The Baby Blues and was completely humbled by my chronic pain, weakness and overall overwhelm. I started to piece myself back together physically by modifying traditional Pilates stretches and exercises and using the foam roller for self myofascial release.
I started to share what was working and feeling better for me with other women by offering local mom and baby Pilates classes in Portland. Sometimes, even in my basement! I continued to research standard operating birth recovery procedures in other cultures & countries and realized the support and treatment they received was far superior to ours in the U.S. and realized that there was a real lack of resources and guidelines in the states.
I interviewed OB/GYNs, PT’s, Naturopaths and others to combine a holistic method- I was so eager to connect and help other new moms! I decided to dedicate my private + group Pilates practice solely to prenatal and postpartum women. Local physicians started referring clients or students would seek me out directly for this niche service- word of mouth travels quickly with moms!
I soon added specialty workshops, produced a DVD and created my Complete Birth Recovery Kit that is distributed online and through licensed mamalates PRO's. After 5 years of teaching, I opened a studio that was dedicated to moms, movement and education/ classes around newborns & birth recovery with a community of other childbirth educators & pre/post yoga instructors.
It all was a leap of faith and completely self funded. I soon realized that I needed to funnel my energy and focus less on the brick and mortar studio but more on the national trainings that would help spread this work while simultaneously building my brand.
As the sole founder and workhorse behind all these businesses, it has been challenging to keep my eye on the prize and not get bogged down with the day to day. But, for the last 5 years have been focusing more on the trainings and videos and realizing that I need to outsource and ask for help if I want my business to continue to grow.
Describe the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing the product.
The Mamalates Complete Birth Recovery Kit was created in 2009.
It honestly happened organically with clients approaching me about producing a mom and baby workout DVD that they could do at home, in between classes. I had all the choreography down- I just needed to film it. And I was already selling resistance bands and balls as these are crucial to Pilates based fitness, so I decided to combine all the products in a reusable eco tote for the essential kit.
The hardest part and most time consuming was editing all the footage. This took hours and hours! I found a local DVD packaging service and had 1000 DVDs manufactured for $5000. I sold the kits at workshops, classes and at shows. This was before social media so the techniques were a little different but I still had to trademark the name.
I added an OB/GYN endorsed abdominal binder for core support to the kit to complete the package. For postpartum women with separated, stretched or weak abdominals muscles, this can really assist in their recovery process. realized this was the missing piece to the kit and I could charge more for the same amount of work. I get the binder from a distributor and the kit retails online for $129. A big recent selling point is that many women now receive insurance reimbursement for birth recovery products.
Describe the process of launching the online store/business.
I used Shopify for all my ecommerce and training registrations. I outsourced to a web developer and paid $2000 to have the site built. She helped on the backend and frontend with design and content. Now, I mostly manage it myself.
I never really had a hard launch. I put my store front up and local clients + students would go there to register for classes or purchase products.
I was taking baby steps and putting in the time and money where I could- slowly investing most of my earnings back into the business throughout the years. I was also the main caregiver for my 2 boys so I knew I needed to pace myself.
Looking back, putting energy into national networking as well as local would have helped pave the way for a more bigger reach But, at the time, the products were just a side hustle, shipping out of my home the ones that were selling on Amazon.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
The arena is vastly different since mamalates first launched.
With rise of social media, influencers and more ecommerce sites, there is definitely more noise on the internet now. Being authentic, having patience and faith that the right customers will find you and want to ride your wave yet, at the same time being a leader in your industry and aggressively claiming your seat at the table is a formula I try to follow.
As a pioneer in the birth recovery industry, I have seen it really blossom from “what are you talking about” to “I KNOW I need that”. I tell people that it is not like you are selling toilet paper when you talk about recovering from birth- people know they need TP!
But you have to educate and enroll people into the idea of birth recovery so it can be a longer process. At the same time, there is less competition and people are more aware of the benefits of proper postpartum exercise now than they were even a few years ago. I have been very patient- allowing the industry to catch up with my vision!
However, it is easy to get sidetracked and go down a path that doesn’t serve your bottom line and is a waste of time. This happened to me when I started to offer too many products. I couldn’t compete with Amazon for the price of some of the items I was selling. So I decided to pair down and focus on my signature kits. This opened up storage space, streamlined the shipping process and moved inventory more quickly.
How is everything going nowadays, and what are your plans for the future?
Nowadays, I am mostly focused on my Complete Birth Recovery Kit sales, supporting my mamalatesPRO’s and my subscription video on demand (SVOD) site.
My margins are quite high for my Complete Kit retail orders (60%). Not as high for my wholesale kits (30%) to my licensed mamalatesPRO’s. But, since I have licensed instructors all over the U.S. and London the value is in building brand awareness globally while driving people to the site. I have loads of content to get up on the SVOD site and will be doing a hard launch of mamalates online in Fall 2018.
I also have a few postpartum fitness & yoga product ideas that I am hoping to manufacture. I see so many possibilities for business ideas in this industry! After all, I have been doing my R + D on the target group for years!
Of course for a longer term goal I have a big project in the works that we’re hoping to receive a little more funding for and launch in Spring 2019.
In terms of expansion I would love to see these same options for recovery offered to Latinas in other countries.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Oh, so many lessons and mistakes. I started my initial networking and marketing with birth professionals as opposed to fitness professionals. I soon realized that fitness professionals were an easier sell and would pay more for my trainings.
If you are the main caregiver and an entrepreneur it can be quite challenging. I was really trying to build a flexible and then more virtual business on the side while raising my boys. The drawback is that you never can really thrust forward. You have small increments of time to produce big results and that can be frustrating, overwhelming and inefficient.
In terms of balancing life and business, things shifted when mamalates became less of a side hustle and more of a business. The boundries became clearer as the business really launched and I began to feel confident and justified in taking more time away from the family as the business was growing.
At the same time, now, when I am with my family, I focus on them- not the business. I turn off my phone and give them my full attention- especially during transitions like pick up at school. It make for a more productive day all around!
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
My favorite business tools include Shopify for my ecommerce platform and Constant Contact for newsletters.
Canva is great and easy for creating images for social media posts and e-flyers.
I usually use Buffer to post, laying out a few weeks worth of social media posts at a time.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I love listening to different entrepreneurs share their story. How I Built This with Guy Raz is my favorite podcast, but I also like Aaron Urbanski and Pia Silva for virtual business coaching.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
I would definitely suggest to start small.
Just offering 1-3 products as you launch your store is plenty. Even if you don’t have it all figured out. For me, it helps to works backwards from 5 years. Then you can figure out what you need to do today to make teh 5 year goal happen.
Recently, I started taking monthly business “retreats” where I revisit and set measurable business goals for the following month. I’ll turn off my phone grab a pot of coffee and work undisturbed after a long run. I can focus and plow through big picture stuff!
Where can we go to learn more?
Email me at [email protected]!
Also, check us out at:
@mamalates on Instagram.
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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