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30 Aug 2011

Business Savvy Doula Interview Featuring Elizabeth Mangum

By The DTI team

Why are you considered a business savvy doula?      

I am considered a business savvy doula because I live on the edge of innovation.  I travel internationally to meet doulas, midwives, and birth professionals around the world and seek to learn from pregnant women, and these professionals, about BIRTH in other cultures and my own.  I am open to new ideas and maintain an “open door” policy with the doulas in my practice, who are always sharing their talents and ideas with me. I listen to my own voice and internal knowledge when making decisions about my business and am open to stepping outside of the box.  My practice is currently co-producing, directing, and several doulas are cast in a production of “Birth”, a play by Karen Brody, for Labor Day 2011 as a way to raise consciousness around empowering birth experiences…this is what I mean when I say I am living on the edge of innovation!


What is it that resonates with you when you hear yourself described in this way?

Birth is an adventure…and I am an adventurer!  (Admin note:  check out the Adventures of Birth Focus Doulas)

What was a business decision you made that you are proud of?

To expand our services and collaborate with outside partners in order to serve women in several areas of NYC.

Who are your mentors for being business savvy or where did you start learning about the business side of things?
Ilana Stein, the founder of BirthFocus, was my first mentor in the childbirth industry.  She taught me, simply, how to listen to myself and held my hand as I grew in this profession.  My very first mentor was my father, an entrepreneur himself, who has been teaching me lessons about business ever since I was three. He taught me how to “beat the bushes” and showed me the cash falling out… his way of showing me that money can grow on trees if one tries their best to be successful.  

Can you describe a situation when you made a poor choice that hurt your business that you learned from?

Communication is key to running a business. There have been times that I have made assumptions about an action made by a doula or a preference of a client and I was wrong.  I am trying to move forward more slowly and take time to stop and listen – to the doulas in my practice, mother’s, and myself.

When you trained to be a doula were you satisfied with the training piece about starting a business?


How do you figure out what fee to charge as a doula?

I calculate how much money I need to make in order to take care of myself, and my family, and then I find a fair fee within that range. This way, I take care of myself first so that I can then, realistically, care for others.  I also try to keep my sliding scale in the mid-range of what my peers are offering so that I’m not the doula with the highest fee or the lowest.  

What business advice do you have for other doulas?

Take care of yourself so that you can take care of others – charge a fee that feels good to you, get a massage after a birth, eat good food, and be sure you have someone who can listen to you after a birth (ideally, another doula!) Listen to your own voice when helping women find their own.  Remember that being a birth activist is important, at the right time, in the right place, and with the right audience.  Be sure to use the bathroom regularly, always drink enough water, and if you feel faint…sit down!

How do you connect the success of your business with advocating normal birth?  Or do you?

In my practice – both personal and in my NYC practice, BirthFocus – we respect a woman’s choice to have the type of birth she chooses.  That said, we do our best to offer her top quality physical and emotional support and informational guidance so that when decisions during birth come along she is fully prepared to do what feels right for her! Ideally, because of my work (and the work of BirthFocus doulas), women are making empowered decisions and more and more hospitals in NYC are witnessing natural/“normal” birth. 

What are the top 5 things you would say are the most important things to consider for a new doula starting a doula business?

  • Be honest with yourself and discover what balance you need between work and family

  • Be flexible

  • Be open to having “courageous” conversations with clients and yourself – Sometimes, in the role of a professional, we need to have challenging conversations about our role, our boundaries, and the value of our services (among other things). I encourage you to keep a fine balance of meeting your own needs and respecting the client’s perspective and needs

  • Trust your instincts – listen to your inner voice

  • Enjoy your work and when you’re no longer enjoying it – take a break!

Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

Thanks for doing this – you two are inspirational!


Thank YOU Elizabeth!  You are an inspiration to us all.  We would also like to note that Elizabeth documented her travels and you can read about it here:   Birth from the Backseat



Filed Under: Birth, Business