Tracy Donegan founded GentleBirth in 2006 in Ireland. Two years ago her journey led her to a U.S. product launch. Today, she’s sharing what she describes as an “amazing journey” as our Entrepreneur of the Day.
Lioness: Why have you chosen to dedicate yourself to this particular business?
Donegan: The day a woman gives birth is a day she’ll never forget. I want to help women remember that day for all the right reasons. A woman who has a positive birth experience is a force to be reckoned with. There’s so much fear around birth – everyone can’t wait to tell you the horror stories, so culturally we’ve turned what should be one of the most incredible life affirming experirences a woman can have into one of the scariest. I’m changing that!
Lioness: What makes your product unique?
Donegan: There are lots of childbirth preparation classes and even more pregnancy apps but there has been little or no innovation in childbirth education since the 70s. At GentleBirth we’ve combined brain science, birth science and technology to create the leading birth preparation program in the world. No matter how high up the corporate ladder you go or how successful your business, there’s a common denominator amongst most women (and their partners) – the of fear of labor.
I’m a bit of a brain science geek so I created a program that could help women have positive births – no matter what happens on the day, by retraining their brain with daily activities of mindfulness, hypnosis, CBT and sports psychology. There’s plenty of jokes in pregnancy about ‘baby brain’. Your brain is changing in pregnancy due to the extra plasticity caused by hormones. So essentially mom has a 9 month window to do some DIY brain remodelling and restructuring that will change her brain in positive ways – not just for parenthood but professionally too. The daily brain training our moms to be follow improves focus, positive mood, creativity and reduces stress. Whenever I talk to Dads about Mom’s 9 month window to upgrade her brain they say they would gladly swap and be pregnant themselves (and give birth) if they could do what every Mom has the potential to do with their brain. They’re always delighted when I tell them their own brains are changing too – just not to the extent of Mom’s but the have content tailored to them for pregnancy too as partners have their own unique stresses to manage during pregnancy. The skills moms learn in GentleBirth are equally applicable in the board room and birth room.
Lioness: You could have worked for anyone and would have been successful, why become an entrepreneur?
Donegan: I could have stayed small and played by the other peoples rules. Being an entrepreneur means you have to play big – and you get to write your own rule book and you have to intentionally stretch your comfort zone. There’s huge satisfaction in blazing your own trail. When I qualified as a midwife I never saw myself working 12 hour nightshifts for minimum pay which is what everyone else did. What I did envision was making a difference in women’s lives on one of the biggest days of their life, that’s what drew me to becoming a midwife. But through technology I now have the ability to make that difference at a global level. When my colleagues ask me why I’m not working shifts in a hospital like them. I tell them “I get to make a positive impact on thousands of women’s lives from all corners of the world every single day of the year – what’s your superpower?”
Lioness: What was your last, “why did I go into business for myself” moment?
Donegan: GentleBirth has had an incredible year but when your company is accelerating at the speed of light, famliy and life balance takes a big hit. My travel schedule has meant a lot more time on the road this year away from family. Sitting on a Shanghai runway for 4 hrs with no airconditioning in 100 degree and then the flight (which was the only one back to the U.S. that day) being cancelled certainly gave me pause for thought…and then I remembered how lucky I was to be in Shanghai – perspective is everything.
Lioness: Every female professional should have __________.
Donegan: A sense of humor. Don’t take everything personally and learn to laugh off the naysayers.
A way to destress – run, walk, meditate – have a tried and true go to stress reducer that is part of your daily routine.
Lioness: If you could steal some business mojo from another mogul, who would it be and why?
Donegan: There are so many but if I had to choose one it would be Richard Branson. Branson says that he starts a business only if it will improve people’s lives and it has to be a business you’re proud of. That’s our philosophy at GentleBirth. Branson’s vision and energy is limitless after starting a magazine at 15 and eventually launching a new airline. For Branson making work fun is critical to success and suggests that if you’re not having fun then maybe you should consider doing something else.
Lioness: What is your business motto?
Donegan: We have a few.
Burn the boats. It helps remind us that commitment is the foundation of success.
Lioness: If you could give other entrepreneurs three tips, what would they be?
Donegan: Delegate whenever possible and focus on what you’re good at. As your business expands it can be unnerving to trust other people with your ‘baby’ but it makes sense.
Never stop learning – stay ahead of the curve in your industry.
Downtime is important – taking time out to rest and recharge is critical. There’s only one of you – take care of yourself.
Lioness: Has there been a piece of technology or software that has been a lifesaver to you?
Donegan: There have been several pieces of technology that have allowed us to progress and be much more effective that we ever could without them. The two that we coldn’t live without are Moxtra and Freshdesk.
Lioness: What is your goal for the next year?
Donegan: 2017 is really exciting for our team. We have all worked so hard this year and are already starting to see our efforts come to fruition. 2017 is very much about pushing the boundaries of our scaleability, global footprint and technology to become the most successful and recognised birth preparation program in the world, and the spread our love for positive birth.
Lioness: When someone is telling their friend about your business, what do you hope they say?
Donegan: That they shouldn’t have a baby without GentleBirth – it will change the way they experience pregnancy, their baby’s birth and early parenting.