In December 2019, the ThriveNorth program successfully completed its five-year mandate. Managed by Futurpreneur Canada, the program helped young entrepreneurs in Northern B.C. launch and grow their businesses by connecting them with resources, financing and mentorship.

After graduating high school, Leah Leclerc moved from Terrace to Vancouver, British Columbia to work with children and to attend the Early Childhood Education (ECE) program at Capilano University. By 2013, she had found herself making her way back to Northern BC after the birth of her daughter. After experiencing the birth of her own child and postpartum, she was motivated to take her career a slightly different direction from early childhood education and decided to pursue doula work and teach childbirth education classes. Today, Leah has turned this into her business Blossom Baby Birth Services which provided families with evidence-based information and support during pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period.

We caught up with Leah to talk about her start-up journey. Here’s what she had to say…

What made you want to take the leap into entrepreneurship?

I had initially been planning to continue on with my ECE career after my maternity leave so this really was not something I had expected to happen. However, in the weeks after birth, I realized how significantly childbirth can effect women and I decided it was something I needed to contribute to positively. Being a new mother myself at the time, things evolved quite slowly from idea to reality, but it is now finally getting closer to what I had envisioned. As far as entrepreneurship goes, I cannot say it is something that I have always been particularly drawn to but I have definitely always had the desire to help other people. This business gives me the opportunity to do something that I love, and that I feel that I was meant to do, alongside the necessity of also being able to make a living while doing it.

Why did you feel a need for your business in your community?

I think that families in our community could really benefit from having this type of support more readily available to them. In the past, new parents were often able to rely on relatives and other people in their network for information and support during birth and postpartum. Our customs, demands, and responsibilities have since changed and as a result this kind of support is no longer the norm. Research has shown that new parents who have support and who feel secure and cared for, are more successful at transitioning with their new baby and have superior outcomes in postpartum adjustment. More specifically, women who receive support from family members, peers and professionals have greater breastfeeding success and self-confidence as well as a lower incidence of postpartum mood disorders compared to women who do not. This is a conversation that has come up many times with women in my community and I can say that there is a collective longing for the “village” that we have never had. Doulas are not a cure-all solution of course, but I believe that we are a big step in the right direction.

I am happy to share that The First Nations Health Authority and BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres have already taken a huge step towards this cause by providing funding for families who qualify through the Doulas for Aboriginal Families Grant Program. Eligible families can apply for up to $1000.00 of funding for each pregnancy to be used towards birth doula and/or postpartum doula support. There are also some extended healthcare insurers who now recognize doulas as reimbursable service providers. Hopefully this will continue to grow and we see more and more families benefitting from these services.

How has the ThriveNorth initiative and other community partners helped you and your business?

ThriveNorth has given me a wonderful community of peers and mentors to connect with and learn from. Being able to connect with other people who are dealing with similar situations or who have experience dealing with them in the past has been helpful. I am also very grateful to have received their Small Business Grant last fall which has awarded me the opportunity to purchase some items needed for my childbirth education classes as well as for my doula work. I also feel fortunate to have some lovely local businesses allow me to display my business cards in their locations namely Transcend Fitness, the Terrace Yoga Studio, and Dynamic Health Services.

What advice do you have for other aspiring BC entrepreneurs?

Find something that you are passionate about! If you are doing something that really feeds your soul, it feels less like work and is easier to carry on with.

You can learn more about Blossom Baby Birth Services here.

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