Balance and prioritize your time. Work-life balance is talked about so much. But it’s not the balance as much as knowing how to prioritize. What things can get done & what things will you have to push off. Be aware of how much time you put into certain tasks, prioritize what’s urgent and understand that you will not get everything done and that’s okay! Tomorrow is another day. Or you hire a team! 🙂
You will not make money for the first couple of years! I remember looking at my profit margins and wondering if the business was worth it. The business started generating revenue 5 years in and that was a huge reassurance but is also common which I didn’t know.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Rachel Mitchell, founder of My Sweet Sleeper, a certified Pediatric & Maternity Sleep Consultant, former night nanny, and mom of six. Since starting My Sweet Sleeper, nearly 10 years ago, Rachel has worked with thousands of families all over the world and has had the rewarding experience of helping families sleep better. Rachel has been featured in several publications such as Mother.ly, The Huffington Post, and The Bump. Rachel lives outside of Boston, MA with her family where they spend most of their (summer) days on the beach and kayaking on the lake.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
In 2010 I started working as a night nanny with families that had newborns. I would stay overnight with them and take care of their babies (usually multiples) and I realized through this work how exhausted these parents were and how little they knew about sleep! Around this same time, I had my first son and as a young mother I remember leaving the hospital wondering, “What am I doing?!” Sleep hadn’t been mentioned once while I was pregnant and certainly not with a new baby. I didn’t have the resources that provided me with support or education on what to do next and it was completely overwhelming to try and navigate sleep. How were new parents supposed to know this stuff? So I started looking further into the process of becoming certified to help parents teach their babies healthy sleep habits so they could get sleep too!
As a night nanny, I was referred to so many new parents and when I saw the impact it made on families when they got the rest they needed, I was inspired! I wanted to be able to reach more families and pass on my knowledge and expertise to anyone who would listen which is how my business got started.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
When I first started my journey as a pediatric sleep consultant it was before the era of publications that were devoted to all things, parent and baby. No one had a huge social media presence and I had NO idea how I was going to advertise. I was lost, not knowing how to reach people or find new clients.
Believe it or not, Craigslist was the place at the time that I found a lot of families in need, so I would scroll through and find people who were looking for a nanny and I would reach out and ask them if they were interested in learning about sleep patterns that would help their baby sleep, and in turn, help them get better sleep as well! Most of the time people would ask, “What is a sleep consultant?” I found myself explaining a lot of the time what that meant which was a pretty big hurdle to get through as I got started.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
My primary drive was not wanting to go back to working 65 hours a week in corporate! I had a baby and wanted to make my business work in order to help others, but was also determined to make it work so I didn’t have to return to working long, exhausting hours away from my child.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Things are great today! Beyond what I could have ever expected. I don’t feel like I was resilient at first. As a new entrepreneur, I took everything so personally! If someone didn’t leave a 5 star review or didn’t want to continue with services, I felt like I had done something wrong. But I have learned that is all a part of owning a business. You will fail. You’ll love your ideas and others will not. You will be spread too thin at certain points and it will affect the service you offer. Those initial first years are all a part of the process so learning how to pivot is essential! You need to be able to reassess and take things that did not work and do them over again.
Grit is a good word to describe my work ethic! Internally I’m extremely motivated. I wanted to give up often at the beginning but knew I would always keep going and make it happen in some way or another.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I first started, I began taking on so many new clients and when sending follow-up notes, I got them mixed up & sent over a long email to the mother regarding a sleep plan for an 11-month-old and she had a 6-month-old! She wrote back and was like, “Are you sure???” It was so embarrassing!
At that point, I knew I needed a spreadsheet to make sure I could keep track of all of my clients and some type of organization system to ensure that didn’t happen again.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
A lot of sleep consultants do not provide an individualized approach. When I developed sleep profiles 5 years ago, I think that that’s something that really sets us apart. Classes can be difficult because most of the time it’s general information, so when I’m teaching a class I still provide personalized information. For example, I’m able to say “If your baby is a sensitive sleeper, you follow x method. If they are an attached sleeper, follow this method”, rather than trying to give a step-by-step overview and assume it will work for every baby.
Being a mom of 6, I always tell my clients that I’ll never ask them to do something I wouldn’t do myself! We don’t label our company as gentle or rigid, we simply provide ways to bond with your baby without feeling that guilt of having to go through the excruciating cry-it-out process. We give ways to meet your needs & respond in a loving way while holding boundaries and being consistent.
The feedback we’ve received is that our approach is realistic. We pivot if something isn’t working and tailor what works for the individual baby. Developing the sleep profiles was the AHA moment for the business and proves to be something most parents really appreciate!
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
It’s important to find the number of clients you want to serve and stick to that. I used to think that turning clients away was the worst thing! But that’s a mindset barrier. You’ll get to a time where you’re stretched too thin and in order to prevent burnout, getting really specific with who you work with and when will be essential.
I also recommend having a team. You might not be at the point in your business where it’s possible yet, but it’s harder to scale without a team you can delegate to. Not having a team prohibits you from creating a larger impact because you’re only able to take on a certain number of clients, especially at the 1:1 level. Having a team will allow you to step back and work on your business instead of trying to take on too many clients while also running the business behind the scenes.
Also, think about offering something that will bring residual income instead of just trading your time for money. You could offer classes, guides, etc. or do affiliate partnerships and collaborate with other colleagues within your niche. Your growth will always be held back if the only service you offer is fulfilled with your time.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Initially, it was just me doing everything. Within the last 5 years, my husband has been an amazing support. He is in grad school and has taken semesters off to help watch the kids & give me some time to devote to the business. Now he manages payroll, handles HR, and anything else I throw his way. He is so supportive when things come up and is my biggest cheerleader.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
When parents are getting better sleep their lives are changed. They are better parents, partners, employees, etc. Clients have written to me expressing how my business and support have changed their lives. That they are functioning so much better as a family which has had a huge impact on their overall wellbeing!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- You will fail! Get used to it. The important thing is how you handle it. As an early entrepreneur, I was not resilient. I would cry when things went wrong and felt like a failure. I really wish someone would have told me to expect it and that it was all part of the process.
- Balance and prioritize your time. Work-life balance is talked about so much. But it’s not the balance as much as knowing how to prioritize. What things can get done & what things will you have to push off. Be aware of how much time you put into certain tasks, prioritize what’s urgent and understand that you will not get everything done and that’s okay! Tomorrow is another day. Or you hire a team! 🙂
- You will not make money for the first couple of years! I remember looking at my profit margins and wondering if the business was worth it. The business started generating revenue 5 years in and that was a huge reassurance but is also common which I didn’t know.
- You aren’t just doing the thing you love to do. You will not just be handling the things you love to be doing when you first start out. You will also be the bookkeeper, PR, and the person who does all the things until you can hire a team to do that. I didn’t realize how much it would take away from the joy of doing what I actually loved to do, sleep consulting. I don’t like the other little things, so having the ability to delegate the things I’m not great at, has been a HUGE game changer.
- Success is going to eb and flow. You could have the best month ever and then next month it’s crickets. Learning how to plan for those times and creating a recession-proof business from the get-go is a great plan. Expect the unexpected. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to do well, but having a plan in place when the unexpected happens (ahem, COVID), can either make or break your business.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would love to start a movement that would allow all parents to access our services regardless of their financial resources. This could be by other people paying it forward, or a donation, or scholarship system. So many parents have to live in a state of exhaustion because they simply don’t have the tools or education to be able to help their baby get better sleep, and it ends up affecting the entire family. My entire mission with this business is to reach as many families as possible so they know that they CAN help their children sleep and get better rest themselves too.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
@mysweetsleeper on all channels (Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest)
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!