Rebecca Dekker never intended to start her own business. She found her business anyway.
In March 2012, when Rebecca was on maternity leave after the birth of her second baby, she was asked to speak to a group of general practitioners who were trained as general practitioners about her birth experience. After a traumatic birth in the hospital with her first child, she had a home birth number two.
Before the interview, the residents' faculty advisor asked Rebecca if she could share any research results to support the residents in their practice. So Rebecca sat down and typed in research on a handful of common work and childbirth practices, created one-page leaflets on each topic, and distributed copies during her talk.
The residents loved the handouts and asked for more. Rebecca was strengthened. She also wondered if someone was doing something similar online – picking up, summarizing, and making understandable about birth research. She imagined a clearing house where people could find everything they wanted to know about childbirth.
"I googled it and there was nothing."
Even Wikipedia was "really bad," says Rebecca. “The birth articles were of fairly poor quality. And the original research was basically inaccessible to the average consumer and cost $ 30 or $ 40 per paper. "
"It basically meant that all of the world's research was behind a paywall," says Rebecca. "And if you were a parent who was really interested in research information, you couldn't get it, and even if you could get it, you often didn't understand it."
Fortunately, Rebecca had a doctorate and deconstruction of clinical research was her area of expertise. "It just made sense that I would create the thing."
She told her husband Dan that she had started a blog, selected the domain name, created a WordPress site, and started posting.
First Rebecca says, "I was a little nervous, so I didn't tell anyone."
But after three or four posts, she finally shared the blog with friends and family on Facebook. They gradually told others – and then "it just went viral."
Blog traffic doubled every month and people gave Rebecca suggestions on what to write about next.
“It was a very interactive experience from the start because I tried to learn this research. I approached it very openly – I'm curious, I want to learn. "
Rebecca started running with the ideas her audience gave her. After reviewing the literature on a subject, she wrote a summary with references and published the article on her blog for free.
"People loved it because no one had ever given birth before."
From a blog to a company
At the same time, Rebecca noticed a larger trend that people want more freedom of choice for their health and medical care. "They were hungry for knowledge. And the same thing happened at birth. "
Within a year, the blog got so much traffic that it crashed. Rebecca saw that she "had to do something to make it sustainable" and generate income so that the website could at least pay for itself. She worked full-time with two young children and was also quite valuable.
She hadn't planned to start a business with her blog, but as her traffic and audience grew, she needed a plan. Dan has an MBA and has always wanted to start a business himself, but the two "never had an idea" – and much of what I had to learn to run an online business was not taught in his programs. "
Fortunately, Rebecca is a lifelong learner she described, so she dived in, checked out books from the library, and searched for podcasts that focused on online business.
In 2013 she found the SPI podcast. Through Pat's episodes – as well as some of the people Pat interviewed on the show – Rebecca was able to "figure out the basics of building a business."
“I just started at the very beginning, listened to every episode and got a business education. It felt like I would get a free MBA when I listen to it. "
Equipped with this new knowledge, she started her first online class in autumn on a topic that her audience had chosen: "big" babies. "It's actually pretty rare to have a baby that's too big to be born, but it's a common fear in our culture," says Rebecca.
Within the first few hours after the launch, she had more than recovered her expenses – a nice microphone, Camtasia screen recording software, and the registration fee to become a recognized provider of continuing education in nursing.
"The reaction just blew me away. But the reason why I was able to sell so many tickets was, of course, that I had already created an email list this summer. "
Looking back at 2012. Rebecca had a steady audience on Facebook before the Facebook algorithm decided what people saw when they signed up and scrolled their feeds. As a result, Rebecca's audience grew very quickly. But when the algorithm was implemented, it suddenly became much more difficult to see on the platform. The organic reach of Rebecca's Posts dwindled and her audience growth "fueled".
I have no way of communicating with these people, she thought. She realized that she had to create an email list.
Rebecca started her list by creating a lead magnet – a ten-page research article she wrote about American obstetrics in the 1950s – and within a week, 1,500 people had downloaded it.
Make the leap
Rebecca recognized early on the potential of her growing business, Evidence Based Birth®, to become her primary focus. "I only spend a very small part of my time with it and it's gone crazy," she recalls.
"What if I could do it all day?"
She was also inspired to have more influence on the maternity system. But she had studied for years to become a professor, and she was on the tenure track with several grants. "I had built up this academic career and thought I couldn't leave it. How do you quit this job? It's so prestigious. It's well paid. It's health insurance. It works with students I love. I did research and loved my research team. "
But in the fall of 2015, Rebecca experienced her "Cliff & # 39; s Edge Moment", a meeting with a manager that made her question her academic freedom and ability to express her opinion on her blog. Although she was on the right track, she was still a few years away. She was also unhappy with the insecure care for women born in her university hospital.
"I felt ethical even though I loved my university, I love my staff, I love my job – after all, I realized that I couldn't work for this institution anymore, so I had to find an escape route."
Rebecca was forced to jump and started cracking numbers and finding a way out of her current trail. The option she had come up with was an Evidence Based Birth membership program that provided stable, recurring earnings and had her cut the cord.
At that time Dan was a father who stayed at home. They both knew that Rebecca would join Evidence Based Birth if she left her job.
It was go time. They started membership in autumn 2015 and blocked 125 members in the first week. It was an amazing start – but not enough to justify that she ended 9: 5.
A few months later, Rebecca and Dan sat down and calculated how many members would be needed to cover 80 percent of their salary: only 100 left. In January 2016, they restarted and got their hundred members. Rebecca announced in February, worked until June and was "officially free" on July 1st.
Smooth sailing from there, right? Rebecca actually says, “It was pretty scary. Even though I knew that things would probably be fine, it was still like jumping off a really high springboard. We had no health insurance, no retirement, and no dental benefits – all of the things you get when you are busy have simply disappeared. And I couldn't sleep for the first few months. "
Fortunately, Rebecca immediately felt the benefits of the change. "Like the fact that I was at home with my husband and all my children every day and didn't commute to work." She was sad – and a little guilty – for leaving her colleagues behind. "I felt like letting a lot of people down by leaving."
"But in the end everyone was just happy for me."
Now the membership program that allowed Rebecca to quit her job has become a core element of the business. Members pay either monthly or annually for access to the entire library with one-pagers or "print-friendly PDFs" that they have created in recent years. You also get access to a wider community through a website forum and a private Facebook group with around 1,300 professionals from around the world, as well as monthly training.
The effects of COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 stirred up many aspects of our lives and added another level of concern to the experience of bringing new life to the world. To counter the growing fear of growing mothers in the "new normal", Rebecca and her team have sent a weekly update of COVID-19 pregnancy email research since the pandemic started in March 2020.
"That was my focus from the beginning: How can I serve my audience? And of course I modeled it from Pat too. He always asks, how can I serve?"
According to Rebecca, the weekly emails were a great way to serve the Evidence Based Birth community in a difficult time – and from mid-May 2020, the emails helped add another 12,000 subscribers to the email list . "It is this great mutual relationship in which the more we serve people and offer them what they need, the more people are drawn to what we do."
A COVID problem that her team has monitored and reported on in weekly emails is how the pandemic has exposed and exacerbated existing structural inequalities. "One of the problems we have in this country is that black women die three to four times more often during pregnancy, childbirth and after childbirth because of discrimination," says Rebecca, "and that happens all the more during of the pandemic. There have been several published deaths in mothers of black mothers who died from COVID-19 or were not treated appropriately even though they did not have COVID-19. "
The pandemic made the team much busier, at least early on. In addition to launching weekly emails, the team spent the first month of the outbreak switching 100 percent of their personal and partially online birth courses online. The advantage is that now anyone from anywhere in the world can take an evidence-based birth course.
"With our obstetrics, we reach more people than ever before," says Rebecca.
Your first book
When one of Rebecca's early collaborators suggested writing a book, Rebecca realized that it could be a great tool to grow her audience and help more people understand why “the system is so messed up and what we're doing can fix it ".
"One of the reasons I wrote the book is that I really wanted to make changes." Despite the work she had done so far, many hospitals and doctors had still not changed her outdated or harmful practices. "Even if a parent reads all of the articles on my website for free, they can still show up and be traumatized by the outdated care they receive."
Rebecca started writing in 2017 and relied heavily on Pat's guide to writing books. She also hired Azul Terronez, the book trainer, the pat when writing Will It Fly? Helped.
After the first draft was finished, Rebecca shared the book with some reviewers. But one of the readers' feedback was like a splash of cold water on the face. "Rebecca," she said, "this is not the book. It doesn't appeal to me. "The essence of the complaint was that the book was about science and case studies, not about Rebecca & # 39; convincing personal birth stories. The reviewer encouraged Rebecca to focus the book's narrative on her own experience instead.
So Rebecca deleted a large part of the book and started over. "It was a pain, but I did it." In 2019 she finished the book and published it herself with Azul & # 39; s help. She also hired an audio engineer to create an Audible version that she read herself.
At the end of the book, Rebecca added a note asking people to email her about her reading experience. "I have received the most amazing emails from around the world from people affected by the story. And many of them are healthcare people."
The book, titled "Babies Are Not Pizzas: They Are Born, Are Not Delivered," has developed "fairly well" on Amazon and provides a good portion of the company's passive income. Although self-publishing in advance costs more, Rebecca and her team can keep more of the proceeds than if they had found a traditional publisher. "The cool thing is that the book will support our business for many years to come," says Rebecca. "As Azul speaks so eloquently, books have long legs – they last long."
Rebecca has an overview and the beginning of the first chapter of a second book in the works to be published in 2022.
Lucky, but always learning
As an online business owner, Rebecca knows that the process of learning and growth is continuous. In terms of training opportunities, it has gone beyond the entry level and mainly focuses on advanced individual or small group options.
"A lot of the training for online business owners doesn't necessarily apply to me because I already have a podcast, I already have a membership, I already do a profit statement, and I've already published a book… The kind of professional development that I need now, is more individual tuition. "
She is not only a member of a mastermind group with some other bloggers, but also a member of Shane and Jocelyn Sams' Flip Your Life coaching program and has worked with Natalie Eckdahl from BizChix. She also listens to a few podcasts to learn new things and improve her business skills (like SPI!), But is careful to limit her recording.
"There is an endless flow of knowledge that you could gain through online business. And I've learned that sticking to a knowledge base is helpful. When I have to learn something, I learn it. I don't just listen to the thing for the sake of. "
Rebecca's quest to continue learning and improving is next to the realization that she was lucky enough to start a successful Evidence Based Birth business almost immediately – "like the first time you tried to run a home run," something she knows about that it's unusual in the online business world.
“Most of my friends who are online entrepreneurs now had to go through several iterations before finding the right online business. I think most people in the online business have to pan several times before finding the right niche for them. "
Rebecca also says that she doesn't think online business is for everyone. “It takes a lot of commitment, hard work and perseverance. And I've found that a lot of people can work hard, be engaged, but at the end of the day they're fed up and give up or get discouraged. "
What can a prospective online entrepreneur do to maximize their chances of success? Here are three of Rebecca's best advice.
# 1: have passion
"It must be something that you have a great passion for. If you can't stop thinking about it, writing about it, or talking about it, that's a good sign. One of the only reasons I managed to do this is that I've been obsessed with researching childbirth for years. I'm still at the point where I want to spend my Friday evenings reading research studies on these topics, unless you are motivated to pursue a topic or niche You get bored after a few months and keep going, so for me it was a deep personal connection to what I wanted to do. ”
# 2: Solve people's problems
"Is there a problem that needs to be solved? Are people looking for answers to something that really bothers them? In my case, it was pretty clear: obstetrics in many hospitals is around twenty to thirty years old. So there is a big problem to be solved there, and I was thrilled. "
# 3: Produce great content
"As they say, content is king. Creating content that people want to share and tell everyone about their friends is probably the most valuable thing you can do. And so I started creating really valuable content and giving it away for free, on a topic that people wanted to solve and something that I couldn't stop thinking about. "
Rebecca Dekker and her husband Dan live in Lexington, Kentucky with their three children, ages 6, 8 and 11. Rebecca is a trained nurse. When she was young, she attended graduate school and worked as an assistant professor of nursing for about six years before leaving the academy to work full time on her online business.
Rebecca is the author of the bestselling book "Babies Are Not Pizzas: They Are Born, Not Delivered" and CEO of Evidence Based Birth®, which includes ten team members, including: graphic designer, audio-video editor and instructor program director, member coordinator , Communications director, research editor, personal assistant and a CFO (who also happens to be Dan).