Edwina Sharrock shares her inspiring story on how having a baby turned her into a successful entrepreneur.
I never thought having a baby would turn me into an entrepreneur. A few years ago, I was working as a midwife in the regional NSW town of Tamworth and starting a family of my own. I was 36 weeks pregnant when the local private maternity unit closed its doors and cancelled all childbirth classes. Even though I was able to give birth at the local public hospital, I was upset that the choice of where to birth had been taken away.
After complaining about the closure for weeks, my husband challenged me to do something about it. And so Birth Beat was born (pun intended)!
I wanted to provide Tamworth families with a choice, outside the classes held once a week at the local public hospital. I began educating women in my town to help give them the same positive childbirth experience I had and offer a new option for quality childbirth education.
I started by teaching face-to-face childbirth classes in Tamworth. They provided flexibility for busy families and personalised lesson plans. I promoted the classes through word of mouth. They were well attended by local women and soon couples were driving over six hours to join.
The overwhelming interest in the program made me realise that the problem of accessing antenatal education was wider than just my local area. Over the past 15 years, 41% of all Australian maternity units have shut down, leaving many families with limited or no options for childbirth education. I knew that the next step was to take the business online, so I could offer my classes to families across Australia and New Zealand.
In late 2017, I launched the business online as ‘Birth Beat’, despite having very little entrepreneurial knowledge. I applied for the HCF Catalyst program because it is designed specifically to support start-ups in the healthcare space. I was ecstatic when I was selected as one of the ten entrepreneurs to receive mentoring, marketing and infrastructure support from health insurance fund HCF and venture fund Slingshot.
I’m happy to tell people I was one of the participants who had the least amount of business experience – but I certainly didn’t leave the program that way. The accelerator gave me the knowledge to expand my business and set goals for where it can go in the future. During the program, I was able to fully immerse myself in Birth Beat and implement everything I was learning.
After the program I continued to work with HCF, Australia’s largest not-for-profit health fund. They’ve incorporated Birth Beat into a number of health covers, including their new My Family package which is designed to make pregnancy cover more affordable for growing families. This was a huge step because it helped make Birth Beat more accessible to women throughout Australia.
I was then offered a $200,000 deal with entrepreneur and business owner Janine Allis on the TV series Shark Tank. This helped boost Birth Beat’s profile on a national level. We now have families in every State and Territory participating in the program.
It has been a massive year for Birth Beat. But I am most proud to say that since launching the digital platform it has supported over a thousand Australian families during pregnancy and birth.
This experience has taught me how important it is for people to have a choice in how they access healthcare services, regardless of where they live or how busy they are.
It is amazing to see how technology is helping make this possible. The Birth Beat platform has only just started. I am so excited to see where it can go from here.