Jenine Ellis has provided doula support to her close community for the last 15 years, gaining a deep insight into how essential doulas are in today’s hectic world. At Grace and Ivy, she supports families during the full spectrum of pregnancy and beyond, from pre-conception and through the postpartum period. She provides physical, emotional, and informational support to pregnant people, birth parents, and their families. A Certified Full-Spectrum Doula, she is also a Placenta Encapsulation Specialist, a practising Herbalist, Meditation and Reiki Practitioner and Sacred Ceremony Celebrant.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
I have vivid memories of my four pregnancies and birthing experiences, as a young woman uncertain of the options available to me, so I ended up blindly putting my fate in the hands of the medical profession. It saddens me now to know that my experiences could have been so different had I known about doulas and the wholehearted, non-judgemental support and education that they provide.
When I heard about doulas about 10 years ago, their work really SPOKE to me. I have always been in the ‘caring’ professions – childcare, nursing and disability support – but once I heard about doulas, I found myself instantly drawn to becoming one and I knew that it was the direction my life had been leading me; I just needed to find the ‘right time’ to give myself over to it. Then last year, I found myself in the very privileged position of being able to commit myself to study, so I leapt feet first into the doula world.
Now, eighteen months later, my doula business, Grace and Ivy Doula Services, is going strong and I am totally obsessed with supporting people as they walk their conception, pregnancy, birthing and postpartum journeys.
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
Honestly, the first and most important part of getting my business up and running was getting some solid training under my belt. I knew that I wanted to be a full spectrum doula offering services through pre-conception to postpartum and I really wanted my services to be as inclusive as possible. I also really wanted to make sure that I was not only walking the walk but talking the talk, so to speak; I needed to be confident that I knew my stuff. So my training involved studying with a number of the major doula organisations around the world and in Australia, including DONA International, Childbirth International and The Australian Doula Academy. I also decided to volunteer with an organisation called Birth for Humankind, which really helped me build my confidence in my skills.
I also knew that the LGBTQIA+ communities have specific needs around conception, birth and postpartum and as a member of one of those communities, I wanted to make sure that my services really catered to what they needed. I did a lot of training around supporting those communities with their specific needs, which I believe just gave me better all-round doula skills, rather a super LGBTQIA+ doula!
Once I managed to get a suitable level of knowledge and experience under my belt, I launched my business website, socials and started interacting in the doula community as much as possible. It is a very tight-knit community so getting your name out there is super important.
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
My business really is about the service I provide. To some degree, I am the product I am selling, which can make for some interesting marketing challenges, especially for someone as shy as I am. So I am learning to put myself out there.
The nature of doula work means that most doulas only book 2-4 clients a month, so the business model can be a hurdle to bringing in a decent income.
I have tried to overcome this by diversifying my service offerings. There are so many important aspects to perinatal wellness that sit really well with doula services so I have skilled up and now offer some really amazing services to my families, including small-batch handmade pregnancy and postpartum herbal products, placenta encapsulation, meditation and hypnotherapy sessions and an awesome online store of carefully curated products aimed at the new parent.
Like most business owners, I am always looking for ways to make my business more sustainable.