Offering a gentle and responsive evidence-based approach, Lauren Hills created Village Sleep to support families to achieve better sleep through holistic, personalised plans to suit your individual child, parenting style and values. No matter where you are on your sleep journey, and no matter where you are in the world, her personalised sleep plans and one-to-one support will help your baby, and your whole family, to sleep well and feel good – using specific methods that respect your child and your parenting style. Here Lauren talks to The Natural Parent Magazine about the inspiration behind what she does, how she balances work and family life, and her hopes and dreams for the future.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
I was inspired to set up Village Sleep after my own postpartum journey and positive experience using a sleep consultant. In the depths of postpartum anxiety, which was exacerbated by sleep deprivation, getting the support, encouragement and restorative sleep was transformative for my parenting experience. I want to be able to offer whānau the amazing support that I was given, especially living in a small rural community where there is always more awhi needed for our new parents. Prior to this, I was a full-time secondary English teacher, assistant head of my department, and had differing roles in pastoral care at school. After having Ollie (who is now two), I went back to teaching when he was six months old and resumed the extra roles I previously mentioned. I continued to work full time at school and while I love education and young people, my work-life balance was tipping heavily towards the work side and I felt that I wasn’t looking after myself or my whānau. Looking back now, I don’t know how I did it all. After listening to the brilliant NZ podcast Girls That Invest and learning a bit more about business, and hearing about other women starting their own businesses, I decided that I could do it too. I studied for six months to become a qualified sleep consultant through the internationally certified Baby Sleep Consultant programme and at the same time, I worked with the amazing Kaillie (who is also a former high school teacher and huge inspiration) from Under The Moon Design and she designed my graphics and logo for me. I am very privileged to have the capacity to do all of this and I want to use my knowledge, skills and nurturing approach to make a difference for parents and babies.
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
I have taken a really organic approach when it comes to business while also just figuring it out as I go. I want to connect with people in my community and grow through word of mouth as well as using online tools. After all, the name Village Sleep is precisely about connecting with people, and being a part of their village when they need it at a really vulnerable time. I launched on Instagram and Facebook, sharing some information about myself as well as advertising for volunteer clients to work with as I was still studying at the time. Through study, we worked with 16 families whose little ones were of varied ages and I asked each of them to write me a testimonial so that I could use that as the foundation for my content. The voices of the parents I worked with, and the experience their children had, was most important in showing people how I could support them. I also spent hours learning how to construct a website and make it functional, and while it’s not very flashy and fancy, I think it showcases who I am and what my values are. What’s most important to me is working hard to support people, while juggling the social media side of things from the perspective of a small business owner.
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
My biggest breakthrough was getting my first client. I remember being so nervous about the choice I had made to give up full-time, meaningful, steady work, and getting my first client really reassured me that I had made the right decision. Being able to help them and their little one, and seeing how big an impact our time together had on them, was such a good feeling.
Yin and Yang: How do you balance work and family?
I think that working incredibly long hours previously in a job which I really loved, and then feeling like I had nothing left to give to myself or my whānau, has given me great perspective at a young age. I have gone from working extremely long days, being home for the bedtime routine, and then continuing to work in the evening, plus most weekends, to now doing the majority of my work during the daytime and hardly ever on the weekends. I have very good boundaries in terms of work and home life, and I will say no to things if they encroach on my time with my family. I don’t think that the way that I was working is sustainable for anyone, and I had to make some changes in order to be happy and to be a good parent for my wee boy. I still work part-time at school, although in a different capacity now, as well as running Village Sleep, and that flexibility has made a huge difference to my life while still allowing me to make a difference in my community. My husband is also my biggest supporter and we make a great team together.