About the Business
2015 WomenVenture Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained: Emerging Business Award
In 2009, Natalia Hals told her husband she wanted to do something she loved getting out of bed for. She'd tried careers in TV production and real estate, but she wanted something more. "I figured I'm ready to be what I want to be when I grow up now."
So, with the support of her family, Natalia devoted two months to figuring out what was next, taking career assessments and consulting with loved ones. "When I talked to family and friends about what I was trying to do, I mentioned something in nursing or psychology or even a doula, and they were like, 'Don’t you do that already?'"
The answer, she realized, was yes. As early as age 16, Natalia was helping women navigate the birthing process. When a family member went into early labor during Natalia's 16th birthday party, she dropped everything to drive her to the hospital and stay for the birth. "I was fascinated by the entire process," she says. "After that I kind of got a bug for it—to be in that space and help moms. I became known as the person people would call in the middle of labor."
Given her experience and affinity for birth, Natalia realized it was a natural career to transition into. And so, as is her style, she jumped right in—signing up for a doula training and spending the next year at Woodwinds hospital building her confidence and skills.
In 2010, Natalia started A Woman's Design, offering childbirth services to women around the Twin Cities. She loved the business of birthing, but after a few years of solo work and long on-call stretches, she started to burn out. That's when she thought of WomenVenture. "I remember seeing WomenVenture when I was a teenager," says Natalia. "I always knew I wanted to run my own business. I knew at some point, in the back of my mind, that was a resource I was going to use."
Twenty years later, she did exactly that. Natalia called WomenVenture and learned of a six-week program starting the next day. So, in her enthusiastic style, she signed right up. "I thought I knew as much as I could about business, but I rewrote a new business plan and was really excited about taking it another step further," she says. "I knew I couldn't do it on my own, so to be able to sit there and hear how other women were doing things and to get expert advice was great."
Armed with a revamped business model and eventually a loan, Hals relocated from her 400-square-foot space in Circle Pines to a more central, larger location in Roseville. There, in early 2015, she hired four other doulas, found a virtual assistant she could delegate tasks to, and added educational classes for new parents and parents-to-be. "Because of the connections I've made with WomenVenture, I've been able to either delegate a lot of stuff or realize I don't have to do certain things," she says. "I don't feel so alone."
These changes have allowed Natalia to step into a greater leadership role and help other women thrive as doulas. The group model also allows A Woman's Design to have greater impact in the community, working more than 90 births a year versus the 20 or so Natalia did before. "Every time we meet with people leading up to the birth, we can see their confidence build and it's pretty amazing to be a part of," she says. "It means a lot to me to be able to do this."
Her entrepreneurial brain is always looking to the future, with hopes for a bigger space and eventually doula trainings. Through it all, she's driven by her passion to help women through this uncertain and exciting time. "I feel so lucky to do this," she says. And it's something she loves getting out of bed for each morning.