2016 Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained: Social Entrepreneur Award
Rebecca Polston, a Certified Professional Midwife, already had a thriving in-home birth practice when she realized she needed to do more. In order to grow her business and better serve her community, particularly women of color, Rebecca wanted to open her own birth center but needed help to do so. Thanks to a unique partnership between WomenVenture, Neighborhood Development Center (NDC), Northside Economic Opportunity Network (NEON), and the Minnesota Black Chamber of Commerce (MBCC), Rebecca was able to secure the funding she needed to open Roots Community Birth Center in North Minneapolis. Roots provides midwifery and out-of-hospital births for families from all ethnic, religious, and socio-economic backgrounds. When describing the partnership that made Roots possible, Rebecca says, “I don’t think people understand just how powerful it is to have all these organizations work together to back you up. They all came together to leverage resources and provide technical support. That has been the difference for making this be really successful.”
Initial funding from all four organizations enabled Rebecca to purchase her building and furnish it with the equipment needed to offer affordable, low-cost options and inclusive access to out-of-hospital birth experiences for all families. It also provided her with the means to hire 6 staff members from within the community. Says Rebecca, “We’ve really tried to use some innovative models around our staffing by always working with and hiring staff from our community. It feels really good to be using a local organization to fund me to be able to hire people who are also local.” The staff receives training on cultural and religious birth practices and they perform outreach in North Minneapolis and the surrounding area to educate community members about birthing options and prenatal care.
Rebecca’s business has seen tremendous growth since opening its doors. In February, with demand starting to outpace capacity, Rebecca turned to WomenVenture for a second loan to purchase additional equipment and supplies and provide her with the breathing room to accommodate additional growth. But her partnership with WomenVenture doesn’t end there. As part of her post-loan support, Rebecca and her staff have been receiving ongoing training in QuickBooks , as well as assistance with marketing and medical reimbursements. Rebecca has already forged a relationship with North Memorial Hospital and has secured contracts with 6 insurance carriers, including Medica and HealthPartners.
When asked why she chose WomenVenture, Rebecca says, “I really love that people seem to know my story when I walk in the door; everyone knows what I’m doing and people seem to know about my project without me having to explain it. There is also a really high caliber of knowledge. The people are fun, but they also take it seriously and they know what they are doing. It feels good to be able turn that over and say that I can trust the information that I’m getting because it’s really clear that WomenVenture knows what they’re doing.”
Rebecca’s business continues to grow by leaps and bounds. She has already exceeded her second year growth projections in her first year. And she is happy to report that all of her mothers have carried their babies to term. Rebecca’s determination to make a difference in the community she serves is just one of the many reasons that she is WomenVenture’s 2016 Nothng Ventured, Nothing Gained Social Entrepreneur Award winner.