Celebrating 10 Years in the Doula Business
A lot can happen in a decade. In this post, we celebrate the 10th anniversary of Cherry Blossom Doula Services, LLC by interviewing founder Alyssa Leon on the journey. Serving the Greater Phoenix Arizona area has been a labor of love; and here, we share behind the scenes of what that looked like way-back-when and what that looks like today!
The following interview questions are answered by Alyssa (A) and asked by Postpartum Director Jennifer Magnano (J).
J: Tell us about how Cherry Blossom started. It’s “birth story,” if you will.
A: I shared about Cherry Blossom’s birth story in this video I had created for a business accelerator program I participated in. Fun fact, it won scholarship funds we were able to use for clients experiencing financial struggles!
The truth is, I finally made the full leap into doula work following what could be viewed as rock bottom and what I refer to as a “crossroads” for our family in the video. After multiple events led my young, family of 4 moving into my in-laws home with bruised egos, my husband and I made the decision to not let this blessing in disguise go to waste. We had nothing to lose and both decided to go all in with the careers we wanted to pursue.
I share this piece because it’s easy to get caught up in comparison to others, and when we only see the highlights, it distorts reality. Cherry Blossom was birthed out of pure love and grit.
From left to right, Cherry Blossom Beginnings (before our name change) in 2013 at a Babies R’ Us vendor event; our first office in Gilbert, AZ in 2019 with just a handful of team members; Better Business Bureau business cohort winner of scholarship funding for birthing people in 2021.
J: A lot of businesses don’t make it through the first few years. What are three things you learned in your first 5 years? Did any of it surprise you?
A: Having a strong support system is everything. Specifically as a birth doula, you’re required to leave your life and responsibilities in a matter of minutes. This is not always convenient. I would have never had been able to continue doula work without my family’s support…being able to drop the kids off in their bed in the middle of the night, and having friends and family pick the kids up from school when my husband was on shift.
Professionally, having others to lean on with unfamiliar experiences, being able to process difficult births, and providing back up coverage when I needed the extra support was (and is) invaluable.
Real growth happens outside of your comfort zone. Every step I’ve taken to network, to connect with others in the community, to learn new skills, to teach classes, and grow the team has been done because my desire to educate and connect with our community was stronger than my fears. As an introvert, speaking in a group setting or even attending a larger gathering is not comfortable for me. Organic friendships with other birth workers and professional relationships with providers have been integral to the growth of Cherry Blossom.
Doula work is unique to the needs of each individual family. This may sound like a given, but when we initially get into birth work, there is a naivety about the potential needs you may come across when supporting clients. There is no way to fully prepare for the emotions, experiences, and dynamics we encounter until we are in it alongside our clients. It’s not always just about choosing an un-medicated or epidural birth, it’s walking alongside families experiencing loss, advocating for families to receive equitable care, being a safe space for those to share about previous traumas and witnessing how these traumas can affect their birth and postpartum experiences. Providing un-biased education and teaching how to use your intuition when we don’t always know what’s on the other side of the choices being made.
I am a better person, mother, partner, friend, and doula because of these experiences.
Along the way, we had a rebrand! This is the logo that our clients know today.
J: What’s the best investment you’ve made thus far?
A: Investing in my emotional and physical health directly affects my ability to lead from a space of humility and grounding vs erratic and/or needing control.
Normalizing human need for mental health support (professionals as a GOOD thing, and not something to be ashamed of), eating foods that nourish, making physical movement a priority, and celebrating regular time off are all areas highlighted in our team culture so that each one of us can show up authentically and whole.
J: How did it feel to expand Cherry Blossom? If you felt resistance, how did you still know it was the right move?
A: The first team member I brought on in 2018 was out of necessity of receiving more inquiries than I could manage alone. (Which I had been doing for quite a while and was nearing burn out.) I knew that if I were to continue doing this work, I couldn’t and didn’t want to do it alone anymore. It was incredible to experience having a stronger support system in place, and not feeling like all expectations were solely on my shoulders. From that moment on, Cherry Blossom has continued to grow at an organic and exponential pace.
Initially, my one and only concern was worrying that the quality of care would change. I can honestly say that the entire team fully embodies our core values. We have a strong group of women that are committed to this soul work.
J: Birth and postpartum workers often burn out from what we call “compassion fatigue.” Have you ever experienced burnout? How did you recover? And, how do you stay recovered?
A: I had to read the definition between the two, and although they go hand in hand, they are slightly different. I was experiencing burn out in 2018 when I brought on the first team member but I would say I experienced compassion fatigue after things started to become more stable in the world following the pandemic.
Managing the fears, anxieties, and worries of all of the Cherry Blossom clients AND the growing team, while navigating the changing hospital restrictions definitely took a toll. I knew that I needed to be well, especially as I had many eyes looking at me, frankly, to not “lose my shit”. The team relied on me to lead with integrity and not fear. I can’t explain it other than having a “knowing” that everything would be ok, and we navigated each new barrier with love and grace, treating clients the way we would want to be treated if roles were reversed.
Making time off a requirement for our entire team is vital to preventing burnout and compassion fatigue. Creating healthy boundaries in our personal and professional lives is also something that we deeply value.
I stay recovered by making my mental and physical health a priority. Making sure that I am eating foods that are nourishing, getting out into nature and feeling the sun on my skin, moving my body every single day, and utilizing different healing modalities so that I can show up the best version of myself.
Another milestone. Cherry Blossom Doula Services moved into the Root & Rise Collective office space in 2021. A joint effort by Alyssa Leon, Alyssa Johns and Lisette Pena, Root & Rise is a hub for birthing people in the Mesa, Arizona area. It houses healing support and modalities of all kinds, from midwives to pelvic floor therapist, breast and chest feeding experts, doulas, massage therapists – and, it houses multiple peer support groups as well as paid events. Above, you can see one of our group Prenatal Meetups – exclusively held for Cherry Blossom clients.
J: Did you always believe Cherry Blossom would be a success? Also, can you define what you thought success would be at the beginning? Has that definition changed today?
A: Truthfully no, I had no expectations for Cherry Blossom other than to serve families well. For a very long time, it felt more like a passion that also happened to pay my bills versus an actual business. I had no idea what seeds were being planted, and how far reaching the support would be.
The definition has definitely changed in that I now fully recognize how much potential Cherry Blossom has to support our community AND how it is able to provide full or part time incomes for multiple women that are equally as passionate about the work we do and how we show up for our clients. This piece was never in my wildest dreams and is something I’m really proud of.
J: What is something you never expected as a doula and business owner?
A: I naively went into business thinking that if I gave 100% to all of my clients, that everyone would be happy. This was initially a difficult pill to swallow when I realized that sometimes our support is not received in the way it was intended. We are all complex humans, and sometimes our experiences affect the way we give and receive support. The team hears me say all the time, everything we do is filtered through different lenses. We are responsible for our actions and words (always!) but we are not responsible for how they are received.
J: If you could change anything about this journey, would you? Why or why not?
A: I wish I would have known how important the people are that we surround ourselves with. They can either lift you up, encourage growth and share an abundance mentality, or they will hold you back with scarcity mindsets. If I could have done things differently, I would have started actively working on Cherry Blossom sooner instead of pouring into others businesses where there was not an equal energetic or financial exchange.
Supporting a tri-peat family (first picture) and one of my best friends, and co-founder of Root & Rise Lisette Pena (picture two).
J: Any words of advice to other doulas who are struggling right now?
A: Reach out and find community! This sacred and sometimes heavy work is not meant to be done alone. Whether you choose to doula solo or on a team, find others that you can lean on – and support one another well. These relationships are gold!
I would also say to be consistent. You don’t have to have it all figured out to get started. A lot of doulas never get off the ground because they are stuck in the details. Keep putting one foot in front of the other, keep posting on social media, keep showing up to community events, reading one more page for your certification. Do one thing a day (no matter how big or small) to work towards your greater goals.
The further into my business journey I get, the more this stands out. Most people quit when things are difficult, uncomfortable, boring, or not going at the pace they think things should be. Not focusing on what others were doing, serving clients to the best of my ability, and being consistent in actions and words has created a multi six figure business.
J: As you transition out of doula work and fully into the leadership role, what does this next season look like for you?
A: It’s a complicated space, because there are so many emotions involved in having supported so many families over the years. It’s so very bittersweet to step back from supporting clients; and, I know that in order for Cherry Blossom to reach it’s fullest potential I need to have the room to continue leading this growing team. I need to step into this space 100%.
The vision for Cherry Blossom is to not only continue serving prenatal and postpartum families, but to create a healthy environment for new doulas stepping into this space – so that they can have lively and long lasting careers, too. It’s an incredible season we’re headed into. And, I’m here for it!
Hi! I’m Alyssa Leon. I lead Cherry Blossom Doula Services, LLC – an inclusive birth + postpartum doula team in Arizona; and mentor doulas in Arizona and beyond.