Edwina Sharrock loves motherhood. And she loves bringing the joyful experience of it to women across the miles.
A mother of two, midwife, and entrepreneur, Sharrock has created a revolutionary business that brings big-city resources to expectant mothers throughout Regional Australia.
Her business is known as Birth Beat. Based out of Tamworth, where Sharrock was born and raised, the company began providing in-person classes five years ago. Since then, it has grown and expanded to have an enormous online presence.
Sharrock says she is “no overnight success story,” and credits the achievements of Birth Beat to “5 years of commitment, passion and bloody hard work.”
The achievement is quite impressive.
Delivering Family Knowledge via the Web
After giving birth to her first child, Polly, Sharrock wanted to bring the same positive birthing experience to other women. She felt called specifically to help the women of her native Tamworth have access to the same type of opportunities for childbirth education as families in bigger cities. In urban areas, private and small group childbirth classes are common. Sharrock’s aim was to bring these to regional Australia.
In Tamworth, the Tamara Private Hospital closed its birthing suite several years ago. This was not an unusual occurrence; 41% of all Australian maternity units have shut down over the past decade and a half. But the closing of the Tamara birthing suite was a turning point for Sharrock as it influenced her decision to begin Birth Beat.
Initially, Sharrock began providing face-to-face prenatal training. Her classes served as an alternative to the Public Hospital’s offering, a 6-week class with each season typically held once per week. With Birth Beat, Sharrock created a more personalised training program. While at first the classes were attended mostly by local women, Sharrock soon had couples coming in from towns as far as Cobar and even Sydney. It was then that she considered shifting her business online, knowing she could reach even more people.
Now, Birth Beat uses the power and connectivity of the Internet to provide coursework in both Childbirth Education and Child First Aid.
The Childbirth Education allows expectant parents to have a more flexible approach to prenatal knowledge. This is perfect for busy mums and dads, equipping them to finish the modules at their own pace. Sharrock adds that the online platform “also gives the family personal access to me, as well as other mums and couples in the class.” This is certainly an advantage compared with the once-per-week sessions of a traditional prenatal class. That access to their ‘digital midwife’ may allay the fears of nervous soon-to-be-parents, especially those who are about to become first time mums and dads. Sharrock delights in introducing parents to the choices available to them and helping them prepare for the arrival of their little one with excitement---rather than apprehension.
Most of all, Sharrock is passionate about providing parents with high-quality health education, no matter their geographic location or personal circumstances. She strives to present evidence-based and up-to-date information that equips parents with confidence and knowledge. Her classes are designed in conjunction with Midwives, Lactation Consultants, Physiotherapists, Exercise Physiologists, and Obstetricians, providing a holistic approach to birth and wellbeing. No single birthing strategy is focused upon; instead, a range of labour and birth solutions are covered. The training prepares parents not only for the delivery, but what to expect in the days and weeks immediately following. Essentially, they are well-prepared parents.
“I could not be more proud and happy that I have created a service that prepares geographically, socially isolated and time-poor parents for birth,” Sharrock beams.
There are challenges to building any business, but there are particular challenges to creating a thriving enterprise online from a regional location. It seems that Edwina Sharrock has transcended these obstacles with grace.
In the beginning, it might have proven difficult to spread the word of her program beyond Tamworth and surrounds. Yet it seems that word of mouth was a major factor in expanding Sharrock’s reach, and it was the growing interest of those further afield that compelled her to move the business online. The Internet is what allowed Birth Beat to reach so many, many women (and men). Sharrock has made the most of her platform’s digital capabilities and it now attracts mums and dads from a wide variety of locations.
Lack of business training also served as an obstacle. Despite being a registered Midwife and Nurse, and a mother of two children of her own, Sharrock had no formal business experience. The strength of Birth Beat is certainly founded on her tremendous skills as a health professional, but to grow a business takes additional knowledge---lots of it. Sharrock tackled these challenges with aplomb, pursuing paths such as the Australian Regional Leadership Program, serving to strengthen her business even further. She is also a member of Childbirth and Parenting Educators of Australia. Over the past 5 years, only has she developed a thriving digital platform, in recent months she has taken steps towards taking things to the next level.
A recent news story declared that Sharrock “could be on her way to becoming the next Australian mogul of women’s health.” After an application process and an in-person pitch, Birth Beat was selected for inclusion in a business accelerator program called HCF Catalyst. In this accelerator program, Sharrock will spend the majority of 12 weeks in Sydney, undergoing business coaching and meeting with entrepreneurial leaders. At the end of the 12 weeks, she’ll have the opportunity to pitch again to potential investors. This could be major for Birth Beat, perhaps supplying the funding necessary to massively expand the business. No matter the result, it’s sure that this is a positive sign for Sharrock’s brainchild, and good things await.
Sharrock’s achievements with Birth Beat can serve as an inspiration to many other budding entrepreneurs, especially those who live in rural and regional parts of Australia. In a recent International Women’s Day event, Sharrock made an amazing donation to local Tamworth schools. She gifted a copy of the book The 50 Most Influential Female Entrepreneurs in Australia to each Tamworth secondary school. During the event with female Tamworth secondary school students, she spoke a few words of wisdom. “Young women, particularly living in regional Australia can create whatever business opportunities or jobs they want,” Sharrock stated.
Building Awesome Connections
When people think of Tamworth they often think of country music, not online startups. But Sharrock might be turning that around.
One of the greatest outcomes of Birth Beat is the incredible connections it has provided for women all over Australia. Those who are geographically isolated no longer need to feel alone and unprepared. The online course not only allays their fears and answers questions about birthing and babies, the online community delivers invaluable connections with other women. There’s a strong sisterhood among these mummas, and Sharrock is proud of that.
The support can proceed beyond the delivery room, too. In addition to the prenatal course, Birth Beat offers a Baby and Child First Aid class, showing parents how to handle potential dangers and emergency situations. While a Paediatric emergency is an awful event to imagine, having the necessary skills and confidence to deal with it could be life-saving.
Through all of her accomplishments, Edwina Sharrock proves the limitless abilities of Australia’s women, and demonstrates for us the awesome ventures that can arise from regional connectivity.