Nicole Lawson of Abundant Beginnings Company on the importance of finding something that motivates you, and how she is making an impact everyday
Describe your business in a few words?
Abundant Beginnings Company helps families grow through surrogacy. We guide our clients through every phase of becoming a surrogate or as an Intended Parent looking for a surrogate.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
After watching my mom, who was a successful business owner, I knew I wanted that one day. I was working in the entertainment field for a number of years and was not feeling fulfilled. After experiencing several years struggling with infertility, I knew I wanted to help others in a larger capacity, and the surrogacy field was an area I had navigated myself. The knowledge I gained during my own journey was something I could share.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
I worked in the entertainment industry for about 10 years. Once I started my family, I wanted to find something I was more passionate about. I tell my husband that I think I went through all the years of infertility to find the one thing I am really good at, which is guiding and supporting people through a really unknown experience of surrogacy.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I honestly had no clue what I wanted to be when I grew up. I always thought I wanted to be a professional dancer and realized once I started college that might not be a lasting career for me personally. I then started working in publicity. Once my first daughter was born, I wanted to spend as much time as possible with her. I wanted to create my own hours, work from home, do something I was passionate about. It was a huge leap of faith to leave my job and start working in an industry that was so new to me. Being an entrepreneur seemed the natural next step, and I jumped all in as soon as the time was right!
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
My partner and I actually worked for a surrogacy agency that was part of a fertility clinic – one of the first clinics to offer egg donation and surrogacy as an option for infertility. In 2012, the doctors decided they did not have time to manage the surrogacy agency side of their practice, so we presented them with an offer to start our own agency and manage their clients. We started Abundant Beginnings with their blessing in early 2013, about 6 weeks before my 2nd daughter was born! I was thinking my baby and my business baby are launching within weeks of each other.
In terms of a marketing strategy, we had a built in business from Day 1 with the current clients we were supporting. The transition to Abundant Beginnings for them was seamless, and our reputation continued to grow in the industry. We were so excited to reach out to additional fertility doctors, attorneys, and other support services, mainly on the West Coast at that time, and build new relationships. We continued to prove ourselves and in person networking was key to building trust throughout the industry. Our initial marketing went even better than planned, and quickly we were hiring employees and growing at a steady pace, attracting highly qualified women to be surrogates and people from all over the world looking to become parents through surrogacy.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
We always want to help everyone, and sometimes that is not possible. Sometimes a client will choose a different agency for one reason or another and that can be disappointing. We try not to take it personally, but it makes us be better every single day. Our agency is a medium size agency, and we are not a factory. We want to treat everyone like they are our only client, and continue to give the highest level of care we can to our surrogates and our Intended Parents.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
Abundant Beginnings has welcomed over 100+ babies since we started. I am so proud of the team and the company my partner and I have created. We are an honest and ethical agency, and we LOVE that we get to help others through this process.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
Well, we have built such an amazing team that we are very selective with who we hire. We want someone to have the natural drive and interest to help those struggling having a baby. I don’t think we have a “go to” question, but we want someone that is calm, natural, honest and has a big heart. Working from home requires a self-motivated person who is able to manage their time and communicate effectively with us, as well as with our clients. We typically hire people who thrive in an independent work environment, and who are able to manage all aspects of what can be a highly emotional process with equanimity.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
As the U.S. started to shut down in March 2020, our industry came to a halt. Fertility doctors were not considered essential during this initial time, and embryo transfer cycles were put on hold. For our clients who were already pregnant, there was a lot of fear, and our team continued to be reassuring and offered support as we faced the unknown together. Many discussions were had with hospitals about their protocols when it came time for delivering the babies conceived prior to March of 2020. Intended parents and surrogates had to modify their expectations of the birth process. This is one of the most amazing parts of the journey – when the surrogate delivers and hands the baby to the IPs. How many people were allowed in the delivery room? Who could be there to support the surrogate? It was definitely an adventure, and we are so grateful for everyone’s flexibility as we adapted!
As more was revealed and understood about Covid-19, the doctor/clinics put protocols in place and began to see patients once again. Surrogates and Intended Parents started exploring the process again. It took a bit of time and reassurance, and by Summer 2020 things were back swinging. We had 10 transfers and 10 pregnancies in a row once the clinics opened, and we thought, “ok this has to be a good sign.” We have all taken baby steps, so to speak, but our incredible industry worked together to continue to be of service. Some clients shared their thoughts that they were not getting any younger and Covid was not going to stand in the way of creating their family. Others are still more reluctant and want to wait. There is no right or wrong.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
Our intention is to further expand our business to the East Coast. We already work with several clinics in New York/D.C./FL, and we are excited to continue this trend by getting our brand known to many more doctors and potential Intended Parents. Of course, we will continue to offer personalized care throughout our growth, bringing on new team members who fit our criteria and providing opportunities for the women who are serving as surrogates to thrive and expand their own lives.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
Well, 2020 was an interesting year for us all. We learned anything can happen at any given moment. We realized that there are so many Intended Parents that will stop at nothing to have a baby. It is pretty inspiring. That dream does not change… Covid or not.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
I wish I understood that owning your own business meant you have to wear many hats. I may be an expert in surrogacy, but I am not an expert in marketing or human resources. I am continuing to learn and grow every day in each facet. When we first started Abundant Beginnings, we met monthly with our accountant, our business developer, our attorney, and it felt so overwhelming. With perspective, we laugh at those first experiences and our reaction as we were pushing ourselves to learn new things. We have developed a trusting team to support us as we navigate entrepreneurship, and I don’t think we realized all the steps involved and the village that it would take! In hindsight, the village is an amazing part of the work we do, as we collaborate with so many professionals in such a positive way!
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
I think my family always reminds me what is the most important in life. Just everyone’s health and happiness is the most important thing no matter what.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
Ha, that is a funny question. Yes, but it can be challenging. 2020 showed me how important that balance is with my kids home from school. This is something I am still perfecting, but it is so important.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
Not only do I LOVE guiding those to start or grow their family, I am an animal lover. I have 3 amazing dogs that are my fur babies, as well. Our whole staff is the same. The holiday card we sent in 2020 included photos of our team with their fur babies. Next year we may get a group photo once again, but everyone loved seeing us with our pets.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
It doesn’t take much for me to stay productive due to the fact that I LOVE my job. For me, I have chosen a career where I experience making a difference in people’s lives, and that is a huge motivation that keeps me productive. Find something that motivates you, as I know everyone’s motivation is different. Also, accountability helps me stay productive. I have a business partner and employees, and we communicate all the time! I’m accountable to my team as well as my clients, so accountability is built into our process. For a third tip, I would say set your work hours and build in time for yourself to have fun and do things that bring you pleasure. At the end of the day, I may not have finished every task (there is always more to do,) but it is so important to keep boundaries and trust that everything will get done in perfect timing.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
It is such an honor to be able to run a company that is owned by two strong females. It is also such an honor, more than words can describe, to be able to guide surrogates and the individuals they are matched with on the amazing journey to parenthood. We celebrate the commitment of all involved!