Post-childbirth and before leaving the hospital, parents can reduce stress with Rachel Swardson's firm, Go Home Gorgeous.
Kim Hanson got a full massage from Clare Fahlstrom of Go Home Gorgeous at Abbott Northwestern Hospital’s birth center in Minneapolis. The Edina company offers in-hospital “body therapy” to help new mothers relieve anxiety. There even are massages for new dads.
As she lay in a hospital bed after the birth of her third child that day in September 2005, Rachel Swardson was "sore, swollen and exhausted," depressed by the sterile atmosphere and harsh fluorescent lighting.
"I just felt defeated," she recalled, "I was going home to a potty trainer (a son now 7), a teether (daughter, now 6) and an infant. And I wasn't near ready.
"I needed help now!"
Out of that grim scenario, however, has grown one of the more imaginative entrepreneurial ideas I've encountered in my (unspecified) years of writing about creative business concepts.
Swardson, 37, is founder of Go Home Gorgeous, a two-year-old Edina company that provides in-hospital "body therapy" to help new mothers relieve anxiety and otherwise recover from the stress of childbirth.
We're talking aromatherapy, soft music and low lighting to go along with gentle massages and steamy, eucalyptus-infused towels -- not to mention "guided relaxation" that Swardson defines as "soothing conversation."
Delivered by 26 independent massage therapists Swardson has recruited, the service ranges in cost from $60 for a foot massage and exfoliation to $75 for scalp, neck and shoulder treatment to $155 for the full treatment. Oh yes, and $199 if you include a scalp, neck and shoulder massage for the frazzled husband in addition to the full-body treatment for the mom.
Indeed, about a third of the company's revenue involves services for the dad, which Swardson said "make him part of the process and offer both decompression and involvement."
The result: a business that grossed $75,000 in 2009, during which it was operating as an official vendor at just three Twin Cities-area hospitals.
Now, having signed vendor contracts with eight more hospitals in the past four months, with two others expected to come aboard soon, Go Home Gorgeous is on track to top $500,000 in 2010 revenue, Swardson said.
The biggest payoff, however, might accrue to the company's clients: "My experience with Go Home Gorgeous was exactly what I needed after having baby No. 2," said Shana Karle of White Bear Lake. "I actually left the hospital feeling healthy and energized."
All of which is downright impressive for someone with no business training or background: "The closest I ever came to a corporate environment was as a Planet Hollywood waitress," Swardson joked.
The Go Home Gorgeous idea was planted as she recalled how her father, the late Roger Swardson, would respond to her problems by rubbing his hands together and asking, "What'ya need, kid, what'ya need?"
Her answer as she lay on that hospital bed was "a more healing, more tranquil atmosphere" -- and, yes, maybe even a gentle massage, Swardson said.
"I assumed such things were available" at other hospitals, she said. But when she returned home and began looking for such services, she discovered they apparently didn't exist.
She shouldn't have been surprised. As a producer for several years on "Health Diary," a PBS show developed by KTCA-TV, Channel 2, that told stories of people going through medical crises, Swardson spent time in hospitals across the country. And it was obvious, she realized later, that "for nearly every other condition that lands you in the hospital, there's some form of aftercare to help ease patients back into life," she said.
Except, that is, for childbirth: "We are so conditioned to celebrate the baby that we often leave the mother feeling unrecognized and unsupported as she begins her journey into parenthood," Swardson said.
So she began researching the elements that would guide Go Home Gorgeous, a name that "refers less to the way you look and more to the way you feel," Swardson said. She not only visited hospitals to learn about the birth-recovery process and what can be done to expedite it, but also studied Indian, Chinese and Hmong cultures to learn how essential oils, heat and nurturing herbs might be helpful.
When she launched the business in mid-2008, Swardson figured she'd simply market the service directly to new parents. That changed when she sought an endorsement from Fairview Southdale Hospital and was invited instead to become an official vendor.
That entitled her to storage space for equipment at the hospital and marketing support that includes having her brochures carried in the welcome packages hospitals distribute to new mothers.
Swardson and her clients are not the only beneficiaries: Hospitals also win client approval for having the service available, said Lisa Brown, a nurse navigator for women at North Memorial Hospital.
Giving patients easy access to such a service means "greater patient satisfaction," Brown said.
Said Kathy Schoenbeck, director of the birth center and neonatal services at United and Children's Hospitals and Clinics in St. Paul: "We have received a number of positive comments from patients and staff who have experienced [the Go Home Gorgeous] postpartum care," she said.
In the end, however, it's the new mom who benefits the most.
The Go Home Gorgeous treatment was "a life-altering experience" that left her "revitalized" and ready to "jump back into my role as mom to three busy girls," said Ila Wheeler of Chanhassen.
It was "worth having baby number four for this experience," she said, then added:
Dick Youngblood • 612-673-4439 • email@example.com