Working at Nike’s headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, Sarah Longacre took to heart two foundational tenets of the company: Make your customers feel like part of a family, and pursue your dreams. She had long been interested in helping women better manage the journey from pregnancy through childbirth, and she decided to just do it. After training in 2001 as a doula, or labor coach, Longacre became known as the Nike doula, guiding her manager and 19 other women through labor.

A Minnesota native, Longacre returned to her home state eight years ago, working as a doula and prenatal yoga instructor. In 2007, she founded Blooma, a health and wellness center that seeks to build a supportive community of pregnant women, new moms, and their families through childbirth education, yoga, relaxation services, and more, arming them with tools to achieve successful, peaceful births and families.

Longacre opened the first Blooma at 44th and France in Edina, growing the company steadily. “I had no idea how hard it would be to run my own business,” Longacre says. “But I knew my purpose on this planet is to provide education, support, and confidence to women from pregnancy to birth and beyond.”

This fall, Blooma delivered twins: two larger locations for its growing clientele. One, housed in the former Boulevard Theater in South Minneapolis, doubles the square footage and number of yoga studios of the original Edina location, while the new St. Paul location moves Blooma from a birth center to its own building in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Blooma has a third location at St. Francis Regional Medical Center in Shakopee.

The company has grown revenue 20 percent each year, taking it to more than $500,000 annually. Monthly visits also increased, leading to waiting lists for some classes: In 2010, 1,500 customers visited each month; now that number has doubled. Blooma has five full-time employees, and 50 teachers and wellness providers.

Blooma offers pre- and postnatal yoga classes, where women learn to breathe and prepare their bodies for childbirth. It also offers a variety of education classes for future moms and dads, typically taught by doulas, who provide numerous tools for getting through labor, from hypnobirthing relaxation techniques to Lamaze and Bradley techniques. There are classes specifically for fathers, giving them advice on how to help their partners through childbirth and the often stressful postpartum period.

Blooma takes a different approach to childbirth classes than the typical hospital, starting with smaller class sizes. “A lot of hospital-based classes are fear-based—what can go wrong. Birth doesn’t have to come across in a scary way,” Longacre says. “We really make sure they know every single choice they have for medical and pain management, how to labor at home, and what partners can do to be more involved. We help prepare families so they have the groundwork laid and can go into parenthood on the right note.”

Melissa White, an internist at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, swears by Blooma, its yoga classes, and its outlook on childbirth. She approached the birth of her two older children from a medical perspective—what can go wrong—and had her babies with pain medication and little support. Going to Blooma’s yoga classes opened her eyes to the advantages of a fully supported birth. She and her husband, a surgeon, hired Longacre as a doula for the natural birth of their son about a year ago. “There is a message with Blooma that if you think you can do it, you can,” White says, also touting Blooma’s “community of women who are in the same situation.”

Longacre is opening another location in Nashville, Tennessee, in the next year, and has plans for at least two more Twin Cities locations in the next five years. “My goal is to be the go-to place for expectant families,” Longacre adds. “You can come in the door and have everything you need in one place for physical, emotional, and spiritual support.”

 

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