Katie Skaggs and Kelsey Carroll are dreamers. And thanks to their mutual interest in parenting and infant care, their dream of starting an at-home lactation and family consultation business – Coming Home – is now a reality.
The two moms met six years ago while working as nurses in the mother/infant care unit at VCU Medical Center. Because of their experience, they understood the benefits new mothers could get from having a lactation consultant.
“When I had my first baby eleven years ago I had a supportive partner, but I still felt overwhelmed,” says Skaggs whose friend, a certified lactation consultant, came to her house and helped her. “It was restorative. I thought this is what everyone needs.”
Skaggs and Carroll began talking about the possibility of starting a business about a year ago, but didn’t decide to begin the process until last November when Carroll called Skaggs, urging her to take a leap of faith.
“I’m so grateful for Kelsey,” Skaggs says. “She is such a go-getter. I need someone to push me. Change is hard for me.”
Different but Alike, When It Comes to Mothers and Infants
Skaggs, the mom of two boys, ages eight and eleven, and Carroll, who has a daughter, seven, and a son who is six, followed different paths to get to where they are today. Skaggs danced professionally with the Richmond Ballet until 2007, wrapping up a ten-year career with the ballet.
Skaggs knew that ballet dancers normally had short careers so she started looking at other options. She always had a deep interest in health care so when she retired from the ballet, “nursing seemed to be the right fit,” she says.
In 2007, Skaggs enrolled in a four-year nursing program at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Nursing. During her clinical rounds, she fell in love with prenatal and newborn care. She has been working in the mother/infant care unit at VCU for the past eleven years and is now working a part-time schedule.
Carroll graduated from nursing school at Liberty University in 2012 and went into adult and pediatric nursing after working in the emergency room during college.
“Back then, if you would have told me I would be doing what I do now, I would have thought it was the strangest thing,” she says. “I didn’t love obstetrics in school. It didn’t click. I wanted the excitement of the ER.”
But after having her daughter in 2014, her focus shifted. “Mother/baby clicked. I was a typical first-time mom and I didn’t know anything. Everyone was so gracious and helpful. In the back of my mind I thought I need to go to mother/baby,” she says.
She moved to Richmond in 2015 and transferred to the mother/infant unit at VCU where she met Skaggs. Since then she has focused on learning and practicing the skills she needed to become a lactation consultant.
Today, Skaggs works one day a week at VCU and completes home visits for Coming Home the rest of the week. Carroll works two days a week at Commonwealth Pediatric, where she has been a lactation consultant for the past two years and does home visits the rest of the week for Coming Home. Both women are International Board Certified Lactation Consultants.
“Our goal is to do this business full-time,” Skaggs says.
Owning a business is different than the two women imagined. “I don’t think you fully recognize what it’s like to own a business,” Carroll says. “It’s a whole different way of working. Before we would go to our jobs and come home. Now it doesn’t feel like we have a mental health day. We are always thinking about the business.”
It’s a Balancing Act
It can be tricky balancing work and family for any new business owner. But now that the business is up and running, both Carroll and Skaggs have more flexibility with their time.
“Overall we are still getting more time with out families,” Carroll says. “It’s already getting easier. Now we have a pretty good working system.”
Both moms get to be home every day for dinner with their families instead of working shift work in a hospital.
“Home is present more in my life,” Skaggs says. “I do, however, have to be cognizant about when I need to put my phone down.”
For right now, Carroll and Skaggs are happy serving families with lactation support. Both are certified educators of infant massage and offer group infant massage classes, as well.
“It’s so great to walk into someone’s home and see faces light up,” Skaggs says. “We’ve had such great feedback from families.”