Mychal Pilia founded the Frederick Birth Center out of both a passion and a need to provide a different level of care to pregnant families in the Frederick area. A little over one year after opening, she has “caught” about 50 babies, undoubtedly changing the lives of those families forever. However, the road to opening her own birth center was not an easy one. We sat down with her to find out more about how she overcame adversity on the way to her dream.
Tell us the story of your business.
I wanted to open this birth center back in 2009 when I was pregnant with my first baby. I told my midwife during our prenatal visits, ‘I want to do exactly what you do; I want to afford this type of care to as many people as possible.’
I was a nurse for six years in an ICU setting before I became a midwife in 2014. Then I moved here from San Antonio, and I reached out to some local midwives because I wanted to learn about what this community needed. I started working on my business plan all summer long, four or five hours a night, and all the puzzle pieces came together in 2017—the right referrals, the right people, the right team. We broke ground in winter of 2017 and opened doors on May 31, 2018. We just had our one year anniversary, and we have had 48 births.
What are your goals for the Frederick Birth Center?
What I’ve seen in this community is that there is a gap in care across the board, period. There are not enough providers for obstetrics. Hospitals, midwives, birth centers—there are just not enough. My goal was to open three birth centers in five years. That’s a really hefty goal, and I need to get this one self-sufficient before I open more. I think we need a birth center in every county.
What prepared you for opening a business?
In grad school, they would prepare us with different aspects of a business plan. If you don’t have the money for it, you can’t open. So for that, I had to search out other people. I went to the Maryland Women’s Business Center and started getting business consultations with them and they started giving me referrals to different people. I spoke with a lawyer there, I got an amazing referral to my real estate agent, and then I had therapists—you have to get your mental health in order to get a business going.
I needed to secure finances. That was really hard; I had to fix my business plan and my financials and present them to a bank. And after I presented to a bank, they would say ‘No, we’re not interested and this is why,’ and I would fix the business plan and go to the next bank. I did this for 8 separate banks. I honestly think that I was viewed differently because I was a woman. It was so demoralizing until I got a referral to another banker. She saw my vision and reached out, and she never said ‘we can’t do it.’ She said ‘let’s make it work.’ It was just referrals and getting the right people in the right places. I don’t think anything could have prepared me for it, you simply have to have the motivation and desire to do it and then you just dive right in.
What you wish you’d known before starting a business?
It sucks. It totally sucks on so many realms. But it fills my heart space. You’re fulfilling your life's dreams and helping people so everything else doesn’t matter. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It's really hard and it's scary and you cry a lot but you keep moving forward.
I wish I would have known to reach out to the Maryland Women's Business Center sooner. The hardest part is obtaining resources and referrals to get people on your team. You also have to know your business and how people will find your business.
What are the most rewarding and challenging parts of owning your business?
Simple things - like the relief on a client’s face when they hear the baby's heartbeat when they’re scared or tears of joy when they see their baby for the first time. Postpartum, you see clients just shine as new parents, but you’re also there for them when it's so much harder than they expected. We go the extra length for our clients and they're just so much happier and their families are stronger.
And the challenges? I have to manage everything. And being on call 24/7, I don’t have the option of planning out my day, besides my clinic. On the weekends, my family plans our lives like anybody else… but with the underlying knowledge that I may or may not be there. Sometimes I see births several days in a row so I don’t see my family. I navigate it because it’s a lifestyle—of a midwife specifically.
Is there anything else you’d like to reflect on?
Reflecting on the past year, I love watching my clients grow on Facebook and they send me pictures of their babies. It's just a reminder that they’re still thankful, and I look forward to catching siblings of my babies.