Four Women Business Owners Dedicated To Excellence in Service
By Madison DeJean and Brad Goins
Looking for a company dedicated to excellence in service? You can count on these local women business owners to deliver.
When I began my interview with midwife Carissa Keir, I thought I’d be hearing some medical horror stories. Nothing of the sort occurred. On the contrary, Keir told me the midwife’s work is “really uneventful.”
“It’s really not [scary] … Women’s bodies were made to do this.”
It turns out that the closest thing Keir has to a big challenge in her occupation is the rare occasion when she feels obliged to transfer a client to a hospital. She senses that hospitals tend to look askance at births that are undertaken with midwifery.
One can see that this could be frustrating for Keir. She and her assistant come to each home birth with oxygen, antibiotics, blood pressure cuffs and other contemporary medical equipment. “We have things for emergencies,” says Keir.
And her patients are healthy. “I’m serving low-risk women. You have to be healthy to have a home birth.” She makes sure beforehand that her patient knows just why she wants a home birth. Keir doesn’t want to hear that a mother wants a home birth just because a close friend or relative had one. “We home in on any fears” that may be causing the mother to tend to a home birth, or, in contrast, to feel trepidation about one. She asks the future mother “are you in a safe situation” at home? The arrangement to undertake a home birth is not taken lightly.
The hospital transfer is not an extremely trying concern for Keir for the simple reason it doesn’t happen that often. A transfer is “extremely rare,” taking place, she says, less than 10 percent of the time.
The Water Birth
Keir delivers many babies by means of water birth in Texas. The situation is different in Louisiana, where water birth is considered experimental and is subject to ACOG guidelines. Keir can still perform water births in Louisiana, but only if the subject is part of a study. (Louisianans who are interested can contact Keir directly for more information.)
Keir says water birth is “a more gentle birth” than conventional births on land. The baby emerges in warm water and goes immediately to his mother’s chest. As one might imagine, “it’s a really good thing for the baby.” But it’s also a good thing for the mother, as it “helps the mother’s pain relief.” In particular, the “contractions are easier to handle.”
Trusting The Mother
Keir sometimes contrasts the relative tranquility of the home birth to the sometimes chaotic situations of the hospital birth. In hospitals, she says, there are “so many people in the room.” Fathers may sometimes get shunted aside.
At Keir’s births, “Dad never leaves Mother’s side … [Fathers] love it. They love to be a part of it.” Keir says that at some of her births, older siblings also gather around the mother if they want to have that experience.
Keir notes that the many people in hospital rooms often move quickly about, sometimes in a hurry to attend to this or that aspect of the mother’s physical condition. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that. But she fears that with all the focus on physical indicators, hospital staff can sometimes lose focus on the emotional and mental connections to a birth.
And then there’s the concern about the mother’s posture in hospitals, which work with the assumption that the mother will give birth while lying flat on her back. Keir cites evidence in support of upright positions, maintaining that supine positions make the woman’s pelvis more narrow than it otherwise would be. While Keir believes that all women should have the best chance at having a vaginal birth, she also believes “not all women can have a vaginal delivery on their backs.”
She sometimes has her birthing mothers on their hands and knees or squatting. “We focus on trusting the mother” and the way she feels she wants to give birth. “Women’s bodies were made to do this. They’ve been doing it for thousands of years … It’s not a scary thing.”
Keir doesn’t want to put herself in an adversarial relationship with hospitals. “I’m thankful they’re there,” she says. “But they’re overused.”
It may surprise some to learn that Keir and her assistant deliver more than just babies. For starters, after the birth is complete, families get to enjoy a “Golden Hour.” It’s a time for mother, father and siblings to gather together and bond with the baby. The mother can breastfeed the baby as much as she likes.
While this is going on, Keir and the assistant prepare a full, hot meal for the family in the kitchen so that family members can get ample nourishment when the Golden Hour is complete.
The two also do all the laundry and any cleaning that is necessary. When they leave the house, they leave it clean. The work, says Keir, “is one on one. I’m only there for them.”
A PIECE OF CAKE
A Piece of Cake will deliver any baked good or set of goods that costs $25 or more. The store’s been making its deliveries for 28 years — 18 of them from its present location on Hodges Street near Alamo.
While cookie trays and cupcakes are often delivered, the two items most frequently slated for delivery are wedding and groom’s cakes. Of course, these items are often elaborate and delicate, and transporting them might be a real challenge for someone who doesn’t know how to do it. “I would never ask you to pick up your cakes,” says owner Annette McBride.
When it comes to cake design, Annette says she “doesn’t do unorthodox.” She notes that when a group of young people come in and are giggling together before placing their cake order, she usually cuts them off pretty quickly. Still, A Piece of Cake has delivered a few cakes with unusual design themes through the years. Annette recalls a cake shaped like a 16-inch wide donut, a cake made to look like brains and a cake that resembled an armadillo covered with tire tracks.
Annette figures that of the customers who come in to place orders for delivery items, about half have a clear idea of what they want. The other half will have to be guided along to discover just what it is they seek. Annette or her staff begins by asking the age of the person whom the item is for. If a cake is for a child, staff may recommend cartoon characters. If it’s for a man, such themes as hunting, fishing or snorkeling may be offered as possibilities. Women, says Annette, often like to see flower motifs in cake designs.
Some customers have eyes that are bigger than their wallets. “Pinterest is not my friend,” says Annette. She means that Pinterest is loaded with photographs of towering wedding cakes made with rich creme icing and covered with fancy curlicues and detailing. While A Piece of Cake can probably come very close to reproducing the cake, prospective customers routinely say the cakes are “way out of their price range” when they learn how much they will cost. The solution is to propose a more modest and reasonable cake.
There are no significant difficulties that arise in the delivery process. About the biggest problem occurs when those placing the order “give the wrong address.”
In addition to individuals, businesses of many different sorts take deliveries. The plants are frequent customers. Each time a cake is delivered to a plant, A Piece of Cake staff watch the safety drill and take all the safety steps required to gain access to the inside of the building.
A Piece of Cake is already dealing with the possibility of increased delivery times due to work on the I-10 and 210 bridges. Annette says she tries to use alternative routes, deliver at hours when traffic’s not heavy or even deliver the day before the event. Such arrangements are helpful not only for the people doing the delivering, but for the client as well.
BAYOU SOUTH ANIMAL HOSPITAL
Hoping to provide a different take on delivery, we reached out to veterinarian Dr. Darby Shope.
Shope knew at a young age she wanted to be a large animal veterinarian just like her dad. When she was asked about what she wanted to be when she grew up, she always said, “a horse doctor.”
Now, years later, she is just that; and she also provides services to cows and smaller animals, like cats and dogs.
When She Delivers
As it turns out, delivery is not as big a part of her business as you would think. “When it’s an emergency situation [is when she delivers] … Animals are usually able to do it on their own.”
She explains that one example of an emergency situation would be if an animal had dystocia. Dystocia can develop when there is an inadequate fetal to maternal ratio. This occurs when the fetus is too large for the mother’s pelvic canal. Dystocia can also occur when there’s incorrect positioning; and there’s uterine inertia, when the uterus is exhausted from a prolonged labor.
Small animals can also suffer from dystocia. Some of the signs are abnormal contractions — stage II contractions, with no birth in 30 minutes; more than 3 hours between a delivery of subsequent fetuses; vaginal discharge; dehydration; exhaustion; presence of an immobile fetus in the birth canal and excessive pain.
She doesn’t deliver animals daily; she says, “during the fall and spring calving season [is when it picks up].” As for the smaller animals, animals are delivered as needed.
Delivering An Animal
For cattle, Shope explains “once the amniotic sac [the water bag] appears at the vulva, a good rule of thumb is that the calf should be born within 2 hours — or closer to 1 hour in a mature cow.” In a normal birth, there is visible progress every 20 to 30 minutes. If a cow frequently tries to urinate or she walks with her tail up and extended for 3 to 4 hours or more, a vaginal exam is warranted.
Shope can use diagnostics, such as an ultrasound or x-ray, to check the fetuses’ heartbeat and measure how many fetuses are in the uterus. To intervene, she can perform a fetal manipulation; use medical management with agents such as oxytocin and calcium; and perform a C-section.
Since most deliveries she deals with are those that take place in an emergency situation, she has “to move at a rapid pace” to ensure the mother and baby are healthy.
Once the mother and baby are stable, they are then released to the owners to be taken home. “It’s good [for the mother and baby] to get back to their own environment,” she says.
Size Of Delivery
The most significant difference in delivering a cat or dog versus a cow is that when Shope is delivering a smaller animal, she and her team must be prepared to care for the whole litter. With a large animal, such as a cow, they only deliver one fetus, but the delivery process is much more physically demanding. Her smallest delivery is a cat, and her largest is a cow.
Shope’s most memorable delivery is her first; it was a C-section on a cow. She remembers the event well, saying, “I was so ecstatic it went well!” It was exhilarating to hear her first-hand account, as well as her update that the mother and baby are both thriving.
THE MAIL CENTER
Heather Crumpler, owner of The Mail Center, doesn’t ship out any products herself. She does have privately owned Post Office, FedEx and UPS operations, and can get your product or gift delivered in the least costly and most efficient way.
When I asked Crumpler if there were any problematic deliveries, I didn’t expect the answer. Cremated remains. In addition to filling out loads of paper work and official, required forms, anyone shipping cremated remains would have to send a registered letter to every place where the delivery vehicle stopped. Someone would have to sign for the remains at every station. It’s one aspect of the business Crumpler stays out of.
But, I thought, how big a problem can it be? People must bring in cremated remains very rarely, if ever. Again, I was surprised. When I asked Crumpler if people ever bring them in, she answered emphatically, “oh, yeah, yeah.”
When The Client’s Not Quite Sure
Customers haven’t always thought through the details of the delivery they’d like to have made. “They [often] don’t realize what they want.” A common case is the customer who wants to make sure a letter reaches Baton Rouge on the next day. When Crumpler names the cost, the customer often says, “That’s way too expensive!” Crumpler usually takes care of the situation by explaining that the letter can be delivered very quickly by inexpensive means.
One customer who wasn’t fully prepared was the one who wanted to ship 100 pounds of frozen food. Of course, 100 pounds is a heavy load in any situation. But because of its highly perishable state, frozen food must always be shipped overnight. When the customer learned the cost of the delivery, he thought better of it.
Some customers bring in a number of loose items, or, perhaps, a “mountain of clothes,” and ask that they be shipped. The customer may not realize that he will be charged by the amount of space that the box he’s shipping takes up in the delivery truck. Mail Center will make boxes — or even “reshape” boxes — to ensure that the material being shipped takes up as little space as possible.
The ‘Chit Chat’ Approach
Crumpler says she and her staff just “chit chat with customers” for a while to figure out exactly what their delivery needs are. The reason that approach is helpful is that customers are sometimes very protective or private about what they’re sending. It may be just a set of old baby clothes; but the clothing may have a highly important personal value to the customer.
This is particularly a concern around Christmas, when customers can be especially sensitive about the nature of presents. “It gets kind of crazy around here” at Christmas, says Crumpler.
Fortunately the take-it-slow-and-easy approach comes naturally to Crumpler, who says, “I always loved customer service.” Crumpler holds a degree in medical lab science, but before she got it, she put a lot of time into fast food work, and found she enjoyed interacting with people (something she couldn’t always do to her satisfaction when she later worked the night shift at a hospital).
Crumpler was able to plunge right into the customer interaction she so enjoys two years ago when she took the Mail Center business over from its previous owner. She found her hospital work was just keeping her apart from her family too much; causing her to miss family events.
“It’s been amazing,” says Crumpler. She appreciates the opportunity to meet a customer’s needs by taking the “chit chat” approach or by crafting a specially sized box to keep costs down. “You don’t get that personal service anymore.”