- Who: Aisha Al Hajjar
- Website: amanibirth.online
- Course Topic: Childbirth education
- Interesting Stats: Recently hired 12 employees
Who are you and what course have you created?
I am a midwife, author, trainer, and founder of AMANI Birth, an Islamic childbirth education, and doula training course. We train women (and a few men) around the world to become childbirth educators and doulas. Once they complete their training they become affiliates of AMANI Birth. They use our curriculum to teach expectant families in their own communities. Our childbirth education for parents has been delivered face-to-face until Covid…we have recently launched an online version and are having it translated to five other languages as well.
You can see our course offerings below:
- Our main online course is the AMANI Birth Blessed Start Course to prepare expectant parents for birth. It is the online version of our face to face course, AMANI Birth: Assisting Mothers for Active, Natural, Instinctive Birth.
- We have other courses, such as Fertility Awareness and Positive Parenting
- We are developing AMANI Breastfeeding: Assisting Mothers to Apply Newborn Instincts for Breastfeeding), as well as a waterbirth course and aromatherapy in pregnancy, labor, and birth course. These are all coming soon.
- We also train childbirth educators and doulas. This is done using the Canvas learning management system with live sessions now online due to Covid.
What market does your online course serve?
We are a childbirth education program founded on Islamic principles and we have been serving face-to-face in two dozen countries and counting, as our current trainees are online and will be adding new countries to our list. Our clients are typically pregnant Muslim women and their husbands from around the world. Although we do serve families of all faiths so long as they are open to the fact that we will be reflecting on Islamic references throughout. Having said that, birth is birth, regardless of race, nationality, or religion and our teachers and students are extremely diverse. Our face-to-face materials are currently in English, Arabic, German, and Indonesian. We are translating our online course to Arabic, Indonesian, Urdu, Bengali, and French.
Our Childbirth Educator and doula training serve women (and a few men) around the world who wish to serve others in their communities by teaching face-to-face childbirth classes using the AMANI materials in their languages, or by attending labors and births with women who wish to have the support of a professional labor companion, doula. With the rollout of the online class for parents, our current and upcoming AMANI affiliates have the opportunity to add the duty and role of AMANI Online Facilitator for the Blessed Start course, with just a bit of extra technical training for running live sessions associated with the new online venue for parents.
What’s the biggest benefit of taking your course?
Childbirth is a life-changing event. How the mother and child experience the journey will have everlasting effects on them. Childbirth should be an empowering event for the mother and a gentle transition for the baby. Too many mothers and babies experience trauma instead. In fact, birth is on a continuum from traumatic to empowering, and few women land in the middle of this range. Sadly, due to unnecessary interventions and sometimes disrespectful care, most women land on the end of trauma. Birth should never be this way. It should be the most empowering event of a woman’s life. In fact, it is a rite of passage, that when triumphed will leave the mother on top of the world and well bonded with her child. On the other hand, when the birth is traumatic, it can interfere with the mother’s self-esteem and the mother/child bond for a lifetime.
Knowledge is power and getting the right information and support to prepare mentally, physically, and emotionally for birth makes a world of difference. Although we encourage women to prepare for a completely natural birth (no pain drugs and minimal interventions), we also teach the wisdom of weighing benefits and risks so that mothers can be partners in their own care, especially when complications do arise.
Having interventions, even a cesarean, can be an empowering experience when the mother is included in the discussions and decision making. Having knowledge gives parents the ability to have intelligent conversations with their care provides, increasing the opportunity that they will receive respectful care, and decreasing unnecessary interventions. Experiencing birth with knowledge and preparation can make the difference not only between a traumatic birth and an empowering one, but it can also make a real clinical difference with better outcomes for mother and child.
How did you get into the market?
I am a mother of eight. I had five children all naturally in the States thanks to the preparation of childbirth classes with my first. Then I moved to Egypt during the pregnancy of my sixth. That was when I realized that mothers had no opportunities to learn about childbirth, were not prepared for the event, and that birth was highly medicalized, even worse than in the States. I had babies seven and eight in Saudi Arabia. Although the birth practices were better than in Egypt, there was still no childbirth education and mothers had no idea about their choices or rights in childbirth.
I became a childbirth educator and doula myself but realized I could not reach enough people to really effect change as a one-person army. I decided to go back to college and get my midwifery degree (bachelors and masters) and I wrote AMANI Birth, the book upon which the AMANI curriculum is based. With my program and credentials, I have been able to influence change in many countries, most notably Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, where we have the greatest followings. I have worked as a consultant to the Saudi Ministry of Health and trained numerous doctors, midwives, and nurses for updating practices to match worldwide evidence-based recommendations.
My main driver was the fact that there was really nothing available for women in Muslim countries and that even if there were, it was small and not in line with Islamic values. We are now living back in the States and our focus continues to be on the families in Muslim countries, but we are also getting more and more focused on the Muslim audience in the United States, of which we have some market share but we have not really promoted Stateside yet.
Why did you decide to create an online course in the first place?
We actually started building it in September 2019, pre-Covid. The reason was that we are serving young couples and we need to meet them where they’re at…and that is online! We also wanted to be more accessible worldwide in order to impact more families and we wanted to give our affiliates more opportunities to work with families without restrictions based on geography. We moved our childbirth educator and doula training online due to Covid.
Did you have any moments of doubt before you created/launched it?
With regards to the course for parents, we were already running an exceptional course face-to-face so there was no worry about the quality of the content. We hired an online content manager whose role it was to transfer the student workbook to an online video-based course for parents. My biggest issue was that my face-to-face teachers might feel threatened as the online course might be seen as competition to them. However, in the middle of development, we were hit by Covid. This changed everything and now the issue is more related to getting all the current teachers updated for online teaching and getting the materials translated and ready in the other languages.
With regard to training the childbirth educators and doulas, I did worry about the transfer of skills and practical bits that are needed in the courses. After running pilot groups, I was pleased to see that we were able to have them submit skills demo videos and that worked out really well. They actually get more in-depth training online, as they have not only the live sessions but also follow up homework that wasn’t required when we were traveling around the world to teach face-to-face. So, in the end, we are really pleased with the online version of our professional training, even though we’d always been reluctant to take it online.
If so what made you turn it around and do it anyway?
For the parents’ course, it was a matter of keeping up with the times. We were careful to position the program such that it would be a tool for our teachers to use to expand their reach, rather than a competition for them. With the Covid pandemic, our timing couldn’t have been better…except I wish we started six months sooner so we’d have been ready to roll out just prior to Covid instead of a few months after, as we were still in the development stage at the start of the pandemic.
As for the professional childbirth educator and doula training, that was a 100% response to Covid. We found ourselves unable to travel to the locations where our workshops were scheduled and we moved the students into the online version out of necessity.
What's your online course like?
The parent course is a combination of narrated online PowerPoint videos with live-action bonus topics. There is a downloadable parent journal for activities related to the material and live sessions weekly with our online facilitators who go over the activities and answer questions. There are a few quizzes but they are more for comparison of the knowledge parents come into the course against what they learn for the benefit of learning, not grading.
The professional childbirth educator and doula training consist of narrated online PowerPoint videos with live-action bonus topics as well. Some of these must be watched before the first live session, others are watched as homework between live sessions. There are a lot of quizzes on the professional journey and all content is housed in the Canvas learning management system. We already were using Canvas with our face-to-face students as there are about six months of follow up assignments after the live training (whether a face-to-face or online workshop was attended).
How long did it take you to create your course?
The parent course took about nine months to create (turning the face-to-face student workbook into an interactive online video program) and it includes over 100 videos. The other languages are following behind and are not completed yet.
We hired someone to research the software we are using, set up a dedicated online course website, and convert the workbook to video segments. We also hired someone to record and upload all the content, web copy, videos, parent journals, quizzes where applicable, etc.
Our content manager created the videos and parent journals and all the web copy. We verified the content and provide any needed feedback for edits before it went live. As a side note, we only hire people who are already affiliated with AMANI Birth, so they are all familiar with the product from a student and provider perspective. Hiring an outsider would have been a nightmare since our content is so rich.
The professional training was already partially online, it took us about a month to make the adjustments needed to turn the 21-hour face-to-face workshop into a 30-hour live online course with added homework in Canvas. This was a fairly easy transition except that we had to create the homework and video demos for the students.Although it takes much longer, the students are actually having better outcomes online. - Aisha Al Hajjar Click To Tweet
In part due to the extra live interaction time, and slower pace of the course (6 to 7 weekly 4- to 5-hour live sessions, as opposed to 21 hours crammed into 3 long 8-hour days face-to-face). Students have more time to absorb the materials and they have the added activities in the homework that help solidify knowledge. The rest of the after-workshop course in Canvas is the same.
Tell us a little about the process of launching your course and getting your first sale(s).
Well, we already had a large following of mothers across social media and interactive WhatsApp groups. Then we also held an online summit the month before the course parent launched. We had a select number of our affiliates provide rich presentations for the two-day summit and we advertised for the upcoming course all throughout the summit. Mothers who attended the summit were then sent email invitations for a greatly reduced price of the new online course, as they were to be the “pilot group.” We appreciated their participation and they were asked to give full feedback for our improvement.
Do you have a lead magnet?
We have an upcoming book that we will be taking pre-registration for free e-versions. We are launching that now. Anyone can register for the free download that will be coming out soon.
Those who register for the book will be invited to a free 3-hour online session with the author. In this session, we will engage with the participants and have breakout sessions where participants will participate in activities and can engage with our course facilitators. Those who attend will be invited to purchase a very reasonably priced 2-day mini-course with the author and facilitators. Those who attend will be encouraged to sign up for the full online course.
What's the traffic strategy that works best for you?
As we are still in our initial phase of the launch I cannot really comment on this at this moment. You can see the question about our marketing plans. We always aim to provide high-quality content all along the way.
Until now, our professional training has been a lot of word-of-mouth and social media engagement. Our face-to-face parent classes come down to the same, along with our affiliates marketing themselves in their local communities. This in-turn provides of organic reach.
We are also launching an affiliate marketing program. That way, anyone, our affiliates or others, can earn a commission for promoting the parent course. This is also new so I cannot comment on its success at this time.
What online course platform are you using?
We are using LearnDash as a plug-in to our WordPress website for the parent courses. It was important for us to have the course reside on our website.
We are using Canvas for our professional training. It's very teacher-friendly and there is a lot of grading to be done with this course.
For our first online summit, we used Hey Summit.
We currently use GOTO Webinar and GOTO Meeting for live sessions. I expect to change that to Big Blue Button by the end of the year. This will allow flexibility for multiple teachers to host live sessions simultaneously without costing a fortune.
Do you like it?
There are pros and cons to all the software we are using. LearnDash is great in the fact that the course resides on our own website. However, it’s not super intuitive in terms of setting up a course. Grading in LearnDash is also not easy, even with additional plugins for their grade book. I would not want to use it for a course that requires a lot of grading.
WordPress is not the easiest website software but it is the most powerful and adaptable. For a professional site with a lot of features, we find it to be the best choice on the market.
Here are my thoughts on the other tools:
Canvas is super user friendly for both teachers and students. It is a wonderful learning management system. However, we don’t like that we have to send our students to an outside website for their course content nor that all our grading data is kept with Canvas. We download it of course, but we’d like it better if it resided on our own website as LearnDash does.
The GOTO products work well, except that the participants have to download their software, which some people object to. It is also very pricey and is not feasible for us with the need for multiple facilitators. The price to add more users is just way too high, especially given our facilitators are not using it in high volume.
We appreciate that Big Blue Button will allow us to have multiple classes running at the same time without taking the price through the roof. It is also web-based, so there’s no need for students to download software. It also allows break out rooms. We appreciate these features. We have experience with it but haven’t used it in our own platform yet. The set up seems complicated, but we believe it will be worth the switch.
Hey Summit pulls off a very professional feeling webinar. It’s got some translation capabilities but that part is not perfect. The program is a bit pricy unless you are doing repetitive summits. We have not determined yet if it will be worth renewing the service.
Are there any features you wish it had?
See above. We also would like breakout room capabilities. These are not available in GOTO, unless we pay more for their classroom version.
What other tools do you use to run your online course business?
We rely heavily on Google spreadsheets and forms. Here is a list of our other frequently used tools:
- MailChimp, although we are considering an upgrade to Keap for more complete customer management and email automation system.
- Canva for making ads or other graphic items.
- Movavi for video editing, along with Apple’s Garage Band.
- Slack for team communication.
- Trello for project management.
- WhatsApp and Telegram to communicate with our community, along with Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
- We should be using Pinterest and Snap Chat more than we do.
- We're experimenting with Hootsuite and Social Bee for scheduling social media posts.
What books or training programs have you found useful on your journey to a successful business owner that others might find valuable too?
I cannot really say that we have relied upon such resources on our journey. We do appreciate the Einstein Marketer® articles.
Do you have any big mistakes you’ve made along the way that you’d be willing to share?
We should have gone online sooner! We need more coordination and focus in follow up and social media.
Please share some idea of revenue.
We are still in the investment mode of our online courses. Our English language version is just getting its feet wet and our other language versions are still being developed. Having said that we are much more mature in our online professional training, even though we launched fully online just this year. Our revenues for 2020, with nine months completed, are just under $100,000. Considering the expansive size of our target market and the upcoming language debuts, we expect to be at least 25 times that number or better by this time next year.
Please tell us a little about what the money you've earned from your course has done for you.
With the successes of our courses, we were able to hire 12 employees just over a year ago and our staff is focused on our continued online development and additional languages. Our staff work from home in six different countries. We love the work that we do and quit other forms of employment several years back.
In addition to revenue are there any numbers you would like to share?
We jumped from around 1000 to 6000 followers on our English social media accounts. This happened pretty much overnight just by posting content. The content included testimonials and value-add content. Our Indonesian team does better than our English with nearly 10,000 followers. Our social media is a work-in-progress and our focus for 2021. We also are implementing new sales funnels using lead magnets (free online book for example). Plus free webinars for participant engagement that provides rich content and great value to our followers. We would be happy to come back and report on the outcomes after six months.
What has creating your course done for you personally?
The work we do changes people’s lives. I cannot imagine doing anything else.Knowing that the work you put together has a real impact across the world is a greater measure of success than any financial number. - Aisha Al Hajjar Click To Tweet
This is a life work of passion and conviction. No one walks out of an AMANI Birth class the same person that walked in.
Do you have a story of a transformation from any of your clients?
We get these kinds of testimonials almost daily! I’ll share a recent one that stems from our professional training. In our workshops, we oftentimes have medical doctors. One such doctor, an obstetrician, completely changed her practice from the typical routine interventions and recommending elective cesareans for no medical reason (her words not mine). That way women wouldn’t have to suffer in labor, to supporting normal physiologic birth (natural birth). She now even offers water birth in Egypt.
This is a 180-degree transformation that is impacting the experiences of mothers and babies in her care. She also has sent many others to our training and each one comes out with a changed view of their role in supporting the mothers in their communities. Our courses drive grassroots to change in maternity care from the top-down and the bottom-up.
What advice do you have for people just starting out?My advice would be to take responsibility for the quality of your content. Put together the education and references needed to build a solid program. - Aisha Al Hajjar Click To Tweet
I wish I knew how fulfilling this would be much sooner in life. If I had known, I could have been doing this work ten years sooner, by following my passion when it was first lit. I sat on this for a decade before doing it. The flame just burned in the background until I acted upon it.
Imagine the numbers of moms and babies that we could have reached for better birth experiences in the course of 10 years! That’s a lot of birth trauma we could potentially help to prevent if only we were out there doing this work sooner! Now that we are expanding our reach by going online and expanding our languages, we feel it is our responsibility to reach multitudes more than we ever have. The outcomes really matter.