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Latest News & EventsNurses Leading Innovation

How a Nurse Entrepreneur is Creating Community for New Mothers

By leveraging her experience in maternity care and passion to improve health outcomes for black women, nurse entrepreneur Layo George, RN, MHSA, founded Wolomi, an organization that provides resources aiming to improve experiences and outcomes for black women during their perinatal periods.

As a registered nurse and population health specialist, Layo George fell in love with delivering care for new mothers. But through her experiences in labor and delivery, she began to observe inequalities in healthcare experiences for new mothers of color. This led Layo to dive deeper into the nationwide maternal health crisis facing black women, with her findings fueling her passion to make a difference and ultimately create Wolomi.

Through programs, services and events, Wolomi provides clinical and emotional support for black women who are thinking of becoming pregnant, are already pregnant or recently had a baby. By combining innovative tools and strategies with maternal health experts and champions, Wolomi aims to create a community that can empower black women throughout their motherhood journey, as well as help drive better health outcomes for both the mothers and their babies.

The Johnson & Johnson Notes on Nursing team recently spoke with Layo to learn more about the inspiration behind Wolomi, her inspiring work addressing inequalities in maternal health for black women and what she’d like to see come out of the Year of the Nurse and Midwife.

J&J:
What was the inspiration behind founding Wolomi?
Layo:
I have always loved women’s health. My mother was a midwife in Nigeria, and I wanted to become a midwife too. I believed it was such joyful work, but I was also a bit naïve about it. After my experiences practicing in different labor delivery rooms, I realized that delivery experiences can be very different for women, especially women of color. It motivated me to start digging into research and learning more about the maternal health crisis affecting black women today. I believe that one’s pregnancy experience should be a happy, joyous event that encourages you to think positively about the healthcare system. I wanted to create something that could help create the joy and experiences I wanted to see.

“Eku wolomi” is a greeting to a woman after she gives birth in the Yoruba culture. It means “happy putting hands in water,” as members of community often put their hands in water to celebrate and care for the new mom and her newborn baby. At Wolomi, we are on a mission to create a community that empowers black women throughout their motherhood journey.
J&J:
How has Wolomi worked to help improve health outcomes for black women?
Layo:
We understand the value in empowering mothers both before and after they enter the hospital setting. Wolomi offers a series of online courses that helps moms navigate motherhood, create their pregnancy team and embrace breastfeeding. Our breastfeeding course is our most popular course because a lot of women want to breastfeed, but don’t have enough support after leaving the hospital to help them through it. Wolomi also offers one-on-one coaching for new mothers to help navigate the complex healthcare system and provides personalized emotional support once they join our online community. We also provide coaching and consultation for health IT companies, healthcare providers and health insurance partners so they can better understand and create care plans for these expecting mothers.

Through Wolomi, we’ve created an authentic space of quality that speaks to the modern-day black woman, a community that healthcare overall has been slow to adapt to. We’re fulfilling the need for a digital space where women can go online, find community and receive answers to their questions from women like them and healthcare professionals they can trust.
J&J:
For those in nursing school today, what do you want to tell or teach them about maternal health outcomes for black women?
Layo:
Everyone needs cultural competency, even me. We can all be doing more to better understand our healthcare environments and backgrounds of our patients. For example, when I first created Wolomi, I started a walking group for prenatal moms to encourage healthy exercise during pregnancy. Here I am thinking I’m this nurse coming in to save the day, but I realized the pregnant women that were coming to the group were already exercising. They just wanted a community of other black pregnant women who were going through the similar experiences. It led me to completely change my strategy and offerings to meet the women where they are and focus on community.

I would also tell today’s nursing students in this area of healthcare that it’s very important to believe and listen to the women. Many of the women I work with have a large distrust of healthcare systems, and a lot of that stems from their needs not being addressed when they spoke to their healthcare provider. When a patient says they feel weird or off, explore that. Women may not be able to explain what they are feeling, but they are the experts of their own body. We have the clinical skills to interpret what they are experiencing. And nurses are uniquely positioned to lead in improving care delivery here because they are often the first to know when things are off with a patient.
J&J:
Can you tell us about your journey as a registered nurse to becoming an entrepreneur?
Layo:
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to transform healthcare, but I never knew I would be an entrepreneur. I thought I wanted to be a midwife, but I became fascinated with the operations behind the healthcare system and went for my master’s in healthcare systems administration at Georgetown University. I took a social entrepreneurship class with a professor who encouraged me to think outside of the traditional trajectory I was headed. I didn’t really consider it until I had the same professor again in a class about entrepreneurship in healthcare. At the end of the class, we had to present an innovative solution to a healthcare problem, and I focused on a maternal health solution that later became the cornerstone of Wolomi. My professor told me that I should consider doing it full time when I graduated. He saw something in me that I never saw in myself—an innovative entrepreneur—and offered to be my mentor and introduce me to the right people.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it. It’s been a long journey, but I’ve been so lucky to have a supportive husband, as well as a mentor who understands my feelings and frustrations. I’m so proud of where Wolomi is today, now a convener for experts in the field to help improve health outcomes for women of color. I realize now that one of the biggest hurdles in my entrepreneurship journey was me. I had the expertise and the passion to make a difference—I just found myself asking what I was waiting for.
J&J:
What education, training, support, etc. do you wish today’s and tomorrow’s nurses could have to better prepare them for a path of entrepreneurship?
Layo:
At nursing school, you learn a lot about how to be a bedside nurse. But what we’re seeing is a huge shift to community and in-home nursing. Nursing school does not teach you the business of healthcare. I had to take a different route academically and professionally to understand all that goes into a healthcare organization, and I’m still learning! To best prepare nurses to be vital players in the future of healthcare, today’s nurses need more education in areas outside of acute care. We need to be preparing them to be active participants in healthcare transformation.
J&J:
Do you have any advice for nurses interested in taking their great ideas and turning them into businesses?
Layo:
Find a space that’s your space and be curious. Ask a lot of questions. Nurses are not given training in entrepreneurship. We need to actively seek out mentors and sponsors to help guide us. There’s a lot that goes into turning your idea into a business: branding your product, registering your company, creating a website. It’s a lot better to be on the entrepreneur path with someone who believes in you and steers you in the right direction for resources. I was very fortunate that an incredible mentor and advocate sort of fell into my lap, but I would tell nurses finding the right mentor is key. Even several mentors across disciplines.
J&J:
What’s next for Wolomi?
Layo:
I’m excited to be launching an app in June that will further help to build our online community and assist mothers in their motherhood journey. I’m also thinking through how I can make my business model sustainable so I can continue this work for a long time. I’m aware that for many black women with new businesses, they aren’t always able to sustain them, and I’m committed to making Wolomi the number one community for pregnant black women.
J&J:
What would you like to see happen for the nursing profession in the Year of the Nurse and Midwife?
Layo:
I want us to be visible. Nurses need to be in more healthcare spaces, and we need to be thinking about the future of healthcare, not just the past and present of care delivery. Nurses have the answers—in fact, we’re the most trusted healthcare profession. This is our year to be seen and participate in more healthcare conversations. Join boards, join organizations, take your seat at the table.

To learn more and join Wolomi’s community, visit their website and follow them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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