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July 2021

Project Roundup: Sitting down with Emma Gasking, Founder of The Parent Education Company

People Projects

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I sat down with Emma Gasking, Founder of The Parent Education Company to talk all things antenatal education ahead of the launch of The Parent Education Company’s new platform which is the first antenatal subscription service with access to a comprehensive antenatal and early postnatal education through a forum, collection of professional online courses, and monthly group calls, led by a registered midwife and produced by a passionate team including experts by experience, healthcare specialists, and professionals.

Maddy: Emma, will you want to just briefly tell us a bit about The Parent Education Company, what you’re, what you’re doing with it, what your mission is and what the positive impact is that you’re trying to make.

Emma: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me on as well, it’s really good timing. We launched this morning and it’s been amazing working with you so I’m looking forward to having this chat. The Parent Education Company is a healthcare technology company. We launched this morning and we provide support, education and community for families as they make the transition through pregnancy and into parenthood.

I’m a midwife and I saw first hand how segmented this market still is, which made it really difficult when families came to me with questions like, “I’m having problems with my employer, I don’t really know what my rights are” or “I know basic nutrition, but I’m not a nutritionist.” So if they came to me and said, “I’ve got this specific question about nutrition”, I would then need to book them in with the nutritionist and the it’s a six week wait to be seen. Then on top of that, I saw my clients (and this is very common across the UK) to start with then it’s eight weeks, then it’s 16 weeks, then 24 weeks. So you’ve got these big gaps in between appointments and there’s nothing that I could really do to support them during that time. So that’s exactly what The Parent Education Company does. It addresses this problem, providing articles and resources as well as professionally moderated online courses and monthly calls with the community.

We’ve currently got a lawyer on board, a nutritionist, and a lactation consultant. We’ve also got a really lovely guy who works with fathers and partners as they make the transition through to parenthood and provide mental health support. We’ll continue to build in more and more hosts so that people can get the support, education and community that people want and need at a time that suits them rather than having to wait on the NHS and whichever appointment is coming up or being referred to a clinic. We are a midwife in your pocket or professional in your pocket, there for you when you need them.

Maddy: Amazing. So when we started working together early in the pandemic last year, I can remember having a conversation with you around how nobody really knew what on earth was going on and so I guess the pandemic has completely shaped what The Parent Education Company has become and what you’re offering. As online education has become such a common way of learning for people.

E: Exactly. Like you say, we’ve just started with antenatal courses. So just the midwifery part and the idea was at that point to build up each of the disciplines slowly, because people didn’t really know online learning in the same way that people do now because of the pandemic.

So yes, there’s been a lot of pivots and changes but as we’ve launched the platform this morning. It feels like people are actually ready for this now.

We thought, let’s get as many disciplines as we can to start with and then build it from there rather than what the initial plan was to include just the midwifery.

It’s interesting how businesses pivot and change and how yes, Coronavirus is awful and has such a negative impact, but actually in terms of learning in the online space, people have become so much more used to it which has enabled us to move forwards as we have done.

M: That’s all part of the fun, isn’t it? So way back in, March/April, 2020, what led you to want to work with a designer and why did you see the need to work with a designer when you were in those really early stages of your business?

E: So for me, it was the fact that I’m a midwife and I’ve got an MBA, but none of that is creative. I don’t feel confident in my creativity in terms of branding and design. And I’d seen the work that you’ve done previously and I loved it. You really managed to get inside my head, (in the best way!) I remember that first session that we had was so useful in terms of going through which words would you associate with your business, and then we did that fun almost funnelling process of, okay, well, these words are important to you in these categories, and then out of those categories, let’s pick the top three, and then the top one. That whole process of taking me from not knowing anything about design and feeling so uncomfortable with it, right through to now, I feel really happy with the design and quite confident and comfortable with it all. It’s also your style and the way that you guide your clients through that process. In the beginning, it’s a lot of handholding, but then you make us feel more confident, which is brilliant.

I think the other part that was really important for me was that you want to work with businesses who have a positive impact or are trying to make a positive difference. I didn’t want to work with anybody who was just doing it for the money, or I was just another business in their portfolio which is why I chose you out of anyone as well.

Your style, the way that you work with people, that is very non-judgmental, very like you can start from zero. And how you work with businesses who were making a positive impact – all of those things are really important to me.

M: Wow. Firstly thank you. The people I work with, I genuinely really care about what they are doing and building and when they believe in it so much, like you do with TPEC I do too. It’s the best bit about my job – being part of that process and helping people to actually build something positive. In whatever way, shape or form that is. You don’t have to be single-handedly changing the world but just doing something which is actually making the world a little bit better.

M: So in terms of the design process in general, was it what you expected it to be, or did you have any expectations or learn anything from it that you weren’t expecting to?

E: I learned so much. I came in with no expectations, basically. I’ve had never worked with a designer before, it was all very new. And again, coming back to why I chose to work with you, I think that was also definitely part of the consideration because I’ve been in meetings before and I’ve been in situations before where I’ve worked with people who, when you start with zero knowledge can make you feel a bit uncomfortable in that position, but working with you was just very comfortable from the start. That was something after looking at your previous testimonials and having a chat with a couple of people (because I came to you through word of mouth), so having a chat with those people, those were exactly the sorts of things that I wanted from a designer, somebody who knew that I was starting from zero, but would still listen to my ideas and be able to take them and do something with them rather than just saying, “oh, well, you know, I’ll just do my own thing and not have that connection.”

So yes, in answer your question, I really didn’t have any expectations but I knew that branding was important in making the outside as beautiful as the inside and I knew it would make a big difference so I was willing to sort of throw myself at it and see where we got to.

M:  That’s another thing which is super important to me. I’d never want to make anybody feel like they don’t know what they’re talking about or disregard people’s ideas. I know that their businesses are they’re babies so I know how important it is to people and, you know, people are going to have their own ideas and input which I always consider. For me, it’s very much a collaborative process between us rather than just me delivering you something at the end of it. So kind of like having a baby, I guess.

M: So, was there anything particular that you really wanted to get across in the branding?

E: Yeah, so the conversation that we had way back last year, more than a year ago now was how it was really important to me that we weren’t too friendly and too unprofessional and that we weren’t too childish, but also at the same time that we weren’t cold and sterile, and they’re in this space of health care and maternity, that generally tends to be either “I’m your best mate”, or very separated, very clinical, more like the NHS style.

For me, it was really important that we fit somewhere in the middle of that. So yes, we are professional, we are reliable, we are a safe, trustworthy, friendly, but not too friendly, not too childlike and that was something that we played about with quite a lot, especially It’s your attention to detail that just really brought it all together.

Things like having the paper background at a certain percentage of opacity and then the squiggles. So the paper bought in that professional side, like reading a book, and then the waves which bring in a bit more playfulness but without it being too childish. I thought you got that balance really right which was something that was really important to me and still is really important to me to try and convey that we’re the middle piece here; we’re not too clinical and cold, but we’re not your best mate who’s not professional and is more gossip than reliable information.

M: I remember when we were doing the market research and I was learning about all of this, as it is completely new space for me, I’ve not got children and haven’t been through this process so I was able to come at it with completely fresh eyes. The rest of the market is quite dry from a visual perspective. That’s the main thing that stuck out to me, that there is not any personality here currently.

A big thing we wanted to get across was, this doesn’t want to be just something else to add to you to do list, because if you are either pregnant or a new parent, you’re going to have enough on your plate anyway so to, it doesn’t want to be something that’s like, “oh, we’ve now got to do our anti-natal learning.” We wanted it to feel fun, reliable, professional, trustworthy, all of those things, absolutely, but also the importance of making learning and education a bit fun and a bit playful and interesting, especially as an adult. When you are a child it’s all about ‘how can we make this more fun for people to learn?’ but it’s like as soon as you become an adult, it’s like, “no, now it needs to look really boring and uninteresting.”

So what I really wanted to try and stand out against that because what you’re offering is an alternative to those things like the NHS and NCT, so make it different visually as well.

So, that was super important.

To elaborate on some of the thinking behind the identity; The Parent Education Company logo that we developed is inspired by the visual of a pregnant stomach, with a little baby in it. So conveying this idea of nurture and protection – everything that a baby in the womb symbolises. The idea being that The Parent Education Company looks after and protects you so that you can nurture, protect and care for your baby.

And then Emma obviously briefly mentioned we’ve included the squiggles and those kinds of playful elements like texture because another thing with online learning is that you do lose some of the more tactile elements you’d get with in-person learning.

You’re not sat there with exercise books, like you would be at school or if you’re at a class and we spend so much time on screens and on computers, but I wanted to really try and make it feel inviting and like you’re having a bit more of that tactile experience, I suppose.

And then you’ve got the colours, which are a bold, but they’re a little pastel and a little bit more muted. So having that softer, more friendly feel to it with more of the organic shapes was all part of how all the identity comes together.

Another really important thing was like around inclusivity and it not being overly feminine or particularly gendered but appropriate and inclusive for all different family and parenting types and styles so that everybody feels included in the parenting conversation.

I remember you telling me a bit about how the focus is so often on mothers, and obviously you’ve now got the support on the platform for fathers and partners mental health, which is so important. So I think in terms of things like the photography, the colours and making it as inclusive and accessible as possible for people was really important.

One other thing was the idea that it needed to be not overwhelming. People are already potentially feeling quite anxious and overwhelmed so online learning space to feel as welcoming and calming, I guess, as possible people are often feeling overwhelmed and anxious. I remember a key word we, we said a lot between us was also ‘empowering’. Wanting people to feel armed and ready. People want the friendliness and warmth, but they also want to feel like “I’m ready.”

E: I love how the branding carried on into, each of the worksheets. So coming back to how, like you said earlier, that when you get into adulthood, for some reason, it’s then just a click through PowerPoint slide that’s just words and is so dull and boring that I don’t think anybody really gets any learning from it or very little, but the way that we’ve done it is, and the way that you bought the branding into the worksheets and the information documents, yes, it’s inclusive yet it’s not gendered it’s for all different family types and that continues into the anti-natal course in terms of it is interactivity. So I think that’s also important from a inclusivity point of view-  it work for people, but also from a branding point of view and how you bought that to life.

M: That’s super important to mention actually, because branding yes, is it’s the visuals but it’s so much more than that. It’s your culture, it’s how you work, it’s you, it’s the actual content of the courses themselves. It feeds into everything you do. The visuals are one part of it, but it, it feeds into so much more than that.

M: Okay, so now we’ve spoken a bit about the process tell us what’s next for The Parent Education Company? Now you’ve got your branding and your website, what’s next?

E: So we have some really exciting things in the pipeline that I is a classic, isn’t it? I actually cannot say too much about them, but over the next few months, it’s going to be all about just getting the word out there, getting to help as many people as we can. As we’ve said all the way through this, it’s about making it work for people and what families want.

So yes, we’ve started with the obvious ones, if you like. So, legal rights and nutrition, midwifery, et cetera, but we are looking to build hosts, so increased number of hosts increase the, the range of topics and disciplines that are covered so that more families are supported as we move forward and then start looking at working with businesses as well, so that yes, families individually can access this, but it then also becomes accessible to people who are employed, who have health insurance, for example, that’s kind of where we’re, where we’re looking to go.

But as with the last year and how we pivoted to now, who knows what’s going to happen, but that’s the plan it’s really exciting.

It feels like we’ve got it and it feels like it’s really exciting. This is what people want. And it’s now just about build it, let people know about it. Raise awareness as much as possible.

M: It sounds super exciting and I’m excited to see what happens next and hear more about it. So, where can people go to, to find The Parent Education Company?

So it’s really simple. It’s just the parenteducationcompany.com and you can find us on Instagram again, as it says in the tin @theparenteducationcompany. And if you want to reach out then all the contact information is both on Instagram and on the website.

M: Finally I wanted to end this mini series by asking you, what is your because?

M: So obviously at the start of the conversation, we spoke about the fact that you’ve got a mission to do something positive, bringing about and building something positive in the world, and that is, that’s exactly the types of people I love to with. So Emma, what is The Parent Education Company’s ‘because’?

E: It’s because we want to give families the support community and education that they want in a way that works for them. So reverse a little bit, we know that one in five parents will experience either anxiety or depression in pregnancy when the first year of their child’s life and that’s at least because we know, especially when it comes to fathers and partners anxiety, depression, mental health around this transition to parenthood is a under research and be under reported as well.

So actually the biggest, probably much higher than that. So if you think about going into a business meeting where there’s six of you in a room, if all six of you are parents, it’s going to be at least one or two of you who have experienced this, but we also know that having support at your fingertips, having that community around you can reduce that.

The Better Births government publication that came out in 2016 shows us that time and time again, give people the support, give people what they want in terms of that education, that support that community as they go through the transition and you can improve health outcomes and why that’s really important is because it then impacts future generations. So family, children of parents who experienced mental health illness in that pregnancy, or first year of their child’s life, then are more likely to experience mental health illness at the age of 18 so it’s a vicious cycle. By providing this, we not only improve health outcomes for mothers, fathers and partners online, and all different types of family structures, but actually there’s a much bigger impact than that because we improve health outcomes for future generations.

That wider impact has such a positive effect, not only on the family and the individual but on their social circle, but also on a wider socioeconomic level. We’re in a stress epidemic and something needs to be done about it. So this is all our little way of making a bit of a difference.

M:, It’s so important. Thank you. Thank you for sharing Emma and, hopefully this gives people a bit of an insight into both The Parent Education Company and the branding process and how it all feeds into the business and hopefully makes you feel armed and ready to launch. And finally,

Congratulations on launching today.

E: Thank you so much. Yeah. I’m really excited to see where it goes and I am so grateful to you for all of your help and working with me on getting this branding. It’s it looks and feels amazing in my opinion. Yeah. I’d encourage people to go check it out, go and see what Maddy has created for us.

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