Michelle Hansley is a Center for Pediatric Sleep Management graduate, and the owner and founder of Make Sleep Sweet. In this episode Michelle shares her experience growing a sleep consulting business while prioritizing spending time with her two young daughters. You’ll hear her share how she juggles family and work responsibilities, her experience launching her business on a shoestring budget, and what she thinks is the key to growing a successful sleep consulting business!
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Jayne Havens: Hello, I am so excited about this interview. When I decided to launch this podcast the one thing that made me most nervous was how I would start. The only guest that felt fitting for my first episode of the Becoming a Sleep Consultant podcast is Michelle Hensley, my first student to ever enroll in the Center for Pediatric Sleep Management. 300 students later, she will always be my OG, Michelle started on her sleep training journey just over six years ago, after the birth of her daughter Gemma, it was important to Michelle, that Gemma got quality sleep because that meant that she could also be well rested and be the best version of herself for her family. Through her journey. She learned about the importance of sleep and children for their development, temperament, and overall well-being. And she began to develop a passion for healthy sleep habits. Fast forward six years later, and after successfully sleep training her second daughter, helping several friends with their children’s sleep along the way, and completing her sleep consultant certification course, through the Center for Pediatric Sleep Management. She’s excited to be reaching families on a more professional level. Michelle launched her business, make sleep sweet two years ago, and supports families while working part-time and staying home with her two children. Michelle, thank you so much for being on the show.
Michelle Handsley: Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be doing this with you.
Jayne Havens: So first of all, I always say this to you all the time. But thank you for trusting me to lead you on this journey. You believed in me before I had even wrapped my head around believing in myself and I seriously will be forever grateful for that. Why on earth did you decide to enroll in CPSM? I had exactly zero students enrolled at the time!
Michelle Handsley: So I did know that you were launching for the first time and I knew that because you took the time to take a phone call with me and tell me about your vision and your thoughts. You explained that the program was getting ready to launch and I didn’t know at the time, I was going to be the first student but I didn’t know I would be one of the first. A little backstory, I reached out to a friend and I said I was thinking of getting my sleep consultant certification. I didn’t even know where to start. She recommended I check out a Facebook page called boss moms. I commented there just with the idea of a getting certified, and your name kept popping up. So I reached out, and scheduled a call. To be honest, I had looked into other programs as well, most of them online had links that said enroll now. But I didn’t really know much about the programs, there was no one to talk to about them. And then I got on the phone with you. And I just felt like we connected. It just felt so good talking to you. I remember I walked out of the bedroom and I told my husband, I’m ready to do this. And before we talked I wasn’t sure. If I wanted to move forward. I just feel like by talking to you could see the vision you were explaining and I felt that connection and the support that you were willing to give. It just felt right. And my husband had that same conversation with me. As soon as I walked out of the room. He asked, Why Jayne? Like why this course hasn’t been established yet. And my response to that is someone’s going to have to take the chance and start on it. Just like when I become a certified sleep consultant for the first time, someone’s going to have to take a chance and be my first client like you have to start somewhere. And just because you were just getting started, I had no doubt that it was going to be great.
Jayne Havens: Yes, well, I’m seriously so grateful. I always think back to that time when you felt that I had this developed vision and you could see it so clearly. Because looking back on it, I’m sure I did have one at the time, but it’s probably so different than it is now. And you know, I’m just grateful that you trusted me and that you were willing to grow your business as I was still growing the sleep consultant certification program. And yeah, I’m just so grateful. Let’s talk about what it looks like for you. Because, you know, one thing that I think is really special about you is that you are really fully committed to still being a stay at home mom, like I know you take your business seriously, but your girls are your priority and at least for now, while they’re still young. I know that you really want to prioritize being present for them. So what does that look like for you?
Michelle Handsley: Absolutely. Yeah, so that was always really big to me. We’re a busy family and busy with good things, but I love this position that I have the power to really set my schedule and what my day to day looks like. Last week was my daughter’s birthday and we went out of town so I made my calendar unavailable for two days. And I didn’t take on new clients during that time. So I definitely think being my own boss and having my own company makes that possible because I can say what my schedule looks like at home with my girls, as well as what my schedule looks like for my business.
Jayne Havens: Can you give us a sample day? I’m sure. You know, when people ask me this, it’s really hard, right? Because every day is a little bit different. But can you even think back to like, what was yesterday? Or, you know, is there a day that pops up in your mind that you can just sort of give us a rundown of what that looks like for you?
Michelle Handsley: I’ve lost track of days, but I’ll try to explain it. It feels like it makes no sense. But yes, my younger daughter’s in school part-time, and my older daughter, we have a carpool system down for her for school. You know, she has activities four days a week. And my calendar is set up to take on phone calls, during the few hours that both girls are in school. Usually, my alarm goes off at 8:00 am as a reminder to shoot my current clients’ text messages, so I remember to check in with them. Because if my alarm wasn’t set, I would probably lose track of time. So I shoot all of them a text, and I respond to them through texts throughout the day. And yes, you know, I think setting the schedule to take on new clients when the girls are in school, so I can be fully present with the girls when they’re home. And then I can be fully present with my clients while they’re at school definitely helps.
Jayne Havens: Yes, one thing you told me, I’m wondering if you still do it, or I think you’ve suggested it to some of the ladies in our Facebook group for students and CPSM graduates is that at one point you were checking in first thing in the morning, and then in the middle of the day, and then around bedtime? Do you still operate that way?
Michelle Handsley: Yes, for the most part, I let clients know that. And then, I mean, I have my phone on me. So I tell them, obviously, if they ever shoot me a really time-sensitive question, you know, what’s going on an hour and they haven’t gotten down? What should I do? I try my best at the moment to write back. But I want them to know if they ask a question. Hey, what time should they go down to bed tonight? And it’s noon? It’s not something I need to answer immediately. So just letting them know that I’ll get back to them before they need me. But it’s not always in the exact moment if it’s not necessary.
Jayne Havens: Yes. Ok, I hear that. And then just thinking like thinking back to where you were two years ago, versus where you are now, your girls are a little bit older, your business is a little bit more established? Are you still taking on a similar caseload? Or have you been able to take on more as your girls have become more independent? And I would assume your business has grown just from referrals and word of mouth?
Michelle Handsley: Yes, so I’m still taking on, I feel comfortable with two to three clients at a time I have taken more on. And you know, at one point, I’ve had five or six clients at a time, but then I do feel like I want to give my clients a lot of attention. And I want to give my family a lot of attention. And it’s hard. You know, I think once my younger daughter is in school full time, that will make a big difference. But she’s still home with me a lot. So to either take away from her or take away from clients, I’ve done it, and I’m able to do it, but it’s just not, you know, where I want to be right now at this point in our lives.
Jayne Havens: Yes, I think you do such a good job of prioritizing your family. And I really admire that it’s something you know, I’m trying to find that balance myself, as I’m growing my business. And as my kids are getting older, you know, how much do I hustle my business at the expense of that sometimes can take me away from my family. So I don’t know, I really admire the way that you sort of hold a firm boundary, and really value that time spent with them. And that actually makes me think about your husband, what does he think about all of this? I’m sure he’s super supportive and proud of you. But you know, you were a stay-at-home mom not working at all. And then now you’re sort of juggling? What does he think about that? And what does support look like from him?
Michelle Handsley: Yes, he’s proud of me. And he loves seeing me do what I love. He reads the reviews. I’ll read him comments from clients sometimes. And I think for him to see how much I’ve grown also in my business and how I’m able to prioritize and something that you’ve taught us all is to really value our time. And I think throughout the past couple of years, I’ve really grown in confidence and I’m starting to value my time a lot more as well. And yes, I think he loves to see how much my confidence is growing and to have my own project to take on too.
Jayne Havens: Yes, I love that. I think the supportive part. Partners, family members, and friends. It is so crucial to having a successful business because we can get in our own heads sometimes, right? And we start to feel like, Oh, am I doing enough? Or am I? Am I doing too much? And to have that grounded person? There to be your cheerleader? I don’t know.
Michelle Handsley: Yes, it is a big help.
Jayne Havens: So I am always being asked a question that I wanted to ask you on on the podcast today. So one of the things that I get asked all the time is, what expenses can you expect to incur when starting your own business? And I always think the view because you didn’t really spend all that much when you first got your business up and running, you didn’t even have a website, I think it was like over a year that you didn’t have a website. Can you share with us what that looked like? How did you get clients to sign on with you if you didn’t have a website?
Michelle Handsley: So my biggest expense was actually enrolling in the course, to begin with. And I made that back, I think in the first one or two months with clients that I’ve taken. Other than that, it’s small monthly fees for my calendar, and email domain, some I pay annually. But my biggest way to make connections when I first started, and this is something you told me as well, and I think it’s paid off tremendously, is I took a handful of clients that I worked with, for free of charge in exchange for testimonials. And we had a great relationship. And there, they saw great results with their children sleeping, and those handfuls of clients referred me to a handful of clients, and some of them signed on. And it really grew organically. And by word of mouth. I’m just not into technology and social media. So really building those connections and relationships is what is most important to me. And that’s how I’ve been successful so far. Yes. And again, it’s to build connections and relationships and get out there, it doesn’t cost money.
Jayne Havens: Yes, I completely agree and actually, I have a few graduates in the program that never launched a website and don’t have a social media presence, and they have very successful thriving businesses. I think you’re absolutely right, that it’s all about making those connections and, and making the people that you are working with feel really valued, so that they feel empowered to or compelled to share your name with friends, right. That’s how this is a referral-based business. So when your clients are happy, then they spread the word. And I think that’s definitely a winning recipe. But going back to the website for a second, I just want to talk about the logistics of that. Because, yes, like, ok, I get that you were good enough at your job that people liked you and referred you to others. But I don’t know, I use my website as the means to actually have people sign up. I know, you could of course, just send them an invoice. But what did that actually look like? If you didn’t have some somewhere to send them? What were you sending them to? Did you have an e-pamphlet? What were you sending them so that they could see more about your services? Or were you just talking to them? And that was enough?
Michelle Handsley: Yes, so again, it was mostly word of mouth. So I would have a friend reach out and say, Hey, I have someone who’s interested, how do they move forward? And I know you use acuity, I use Calendly for a lot of my scheduling. So I would send them a link to my calendar. And from there, they schedule a time slot that looks good for them to set up an initial call. And then from the initial call, I get their phone number and their email address. And then after that call, I sent them a follow-up email, letting them know it was great connecting, and then I would send out my pricing and services for them to reference and then a link again, another Calendly link on how to move forward. So if they’re ready to book a package, they click on that link, and they find the time slot that works well for them. Payment is collected at that time and then I send them a contract electronically. So to be honest, I do have a website now. But I don’t feel like it’s changed my process. I mean, now in my email, I’ll say feel free to check on my website for testimonials. But my process as far as scheduling and moving forward hasn’t changed with the website.
Jayne Havens: Yes, that’s amazing. And I think that really speaks to the importance of just making that personal connection, which I cannot emphasize enough. I know that you wholeheartedly believe in it, too. But I can’t drill down that any further. It’s just so important. It’s not about, you know, fancy Instagram posts. It’s not about a beautiful website. It’s not about silly reels or TikTok. It’s about actually people wanting to work with you because they had a nice conversation with you. Right? That I mean, that’s what it looks like.
Michelle Handsley: Definitely. Yeah. And that’s why I think I put off the website for so long because again, I can’t stand technology. So I was like, I didn’t even know where to start. So I kept saying, I’ll get a website, I can, I’ll get a website. But then I kept getting clients without a website. So I was like, oh, but this month, I’m getting plenty of clients. So I’ll focus on it next month. And then next month, I got clients again, so it was kind of one of those things where I was putting it off. But obviously, if I felt it was impacting my business, I would have moved forward with it sooner, but I didn’t even really feel a need.
Jayne Havens: So what’s up next for you? Any big plans. If there are no big plans, if just doing this, the way that you’re doing it is making you happy? I don’t want to make you feel like you have to have a big plan. But I am a goal setter. And I’m pretty business-minded, and I have an entrepreneurial drive and spirit. And I just feel like I have to ask you like what’s coming down the pipes for later?
Michelle Handsley: Yes, definitely. I’m super excited to be getting back into a little more in-person events. My business launched in March or February of 2020. And then March of 2020, things started shutting down, which definitely impacted my big visions and goals for in-person connections and relationships. So next week, I’ve actually partnered with a dentist that I’m super excited about. We’re doing a mom’s meet-up at the park, and she’s going to talk about dental hygiene and children. And I’m going to talk about how that all impacts sleep, feeding overnight, not brushing teeth, all of that. So we’re intertwining those, I’m really excited about that. And then in March, I’m working with another mom, and we’re hosting an entrepreneur brunch for moms in our community to come out and meet each other and see how we can support each other. And I’ve been in touch with some “Mommy and Me” classes once or allowing visitors to come in and speak there. So definitely a lot more in-person now that, you know, we’re moving back in that direction.
Jayne Havens: I love that’s such a perfect answer for you, right, like just back to actually seeing people face to face that makes perfect sense. And, and I really have every bit of confidence that that is going to help you grow and strengthen those personal connections that you value. Before we wrap up. I always like to ask a few quickfire questions. Are you up for that? So what is your favorite app or platform that you use for your business?
Michelle Handsley: I’m going to go back and say Calendly. Again, I feel like having a calendar in front of me that I constantly reference definitely helps keep me organized.
Jayne Havens: I totally agree. I mean, I use acuity But the same thing if I couldn’t if I didn’t have that I would be so lost. What’s your favorite part of the work that you do?
Michelle Handsley: Getting text messages from parents about how I changed their lives. You know, I did this because I wanted to support children to get a better night’s sleep. Not even thinking about what a big impact it has on families. So getting a text from mom saying I just did yoga for the first time in nine months and I slept last night. You know, those text messages? I look forward to reading them every day.
Jayne Havens: Great answer. Love that. Do you have a least favorite part of the job?
Michelle Handsley: Least favorite. I mean, it’s gotten better. But almost 90% of the time I have an initial call. I have a client that insists their child is the one child that can’t be sleep trained. So I think obviously, with confidence and with time, I am able to answer now and get past that. But in the beginning, it was almost like they’re gonna tell me they can’t be sleep trained. What am I going to say? Can they really not be sleep trained?
Jayne Havens: In the beginning, I can imagine that feeling really scared. And, they’re hiring me. I need to figure out how to fix this. But parents are feeling like it can’t be fixed which is really scary.
Michelle Handsley: But I will say that you definitely helped set us up for success and every baby has been able to be sleep trained.
Jayne Havens: Yes. A Snoo or a regular old bassinet.
Michelle Handsley: Yes, I’m so old-fashioned I go regular old bassinet. If you use the Snoo, that’s great. I just personally have the belief that less is more, and we never used one. I don’t even think they were around when my girls were born.
Jayne Havens: I don’t think they were around. My kids are nine and five. And I don’t even think the Snoo existed when Ivy was a baby. Or if it did, it was like such a crazy thing to have at the time that we just didn’t.
Michelle Handsley: Yes. And now, a lot of clients don’t use them. So if you use them, that’s great. But me personally, I did not.
Jayne Havens: Yes. Do you have a favorite mantra or saying that you often share with your clients to help them get over the stressful hump of making a change to the way their child sleeps?
Michelle Handsley: I do have a favorite mantra. What I say all the time is that I like to remind clients that you’re doing this for your child. Not doing it to your child.
Jayne Havens: I say it. I write that in every single SLEEP plan. I love that that’s rubbed off on you. It really is the truth. I think so many parents have guilt around establishing boundaries when it comes to sleep. And our children need that. And they want that so badly. So I agree. Yes. Sleep training is for our children, not something we do to them.
Michelle Handsley: I was going to say a lot of times now when I see parents intervening, it almost always over stimulates a child. And I have to remind the parent that you intervene, you’re doing that for you, not for your child? It’s because you need it, not what is in their best interest.
Jayne Havens: Yes, you know, it’s so funny. I said this podcast wasn’t going to be about sleep training. But it always ends up being about sleep training a little bit. I noticed that too. I coach a lot of my clients through checking the console, which is sort of my own variation on the method. And a lot of the time the babies are doing so well. They don’t need to be checked on. Like they’re not level 10 crying, they’re just sort of crossing or fetching. And the parents get so frustrated that they haven’t gone in to check on the baby. But you know their baby’s ok, they have this feeling of some guilt around the fact of not checking on the baby. They always want to be checking. But you know, if you really are tuned in to your child, then you realize that a lot of the time they’re ok, and just watching and sitting on your hands, just like you sit on your hands when a child is learning to zip their own coat or to put their own shoes on. You know, sometimes we have to sit on our hands when our children are learning to fall asleep.
Michelle Handsley: Definitely, and I will say not to make it about sleep training, but to make it about you. In the CPSM Sleep Consultant Certification Course, your philosophies have given me so much confidence. I have answers to all of those questions, and I feel good about it. And I know what I’m speaking about, and I could definitely say that it comes from you.
Jayne Havens: Thank you. I’ve learned so much from you too. And every time you know, we can get all sappy every time you chime in our Facebook group and you say something, it’s like, yes, she learned that from me. You know, I taught her well, she’s like, I always think you give the best advice and that just makes me really proud that you share such good advice and you really have your head wrapped around it. And you know, when my students are out there, my CPSM sleep consultant graduates are out there helping families in really awesome ways and really making a big difference and making big changes to the way that their children sleep for the better. You know, that’s the good stuff right there.
Michelle Handsley: I’m sure it has to make you proud.
Jayne Havens: Before we wrap up, first of all, thank you so much for doing this interview with me. I’m so grateful. Tell everybody where they can find you if you want to share your website that you don’t use that often. Or whatever share your social media, tell us where we can find you.
Jayne Havens: Thank you so much, Michelle, I really appreciate you chatting with me today. And I will see you in our Facebook group and on the internet and wherever else soon. Have a good one.