Intro: Welcome to Becoming a Sleep Consultant! I’m your host Jayne Havens, a certified sleep consultant and founder of both Snooze Fest by Jayne Havens and Center for Pediatric Sleep Management. On this podcast, I’ll be discussing the business side of sleep consulting. You’ll have an insider’s view on launching, growing, and even scaling a sleep consulting business. This is not a podcast about sleep training. This is a podcast about business building and entrepreneurship.
Jayne Havens: Heather Cartier is a wife, a mom of two growing littles, an occupational therapist, and more recently, a pediatric sleep consultant. Heather has over 17 years of experience as an OT, which has melded perfectly with sleep consulting. She has experience with autism and other developmental delays having provided services to children, ages 0 to 21, over the span of her career. She enjoys coaching parents through difficult discussion and difficult behaviors their children are exhibiting. Heather, welcome to the show. I’m so excited to be talking with you today.
Heather Cartier: Thank you. I’m excited to be here.
Jayne Havens: So, before we get started, tell us a little bit about what your life looked like leading up to becoming a sleep consultant. Tell us about your career, your family, whatever you want to share.
Heather Cartier: Sure. So, most notably, before becoming a sleep consultant, it was me working as an occupational therapist during COVID. So, I was sitting in front of a computer. No pediatric OT should be in front of a computer. I should be with the kids. I was attempting to provide OT services over Zoom — thinking motor sensory, feeding strategies — to support the Birth to Three families that I was working with. So, it was a little chaotic and there was not much separation between work and home.
Jayne Havens: And so was that what ultimately led you to look for something else? You were just sort of not enjoying work the same way that you were prior to the pandemic?
Heather Cartier: 100%. So, it was probably April of 2021. They were talking about us going back to face to face visits, which I was excited about but was also dreading. Because I had gotten used to being at home and taking the dog for a daily walk, sorting laundry, and doing all the things. But I also knew that my effectiveness wasn’t there, being on Zoom. So, I started looking for other options. Sleep consulting was one of them. It’s something that I had always thought about. I think that was when I initially reached out to you. It was probably around that time.
Then fortunately, in May 2021, a position became available. So, I was previously working in Birth to Three. Then a position became available as a school-based occupational therapist. I jumped on that because it was going to put me on the same schedule as my kids. My husband is a teacher, so I wanted to be able to have that same school-like schedule. So, I took advantage of that. That was exactly what I needed. It put a breath of fresh air in me. It got me out of the house, but out of the house in a new situation. It was exactly what I needed.
So, I moved the sleep consulting a little bit to the backburner as I got started. I remember you reaching out and being like, “What’s going on? Are you still interested?” I said, “Yes, but I’m starting a new position. Let me get into this.” I knew it would be easy. I mean, easy isn’t fair, but it would be okay. I needed a little bit of time to get into the position. So, I remember I signed up for your course in November, and I gave myself a six-month timeline.
Jayne Havens: I think the little bit that you expressed a few minutes ago about you were bummed to be doing your job on Zoom, but then you also got really used to being home and taking care of the dog and probably more time with your kids, I think that that’s a sentiment that probably a lot of our listeners will identify with. We all sort of got parked at home for a while and got used to the flexibility and the comfort of our own living room or kitchen as an office, wherever you were working. It sort of transitioned back away from that, I think, once we all got used to it.
Heather Cartier: 100%.
Jayne Havens: At least, you got back into a job that sounds like you loved, and you were really — you were into it, so that made it easier. But sleep consulting was still something that you didn’t want to let go of.
Heather Cartier: 100%. As an occupational therapist, that is an occupation — sleep, feeding, play, especially for young children — as I work in Birth to Three. Again, Birth to Three, birth to age three. Then I switched from school age, so 3 to 21. It was still important to me, but it didn’t feel like a conflict of interest any longer. I could set up a business. It could be outside of that Birth to Three population, which is exactly what sleep consulting I was looking at. Again, that’s an occupation. I always felt like I was giving families in Birth to Three the information oftentimes unsolicited. I saw the concerns, but they oftentimes weren’t seeking the help or the support. It wasn’t as solidified and it wasn’t as formalized. So, this was just the perfect opportunity to jump in and take advantage of it now that I didn’t feel it a conflict any longer.
Jayne Havens: Sure. One of the objections that I hear most often from those that are interested in getting into this line of work is that they just don’t have enough time. I wanted to ask you about that because you are working. You have a job, and you have kids. You have a very busy, hectic life. How have you been able to make time for growing a sleep consulting business?
Heather Cartier: I don’t think I shared this with you. But I also have another part-time gig.
Jayne Havens: Do you? What else are you doing?
Heather Cartier: I provide occupational therapy services for young adults in the community that live in supported community settings. So, they’re no longer living with their families, but their families are looking for opportunities, for things like activities of daily living, showering, and those kinds of things, grocery shopping. I do that a couple of days in afternoons.
Jayne Havens: So, you’re one of those people that just is always doing the maximum amount, I guess.
Heather Cartier: Always doing something, exactly. That’ll always be me. My husband will retire at some point, and I will always have something going on. But I want it to be on my terms. You know what I mean? It is. So, I really, really appreciate that. But to your question about the not enough time, I mean, I do buy into that. There are times when I feel overwhelmed and things are busy. Especially when the kids were younger, I felt that. I mean, I’d look around and I’d be like, I haven’t even opened up all the blinds. Those were some of those days, and you’re just moving from one day to the next.
But COVID really helped to settle things down a little bit and put a new spin on life and prioritize. So, I do think that things are a priority. For me, watching TV in the evening isn’t a priority. So, I don’t lose time on that. During the evenings, I’m doing other things. Maybe it’s a sleep plan. Maybe it’s reading, other things. So, I do think we prioritize what’s important. So, if we say that we don’t have time, oftentimes that means it’s not a priority. I have on my to-do list hanging the pictures in the guest room. Will I ever hang those pictures? No, because it’s not a priority for me. So, I think we prioritize what’s important. Now, don’t get me wrong. There are some families or people that have a ton going on. Really, they can’t prioritize anymore because they’ve already prioritized everything. But I do think what’s important is what we make time for.
Jayne Havens: Yeah, I agree with that. I also have noticed — and you would sort of prove my point on this — that the women who are the most successful in my program are the ones who are the busiest. Not just busiest as sleep consultants but like busiest in life. I think to some of my top-performing sleep consultants, they have other full-time jobs. They have young kids at home. They volunteer in their communities. They’re just highly-productive people. Maybe they’re a postpartum doula, so they’re working night shifts. Then they have kids at home, right?
Heather Cartier: Yeah.
Jayne Havens: These people are so highly-productive that adding one more thing to their plate is like no big deal. Like, what’s the difference? I’m already doing 10 million things. Let’s do 10,000,001. I think that if you’re that type of person, that you’re just always working on something, you always have a project, these people are highly efficient. I would put you in that category. You’re just good at maximizing your time. You’re good at allocating space and time for the things that matter to you. That works. Right?
Heather Cartier: 100%. Definitely.
Jayne Havens: It’s something I’ve noticed over the years. Because, actually, when I first started doing this, I was a stay-at-home mom. Nothing against stay-at-home moms. I’ve done it. It’s a major, major job. But sometimes when all you’re doing is focusing on your kids, it’s very hard to do anything else. Right? When I was not working, I wasn’t as productive. And now that I’m working and I have to juggle my job and my kids and the laundry and the grocery, and all of the stuff—
Heather Cartier: Yeah, and your relationship with your spouse and everything.
Jayne Havens: Yeah, right. That’s another good one. It just makes it almost easier to get the work done. When you have so many other things, it’s just one more thing you add to your list.
Heather Cartier: 100%. As an occupational therapist, I value independence. So, even from a very young age, my kids learned how to do things independently.
Jayne Havens: Sure.
Heather Cartier: There’s no problem with this. But that was constantly their playmate. They had to figure out how to play on their own. They had age-appropriate toys and fun things to do, but they also had to figure it out.
Jayne Havens: Your kids were zippering their coats at a very early age.
Heather Cartier: Fully, like shoe tying at 4.
Jayne Havens: Yeah, that’s actually an example that I give all the time to my clients when I’m talking about sleep and learning how to fall asleep. I always give the example of a toddler zippering up their coat. The reason for why when a kid is learning to zipper their coat, parents are like, “Come here. Come here.” Just like, “Let me do this for you.” But then they go to preschool, and the teachers got all day. If it takes 45 minutes to get out to the playground because everybody’s struggling with their zipper, no problem. We have nothing but time. We’re going to work all day on zippering our coats, right? I make that analogy with sleep training all the time. If a teacher — whether it be a daycare teacher or a preschool teacher — was teaching your child how to fall asleep, they’d have the patience for it. Like, we can do this. Right?
Heather Cartier: 100%.
Jayne Havens: But it’s the parents who struggle with sitting on their hands, is what I say. We don’t like to sit on our hands, right?
Heather Cartier: 100%, and I’ll always use this with my kids. Let me know when you need help. Because it’s on them to let me know. I don’t want to jump in and assume that they need help. 100%.
Jayne Havens: That’s a good one.
Heather Cartier: It’s sometimes hard. I mean, there’s a time and a place. I mean, there’s times when you got to get that jacket zippering, get out the door. There’s also a time and an opportunity for them to practice those things. So, finding those is important.
Jayne Havens: So, tell me about what your actual day looks like. Can you sort of paint a picture for those listening? If you’re juggling your day job and your business building, what does that look like for you? When are you working on your business if you have a full-time job?
Heather Cartier: 100%. I’m up early. I did like a personality sort of thing about what kind of person I am. I don’t know. I’m like a lion or something. I’d get up early. I start it and attack the day. But by seven o’clock, I’m on the sofa because I’m pooped. So, that’s what I’m doing. My sleep plan is in the evening. I’m up early. Sometimes I try and exercise. I get the kids going off to school. That’s when I’m checking text messages from parents, checking in how did last night go. I get the kids off to school. I go to school.
During the day, I’m blessed that I have some time and flexibility. I don’t have a classroom of kids. I’m going to get the students, and I’m bringing them to me. So, I do have that flexibility. I think being a teacher, I only got 15 to 25 or more kids in your face. Having that flexibility is great. After school, I’m sometimes seeing my private clients, as I call them, the young adults with autism that I work with. I’m also blessed that I have a spouse who has school hours. So, I do the mornings. He does the afternoons. So, he works at a high school. He goes to work early. I go to work a little bit later. Then he’s done earlier, and so he’s got the kids for after school activities. Then on the days that I’m not working after school, I help with pickup and drop off, and activities. Our kids are in a lot of sports and a lot of things, so that keeps them busy. We always ask them, “Do you want to do this?” If they say yes, they’re in. Then in the afternoon is when I check in with my families about nap time and the plans for the evening and problem solving. Then in the evening is when I review how bedtime was going and things, if they needed support.
Again, with the text messaging, it makes it easier to be able to check in with families on my terms. I’m really good with boundaries. I think I learned that being in Birth to Three. Because those families would, “Oh, an idea just popped into my head. Let me text Heather.” But I’m really careful around and set notifications on my phone. My phone shuts down at nine o’clock, so it keeps me out of paying attention to other things that are distractors. Then I go to bed early if they’re good sleepers. So, between 7:30 and 8. They’re bigger now They’re seven and nine. They go up to their beds. They can put themselves to sleep, or I can snuggle with them. We can read books or I’ll read a book while they’re laying in bed reading their own books. So, that’s an independent piece for them as well, so I don’t worry about that.
Jayne Havens: And you’re able to respond to text messages throughout the day with your day job a little bit.
Heather Cartier: 100%
Jayne Havens: I love that you said that you’re setting boundaries so that you’re not being inundated at all times. That’s actually a question that I get asked all the time. It’s like, how much are you really talking to your clients during the day? I don’t know what it looks like for you. For me, I find that if I write a really thorough, articulate sleep plan and then I spend about 30 minutes on the phone with them to answer all of their questions, I’m not being inundated with text messages. Because I’ve really set them up for success on the front end. So, they’re not panicked, asking me 10 million questions during the process. Because we’ve cleared all that up. That’s not to say that I don’t hear from my clients. I do, especially in the first two or three days. Sometimes it’s a little heavier. But then after that, it’s sort of a morning check in and evening check in and a random text message here or there. But I find that communication is pretty sporadic once we get the initial communication piece out of the way. Is that the case for you as well?
Heather Cartier: I agree. 100%. Yeah, you’re a little front loaded. So, if we start on a Friday or Saturday, it’s fine because I tend to have a little bit more flexibility on those days. And I know to anticipate some extra text messages or communication for my families in those days, those first couple of days of just getting into the routine and getting into the plan. But I agree completely. Sometimes, I have to say to a family, “I’ve got too many families this week. I need to push you off for another week.” I’d say it judiciously. “Would you be okay if we start in a couple of days, just so that I’m not feeling too overwhelmed and also can be responsive?” I have an obligation. They’ve hired me and my obligation is to be available for them.
Jayne Havens: Good for you for doing that. You’re sort of green in your career. I’m really proud of you for setting that boundary so early on. I actually had a really hard time doing that when I first started. I felt like if I pushed anybody off even just a couple of more days, they were going to go get help somewhere else, which I don’t know if that would have been the case or not. But that’s how I felt in my heart, like I just had to get at it right away.
Now with some experience and years under my belt, I feel way more confident to say, “I’m leaving town for five days. I can start with you when I get back,” or, “I have a friend in town this weekend. I’m not going to be glued to my phone the way that I typically am,” Setting those boundaries and setting the expectation, and then letting them decide. So, if it’s a situation where I just have a friend in town, it’s not like I can’t support them. It’s just, I’m not going to be glued to my phone the way I normally am. I’ll leave it up to the family. I’ll say, “I have a friend in town this weekend. We’re going to be out to dinner. I’m not going to have my phone on me the way that I would normally. Do you want to put this off until Sunday night? Or do you want to start and I just might be a little bit slower to respond? Your choice.” I’m proud of you for doing that early on in your career. It took me a while to get there.
Heather Cartier: Oh, thank you. It was funny that the other day I had a panic. Because I was in a movie. It was like, oh, man. I was like, this is such a poor day. It was seven o’clock, and I was getting text messages. I’m like, I’ll take care of this. Because that’s my priority for them. So, you do what you got to do.
Jayne Havens: Absolutely. Let’s talk about the connection between your work as an occupational therapist and your work as a sleep consultant. I actually get a lot of inquiries from OTs. I think it seems like a really perfect complement — the two fields. How have you been able to mesh them together? Are they sort of overlapping? Are you getting clients from your school, or is that all completely separate?
Heather Cartier: I keep it separate. But I agree. There is such a huge overlap. I think many of the women that go into this are also — they’re postpartum doulas. They’re newborn care specialists. They’re preschool teachers. They’re therapists. There’s a lot of overlaps for us. As I said, this is an occupation. So, I’ve always known about sleep. I’ve always sort of researched it or had knowledge about it as a Birth to Three provider.
For me, going into the certification, the sleep part wasn’t all that new. It was all of the business information that was new. Then coaching families, that’s something that I had done many years as well. But I do keep it separate from — but sometimes I’ll put my OT hat on and I’ll say to the family, “I’m putting on my OT hat right now. I’m kind of taking off my sleep consultant hat. Let’s talk about, is your baby getting enough food during the day?” One baby I had, he was crying, and he would oftentimes gag. I would say to the mom, “Let’s explore a little bit more on his mouth. Get some things in there to see if he’s got a little bit of extra gag reflex.” So then I’ll say, “Okay. I’m taking my OT hat off now.”
Jayne Havens: Yeah, you’re bringing your expertise from your other profession into your work as a sleep consultant?
Heather Cartier: Absolutely. I mean, it’s hard not to separate the two because they just meld completely together. So, yeah.
Jayne Havens: Let’s talk about you, actually feeling the need to get certified. Actually, correct me if I’m wrong, but I feel like we had this conversation. A lot of people asked me this question, like do I really need to get certified? Because I think you felt really confident already, like you knew how to support families through sleep struggles because of your profession as an occupational therapist. Why did you ultimately decide to get certified rather than just doing this work on your own? What were some of the surprise benefits? I know that you knew that you would get the business component out of the course. But were there any sort of surprise takeaways? Like, “Oh, I wasn’t expecting to benefit in this way, and I did.”
Heather Cartier: Well, I think for me — and I do remember reaching out to you and asking like, what does a certification mean? Because as an occupational therapist, I’m licensed and I’m also registered. Nationally, I’m registered. I’m licensed in my state. So, I have to do a lot of continuing education. I have to pay a lot of fees to do all of this. But that’s important to me. I’m also part of the association.
So, being certified is important. I think that it really bolsters our business. It really bolsters our credibility. That’s important to me. So, I do remember you saying like, “No, there’s not really any licensing or certification that you have to do.” But it felt important to me that I could say that this was something that I had put specific time into. I hadn’t gotten certified, rather than just saying, “I’m a sleep consultant, a certified sleep consultant.” It meant something to me. It surprises, I think, probably the community. That’s available. That is just so supportive. People being available to ask questions, not just specific to creating sleep plans but also just like the nuanced things of business building. I’m not an entrepreneur. I never thought I would be an entrepreneur.
Jayne Havens: You are an entrepreneur. You are.
Heather Cartier: That’s a surprise to me. Because that was something — I was doing it before. I was working with my independent clients, but I never really put a point on it. So, this is just an extension. So, I think that’s really another big surprise. It’s that community that is available.
Jayne Havens: Yeah, I think for many of us, we get into this work, as you said, not for the money, right? You weren’t thinking about it from like an entrepreneurial standpoint, but because you’re actually passionate about this work and about healthy and independent sleep hygiene for children. But at the end of the day, this is a business. We are out there to earn an income. I guess I’m wondering, do you have any goals for the next six months to a year? Have you thought past that point? Are you just sort of taking each day as it comes and enjoying the process?
Heather Cartier: A bit of me knows that making a goal is really, really important — a 6-month goal on a 12-month goal. But a little bit of me is also kind of like, I’m still so new at this. It’s hard to predict or know what to expect going forward. Do you want to build my social media presence? I think that that’s really important to me. I feel so intimidated by Instagram. I’m old, so Facebook feels comfortable to me. But Instagram is a little bit more of a challenge, but it’s there. I feel like I can definitely learn it. I’ve sought out some support for that.
I feel comfortable supporting, I would say, about 10 families a month. That’s about two families in a little bit a week. So, that feels comfortable to me. I’d like that to be a little bit more consistent. I feel like a lot of this is word of mouth. So, I want that to be — that’s important to me. Continuing to build my word-of-mouth connections is really what I’m looking for. I’d like to make this more closely resemble. Maybe, I mean, had a full-time gig because I can’t say a full-time gig. That’s craziness.
Jayne Havens: I mean, it can be if you wanted it to be, absolutely, down the road. But it sounds like you also really love what you do. Right?
Heather Cartier: I do. I’m so passionate about it all.
Jayne Havens: You don’t need two full time jobs, right?
Heather Cartier: 100%. It’s nice to know that it supports the car payment and activities for the kids and all of those good things. I know some people know that they want to get out of their full-time position. I’m not looking for that. I’m not looking for a replacement for that. But I just love it. I love it when a family calls. I love it the more challenging a family or their situation is. I’m like, yes, bring it on. So, I just want everyone to sleep well.
Jayne Havens: Yeah, I love that your goals are almost personal and professional development goals, right? It’s less about how much money you’re going to make a month, or how many clients you’re going to have in a month and more about just like, how can you get yourself to the next level so that you can then grow your business or support your clients at a higher level?
I think, actually, when you think with that mentality, it then positions you to grow financially or monetarily even more. So, I think where your head is in the exact right place. It’s not about, okay, I need X amount of dollars. It’s, I’m going to learn how to use Instagram so that I can feel more comfortable on the internet. Then that will in turn lead to higher income down the road. Right?
Heather Cartier: Exactly. 100%. So, there’s so many other things in the background that I’d like to learn about, that I think it will contribute to the business itself. So, the autonomy is what I continue to crave. That’s what I will continue to seek.
Jayne Havens: So, I consider you to be wildly successful just like as a human being. You’re just sort of a highly-productive, really smart, really efficient, focused person. As a very new sleep consultant, I would say you’re doing an awesome job. You’re getting out there. You’re getting clients. You’re supporting families. You’re doing a great job. What would you say sets the people apart that are doing it from those that aren’t quite figuring it out? What do you think is that secret sauce?
Heather Cartier: I think that motivation to be successful. I’m not going to do something that I don’t feel like I could be successful. I’m not afraid to say I’ve made a mistake, or I don’t know something, or help me because there’s a lot that I don’t know. I think of myself, I could talk for days about milestones and children, and everything related to children, behaviors, diagnosis, and how to look for concerns for autism and all of these things. I’ve been blessed to work with so many amazing people. So, I understand communication — receptive and expressive — and how language develops because I’ve worked with great speech pathologist. So, I’ve learned all of those good things. But I also recognize that I can’t do my taxes. I can’t build a website. I can’t install an electrical box. So, those are the kinds of things that I outsource. So, I think knowing where your skill sets are, and working with children and coaching families is what I know.
I mean, I’ve always worked in pediatrics. As an occupational therapist, I could have worked with adults. I could have worked in geriatrics or in orthopedics or hands. There are so many things that OTs can do, but I’ve always been drawn to pediatrics. Now that I’ve been doing this long enough, it’s easy for me to ramble on for a while about kids. So, I think knowing what you love and then feeling passionate about that, and then just following through on that.
Jayne Havens: And outsourcing the rest. Right?
Heather Cartier: Exactly. When you don’t know something, you’re asking for help if it’s something you want to learn. Great. I want to learn about Instagram. That’s something I’m interested in. I want to learn about the Facebook Meta business thing. I’m going to learn. I’m going to tackle that. I’m not going to tackle taxes, but I am going to tackle that.
Jayne Havens: I love that. I actually have the same mentality. When I’m interested in something, I go all in. I want to soak up every single thing I can possibly learn about it. I consider myself to be an information gatherer so I’m always reading. Whether it’s books, the internet, it doesn’t matter. I’m listening to podcasts. I’m constantly consuming information on things that I’m interested in. Then the things that I’m not interested in but are still important, I outsource. Because if you don’t do those things, then you can’t grow. So, building a website was the perfect example. I’ve hired people to build me websites several times. I’m never going to learn how to build a website. I have no interest in that. I’d rather pay someone, have them do a beautiful job. Say thank you and move on. Right? There are so many examples of things that you don’t need to know how to do them to be successful, but you have to be willing to seek help. Sometimes that means paying somebody to help you. Sometimes it’s not just like a favor or asking a question. It’s like actually investing in yourself. Because time is money, right? So, I could finagle on Squarespace or WordPress for hours and hours and hours and get nowhere. Then I’ve wasted all this time. I could have spent a little money and not had to worry about it.
Heather Cartier: Exactly. I think we also have to take our frustration tolerance, put a dollar value on that.
Jayne Havens: I love that. Yeah, our frustration tolerance. So, before we wrap up, where can everybody find you. If they want to find you, do you have an Instagram yet? You do. I know you do.
Heather Cartier: I totally do. My Instagram is nightnightsleepconsulting. My Facebook page is Night Night Sleep Tight Consulting. There wasn’t enough space on Instagram. Then my website is heathercartier.com. That’s H-E-A-T-H-E-R, and then C-A-R-T-I-E-R — just like the jeweler — .com. I kept my website open like that. Because if I expand more, I want it to be my name. I want that to be a name, a recognition for people. So, when you think sleep consulting — kind of like when you think phones, you think Apple — you’re going to think of Heather.
Jayne Havens: Yeah, I love that. Well, congrats on your early success. I’m definitely going to check in with you 6 to 12 months from now to see how you’re doing. We talk all the time, but I want to put it on my calendar and see where you are maybe a year from now. I’m excited to see. Thanks for chatting with me today. I’m going to leave all of your information in the show notes so that everybody can go check you out. Good luck with everything to come.
Heather Cartier: Awesome. Thank you.
Outro: Thank you so much for listening to this episode of the Becoming a Sleep Consultant Podcast. If you enjoyed today’s episode, it would mean so much to me if you would rate, review, and subscribe. When you rate, review, and subscribe, this helps the podcast reach a greater audience. I am so grateful for your support.
If you would like to learn more about how you can become a certified sleep consultant, head over to my Facebook Group, Becoming a Sleep Consultant or to my website thecpsm.com. Thanks so much, and I hope you will tune in for the next episode.