Dr. Sarah Mickeler is the founder of West End Mamas. She is Canada’s leading expert on prenatal and postpartum chiropractic care as well as non-invasive approaches to encourage optimal fetal positioning. In addition to being passionate about normalizing the prenatal and birth experience, she is also deeply passionate about postpartum wellness and normalizing what it actually looks like to be a mother in today’s world. Sarah lives in Toronto’s West End with her unicorn firefighter husband, Kevin, her super compliant and adorable son Owen, and their brood of pets.
My first job was… Babysitting! I must have started when I was around 12 years old or so. I really enjoyed working to have a bit of spending money.
My proudest accomplishment is… Learning to be a good leader. When I first opened West End Mamas in 2017, I was not a great leader. I didn’t have a business background, I didn’t know how to lead, and I didn’t know how to mentor — I didn’t know any of it. There was such a steep learning curve. I was tired, broke, and bitter at how much work it was. Thankfully, about 6 months into it, I enlisted the help of an HR mentor that taught me how to lead. She taught me how to deal with people, how to figure out what was worth getting worked up about, how to deal effectively with those things, and also how to relax about everything else. I’ve become a remarkably better leader now than I was 2 years ago and I’m so proud of that.
My boldest move to date was… Getting the nerve to sign a 10-year lease on a 3600 square foot office space in York Region for a second West End Mamas location. We opened in the beginning of May, and it’s been great! Based on how quickly our first location grew, I had the feeling that it would be fine, but we’ve had a strong opening week, and it’s really put my mind at ease about the leap of faith that I just took.
The idea for West End Mamas came to me from… My own experience of motherhood and realizing that it would be so wonderful if we had just one place to go to for all of the services that you might need during pregnancy and beyond. Getting to appointments in pregnancy can be tough — it can feel like a full-time job, especially near the end. Knowing who to trust for those appointments can be tough. And then having a baby can be super isolating. Having a one-stop shop that can take care of your every need during pregnancy and postpartum (except midwifery/obstetrical care, of course) just seemed so logical and I couldn’t believe that no one else in Toronto had done it yet. So, I got to work and did it myself.
Being a mother and a businesswoman today is… An epic juggling act. I am lucky to have HUGE amounts of support from my family. My husband is a firefighter that only works 7 days a month at the station, so he’s able to do the lion’s share of the housework and parenting. But we still enlist a lot of help — we rely on a meal delivery service every week, weekly house cleaning, and a lot of babysitting to make sure that we can get everything done. My parents are super dedicated grandparents and we lean on them a lot. We balance all of that out with really dedicated time with our 4-year-old so that he doesn’t feel neglected by the amount that Mama and Daddy have to do in order to keep my business running.
My greatest advice from a mentor was… Happy staff are better workers. If you can improve your work culture, you can improve your bottom line (and also be happier yourself!).
My biggest setback was… The first year of West End Mamas’ life, where I was exhausted, stressed, broke and truly not a great leader. I had a lot of unhappy people on my team because I was miserable to work with. One of them left because the culture wasn’t great and it was a huge eye opener for me. It wasn’t my proudest moment but it’s the experience that helped me become the better leader I am today.
I overcame it by… Learning everything I could about running this business. I started reading business books, going to business seminars, picking the brains of other business leaders; really anything that would get me up to speed quickly on how to run a business of this size.
If I were to pick one thing that has helped me succeed, it would be… The support of my husband, Kevin. None of this – I truly mean NONE of it – would be possible without him. He does everything — parenting, groceries, and cooking (he’s a great cook). He’s also my IT support and my contractor. He built both of my offices and honestly without him I would not be able to do any of this. He’s also an incredible cheerleader for me. When I’m worried about how things are going with the business, he always reminds me that things always turn out better than I expect that they will, and he’s always right. Also, he’s always there with a glass of wine for me at the end of a long day. I love that man and I’m truly lucky that he puts up with me.
I surprise people when I tell them… I have a Bachelor of Music degree in clarinet performance from the University of British Columbia.
I stay inspired by… The people I work with. I have an INCREDIBLE team at both West End Mamas locations, in Toronto and York Region. I have a team of practitioners that are willing to do the hard work, learn the research, collaborate, investigate, innovate, and willing to be proven wrong if necessary. My admins are dedicated, loyal, hard-working and just incredible to work with. Everyone on my team provides incredible, patient-focused care, and they are truly inspirational to me.
The future excites me because…we are doing great work in the perinatal space. We are leaders in our fields, and we are changing the landscape of pregnancy, birth and postpartum. We aren’t living in community anymore and the basic knowledge of what is normal during this time in a woman’s life has been lost. West End Mamas is changing that. We’re teaching people what IS normal, and reminding them that knowledge=choice=power. If you can empower women, you can change the world.
My next step is… Honestly, to take a vacation. Ha! Opening the latest clinic has taken a ton of work (remember – my unicorn husband Kevin did all of the building at the new clinic, so we’re both burnt out!). We’re headed to Napa for a few days next month – sans child – which should be great for us.
Once that’s done, I’m getting to work on franchising. I feel strongly that our services are an essential need in every community and I’m going to make it my life’s mission to bring our services to communities everywhere and change the landscape of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum in Canada.