Martha Franco, a recent graduate from our Fellowship program, embarked on a journey filled with uncertainty when she became a part of Prospera’s Fellowship program. She vividly remembers the initial doubts surrounding her project, questioning whether it would find a place in the program, knowing she was one of many incredible projects and entrepreneurs who had applied to become Fellows. Despite these doubts, she decided to take the plunge, trusting that her project and her team had the potential to create something extraordinary.

The Fellowship presented a unique challenge for Martha, one she had never encountered in her entrepreneurial journey. Martha was accustomed to making decisions independently, taking charge of her projects, and executing them with unwavering confidence. Sharing her dreams and life projects with others was a new concept for her. However, this fellowship program demanded collaboration, sharing, and the exchange of ideas with fellow entrepreneurs – a novel experience for Martha.

Martha brought her project, Casa Doulas, to Prospera’s Fellowship program. When she first embarked on her journey as an entrepreneur, Martha discovered the world of doulas, a role she had previously been unfamiliar with. She realized the significant need for doulas to have a dedicated space for cooperation and connecting with pregnant mothers, providing essential support during pregnancy. This revelation marked the birth of her project, Casa Doulas, which aims to create a cooperative hub for doulas and pregnant mothers to initiate their journey together with the necessary tools and resources.

Martha’s journey within the program was not without its challenges, especially due to the challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic required her to adapt, evolve, and find innovative ways to continue serving her clients and pursuing her mission. During the pandemic, the building Martha that housed Casa Doulas was unfortunately closed, and Martha was left without a home for Casa Doulas. Thanks to the Fellowship, Martha was able to continue her work with Casa Doulas, despite the setbacks presented by the pandemic. 

Amid these challenges, Martha saw a profound need for doula services, particularly among immigrant women. Her determination grew stronger as she witnessed the struggles of pregnant immigrant women crossing the border and the invaluable support that doulas could provide during such vulnerable moments.

Advocacy became an integral part of Martha’s journey, emphasizing the importance of cooperation and collaborative efforts. She realized that doulas needed recognition and fair compensation for their essential services, ensuring that they were not relegated to the status of volunteers. This collective effort eventually led to the passage of a law in California, where DHCS added doula services as a covered benefit on January 1, 2023. This law recognizes the significance of doulas and their cooperative role in maternal care, marking a momentous victory.

Despite the setbacks, Martha’s unwavering belief in her project and the cooperative spirit of her team, combined with the support and resources she gained from the Prospera Fellowship program, allowed her to persevere and achieve her goals. She not only found a cooperative, nonprofit space for Casa Doulas in San Francisco but has also trained 100 women through her cooperative programs, making a cooperative impact in her community and beyond.

As her journey with the fellowship comes to an end, Martha reflects on the incredible cooperative experiences and the remarkable women she met during her time with the program. She is now determined to expand her cooperative project, turning it into a career for many women and actively participating in cooperative caregiving teams that support pregnant mothers.

Martha’s story serves as a testament to the power of belief in one’s cooperative project and the invaluable role of a supportive cooperative network. She encourages other women to keep pushing forward, knowing that through cooperation, hard work, and determination, they can achieve their cooperative goals. Her journey is not the end of her cooperative journey but the beginning of an exciting cooperative chapter filled with cooperative opportunities and possibilities.

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