Six years ago, Julia Slanina left a position with Global Affairs Canada to go to medical school, but one year into her studies she felt compelled to quit and take care of her mother, who had terminal cancer. At the same time, she became a mother. Juggling her mother’s care, her own care and that of her child made Slanina acutely aware of the need for communication tools for maternal health providers — lactation consultants, midwives, doulas, maternal providers — to better support women from conception to the early childhood years and have fewer adverse outcomes.

In 2019, Slanina founded Treehouse Medical, a two-way platform that gives maternal health providers such as midwives, doulas, and lactation consultants a digital toolkit to manage clinic operations while connecting with their clients. “The idea was to create the gold standard of care in maternal and early childhood health in Canada and globally,” she says.

The Ottawa-based startup’s software not only helps maternal providers be better organized, it also enables clients to link to their health records, track milestones, access resources and receive ongoing support from maternal care providers at no cost to them.

COVID-19, and particularly the third wave, has given some urgency to getting Treehouse Medical into the hands of maternal healthcare providers. “We’re seeing a surge in homebirths, and a lot of pregnant women worried about going out in public. Having a technology for providers to be able to support those women so they don’t feel isolated and they get good support and care, is really critical now and moving forward,” Slanina says.

This month, Slanina won the second annual Canada’s Total Mom Pitch, picking up $30,000 in prizes — $10,000 in non-repayable cash and $20,000 in essential business services. She was chosen by a panel of judges that included Sloane Muldoon, Senior Vice President, Retail Performance, Scotiabank and Co-chair of The Scotiabank Women Initiative, from among five finalists who had taken part in a three-month accelerator program with leading incubators. The two-day event, presented by The Scotiabank Women Initiative™ and powered by VISA, provides small business owners and entrepreneurs who are mothers with resources, expert-led conversations and mentorship to gain confidence around funding and business growth.

“The Scotiabank Women Initiative proudly served as the presenting sponsor of this competition to help provide access to capital to women entrepreneurs,” Muldoon says. “Women face many challenges when it comes to channeling and raising funding for their businesses. Through initiatives like the Total Mom Pitch, we are committed to helping to provide women entrepreneurs with equitable access to capital for starting their own companies.”


Photo: Julia Slanina, Founder of Treehouse Medical, a two-way platform that gives maternal health providers such as midwives, doulas, and lactation consultants a digital toolkit to manage clinic operations while connecting with their clients.

“It is inspiring to see so many strong women come together during a global crisis to support our initiative guiding mom entrepreneurs in making their dreams come true,” says Anna Sinclair, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Total Mom Inc. “It’s been a tough year for many, and I truly appreciate having Gillian Riley, Tangerine Bank CEO, and Sloane Muldoon, both from The Scotiabank Women Initiative advocating and making this vision happen. I am forever grateful to be associated with such a dynamic group of professionals.”

Feedback during private-access testing of Treehouse Medical’s software was positive. Providers who tested it said the software was everything they were looking for: It would help them manage their client’s care journey, and ensure success for clients and providers alike.

“We worked with providers across Canada to understand their pain points, how much they would spend for something like this, what they need from a solution, and how it compares with other solutions on the market,” says Slanina, noting that these are not medical doctors associated to health networks with large budgets and they need the software to be cost effective and adaptable to various demographics and socio-economic needs.

For Slanina, winning Canada’s Total Mom Pitch is validation that there are people who recognize there is a real gap in this type of care. “Maternal fetal care has been significantly neglected in North America in comparison to Europe or Asia. The win allows us to garner awareness across the country, but also to launch our marketing campaign and grow our product this quarter and through the remainder of the year,” she says.