Carly Leahy of Modern Fertility gives tactical advice for starting a startup
Today I’m joined by someone I’ve been admiring from afar for a very long time, Carly Leahy, co-founder of Modern Fertility.
Modern fertility is a women’s healthcare company that set out to launch the world’s first at home fertility hormone test in 2017 alongside Afton Vechery. Since launching they’ve successfully gone through Y-Combinator, raised 22 million dollars in funding, been named as Fast company’s number 1 company for innovation in healthcare and expanded their product range to a pregnancy test, an ovulation test and an app for women to track their cycle.
Their mission is to empower women to understand their bodies and their fertility in an easy to digest manner, that takes out the fear you can experience when going through this important milestone in a woman’s life.
Carly’s background in lead creative roles for huge companies like Uber and Google has been a major factor in the success of this business. Her skill in creating and marketing a brand for the modern day woman really shines through and in this discussion you’ll find so many tactical pieces of advice and information that you can take directly into your own venture.
Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!
I'm eager to get back to the early days and go back to the very beginning to understand how you and often met, how the business got started. What was those early days of thinking about Modern Fertility?
The good old days, the good old days, let's say.
Where do you begin? A little background on me. My my background is in the creative and brand world. So I started out in creative agencies or in-house at Google on creative teams and then in Hasset labor building, non writer driver products like Overeats. And when I walked in and I met I was at Uber at the time. And believe it or not, we met through a non not anonymous. It was a very good friend, but it was a blind date. Essentially, we did not know each other and I think everybody assumes we were friends all of our our whole lives. And we had sort of decided we were going to do this our whole lives. But it was actually a very good friend of ours, but the most epic email of all time and said, you two you two have to meet. So we met for coffee. I was very much focused on my career, very much focused on what I was doing at the time. And often my co-founder, my brilliant co-founder was very bullish on fertility.
And she had had sort of an early exposure to the fertility space. She had worked in health care, private equity, and had seen sort of the ins and outs of the fertility clinic world. And she couldn't believe how reactive the fertility system really was. You couldn't really understand what was going on in your body until you are having trouble conceiving. It was kind of backwards. So she was hell bent on creating something to help women get access to what was going on in their bodies earlier. And when she and I met, I basically told her, this sounds cool, but baby stuff is not for me. So I think this is something we can we can talk about as it relates to how do you how do you come up with an idea or where do you know, like your places or how do you start to just build something? For me, it was a complete blind spot. I thought, you know, being a feminist meant kind of pushing away all of the motherhood stuff. I always thought I wanted to be a mom, but I was focused on my career and I didn't think fertility was for me because I associate it with with baby stuff and I wasn't ready for. And the more I started I mean, acting is brilliant. She as soon as you start talking to her, you're you're just like kind of in this world of wait, wait a second. This is so interesting. I don't love not knowing what I don't know. I consider myself, you know, an intelligent woman and it's stuck with me in our conversation. You know, I really don't know all there is to know about my reproductive health. I don't know some of the fundamentals.
So I started reading clinical papers, I started reading books, and I got sucked into the fact that there was so much about my reproductive health and fertility specifically that was sort of left out in this world where I had been preventing pregnancy my whole life, focused on my career. And I sort of just assumed it would happen one day. But the reality is we're waiting longer to have kids. You know, we've got stuff to do. But our biology is exactly the same. Fertility declines over time. And that that doesn't have to be scary. It is what it is. And women need to be able to have tools to help them understand where they are in that trajectory, especially as we're waiting longer. So the origin story is one of Kali being totally blind to sort of this thing that I think many women are sort of in the same shoes. So for me, it was kind of this really nice ability to authentically take a stance in this thing that I didn't think was for me and make it for me so often. And I've always talked about the clinical and science forward aspect of modern fertility, but also the authenticity and the community and the support that we provide. And those two things together I want really create the modern fertility experience. So I really do think sometimes your blind spots are the things that you're most well equipped to come to the world and that we have this brand that talks like this because nothing is ever broken through to me before, but it's not dumbed down.
She wants all the information. I want all the information. Give me the things I need to know so I can plan proactively and plan ahead. So that was the beginning and we started just working on it together. We actually applied to Y Combinator, and once we got into Y Combinator, I quit my job and we said we're doing this thing. So that was kind of the introduction. And I'll just say it to that point. I feel really fortunate that I was in a position to be able to say, yes, I'm going to quit my job and go do this. I, I didn't have student loans. I had a little bit of savings on to myself. It was sort of this the worst that could happen. And I, I have to go get a job in a few months and I don't think anybody in that position. So I just want to say also there's sort of this myth of like just quit your job and do it and like it. That's not bad. It's not that easy to do that. It was sort of like a sliver of time. I knew I don't have kids yet. I don't have. You don't have a mortgage. Let's do that and see what happens. And I feel lucky that I was in that place.
Yeah. You were able to assess the risk and be like, you know what? Now's probably the time. I'm not deep in debt and deep in bills that I. I can't take that risk at this point. Yeah, I think that's really important to note. Definitely. That's a tough one for a lot of people as well, especially if you don't have access to the friends and family capital that you also might need to raise around those kind of times where you're kind of looking to networks and and you haven't got a base to start from for sure.
But that's so funny that you met on a blind date and that you guys decided to build this company together.
It was that blind date, was it, with the intention of you guys becoming co-founders or was it the intention of you being friends and essentially you kind of giving your opinion on the creative side of building a business after?
My co-founder often is so brilliant. It was absolutely a co-founder date. She was you know, she was just feeling me out. I was I was feeling her out. I was never the serial entrepreneur that she was. So I didn't I didn't think I needed to start a company in order to make a mark on the world. And honestly, as a creative person coming from sort of a brand and marketing background, I didn't think that was possible. I didn't think you had to be in finance or an engineer. And that is not the case at all. And that's another thing that we can talk about. This is not understanding what people want. This is about being a team player and motivating people and being really organized and following through with everything you do. It's about being somebody that people want to work with and you can build up those skills in any functional area. And I was very fortunate that I have a partner who is who is very well steeped in, OK, here's what we need to do to to lay the fundamental groundwork. And I've learned a ton for her. And then the thing that we did to build on facility is find the people who have done each piece of what we were trying to do in a really smart way before, in some way, shape or form, track them down and talk to them.
So if you are a learner and you're not afraid to talk to people and ask for advice, you can really do it no matter what your background is. So in the in the early days of getting started with my fertility, after that I had a list. We built the company on a list and list Carly's list, and we would kind of like look at each other's list and add things and kind of trade things. And we don't know about this. Let's find an expert here and an expert here. And then we we really talk to the people who are really smart, the things that we were trying to figure out. And we both have our expertise in the areas that we're really good at. So we were able to cover those. And then slowly but surely you find you find people to join your team who are really experts in those things that you're asking experts for advice on. So there's also no it's no sort of like magical. All of a sudden a company has been created. It was a list and it was every day, all day ticking through our list toward goals that the bottom line on in order to sort of put one foot in front of the other.
And so when you doing that process of going through this list and speaking to people, experts in their field, I imagine people in the medical space, and then I also imagine, like tactical things to get things up and running and maybe unique perspectives and things like that. Was that all prior to Y Combinator? And you got yourselves to a point with some kind of NBA MVP minimum viable product for those listening who don't know what that is, to be able to get into Y Combinator and then launch from there like you hadn't launched yet at that point, correct?
We had not launched or announced the company yet, but we had basically laid the groundwork and we were able to say, here's how far we are from bringing the first comprehensive fertility franchise that you can take it home to market. And I can back up a little bit. Just everybody knows what we're talking about. Fertility. We're a women's health company. We're really focused on making sure women have access to fertility information before they're ready to have kids. And like I said, it's because we're waiting longer. We actually need to understand what's going on in there earlier in. And our core products that we're talking about right now is a fertility hormone test, you can take it home. It's the exact same panel of hormones that reproductive endocrinologist would test. If you walk into their office and say, you know, I'm having trouble conceiving or I'm thinking about egg freezing, it's just a fraction of the price and it's more accessible. So that more accessible piece was was the core piece. And while everyone else in my family and not everyone else, that's that's a gross exaggeration. But there are many sort of sex companies and tech companies that are watching their their their adoption curve skyrocket with people joining their software. We were doing a clinical study, you know, like we are a health product. We are recruiting our medical advisory board, working with physicians, obsessing over the research. And we launched and published a concordant study that proved that the fingerprint test that we are offering is concordant with a traditional vein, a puncture drop that you might get if you go to a lab and and do the lab test that way.
So it was the exact same panel of hormones. We were just bringing in new collection method and to make it easier and more accessible and more affordable. And that was the sort of work that we were doing while, you know, everybody else was sort of like group hacking. Not that we didn't grow up in our own ways because very early on and I we wanted to build our reports and get this information in front of women. So we worked with mobile phlebotomists and we worked with physicians to help women get the get the blood testing through sort of the traditional method just so we could give them the insight to help them understand what was going on. And as a wellness test only, it's always been this balance of saying here's here's what your hormone levels are and here's what they mean without being a diagnostic. Here's how you can start a conversation with your doctor. So that was also a line that we we needed to get really good at helping give our information, but making super crystal clear that she and her doctor are the ones that decide what to do around this information.
Yeah, it's obviously a very deep and personal and intimate space to be playing in a woman's life. Absolutely.
Yes. And that's another piece of advice we got very early on was, you know, when you're an early stage company, your startup people say do not think about brand. And as a brand person, that was not an option.
I think I think that's another sort of bonus when you do have a skill set that is a little bit unique and different to a founding team, especially founding team in Silicon Valley, use that. So for us, it wasn't just about making sure women had access to lab testing.
It was about making sure there was such thing as fertility, not just infertility, making sure you feel comfortable, understanding what's going on in your body and not not having to feel like, you know, it's your baby crazy or something like that. They sort of weird undertones that are associated with understanding fertility. So very early on, we really cared about how we felt, what we said, what we what we meant, why we matter. And I think that really served us well. And one one small example of like a million examples was very early on when we were building our Lockton experience, which is a very customized dashboard that each woman gets based on her hormone levels and the lifestyle factors she shares. And we basically break down. Here's what your hormone levels say. Here's how they can help you understand your ovarian reserve, how many eggs you have, time to menopause, potential success in egg freezing and IVF, all of that stuff. We did a color study because we didn't want her to think there was a good or a bad. There's no red or green. There's no like green light or red white.
We're all human beings. We're all on sort of the spectrum. We all start with the same number from the same number, but we all start with a large number of eggs like in utero, and we lose those eggs over time. And that is just like the way our bodies work. So how do we how do we normalize that in a way that that doesn't have to feel scary or this big kind of like mysterious thing? Because right now, fertility and having a baby is just maybe it will happen. And that is crazy. Like, we don't we don't say maybe I'll have more retirement funds. We don't say like maybe I feel like, I don't know, maybe all like when the Olympics we we work super hard to get to to get to where we want to be. So infertility shouldn't be any different. And if there are tools that exist, which there are to be able to take a look inside our bodies, you should be able to have those tools. So brand is another thing that matter. And we can talk more tactically, too. About like what exactly that meant melting.
And yes, I definitely want to get into that. But before we do, I want to sort of stick around that early, early time in the brand. When you've just come out of Y Combinator, I want to know, like, what was the process off to that? Because obviously you come out of Y Combinator, you get some type of. You've been able to, like, really define your offering, who your audience is. All of that kind of stuff.
But then what happens next? Because I imagine in this space you need to hire credible people who are medical professionals. I imagine you need to spend a lot of money to put this together. So what's the next phase of bringing a brand like yours to life in those early days?
Yes, great question. And while many people are hiring engineering teams, we are hiring clinical researchers. Again, another difference. We did hire amazing engineers as well, but that's a little bit different. So, yes, we were focused on bringing the actual hormone test to market. So when we left Bisi, we announced that the company existed and we opened up preorders for the amount of fertility hormone test. We said, here's what we're doing. Here's what we're all about. Here's what we've learned. Here's what we're going to do. And we were blown away by the response. We were you're always you're scared about you never know how it's going to go, especially sort of like creating a new market for something. You know, hey, there's something called fertility, not just infertility. We can get ahead of the stuff. The resounding response was how has this not existed before? Which is which was amazing. And we put our heads down to build it and make it happen. So step one was building our medical advisory board. We have over time that was sort of this combination of connections that we had had and we were searching for the right people who are experts in this based on everything from the core hormone that helps you understand ovarian reserve AMH. Scott Nelson, the premier expert on that one hormone to doctrine and talking Douglas, who's the chair of our medical advisory board. She's a reproductive endocrinologist who has done amazing things both on the research side and on the care side to help women and their families. So that was sort of step one. And at the same time, it was OK, now we have to build the digital experience to map to this excellent clinical experience and this clinical operation that we're that we're developing as well. So we very early as part of developing that digital experience, started a community.
And very early, we started a blog, neither the community nor the blog had. I'm doing air quotes. You can't see me, but our immediate R.O. I write this is again, like an investment in something that you cannot show.
The spiking numbers like like other products might be able to.
But we were so convinced that there was that there wasn't a great resource for women to be able to proactively understand what was going on in their bodies, that we could be the thought leaders, we could really talk to women in human speak about what was going on and not just about our product, but about anything related to fertility and reproductive health. So those two pieces create a community for people who are just trying to figure out what their timeline should be, people who are in between their communities, for moms or communities, for people who are trying to conceive. What about that in-between place where you just want to see I just got engaged, but I'm but not covid. And, you know, should I wait to have a kid? How are you thinking about that?
So we found that there was a huge need and gap for that. And then on the content side, you don't see and juices flowing to your blog for months and months and months. It's about finding out what people care about. It's about creating the best possible content, working with our medical advisors obsessively to make sure the caliber is really high.
And we just kept at it until we started really gaining traction and we started seeing that women were really finding us through through our blog. So those I think those two pieces really early on have have laid the groundwork for how we think about, you know, bringing customers in, taking care of them, doing it in a way that is brand additive. We had our way. We would never do an advertisement. We would just do education like. Did you know this? Did you know that? Did you know you're born? If you've never you'll ever have do you know you actually take turns ambulating out of jamhuri? Do you know there's all these just amazing, amazing things that we were so lucky as a brand that we get to dig into and like and obsess about? So that's really been our approach. And the more that we're able to to just provide the education, the stronger sort of our our whole ecosystem becomes.
Yeah, absolutely. That's so interesting. And it's funny because you're saying those things that I'm like actually didn't know that. And I think what you guys do really well is your tone of voice. And your language is like approachable. It's safe space. It's like easy to understand. It's easy to digest. It's not some scary jargon, heavy thing, which is really important. And that obviously brings us into the brand overall. And I'm super excited to talk to you about this because obviously something you guys are doing really well is the actual brand, how you look, how how you sound, how you feel. It's amazing. Congratulations.
And I do want to talk about your background in these creative roles within companies like Apple and Google and how that has prepped you essentially for your role now in creating a brand from scratch and what you've learned from your lessons at those companies and what you've been able to bring across, and especially for women who might be listening, who are starting a brand or who are in that kind of creative space. What's important to understand when you are in this process, it's about 50 questions put into one.
Oh, I love. OK, let's see. Let's see. Let's see how we do so. Very early in my career, I was a brand planner, creative strategist on very well known brands in the US and I worked on the PMG business mostly.
So on down Downy Duracell gain all of those alay. So very, very early I was exposed to brand fundamental work. How important it is to have a brand pyramid. This all sounds very fluffy, but it's it's super important to understand what your brand attributes are, what you believe as a brand to separate functional benefits of your product and emotional benefits that you want people to feel and to really lay those out. You know, of course, everybody talks about a mission statement sort of in Silicon Valley, and that's important, too. And then sort of like that tip of the pyramid is really like your brand essence, like what is your Volvo is about safety. You just know Coke is about happiness. You just know it like what is everything you're doing? Sort of flattering lettering, op do so really, really putting a stake in the ground there and being able to separate. What is your brand say and how the different from what your product positioning is, because very often in a go to market it's about and you need a positioning statement for, for your product. But I would also say for your brand itself, who is the brand and then what is the product within the brand? I think very often and for us as well, our original brand was very much like this is our new product, like we're bringing this new thing to market that's never existed before. And you kind of have to evolve out of that a little bit. So first thing I'll say is brand fundamentals. You can just just Google around, Google a brand pyramid and see like sort of what that structure is, put a stake in the ground.
And then as your team grows, it's helpful for everybody to be able to rally a rally toward those things and then they'll change. And that's OK, too. And then from a brand identity standpoint, it's so important to be consistent with what you're putting out there. It's important to have guardrails. It's important to develop something that feels like you. And no matter what you'll have, sort of like if you work with a one designer to help you create an identity, a logo, a color palette, no matter what, you won't blow it up as you actually start making things, as you start putting Instagram together, as you start. If you try direct mail, if you try a video, the brand will just sort of like flex and expand based on all of these channels. And that's OK, too. As long as then you take a look at it all and you're like, oh, we need to rein this in. We need an illustration style photography style. We need it to feel uniquely us. One thing we have noticed a lot of like a lot of looking like things happening, I'm sure I mean, millennial brands all start to sort of blend together. But like, we notice things that we've done that we see in our brands, there's all sorts of it just kind of gets a little money. So you really need to sort of tighten it and create an identity that is you. And sometimes that means like restricting your color. Sometimes that means restricting the things you do. And it can feel like a little tricky.
But that piece is super important.
And then I think in terms of like actionability, like how do you then bring your brand to the world? It's with every single touch point that you put out there. But one of the most important is your voice and your tone. And we have a fertility, even amazing content team. At the very beginning, we didn't have an amazing team. We had often and I and I was working with writers and we we would get we put down in writing like, here's our voice. Here's how we found we do this, we don't do this. And now our content team has an amazing editorial style guide who leads our content is is just wonderful. And we have like attributes of our personality. It's like, you know, and it's very thorough. And we talk about ourselves and sort of like your best friend. If your best friend happens to be an ob gyn who knows everything about reproductive health and not just knows about it actually does research to make it better. So it's like any kind of measure ourselves against that all the time. And we have all of these little sort of like things we do and don't do. So and documentation is really important. As the brand evolves, it's all going to like flux and change.
But as long as you like, set these moments in time for yourself to then kind of like hone in and create new guidelines and really take the time to do that. You'll be in a good place. And even us, we have things on our website. We have things in different places that are still updated to us in terms of how our brand has evolved. But there are certain things that perform really well. There's certain things people really like that may not like align with our perfect brand the way we want it to look or feel or so we can talk about that. Also, it's the classic tension of like performance marketing and Grof and Brand. How do you make sure those things work seamlessly together? And we're very lucky. Our team is really focused on making sure she has the best possible experience and that always comes first. And we'll never do something just because, like, you know, it's going to help us grow. That isn't in her best interest. But sometimes, like the ugly thing, nobody wins. So how do you how do you sort of rectify that? And I don't think that's a new challenge for anyone.
So it's a day to day. I was actually reading your reviews and I was picking up on this. One particular woman had said she felt that she wasn't embarrassed to have something like your pregnancy test, like in her cupboard, like showing on her shelf kind of thing. Like it's not yeah. It's not a package that needs to be hidden anymore. It's a package that needs to be shared. Exactly. Yes. I love it. I'm looking at it right now.
And I, I totally get that because I just think you guys have done such a good job at the packaging. And I imagine it also stands stands out against these kind of outdated things of pregnancy tests that are aligned on the still on the store shelf at the moment. So, yeah, it's really cool what you guys have been doing.
Thank you. Yeah, but we've talked a bit about the hormone therapy very recently, all remotely during short term, wants to do a physical product and an app.
The app we're actually doing the more around the app tomorrow. So stay tuned or go in there. But maybe it's already out there.
But our community has been asking for and this is one of also the challenges we can talk about that, too. Our community has been asking for so much more. They want more from us. I want to understand this part, this part, this part, and pregnancy and ovulation test for two huge, huge things we continue to hear. Do I even ovulate? I don't know. I was on the IUD for six years. I don't know. Am I? It is an egg dropping out of my ovary. And that's a very good question. And our belief and we've seen this from our community is she wants to know that even if she's not trying right. The second she wants to know if it's all working well down there. And and that is revolutionary in this world where you walk down the aisle and they're all babies on them, you know, it's like these tools we can use these tools before we're actually trying the same with the pregnancy test. Right. Like, I think it's something like. Forty six percent of pregnancies are unplanned. We need pregnancy test sometimes, like we just do. So we should be able to have those and not be embarrassed to have them in our medicine cabinet. So, yeah, I mean, it's really it's really what are all of the things that we feel like aren't for us that could actually help us understand our bodies? Where can they be improved? How can we make them more efficient and affordable? And how do we sort of like democratize access to all of it? And then how do we help you sort of like paint one picture of what it's all looking like? So your fertility changing over time with the hormone test and then more on a micro level, your your cycle, your day to day, month to month.
Yeah, I mean, it's definitely a product that we all need. I really hope that you guys expand globally. And speaking of the kinds of of touching on challenges that you face, I imagine now getting to the scale that you are at, one of the challenges could potentially be getting it to everyone around the world. And obviously, that's a big yes. Challenge to have a good one, too. Is that is that something you guys are trying to do? Is that in the future?
Oh, there are so many things we're trying to do. It's it is at our stage. It is. And this also may sound cliche, but it is about trade offs and it's about prioritization. So we want to support women everywhere. We also need to be able to navigate the regulatory pathway for wellness testing everywhere. We also need to be able to serve our customers, our current customers, with reordering more over time. We have to be able to support our community and bring our community in line with the rest of the experience. So the short answer is yes, absolutely. We want to help every single person on the planet get access to this information and we will stop at nothing until we do stop at nothing until we start hearing. I wish I would have known this or I wish I would have had this. We hear that every day from older women or women who have had trouble. So until we stop hearing that and unfortunately we are only getting started with fertility issues because we are waiting longer to have kids, but until we start hearing that we have not done our job right. So, yes, we are we are thinking about all the all the things as it relates to expansion. It's just, you know, we're we we still have to really ruthlessly prioritize what we're what we're focused on. Because if you if you do spread yourself too thin, you're it's it can be it can be messy.
Yeah. For sure. For sure. I want to talk about marketing and obviously it must have changed a lot in the early days when you were kind of just starting to grow and getting out of YRC versus now having raised I think twenty two million dollars or of whatever really cool amount you've raised so far. What's the difference now to your marketing style and what are the kinds of Labor's that you're pulling to acquire new customers at scale and get the word out there to to your target customers?
The biggest difference is an amazing marketing team. So when we first started out, we we brought on one growth marketer who was incredible and basically held down 14 channels and experiments.
And we were just trying to literally we were just trying to see, OK, where where can we reach our what should we do? And over time now, we've been able to say, OK, let's let's focus on email and Life-cycle let's make sure she's got a great experience when she cries, when she comes in and take the test and understands the value of the test. If she has trouble, let's help her. Let's invite her to the community. Let's help her understand her personality the next year or so. That helps now has a focus that somebody focused on it, which is amazing. We have a focus on social. We have a focus on product marketing, which in tech land is I've worked with tons of product marketers, but product marketing is different everywhere you go. In some places it's very much like marketing the features of a new product. So an Uber, for example, like it was like, hi, we have this new like split the order with your friends, feature that kind of thing. Or product marketing can really be more brand focused, like what do we need to stand for and what are the big sort of broader campaign initiatives we need to do over time in order to like an upstanding for that product marketing? I would say in in startup world often comes later.
And that's another I would if there is advice to give, I would say yes, for marketing is really important. And that's where most people focus because it's so you have to be so sort of tangible about the money you put in and the money and the sales you drive. But brand and product marketing is just like a game changer in terms of guiding the ship from everything from how do we message and brand new products to market, to how do we make sure this all letters up into something cohesive. So now we have somebody focused there, which is which is amazing. So that's the difference. It's the difference between lots of experimentation and sort of like really starting small on the marketing front. You like building a team where people can be focused and really, really thoughtful in each different channel.
And then we can really understand how those channels connect and work together, really having the experts who know that specific channel and they know it really well.
And before you have the market, the big marketing team. So what we did was we work with great consultants who are good at certain different marketing channels, and that's OK, too.
You can tap into different things before you, you know, have raised around or before you're ready to sort of like hire full time marketing team. We you know, we we've only now sort of like really, you know, we really feel like we have like a marketing organization. Right. But for a while it was, hey, affiliates and influencers, you know, it feels like, how do we get it? It feels like the Wild West out there, like how do we find an expert who's really good at that? So you don't have to be an expert in everything. You just need to find the people and you can set up you can set up a small scope for a month at like six hours a week or something. You can establish KPIs for whatever that channel is and you can check in on it. And then you as a founder are able to learn, OK, is affiliate and influencer or something that makes sense for my business. Is it too early to tell? Should I invest more in this? And then often there are all sorts of different companies now like agencies who allow you to work on sort of with a contract like on a contract basis basis with an expert that then you can hire even so you can sort of like test drive these different things to see how they work for your business.
I think I saw a company recently, I saw it advertised in the Linux newsletter called Markéta Hire, I think. And it's basically like that you hired these like contractors from huge companies who have worked on building away, building Airbnb, etc. And I was like, God, that sounds really cool.
Exactly. And many of them are moonlighting like many of them are side hustle, right? Yeah, that's exactly it. You want the person who's done the exact that exact thing is an expert at that exact thing. And they've proven. Yeah, exactly.
They've worked in one of these companies you've heard of that has done really well. So yeah. Don't stress about hiring, getting your full marketing team in the door, day one. It's just not going to happen. It took us years to do that. But we said, OK, what are all the channels we can possibly talk to her through and how do we find somebody who's really good at those?
I love that that's such, such a great piece of advice. And on that note, what is your key piece of advice for women who do have a big idea and want to start their own business?
A key piece of advice, aside from the fact that you're calling in your idea actually might be something that you didn't know anything about to start or where to turn a blind spot to you. I think the key piece of advice is what I was alluding to a little bit before with the list that afternoon. And I started with people say, you know, some people say like, you just know when you know that you're going to quit your job and start a thing and there's never a good time. It's kind of like when deciding to have a baby like that. I don't think there's ever a good time for that. So I think it's my advice would be start a list like what are all of the things that you need to do to accomplish what you want to accomplish and then chunk it up, break it up and like chip away at that list every day? There's no way you're going to be able to accomplish everything in a day. It can be completely overwhelming to get started because there's there's so much to do. But what if you made yourself basically an outline from today to like the launch of your company and like, what would that look like? And then like what would you do tomorrow to chip away at that outline? And then it's about like accountability to yourself. So I've done and I are both very we're just very conscientious, very like type people. And we did not have any interest in wasting our time in, like, you know, kind of like doing this half way. We were it was like we were either doing this with everything we have or not. So I think that having a partner who has that mentality also does really help. And I know I know confounder dating and finding that right person can be really tricky. But if you have that within yourself, that's amazing. And to stay diligent, diligently attacking that list every single day, it really does take every single day.
Like in the beginning, every single day. You are like working at that thing.
If you want to get there quickly, if you want it to manifest quickly, if you want to start sort of like a lifestyle business and do it on the side, like you can add as much or as little here and there. And that's totally fine, too. I'm talking like you want to go out and you want to raise money and you want to you want to like drive growth and you want to do you want to you have big plans, like set up your guidelines for yourself and like hold yourself accountable to this.
And I think as well I've spoken about this before, is the compound effect of all of those small steps that you might not think is a big idea, but on the day that you don't feel like doing anything, just do the least hard task and just get one little thing done and it will all compound. Yeah, sure.
And it's not like you're not often like you're not every day like doing slides or writing stocks or whatever your days are from early in the morning till late at night, you're on the phone with reach experts and people and a consultant to help you with this. Exactly. And customers, especially customers. So I found that are very early days. We're like a lot of us, like talking to people and trying to trying to put the pieces together. And then. Yeah, and then we had to sort of document, okay, here's where I am, here's where I am. And often I also we had our list, but we also just use our inbox. I was like, here's the update here, sort of the to do list as well. But I can feel it sort of like, yeah, what do I physically do to get my company off the ground? And I was always really frustrated that nobody could tell me how they started their company. Tactically, why can't you tell me? And I think it's as your company grows, I think you might get more like you might get more removed from, like, the nitty gritty. But I remember very clearly every little, every little step that we had to take in order to make this happen. So, yeah, it's an everyday pick through the last piece of advice.
It's so funny that you say that, because that's literally why I started this podcast, was to understand like the actual.
But how and like how did you grow and how I know and even me now with you because we have like forty five minutes. I'm like, yeah. And it was this kind of it was like this phase in this phase and maybe we can have another conversation with like OK, I know I started this document and said this, then I talked to this person, then we try it. We experimented with this. But yeah, every time I talked to other female founders, I always try to give them. Here's a really technical tidbit. Here's what I learned here. Here's what I learned here, because I found the exact same thing.
Nobody really it's very broad strokes, which can be frustrating.
You should document those technical tips that you send and just keep publishing them along the line.
That would be so many things we should do.
Yes, I know. We put it on that list. We are up to the six quick questions.
Ready to go? All right. Question number one is what's your why?
My wife is to work on something that matters with people who are way smarter than me, I get to learn from them every day and I know rambling why and lead with kindness because I think you can be a really strong, powerful leader and be very kind. And I think often women leaders think they have to be something else or fun or something. But you can really be yourself and you can be kind of a good person and really motivate people that way.
I appreciate the ramble and I agree it's so important. Question number two is what's the number one marketing moment that's made your business, pop?
So I'm going to say our thought leadership, so we do something called the modern state of fertility every year and we've seen a lot of success with that. But this this year we did one digging into fertility and finances and careers. And we actually had done the whole survey of asking women, how are you thinking about timing for kids? Like, do you want to get to a certain career milestone? Do you want to get to a financial milestone? And then it happens, happened. And we went back and redid the whole thing and talked to all those people again and said, hey, how about now? And it was crazy, 60 percent plus people said, I'm re-evaluating, you know, actually having a kid. So to be able to do something really timely that was really connected to everything we're all about, which is planning earlier for kids was was really cool. And we were fortunate to get a ton of pickup and exactly for the right reasons. Right. Like it's about what your brand is about and what we want to help women with in the world. So that is the stuff that really yes, it helps the business, but it just like and that's why we do what we do. So I love that.
It's funny how covid has had those moments of, like, impacting brands in a really positive way when it's obviously a really negative thing that's happened in the world.
It's quite funny hearing those tidbits of, you know, how it's changed for brands.
Fascinating. It's really fascinating. Question number three is where do you hang out to get smarter in non-fiction books?
I love nonfiction by Eric Larson on Churchill, and he published The Summer is Amazing. I love reading about, like, American history. I don't know what's wrong with me.
I highly recommend a book called You Never Forget Your First, which is a biography of George Washington by a woman. And like ninety nine percent of the biographies written on George Washington have been written by white men. And she just like totally annihilates the way the history has been written before. And it's amazing. So I love I love nonfiction. And I think and I especially love it in times of crisis, I think because it helps me remember that, like, I'm so lucky so often or not. So, you know, people there has been so much suffering in history that it actually helps ground me.
I know that isn't super uplifting, but I also love knowing that the people in history were like had minds and thoughts.
And it just like it just blows my mind. I don't like that they were so smart and so flawed. So there's something about that that really helps me connect with, like why we're all here and what we're doing. And I really do think you learn from what is actually happening in the world.
So that's where I go.
Yeah, absolutely. Especially in times like today where the world is a crazy place. Question number four is how do you win the day? And that's around your AMPM rituals, things you do that keep you feeling productive, successful, kicking, kicking your goals.
I have my every morning in some way, shape or form thing I do, I like field hockey in college. So I think being a collegiate athlete and just kind of kind of sticks with you so it doesn't really matter what the sweat is. Sometimes with the bike ride, sometimes it's run, sometimes it's a walk, sometimes a few pushups. But I swear, every day an actor knows this might get better after this to if, like, you know, we're up really early or something and I haven't gotten my sweat. And she's like, oh, no, I kind of like and my fiancee says this, too, that we have to run me in the morning and then I'm I'm good. There's something about your body having persevered in and of itself. It feels really powerful to me and like even before the day starts. So you've already accomplished something. Now, everything else is sort of crazy.
I went through a phase of doing freezing cold showers for the last four months. I only stopped. So and it's that same feeling where I was like, I can do anything I want because I just overcame this freezing cold shower, which makes me want to cry.
Wow, I'm impressed.
I haven't done that. Why should I?
Oh, my God, you absolutely should. It is so good. And especially like this sounds really weird, but do it in winter, like start it when it's really something that you feel like you're going to come out of that shower and be like, I'm so proud of myself because no one else is doing this.
I can tell you that this is a good thing.
And just one quick side note is, I also think having been an athlete in college, this there's so many interesting point is around the mindset that you develop from being an athlete. And I've been reading a lot about those parallels between your productivity and your performance from athlete to entrepreneur. So that's a really interesting insight.
Yes. And your leadership. I exactly. We'll be in our all hands meetings, this fascist, you being the captain of my high school field hockey team. And I'm like, we did the same. You're doing situps, you're motivating people. You are connecting your and and in college sports, too. But it doesn't have to just be a college sport. High school sports, middle school sports are really formative also. So I think I learn how to lose. I learned how to I mean, I learned how to win, but I learned I learned how to take feedback because being coachable, you have to be coachable and it doesn't feel good when you mess something up and you get you get feedback. But like, that's how you got it. You take it, you use it, you feel it and you move forward. Team player.
Exactly. I think this is another cliche, but it builds character. But for me, I was I was out there from seven years old playing on teams. And I think I really think that that helped me.
And again, I I was not an entrepreneurship major or finance major, but like team sports plus creative person. I'm here to say, is it good you will succeed plus middle children?
Yeah, for sure.
I'm also a middle child and I'm an advocate for middle school.
Question number five is if you only had one thousand dollars left in your business bank account, where would you spend it?
Research and research, talking to our customers and research, putting something into the world that actually helps people follow our research into finances and fertility and covid, because that is the stuff that is the core of what we're doing. We're trying to move research forward. And if we only had a thousand dollars left, I would want to. I want to get out what the state of fertility is today and make a difference.
Incredible. And last question is, how do you deal with failure and it can be like a personal experience or it can be just your general mindset and approach?
I am one of those people who can rationalize a disappointment and then make it make myself happy about it. So I'm very lucky that I have those tools. I am a big planner. So I think have and I have an idea of what success looks like or how I want things to go. And when they don't go that way. I'm very disappointed because I'm a planner and I have like half of this out in my head. But once I have some time to sort of sit with that disappointment, I am able to reframe like the new goal. So I think I'm lucky that I have that tool. And I one hundred percent learned it from my mom, who is like onward and upward. You put your you put your one foot in front of the other. There was never any whining allowed in my house. You know, there it was when something sad or disappointing happened. And it's like my life moves on. And that was that was really she just always thought she operated. So I think I'm very fortunate that I have that muscle, because I do think it's that I do think it's a muscle and a tool. And I thought I had it before starting the company for sure.
The sun always, always rises to our death. Thank you so much for being part of the Female Startup Club podcast. I absolutely love chatting to you. And I'm going to be cheering for you on the sidelines for what you guys do next. And I hope that you guys go global. I hope that you take all your goals in this really important space.
Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.
Hey, it's just me here. Thanks for listening to this amazing episode of the Female Startup Club podcast.