If there is ever a couple that is slaying in launching a company, its my friends (and bosses!) Deborah and Jake. They started FertilityIQ a handful of years ago and truly are two of the hardest working people I know. I am excited to have Deborah sharing with us today what it’s like to start a company! This woman is ROCKING the mom, wife, co-founder thing like a champ. I admire her heart for the infertility community and her brains to make all of this spin. Enjoy reading what it’s like to start a company! Thanks for sharing Deb … especially with a newborn at home!
Terrifying, exciting, tiring, fulfilling. There are a lot of conflicting words that come to mind when someone asks me what it’s like to start a company.
I think back to the very beginning of when my husband Jake and I decided to start our company, FertilityIQ. We were fired up—we felt like there was a problem that had to be fixed ASAP, and knew it wouldn’t happen on its own.
We were in between fertility doctors, and in the midst of trying to find our third doctor. I’ll never forget our last call with our doctor – it was meant to be a 15 minute phone discussion about my recent miscarriages. He hadn’t read my updated chart (though I had confirmed it was received by his office at least 3 times), but with no information in front of him he confidently declared “if you keep trying to get pregnant on your own you’re going to have 10 more miscarriages.” The call lasted all of 4 minutes, but I still saw the $350 charge come though on my credit card.
We were desperate for better information ourselves, and to help other patients in our shoes avoid infuriating and depressing interactions like this in the future. While we had talked about starting FertilityIQ for months before, that was the very moment that pushed us over the edge to start it.
At that moment we felt so passionate about changing the state of fertility care we promised not to let anything stand in our way. In the next few months we saw a lot of late nights and early mornings. In this phase of imagining and starting a company, we needed to be creative in thinking of how we would tackle the problems we wanted to solve, work hard to narrow the funnel of ideas and focus, then execute.
In starting a business, it immediately becomes obvious that nothing happens on its own. And doing the stuff is usually not glamorous. At all.
In those early months, we decided the first problem we wanted to work on was how people researched and selected their fertility doctor. But we had only lived our unique set of experiences, and we wanted to build something that could help all fertility patients. And it’s not exactly like we had a pre-existing mental registry of everyone we knew who needed fertility treatments. So this left us to the incredibly awkward task of reaching out to just about everyone we’ve ever met and… asking if they had done fertility treatments. Or if their sister had. Or any of their friends. And talking to every single person who would make the time so we could understand the details of treatment for someone who had used donor sperm, or who froze eggs before cancer treatment, or who lived in a different geography, or who was working with a different budget, and on and on. This is just one tiny example, but my point is, every small step forward means you’ve probably logged a ton of hours leading up to it.
Another thing that becomes glaringly apparent with starting any business – I wish it wasn’t, but money is important, and it’s something you need to examine honestly. How are you going to support the business, and how are you going to support yourself? How much money can you dedicate to the business, or do you plan to bring in outside money? Just how much discomfort are you willing to tolerate?
We knew that we wanted to start FertilityIQ with our own money, so that we would be able to set the vision for the company independently. And, while we do think of it as a company that will one day sustain itself financially, we’ve made the decision to be very (very, very) patient with our approach. Which means it’s been a whopping 3 years since we’ve seen a salary (and I sometimes reminisce about what it was like when money just magically showed up every two weeks in our checking account). We planned for that and were willing to accept the tradeoffs going in, but just know that #entrepreneurlife isn’t as glamorous as Instagram can make it seem.
But, there are also serious upsides. First off, I’m working on something I’m passionate about and believe in 100%, and there’s really no substitute for that. Starting and running FertilityIQ has been fulfilling in a way that’s hard to describe, because I’m constantly hearing from people who are using the products we’ve worked so hard on who feel like their lives are positively impacted. (Don’t get me wrong – we hear negative feedback too, but one thing I had to learn very early on as a founder was not to let the haters get the best of me. If there are kernels of constructive negative feedback, I certainly take time to absorb that, but I try very hard not to absorb incoming anger. Good news is, this is very rare!)
Another positive that’s important to me is that I have more control over my schedule than I otherwise might at a regular job. This doesn’t mean I’m taking it easy or racking up lots of vacation time (I wish – it’s actually the complete opposite!). But it does mean that I got to choose to locate our offices close to where I live, and close to where our kids play during the day – so my “coffee” breaks can actually be quality time I spend with the babies. And they’ve come along for the ride on more than their share of work trips.
So, is starting a company easy? Absolutely not. Nothing is guaranteed, and nothing happens on its own without a lot of thought and hard work. But building something I’m proud of has been an adventure that’s been more than worth it!
Deborah is the co-founder of FertilityIQ along with her husband Jake. She’s the proud mama of Lazer (2) and Yara (4 weeks!). Deborah lives in San Francisco where she can usually be found hiking and eating her way through farmers markets. You can check out her website at www.fertilitiq.com, on Facebook, and connect with her on instagram at @fertilityiq.
PPS – If you’re ever looking for a devotional on living life while in a waiting season, check out the devotional I co-authored called ‘In the Wait’!
PPPS – Check out the other contributions from this series, including What It’s Like: to experience multiple IVF cycles, raise a child with special needs, use an egg donor, be a DIY-er and home style blogger , be a NICU nurse, Live fully in singleness while still hoping for marriage, suffer with endometriosis and experience depression. Stay tuned for many other amazing topics to come every Tuesday and Friday here!