BY TAYLOR ROWE
Carly Leahy is the co-founder and CCO of Modern Fertility and a brand builder through and through. She has held brand and marketing roles at Google–leading creative for a grassroots initiative to help small businesses succeed online–and Uber, running content and creative strategy for new Uber products like UberEATS and UberHEALTH. At Modern Fertility, she’s focused on making the science of fertility more human and helpful for women everywhere.
Why did you decide to invest in Modern Fertility’s brand far earlier than most startups do (even against Y Combinator’s advice)?
CL: We invested in the brand from the very beginning. Fertility is complicated and personal. When it comes to info about our bodies (especially fertility info) the way we feel is just as important as what we learn. Millennial women are waiting longer than any generation in history to have kids and although we have ALL the tools to prevent pregnancy, we still have very little guidance for planning for it. Despite the age-old startup advice that brand comes later, my co-founder Afton and I knew from day one that we needed to build a meaningful identity to address this gap––a brand that we, as women who are not ready for kids ourselves, could rely on for fertility information, earlier in life. We wanted to feel empowered, informed, and supported––and above all, we wanted useful testing and tools to help us make decisions––when we looked around at the space, nothing felt like it was for us. And when we turned to other women, they agreed. They wanted (even demanded!) more information, more support, more real talk around this fuzzy fertility space. So we dug in and started building.
How has your brand affected the success of your business?
CL: Women tell us all the time, “This resonates with me and I can’t put my finger on why.” I love when I hear this because it means that women are using Modern Fertility to help them through whatever very unique place they’re in––whether they’re ready for kids soon, thinking of kids in the very far future, or not sure they want kids at all. The reason our brand has supported our business is that it’s grounded in utility. “On brand” for us means, equal parts useful, approachable, and clinically sound––and that has made it easier for women to participate and learn––so they can be their own best health advocates. With Modern Fertility, women are testing hormones, analyzing custom reports, using our doctor discussion guide to kick off a convo with their doctors, joining and participating in the Modern Women community, and reading the latest on everything from sticky discharge to prenatal on our blog.
What do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions about building a brand?
CL: Here’s the big misconception combo: Building a brand is frivolous and brand is its own “department.” The brand is a part of everything we put out in the world––and with everything we make we ask ourselves, How can we make sure she feels well informed? How can we make her feel better supported? How do we make this more clear?
Our timeline tool is a great example of this. When we started the company we had dozens of women asking us “When should I start if I want 3 kids and I’m X age.” We realized that although there were data sets on natural fertility out there, nothing existed to help women actually visualize out their timelines. So we built the free Modern Fertility Timeline Tool. Now, women are visiting it every day to inform themselves, ask questions, and establish a mental baseline for thinking through fertility. We also get dozens of questions a day about women’s health and fertility. We go deep on questions we get all the time on the Modern Fertility Blog.
What’s one of your favorite brand guidelines you’ve built at Modern Fertility?
CL: We sound like your best friend––if your best friend just happened to also be a brilliant OB/GYN. We’re a real-talk resource for real science.
How do you engage with and learn from your customers?
CL: We talk to our customers every day. We learn from them every day in the Modern Women Community. In the community, we talk about everything from reproductive health to current events––it’s kind of a text chain with your friends on steroids. Everyone is welcome. We often post ideas for new features or ideas and get feedback from the group. We also have a weekly webinar (we call it an “Egginar” 🙂 where customers can anonymously ask questions––it’s a good way for us to keep a pulse on information gaps so we can be sure to solve them within our product.
What other startup brands do you admire right now?
CL: Some of our favorites:
- Dia and Co has done an amazing job with community building.
- It might be a surprise answer but Shippo has really turned shipping/logistics into something that’s easy (and rather delightful) to use we’re big fans.
- We are a little obsessed with Otherland at the moment. They have nailed the unboxing experience and created the perfect easy-to-give gift.