Parentbirth™. When a child is born, a parent is also born. How as a society do we support that parent? There is so much work to do here for aspiring, expecting and new parents. We need to support all paths to parenthood for aspiring parents so that a person’s right to parenthood can be realized without stigma or socioeconomic barriers. We need to reverse the dire trend in maternal mortality and support expecting parents before, during and after birth. We need to deliver on the ‘village’ concept for new parents and provide mental health support to those suffering with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. ‘Parentbirth’ is not a new idea. It’s been championed by the doulas and birthworkers we feature on Robyn. It’s been championed by the maternal mental health community in the name of “matresence” or the developmental phase of new motherhood. We’d like to be a megaphone for this parent-centric approach.
As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alli Kasirer, CEO and founder of Robyn.
In founding Robyn, Allison Kaiser set out on a mission to make sure no other woman ever felt as alone and confused as she once did on her fertility journey. Prior to launching Robyn, Allison was a Vice President at J.P. Morgan’s Corporate & Investment Bank. She holds a Bachelor of Applied Science from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering and Applied Science. Robyn is a community-driven digital platform that provides access to a network of integrative maternal wellness tools, resources, and specialists.
Thank you for joining us Allison! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I don’t think I ever thought I’d be an entrepreneur! I always leaned toward opportunities with more security at larger organizations. After college, I worked for seven years at a large investment bank. I really enjoyed my work although it certainly came with an unhealthy dose of stress! When we started going through fertility treatments, I decided to take a leave of absence and focus on mothering myself. After countless procedures, false hopes, negative pregnancy tests and a sea of unanswered questions, I took matters into my own hands, learning all I could about managing my stress and taking better care of my body. I became extremely passionate about the intersection of fertility and wellness. I realized how important it was to have a tribe even before pregnancy — both a community of women and families for support but also expert providers who helped me get through a really challenging time. Having this newfound experience, I set out on a mission to make sure no one ever felt as alone or confused as I once did on my path to parenthood.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Four years ago, I had a meeting with a small, women-run branding agency that I found on Google. I went in there with my first pitch deck (which I can’t look at now without cringing) and completely connected with the woman who sat across from me. She was hesitant to take us on at the time because we were so early but I was persistent. Little did I know that over the next four years, her and her partner became friends and stakeholders in Robyn. Carolyn, from that meeting, is now our Head of Brand & Strategy. That’s one of the most “interesting” parts of this or any career path — the relationships you build!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Probably launching a company the same month I had twins! I don’t know if I would call it funny, but it certainly was ironic. Lessons learned: value family over work and practice what you preach.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
From the start, we’ve always tried to be real and honest about the path to parenthood. When we first got on social media, a typical Instagram feed consisted of mostly curated, beautiful and unrealistic photos. Our content stood out as we used our platform to destigmatize topics like infertility, miscarriage, perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, and more. Since then, we’ve seen social media change to be much more inclusive and vulnerable, which I think is extremely important. We also didn’t start as a “brand,” we started as a community, and continue to be community-first even as we grow.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are! We’re on a mission to make maternal wellness and education accessible to all. With childbirth education classes costing upwards of $300–500, educational resources and community for women can be prohibitively expensive and inaccessible. There’s also endless online advice on fertility and pregnancy, but it’s difficult and time-consuming to determine credibility. Later this summer, we’ll be launching two new projects that further this mission. (1) The ability to book virtual or in-person sessions directly with a network of vetted maternal wellness providers, and (2) a virtual childbirth education class that features multiple perspectives, real stories and an accessible price point.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
What I’ve found is that the self work I do is also often the answer in business as well: Some of the practices that straddle both personal and professional: Presence, Gratitude, Self Care, Teamwork, and Kindness.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I don’t think it’s possible to boil it down to one person! I am grateful for my parents who empowered me to be a leader at a young age. I wrote in my middle school yearbook that in 20 years I would be a CEO. That drive comes from within, from a supportive family environment, and incredible teachers and educators I had the privilege of learning from. I am grateful for my husband who respects my work and shares in a 50/50 equitable division of family and domestic responsibilities. I am grateful for the people who help us with childcare so that we can both balance work and family. I am grateful for my team who drive Robyn and our vision for the future forward each and every day. I am grateful for advisors, mentors and investors who believed in what we were building enough to become stakeholders and see it come to fruition.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Robyn is committed to demystifying, destigmatizing, and democratizing, one’s path to parenthood. Being a mission-driven founder means your success is directly tied to seeing that mission through and bringing goodness into the world. I want to be an advocate for women and families who deserve better. My personal journey to parenthood gave me intimate insight into how confusing, painful and lonely the road can be. People think of “ family planning” and picture easy pregnancies, strollers and “the best years of your life.” The reality is that this country is in the midst of a maternal mortality crisis. More and more women are dying from pregnancy-related complications every year. Robyn is my life’s work — I’m on a mission to make sure no woman ever feels as alone and confused as I once did.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Listen and Pause. Learning to respond consciously instead of react is crucial as a leader. A senior leader at the firm I used to work for used to start off every dialogue with, “Let’s take a step back.” We all used to poke fun at him for sounding like a broken record, but I find myself saying that every time I need to listen, pause, and respond instead of react.
- Hire people who are good at what you’re not and don’t be afraid to ask for help. I’m aware of my strengths and weaknesses. Instead of judging myself for those weaknesses, I try to solve for them by hiring people with complementary skill sets. I tend to be a high-level, strategic thinker, so I am often looking to bring on detail-oriented doers.
- Pay attention to what brings you joy. If there’s no joy in the work, what’s the point?
- Constantly reaffirm your “why.” The COVID-19 pandemic was a clear example of this for us as a company. We’re dealing with two vulnerable populations: (1) aspiring, expecting and new parents who may have had IVF cycles canceled, traumatic births, and isolation in new parenthood, and (2) maternal wellness providers who are all small businesses trying to migrate their practices to digital. In response, we radically prioritized, getting resources out immediately to those in need.
- Get comfortable with uncertainty. I’ve done a lot of spiritual work on this. Like most people, uncertainty generally makes me feel out of control and anxious. But the more comfortable I get in “not knowing,” the less fear I harbor, and it results in better leadership. Leadership doesn’t mean holding yourself to the impossible standard of knowing every single step along the way.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Parentbirth™. When a child is born, a parent is also born. How as a society do we support that parent? There is so much work to do here for aspiring, expecting and new parents. We need to support all paths to parenthood for aspiring parents so that a person’s right to parenthood can be realized without stigma or socioeconomic barriers. We need to reverse the dire trend in maternal mortality and support expecting parents before, during and after birth. We need to deliver on the ‘village’ concept for new parents and provide mental health support to those suffering with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. ‘Parentbirth™’ is not a new idea. It’s been championed by the doulas and birthworkers we feature on Robyn. It’s been championed by the maternal mental health community in the name of “matresence” or the developmental phase of new motherhood. We’d like to be a megaphone for this parent-centric approach.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Mother yourself. I had to learn to mother myself before I could mother my children. Self care during pregnancy and postpartum is a little more obvious; but for me, I had to learn it in pre-pregnancy. Through this practice of mothering myself, I was able to take a challenging experience like infertility, shift the perspective, and use it to help other women and families. This self care has become increasingly important in my life. Whenever I start to feel fear, tension, or anxiety creep in, it usually means I’m letting my self care slip.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Alanis Morissette! She is an advocate for female empowerment and maternal health and wellness. But mostly because I am a huge Jagged Little Pill fan 🙂