Annbeth Eschbach of Kindbody: “Lift people up”

I have two pieces of advice that I’ve received and now pass along to others. The first is to lift people up. You always get more out of people when you set them up to succeed, lift them up, and challenge them to flourish. The differences between a “boss” and a “leader” are many, but […]

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I have two pieces of advice that I’ve received and now pass along to others. The first is to lift people up. You always get more out of people when you set them up to succeed, lift them up, and challenge them to flourish. The differences between a “boss” and a “leader” are many, but one of the most defining qualities of a leader is their ability to elevate energy through captivating and driving collective momentum toward action — and that begins with elevating each individual.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Annbeth Eschbach, president of Kindbody and founder of Exhale.

Annbeth Eschbach is president of Kindbody, a New-York-based femtech company that is reinventing women’s health and fertility. Kindbody’s network of boutique, modern, tech-enabled clinics provides a one-stop-shop for all women’s healthcare needs from gynecology to fertility services, mental health and nutrition. As President, Annbeth is tasked with growth, real estate, people, and bringing the vision and mission of Kindbody to life.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

LAt one time, I was an operator in the high-end spa and fitness industry, working with a company that managed 65 properties in 16 markets. Each had a different brand name, positioning, and program. Some were spas, some were large athletic clubs, and some corporate fitness centers. As a company we had one objective: to take over underperforming properties and improve their performance and value for the owner. During that time, I learned that what people really wanted from the spa and fitness industry did not exist, and for that reason, the industry needed to go in another direction.

I set out to create something to fill that void and founded Exhale, a unique first-to-market wellbeing brand. Exhale was the first brand to offer spa, healing, and boutique fitness classes under one roof. (At that time, the terms wellbeing and boutique fitness were not used — the industry was comprised of large box gyms and beauty and pampering spas.)

We built a team, brand and business, going from “vapor and vision” to 25 locations in 11 markets, supporting 1,300 associates and dozens of proprietary programs. The Exhale team took the company to profitability, leading to the successful sale to Hyatt Hotels in 2017.

I continued on as CEO and led Exhale under new ownership for 18 months until I was recruited to join Kindbody as president. I made the difficult decision to leave Exhale, the business I founded, because Kindbody represented the opportunity to build and grow something the world really needs — that is what excites me as an entrepreneur.

Further, Kindbody’s mission has touched me personally. I endured five years of fertility treatment and can tell you from experience that this an industry in need of disruption.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

The fertility care industry is fragmented, treatment is expensive, and demand is continuing to increase as the incidence of infertility continues to grow. Today, 18% of couples deal with infertility, more women are waiting to have children, and more single women and members of the growing LGBTQ community are embarking on parenthood — all of these dynamics create a greater need for assisted reproductive treatment. However, treatment is so pricey, it is only accessible to the top 1%. And on top of that, the experience is inhumane, fragmented, uncertain, frustrating, lonely and depressing, making it a full-time job to navigate the system. We at Kindbody are helping to change that!

In August of 2020, I was on a 36|86 Festival panel with a group of leaders and innovators in the fertility and femtech space, and together we talked about the future of fertility. I was able to share how Kindbody is reinventing family building and fertility care to make it affordable and accessible for all.

Kindbody’s mission is to make family building accessible, exceptional, affordable and empowering for all — all gender identities and races, and all parents, even if single by choice — to create a world where every individual has access to care and can pursue their own path to building a family. Kindbody covers everything, from pre-partum through post-partum fertility support, in the way of coaching, mental health, nutrition, and return to work. We support and treat patients holistically providing access to a care team and virtual support 24/7 powered by our proprietary Kind technology.

We believe that fertility care can and should be provided with the utmost transparency, care, kindness, convenience — with the best outcomes at the lowest price. And we are able to do this because we invested in technology early on, and because we are providing a direct-to-employer family building benefit. With employer coverage, and lower pricing (30–40% lower than competitors on average) we are making care accessible.

We have designed this from the ground up — and it is paying off. We have a rock-star team achieving traction and growth on all metrics. We had 7 clinics open at the end of 2020, with another 6 scheduled to open this year. We have several dozen employer accounts, and revenues are growing at a rapid clip. In the midst of COVID-19, our CEO and founder closed an oversubscribed Series B round of 32 million dollars, which brings the to-date total raised to 64 million dollars.

Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I’d say I have hundreds of mentors, everywhere, every day. These primarily include my mother, my son, my teammates, investors, and friends.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Disrupting an industry is always positive when it provides a better outcome for the customer. Disruptors have the ability to change an industry landscape by introducing a product or service that is available at a lower cost, with better or more convenient access, and through an experience with less friction.

It is not so positive when it provides a lower cost or better option for the consumer with an unsustainable business model that is enabled by investors or capital void of any discipline. Another much older example is the fast-food industry, which originally disrupted the traditional restaurant & food service industry with a convenient, lower priced, accessible and appealing tasting offering. But today, fast food consumption has been linked to an increase in obesity and obesity-related problems, a major public health issue.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

I have two pieces of advice that I’ve received and now pass along to others. The first is to lift people up. You always get more out of people when you set them up to succeed, lift them up, and challenge them to flourish. The differences between a “boss” and a “leader” are many, but one of the most defining qualities of a leader is their ability to elevate energy through captivating and driving collective momentum toward action — and that begins with elevating each individual.

The second piece of advice is to avoid toxic people. This mantra is not easy to execute because it requires constant reminding, policing, and collective buy in. Once a toxic member joins a team, that energy becomes addictive, even destructive, and very difficult for any human to pull away from. When founding Exhale, we created a short list of key mantras (values), and one was that we would only hire and retain authentically positive, non-toxic people. It worked because we policed it and made it part of regular discussion. When a negative, destructive, toxic team member slipped through the cracks, we had chaos, and so much wasted time. It took years to get rid of this person. One out of 1,300 is not so bad, but it was an absolute energy suck and one of my biggest failures.

Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some strategies you use to generate good, quality leads?

Our mission at Kindbody is to broaden the conversation around reproductive health and fertility and increase access to care. Our lead generation strategy has that mission at its core — we leverage educational virtual events, mobile events, social media campaigns, and content to attract quality leads and build out our Kindbody community. Our events span from virtual Fertility 101 events to mobile events where we offer fertility hormone testing and consultations. On social media, we share thought leadership from our physicians, and we leverage real stories from influencers and patient ambassadors going through their own fertility journeys. We are constantly growing and cultivating a community of individuals who want to learn about their own reproductive health and who support our mission to disseminate this crucial information more broadly.

How are you going to shake things up next?

I am pretty busy and consumed with the work we are doing at Kindbody, but hope to have the opportunity to continue to work with women leaders in the coming years as we continue to grow.

Do you have a book, podcast or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it resonated with you?

Recently, I have been inspired by a monthly “special edition” writing that Gary Burnison, CEO of Korn Ferry, sends out. He writes about what it takes to be a successful leader in these ever-changing times. They are full of real and meaningful stories, and always challenge my thinking and behavior.

Can you please give us your favorite life lesson quote? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

When I was 13 years old, I watched my mom and her friends try to decide what they were going to eat, or do, or where they were going to go. I asked my dad about this common occurrence and he told me that if I ever wanted to be a leader, I needed to practice making decisions, starting now. He said making decisions is something you have to start practicing, and over time you get less fearful, and you get better at making good decisions. But if you don’t start the exercise at a young age, you gradually get accustomed to allowing others to make them for you.

I started that day to practice making decisions, and never looked back. And I tell young women this little life lesson every chance I get. You will never have everything tied up in a ribbon, so raise your hand and take things on. Eventually it feels natural.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I am living this movement right now! It is so gratifying to be empowering, educating, and serving people of all identities and races that are seeking to have a child or to preserve their ability to have a baby in the future. Everyone should have this right, not just the uber wealthy, and not just white, heterosexual humans.

How can our readers follow you online?

My handle is @annbetheschbach on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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