Welcome to our Stella Women series celebrating the game-changing women who aren't afraid to shatter glass ceilings and drive change for other women. We're proud to partner with Stella Insurance to amplify the voices of these formidable females. Previously, we sat down with the CEO and founder of Australia's first all-female rideshare service, Shebah, and trainer Leah Simmons who founded revolutionary fitness platform, KAAIAA. Today, we're speaking with Nicole Liu, the CEO and founder of Kin Fertility, a start-up that is changing the way we view fertility, and reproductive health.
Nicole Liu's story is a deeply personal one, however it isn't a story that is uncommon for Australian women. Her own health journey highlighted the fact that we don't really talk about our fertility or reproductive health nearly as much as we should.
After being misdiagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and told that she might be infertile, investment banker Nicole had a lot of questions for her doctors. Feeling isolated, she began to research PCOS online and realised that a massive 1 in 10 women in Australia had the syndrome. So why hadn't she ever heard of it? She started to chat to her friends, and they too shared their own fertility questions and struggles. That's when the light bulb went off - if so many women are experiencing issues with reproductive health and fertility, there needed to be a platform that could provide trusted information and better access to women's healthcare.
It was then, at just 25, Nicole launched the start-up Kin Fertility, which is now putting the spotlight on women's fertility and reproductive questions. With interactive checklists, fertility supplements and essentials, 1:1 consults with fertility experts, plus easy to read guides on conceiving, pregnancy and post postpartum, it's all about healthcare on women's terms.
Now To Love: We'd love to know more about the woman behind the brand. Where did you grow up and what led you to originally start your career in investment banking?
Nicole Liu: I was born and bred in Sydney, Australia. My parents came to Australia from China, with not a lot of money and didn't really know the language. So growing up, they started a lot of small businesses to make a living – from embroidery factories, internet and IT services to even an Italian eatery.
My family never wanted me to start my own company. To them, a stable, corporate job with a predictable path upwards and onwards was what they had dreamed for me. So as I was studying, I chased what I thought was a challenging, stable career ladder that I could climb – investment banking.
NTL: Tell us more about Kin and why Australian women needed a platform specifically focused on fertility and reproductive health?
NL: When it comes to women's fertility and reproductive health, there's a fair bit of stigma associated with it. What this leads to is a lack of awareness of the issues that women may experience when it comes to their fertility and reproductive health. The flow on effect of this is less research, development and investment into creating solutions for these problems.
Here's a stat: In 2019, there were over 1,000 studies about erectile dysfunction. But for female infertility, there were less than 200 studies. Having a platform specifically focused on fertility and reproductive health enables us to give voice to these issues, and focus specifically on them.
NTL: You recently launched an Australian first subscription which delivers your contraceptive pill straight to your door (PS we LOVE this). How did the idea come about and how quickly are you seeing the subscriptions grow?
NL: Simple! We were a small team of women that found it incredibly inconvenient to go to the doctor to get their contraception. We were confused why an easier (digital) way to access our contraception didn't exist – so we had a crack at building it. In our first year alone, over 40k members signed up. Turned out, they thought this should have existed too.
NTL: What do you think we should be teaching the next generation about consent, sex education and reproductive health?
NL: Honestly, there are so many unanswered questions when it came to the sex education and reproductive health education I had growing up.
For me, the first thing is understanding your body and knowing what symptoms are normal vs. red flags. Let's talk about the fact that if you have excruciating period pain that leaves you crying on the bathroom floor every month, that's not "just period pain". It might be a symptom of endometriosis. How excessive unexplained weight gain and excessive hair growth could be driven by a hormonal condition known as PCOS. Let's talk about painful sex and how that may be a symptom of vulvodynia or vaginismus. And then let's talk about how none of this means that your body is broken. Let's then talk about how to advocate for yourself to doctors or people who might not hear your pain and listen to you.
Then there's a whole fertility conversation to be had. For one, let's learn about ovulation and how the baby-making process actually works. Let's stop giving the impression that it's ridiculously easy to fall pregnant for everyone. Let's talk about the fact that 1 in 6 people struggle to conceive, and how age is a big part of that equation. We should talk about egg freezing as an option, and how to make that decision. You want people leaving school knowing that they should be thinking about their fertility proactively, not reactively. Because making informed decisions earlier in life gives you more options.
And then lastly I reckon there's a whole sexual wellness conversation to be had. Talking about our anatomy, consent, how to have pleasure. Let's talk about how there are different sexualities and how that's very normal... and so much more.
NTL: Both Stella and Kin have a common goal which is to empower women through education and support. How important is this overarching goal to you personally and the team at Kin?
NL: Especially when it comes to your own body, knowledge, education and support are so important. It's the language and the tools you have to make decisions about your own body.
Someone once said to me "If you don't know your options, you don't have any." I think that resonated so much with me, and is definitely a driving force for why we do what we do.
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Read our other Stella Women interviews with trainer Leah Simmons, Liz Dawes, founder of the Robert Connor Dawes Foundation, motoring journalist Elise Elliott, the founders of finance platform, Ladies Talk Money and Shebah founder George McEncroe now.
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