Michele Wispelwey, MBA is the Founder of FemGevity, a digital telemedicine platform that offers women access to custom concierge care for menopause and feminine longevity. As a leader and pioneer of a women's telemedicine start-up, she has 18 years of experience implementing women's health initiatives and a relentless passion for driving innovation in the femtech and women's consumer health sectors. Her personal mission is to create solutions that empower women to take control of their well-being and achieve their fullest potential.
During this interview, Michele shares her journey as a femtech founder, and how resilience can lead to more self confidence.
How do you cultivate confidence?
It took me until my late thirties to realize that resilience, accepting failure as a learning opportunity, and adaptability are how you engrain confidence in yourself. I talk about this to my daughter and son several times a week to make sure they have a strong foundation of confidence.
Resilience refers to the ability to recover from setbacks, adapt well to change, and keep going in the face of adversity. Building resilience is a great way to cultivate confidence, especially because it fosters a kind of confidence that's grounded in reality and personal strength, rather than external validation. Everyone experiences failure. What separates resilient people from others is their perspective on failure. Instead of seeing it as a negative reflection of their abilities, they view it as a valuable lesson. Every failure is an opportunity to learn, grow, and improve.
Cultivating the ability to adapt to changes and new situations can build resilience and, in turn, confidence. This is because change often brings uncertainty, and being able to navigate uncertainty confidently makes you more resilient.
What does being a woman-owned business mean to you?
Being a woman-owned business means a multitude of factors to me. It signifies opportunity, empowerment, innovation, disruption, and legacy. In a male-dominated world, a woman-owned business is an indication of shifting gender dynamics and an increasing recognition of women's capability and potential in the business sphere. Men own sixty-three percent of businesses. According to a survey published in June 2022 by online payroll company Gusto, forty-nine percent of new business owners were women in 2021 — a massive jump from twenty-eight percent in 2019. Successful startups such as Canva and Beautycounter were started by women looking to solve a problem they saw in the market and become their own bosses. While female-founded startups are less common than small businesses or traditional companies, they are still on the rise in recent years.
The FemTech industry being coined in 2016 opened up so many doors for innovation in women's health and the ability to start disruptive female-owned businesses. FemGevity was not just started for the sake of a new business. We are solving a problem for women and men too actually. Femtech has paved the way for innovative solutions to women's health issues that have traditionally been under-researched and underfunded. Female-founded businesses in this industry are helping to address these gaps and improve women's health outcomes.
The emergence of femtech has brought increased attention and investment to female-founded businesses. Investors are increasingly recognizing the potential of solutions that address women's health needs, leading to greater funding opportunities for women-led startups in this space.
What was your business origin story?
Prior to founding FemGevity, I was most recently the Director of Women’s Health Services where I spearheaded the development of women's health programs in molecular diagnostics, genetics, and cytology. Throughout my career, I have achieved success within top-ranked institutions such as LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics. Many would say I am renowned as a resource, mentor, and strategist. Sharing knowledge has always been very important to me, which is why I collaborate with various organizations and healthcare leaders to initiate change, improve patient access, and update stagnant processes and programs. My comprehensive understanding of the diagnostic landscape has enabled me to become a visionary leader in the femtech and digital healthcare industry.
Okay, coming up with a great idea and actually taking the steps to become an entrepreneur and launch your company are two very different things. How did you know it was time to take the leap?
It was a very organic process. My Co-Founder is also a long-time friend of mine from the industry. We both knew there was a major gap in care for women going through perimenopause and menopause. Also a lack of companies doing it the way we wanted to. One day we caught up and she asked what I was doing. I happened to just get back from a FemTech summit and told her I have been diving into this world. She ironically had a meeting the next day to bounce ideas off of a mentor of hers. Literally that day we said let's meet tomorrow and swear on my kids, the next day FemGevity was born. Insistence is a form of resistance. Embrace the unexpected and let life happen for you. It was so natural for us.
Sometimes entrepreneurship can be an isolating journey. How do you stay confident along the way?
It can be extremely isolating, especially if you and your Co-Founder have a disagreement, which always happens. It is a second marriage. It's the way you mentally handle the tough times and how you communicate with each other in a vulnerable way. This is where my belief in resilience is important; it is crucial to maintain resilience and perseverance.
You have to celebrate wins, no matter how small. This reinforces the positive aspects of your entrepreneurial journey and boosts your confidence. Also, understand that setbacks are a normal part of entrepreneurship. Viewing these not as failures, but as opportunities to learn and grow, can help you stay confident and committed to your journey. Lastly, have an arsenal of really great experienced advisors, to build a Support Network. Having a network of peers, mentors, or advisors provides you with encouragement and practical advice. They can also provide a sounding board for your ideas, which can help you refine them and gain confidence in your plans. We constantly go back and bounce ideas off of them.
If you had to list three traits or attributes that have been pivotal for your success, what would they be?
Passion, adaptability, and resilience are my top three. Passion is definitely by far the top trait because being genuinely passionate about what you do is a strong motivator and a key driver of success. Passion often leads to greater dedication, increased work ethic, and a higher tolerance for the inevitable challenges that come with any pursuit of success.
The ability to persevere in the face of adversity, learn from failures, and keep moving forward is often pivotal to success. I face obstacles and setbacks every day, sometime multiple times a day. Resilience is what helps me to navigate these challenges without losing my drive to succeed.
Lastly, success requires the ability to adapt to new circumstances and to learn from new information. I have to pivot constantly whether it's our business strategy, learning a new skill, or adjusting my mindset in response to personal growth and change.
What advice would you give to burgeoning entrepreneurs?
Build a Strong Team. The right team can make or break your business. Look for people who share your vision, complement your skills, and add value to your organization. Remember, a company is not just one person, but a group of people working towards a common goal.
Find a Mentor. A good mentor who has had success can provide invaluable guidance, insights, and feedback, helping you navigate the entrepreneurial journey.
Believe in Yourself. Have confidence in yourself and your vision. There will be challenges and setbacks, but if you believe in what you're doing and are willing to put in the work, you can achieve your goals.
What words do you live by?
Be intentional with grace in everything you do. Pursue your goals and live your life purposefully, while at the same time treating others and yourself with kindness, understanding, and forgiveness. It's about merging determination with empathy, and ambition with compassion. It's reminding you to go after what you want but do so in a way that upholds respect and care for the feelings and needs of others.
Any final words of wisdom?
"Regret is often worse than failure," and "embrace uncertainty". In my twenties and early thirties, I was so afraid of not knowing my path and destiny. I felt the need to have control of every aspect to prevent mistakes, failure errors, etc. It prevented me from learning, networking, and taking risks for big rewards.
Not knowing the outcome of a risk doesn't necessarily make it a wrong move. Embrace uncertainty as part of the process. It often signifies growth and new opportunities. Most people regret the chances they didn't take more than the ones they did that didn't work out. It's better to take a risk and learn from it than to live with the question, "What if?"