Gina Bartasi, Fertility Authority, Woman Entrepreneur
There is no doubt that Gina came out of the womb wheeling,
dealing, selling, scheming and managing.
She shouts entrepreneur from the second you meet her. She launched Fertility Authority after
realizing at a lunch with a group of women that they were all spending a
fortune on fertility, herself included, and thought there must be a business
here. As I said, her brain has been wheeling
and dealing since she came out of the womb.
Gina grew up in a small town in North Carolina. Neither of her parents went to college and were total entrepreneurs. Her
father was a contractor and would buy speculative properties and build homes on
them and her mother would sell them.
She has worked for as long as she can remember. After graduating high school she went to UNC,
Chapel Hill finishing in four years.
During her time there she waited tables and was smart enough to wait
tables at the only high end restaurant in the area where people left enormous
Gina graduated in 1991 and the country was in a
recession. She took a job right out of
school selling advertising. She was offered no base salary, no health insurance but 15% of everything she sold. She took the job and by the time
she was 26 years old she was making over $125K a year. She bought a
house, a great car and was doing quite well. She built up that worth over 5
years from 21-26 building a mans company.
She decided it was time to leave and make it on her own.
In 1996 the Olympics were coming to Atlanta. She could not decide if she should go to
Atlanta and start something or move to NYC.
She had an interview with Conde Nast in NYC. She got off the plane and went directly to
the interview in a white suit quickly realizing that everybody in NYC wears
black not white. The interview went
well. They wanted her to work for
Gourmet magazine but she wanted to work for Vanity Fair. They wouldn’t budge so she planted herself in
Atlanta to start a business that she could call her own.
When she launched the first magazine under the Leader Publishing Group she figured out that in
Atlanta she would not be able to sell advertising as the CEO because she was
only 27 and a woman. As a ruse, she put account
executive on her business card. At one
point while she was making a sale to one of the guys at the top of a company he
said to her that he had played golf with the CEO of her company the week
before. She did not correct him but
instead shot back with “what did you shoot?”
She took the profits from the first magazine she launched and funded another magazine called
Catalyst, then two others called Atlanta Woman and Atlanta Jewish Life and also
began to do custom publishing for other publications in Atlanta. During this time she also started at 5013C
naming the top entrepreneurs in Atlanta.
She was 32 and running her own multi-million dollar profitable
company. The cat was out of the bag as she was an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalist, Metro Atlanta
Chamber’s Small Business Person of the Year finalist and a finalist for
Woman of the Year in Technology.
Then Gina met a woman who was all business her entire life
and gave Gina some advice. She said she
was 52 years old, incredibly wealthy with no children and not married. She told Gina, do not do what I did.
Gina decided that she would never find someone in Atlanta
but she would in NYC. She took a share
in East Hampton for the summer. She’d
fly to La Guardia every Friday night and take the jitney out to her share. One night her roommates were giving her a
hard time about schlepping up there and then going to sleep by 10pm. She said she would prove them otherwise and
went to the TalkHouse in Amagansett for a show and stayed until the lights went
up meeting two twin brothers at the bar, one of them became her husband.
Her life changed. She
had a business and apartment in Atlanta and a place in NYC. She kept that going for 10 years eventually
selling the business in 2006. She had
structured the business in a way that it took on a life of its own with good
people running it and she put herself in the Chairperson role. Very smart.
Looking back she says that she should have sold sooner that owning an
asset that someone else is running for you is not easy.
Gina got married in September 06 in and she was 37 years
old. She knew that she wanted to have
children so she went to see a fertility doctor from the very onset. He said that her chances of getting pregnant
were slim to none. She thought to
herself, what are you kidding me, I can do anything. She spent the next 18 months selling her
business, yoga, meditating, eating healthy to prepare her body to get
pregnant. It was not happening.
That summer she decided it was time to start another
business. She was sitting at the pool
with four other women while the boys were playing golf and realized that
everyone of them were going through fertility treatment. She started to add all the numbers up in her
head and thought there is a business here.
She went into the house and got on register.com and bought the url for Fertility Authority. It was summer 2008.
Gina started to raise money.
All the people who said yes to $100k on 9/12 said no by 9/14. Madoff had wreaked havoc on the people who
were giving her capital. She figured she
could boot strap the business with the $250 she came up with and that $1m was
not in the cards. All her colleagues took
equity instead of cash and now that $1 worth of salary is worth $4/5. 12 months later she raised another $250 and
then another $250 eventually getting to that $1m mark. It took time.
As the economy picked up in 2010 Gina realized they needed
to grow. So they approached EHarmony to
buy their private chat room called fertile thoughts. She flew out to Pasadena until they agreed on
a price without any money in the bank.
She got them to take a check a month over an extended period of
The business started out as an advertising model, think
WebMD for fertility clinics. That worked
and then they began adding a subscription model to the business like ZocDoc for
the fertility industry. They told the
doctors that we can help you build your brand and we will drive traffic to your
site but that is not what doctors want.
They want patient referrals, aka a lead generation business. Fertility authority evolved into that with a
call center where they match a client with the right physician. One of the doctors in the IVF business called
Fertility Authority the 800 pound gorilla.
On a personal note, Gina has two 26 month twins. She is looking to take this business
international. The one thing that she
said to me that really stuck is the importance of women freezing their
eggs. Nobody talks about this. It is a growing business. If you are over 30 and don’t see kids
happening in the immediate future, freeze your eggs. Do not be in the position that Gina was at 37
years old where she was told she could not get pregnant. Time, money and heartbreak happens again and
again. Having those eggs frozen when a
woman is young and fertile is an incredible technology gift that can be a game
changer for many.