Lalli Marrato began her career in journalism at Publicis Blueprint in London, UK and later worked at a boutique PR firm in Toronto. She then transferred her experience into investor relations and merchant banking, and is now a senior partner & COO at Frontier Flex Marketing in Toronto, helping businesses increase their exposure. Expressing her new found love of business development, Lalli co-founded FERTILIFY Inc., a new FemTech startup that develops scientifically-backed supplements to help women and men support their fertility.
My first job ever was… filing documents at my father’s fertility clinic. That was when I was first exposed to women’s health and related issues. I was 15 or 16 years old.
I decided to be an entrepreneur because… I was looking for an affordable and reliable solution to help support my fertility while I was pursuing my career and academic goals, but came up empty-handed; egg freezing was too costly and intrusive and prenatal vitamins are only beneficial once you’re already pregnant. I asked my father, Dr. Cepeda, a fertility specialist, for his advice. He helped me develop a regimen of supplements that were showing scientific promise in supporting fertility. When my girlfriends found out what I was doing, they all wanted to take the same regimen. It was at this point that I realized that we were on to something and started FERTILIFY. It kind of just happened.
My proudest accomplishment is… getting accepted into Gener8tor, a highly-selective, top-ranked startup accelerator out of the U.S.A. FERTILIFY was the only Canadian company in our cohort and the second Canadian company ever to be selected. Since then, our company has really flourished, and our goals for FERTILIFY have grown significantly. Pitching FERTILIFY through Silicon Valley, and presenting in an auditorium of over 300 investors, was probably one of the coolest things I’ve done to date.
My boldest move to date was… having Dr. R. Casper, a globally renowned fertility specialist from the University of Toronto, join our team. A lot of research behind FERTILIFY is based out of the University of Toronto via Dr. Casper. I set up a meeting with him. I wasn’t sure how FERTILIFY would be received, but it worked out! He loved that I was applying his research to real products. It’s wonderful to have someone with his level of expertise and knowledge on board.
I surprise people when I tell them… that I am also a partner in another successful business called Frontier Flex Marketing. Frontier is currently the largest investor-focused marketing firm for publicly traded companies in Canada.
My best advice to people starting a business is… just do it and stick to it. I firmly believe everybody should have a side hustle; something they work on off the side of their desks. I cannot express how much it’s meant to me as a woman to have businesses that I can work on and grow. To see the fruit of my labour is really rewarding.
“I cannot express how much it’s meant to me as a woman to have businesses that I can work on and grow. To see the fruit of my labour is really rewarding.”
My best advice from a mentor was… to answer questions that people are actually asking. People come up with a lot of business ideas, but if your business is not solving a real problem that real people are actually having, then it’s not really a business.
I would tell my 20-year old self… not to be afraid to be the only woman in the room and, if you are the only woman in the room, not to be afraid to speak up.
My biggest challenge was… remaining motivated when things don’t move as quickly as you want them to. This is a big lesson in business — things take time.
I overcame it by… reminding myself that I’m helping people. When you start a business, you need to grab onto some level of fulfilment. FERTILIFY is performing a gratifying service, so it’s easy for me to get that fulfilment. With that in mind, I was able to persevere.
Work/life balance is… managed by loving what you do, so that you really don’t see it as work. Things can get very busy though, so at those times, do what you can and remember to be kind to yourself.
“Things can get very busy though, so at those times, do what you can and remember to be kind to yourself.”
The last book I read was… My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. It’s a great story about female friendship and support. I’m now reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari; I can see why it’s so popular. I rotate between reading fiction and non-fiction.
I stay inspired by… the great feedback I receive from our customers and the medical community. Chatting with other business owners, learning from their experiences and recharging from their stories of success is also a source of inspiration.
The future excites me because… there’s a lot of potential in the work that I’m doing, and I’m intrigued to see where it will take me next.
My next step is… launching our four new products under the FERTILIFY brand that address the specific needs of each unique stage of fertility.