Co-founder and serial entrepreneur Mandy Potter says she wants to help people who are struggling with fertility issues
When the pandemic hit in 2020, Mandy Potter was hospitalized with necrotizing pancreatitis. “I actually almost died,” she says. “It’s that cliché thing—I'm thankful that it happened because I'm healthier, stronger and better than I've ever been, but I truly don't believe that I would have been on this path of having my daughter Beau and starting this company if that didn't happen.”
Potter started her career working in tech, but now she’s the co-founder of Joey, a company that makes at-home insemination kits for people struggling to start a family. She suspects spending her 20s working 16-hour days as a serial entrepreneur contributed to her health decline and gave her a new perspective on wellness, both physical and mental.
“I think it's a very important topic because I've watched numerous people get themselves in really bad situations because of the stress of running companies,” she maintains.
Potter launched her first company, Cleanify, back when she was a graphic design student at Emily Carr. She raised $5 million in venture capital for that, moved to San Francisco for a few years, sold the company, moved back to Vancouver and then started another company called Jane. “It was an on-demand cannabis delivery company,” she explains. “We were on a $3 million run rate in the first month.”
Jane shot across Canada—and then Potter got sick. After a difficult, year-long recovery (“I had to learn how to eat and walk again,” she recalls), Potter and her partner Kristine Wilson started talking about wanting to have a baby. But when they Googled “How does a queer couple make a baby?” they were hit with a list of expensive fertility clinics that required hormone therapy. They weren’t sure if they wanted to do that, and luckily, they already had a sperm donor.
“There’s that old joke about turkey basting at home, so we're like, I wonder if that's actually an option?”
They decided it was worth experimenting: Potter and Wilson started gathering medical supplies (like ovulation strips, needle-less syringes, pregnancy indicators and more) to make an at-home insemination kit for themselves. And they got lucky on their first try.
“We were very, very fortunate, which is not the case for many people,” says Potter, adding that it can take anywhere from three to six months for people to see results with at-home insemination attempts.
Wanting to help other people struggling with fertility issues, the couple spent a year developing a product with the right kind of syringe (one with a rounded tip) and getting FDA approval. After a short beta phase, they officially launched Joey this July with a $130 insemination kit that includes ovulation strips, syringes, specimen cups, menstrual cups, pregnancy strips and step-by-step instructions. Apparently, sales are already in the hundreds.
“If you've used a tampon before, you can use this,” says Potter. “We will never guarantee you a pregnancy... What we want to do is give people an extra option that's affordable, that's comfortable, that they can do in their home with their partner, by themselves, with a friend or however they want to do it... We initially started this thinking we can help a lot of queer families and single parents. And every single day we're coming across new customers who are using it for reasons we never even would have thought about. It’s a really cool path to be on with all different types of people.”