Connecting egg donors with intended parents, a fertility coordination agency hits the ground running
Photo: Hannah Pouliot
IT IS OFTEN said that starting a business is like raising a child. And for Hannah Pouliot, owner of fertility consultancy Tiny Feet Fertility, the analogy is a particularly fitting one.
Pouliot, 29, attended French language primary and high schools and then went on to major in psychology and family studies at Brescia University College. She says she always knew she was destined to be an entrepreneur. “I knew I didn’t like to work for others and I really needed an environment where I could call my own shots.”
In her early 20s, she learned from a friend about becoming an egg donor for a fertility clinic. She and her sister, Britney Pouliot, began donating their eggs, helping couples with infertility issues become parents.
“I knew early on that my love for this would not end after six donor cycles,” says Poulet (fertility clinic guidelines generally allow women to donate their eggs up to six times in their lifetime). The mother of a four-year-old son, Pouliot adds, “I wanted to find a way to still be connected and continue to help individuals and couples grow their families.”
“Being being part of such an amazing thing is a true blessing. I wake up every single day happy to start work and go to bed each night wishing I had more time to send a few more emails” —Hannah Pouliot
Pouliot, along with her sister, launched Tiny Feet Fertility in 2015. During the business planning stage, she says her own donor experiences—the agency she’d worked with focused more on the intended parents than donors—helped her shape the agency’s foundation.
“I wanted an opportunity to have an agency focused on both [donor and recipient], and made sure that the donors really understood how special and how wonderful they were [because of] what they were doing.”
Tiny Feet connects intended parents with egg donors and supports them throughout the process, answering questions and, if they wish, linking them with other couples and support groups. Legal and medical referrals are also available.
The agency meets with potential donors and uses an extensive questionnaire and interview process to build a profile for their database. Couples generally find the agency through a fertility clinic they’re working with and are given free access to the donor database. After a match is made, the donor is screened by the fertility clinic.
Tiny Feet’s revenue is derived from intended parents using the agency—they enlist the service to help guide them through the matching process and secure a donor. Couples also pay a fee held in trust to cover cycle-related costs of the donor (in Canada, legislation prohibits egg donors from receiving financial reimbursement for donations, but they can be paid for expenses related to the donation).
Pouliot says many of the couples she deals with have gone through IVF or suffered with fertility issues or miscarriages for many years.
“Every day we deal with couples who are feeling lost and defeated in their journey through infertility. We help bring them to the other side. Our donors offer them the gift of lifelong happiness and the answers to their prayers.”
The growth for the business has been a bit of a surprise, says Pouliot. “We became successful very quickly. We thought going into this that there would be more of a start-up [phase] and that we would suffer a little bit more. We had it backwards.”
Tiny Feet is currently making about 120 matches a year. “We did a lot better than we thought in the first year. Then we doubled in the second year. And it looks to be that we’ll double that again this year.”
At this point, the sisters are the agency’s only coordinators, but with the company’s growth they’re looking to hire one or two additional staff in 2020.
“Starting my own business was inevitable, but being part of such an amazing thing is a true blessing,” says Pouliot. “I wake up every single day happy to start work and go to bed each night wishing I had more time to send a few more emails. I absolutely love what I do and believe that it was both my greatest destiny and blessing in life to start this business.” Suzanne Boles