Founding a successful content startup. Being accepted to Harvard Business School, one of the most prestigious MBA programs in the world. Each of these achievements, by themselves, are incredibly challenging. Regular people could only imagine of doing both at the same time. However, let me introduce you to Tess Brooks.
Tess, who describes herself as ‘adventurous, empathetic and dependable’ and someone who ‘listens to music 24/7’, is currently Harvard MBA student and the founder of Confi, your go-to resource for info on intimate topics, where they provide the most credible women’s health information in an accessible and non-judgmental way.
She is a passionate individual who is highly motivated by people: “Relationships are what life is all about, and I also enjoy the intellectual stimulation of trying to understand the complexities of people and cultures (Anthropology undergrad was a perfect fit). I really believe in Salman Rushdie’s quote, ‘To understand just one life you have to swallow the world.’,” explains Tess.
“I’m also very energized by newness and like being exposed to novel challenges and ideas,” claims Tess. That’s why, after majoring in Anthropology at the University of Berkley, California, decided she had to live abroad.
“I had studied abroad in São Paulo during college and really liked how new and exciting everything was and how free I felt. I was determined to move back to South America after graduating, even if that meant selling coconuts on the beach (but fortunately quickly discovered that consulting was an awesome fit),” describes Tess.
For that, she spent the past 3 years working in management consulting for Bain & Company in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Los Angeles. She describes it nothing short of an exciting experience: “It was quite the adventure working in Portuguese and Spanish, on top of the bureaucratic challenges, like getting deported from Brazil on my first day of work!”
A Unique Peek Into Harvard’s MBA
After her fun stint at Bain & Company, she landed a spot in Harvard’s MBA program where she is scheduled to graduate in May 2016: “I decided to pursue an MBA because I love learning and think it’s such a cool opportunity to learn from extraordinarily bright people with different backgrounds.”
Tess, who is taking wide variety of courses including entrepreneurship, finance, supply chain management, negotiations, and managing human capital, loves being surrounded by incredible people and being challenged to think bigger. That’s what attracted her to Harvard: “I also like that it’s a very globally-minded place where everyone comes from very different backgrounds, so I learn a ton from my classmates. It’s very humbling to be here, and I’m grateful to have this learning opportunity.”
But not everything is fun and games – although HBS really does a great job at helping you have a great experience and overcome obstacles, Tess feels like the time here is so short. With less than two years to do everything that you want to do, “it can be challenging to prioritize and balance, on top of developing meaningful friendships and figuring out your career.”
The Challenges Behind Founding Confi
Besides people, Tess is passionate about women’s empowerment and health & wellness. Her mom is a partner at a law firm and her dad was very involved in raising her, so Tess grew up learning to not be limited by gender norms: “They raised my sisters and me to be ambitious and go after big things, and we’re all enthusiastic about seeing more female leaders rising up the ranks.”
Besides that, she sustains that health and wellness is one of the few areas of life that impacts everyone universally: “It’s so easy to take it for granted, but health enables us to pursue all of our other passions, and I love seeing how business can be used to catalyze healthcare improvements.”
The idea came to mind when a close friend of hers awkwardly told her about a women’s health issue that she was dealing with and was too embarrassed to talk to her boyfriend about. That’s when it hit her: “It made me realize that there’s no credible yet relatable go-to resource for young women to turn to when they have questions about health topics that aren’t commonly discussed in public.”
To assess demand for her idea, Tess did a survey of 350 women to see how big of an issue this was, and the majority said they currently use online forums as their main reference. When Tess realized women didn’t know what information they could trust, she knew she had struck gold.
But being a founder of an early-stage startup like Confi isn’t child’s play. As a solo founder, you are responsible for everything. “My day-to-day includes:
- crafting storylines for our content and prioritizing what people are most eager to know based on our user surveys/focus groups,
- interviewing our experts for advice or feedback and bringing on more experts,
- using Piktochart to design our infographics,
- interviewing potential candidates to grow our team,
- applying for business competitions to get more funding and feedback,
- implementing marketing campaigns,
- collecting user feedback,
- and dividing and advising work within our team”.
She is laser focused and determined on making it work. Her biggest challenge is the uncertainty and need of constant adaptation. “Day 1 of Confi, I didn’t know whether most of my time would be spent writing, designing, marketing, or exactly what our business model would be.”
This is an extremely common problem among young tech startups: “I identified that there was this urgent unmet need that I really wanted to solve, but exactly how to get there was still unknown. Even now that we’re farther along, there are so many factors that you can’t predict,” explains Tess.
Also, as a founder, she acknowledges she needs to work on how to separate herself from the business and not take things personally: “I like to make everyone happy, but you can’t be everything for all people as a business. Starting a business opens you up to feedback from every direction – you’re much more exposed than in a traditional business role.”
Not an easy feat, but she is deeply motivated to succeed!
Confi’s mission is to empower women to learn about their bodies and have an equal say in relationships: “These are issues all women deal with, and we’re building a fun, comfortable community to learn and share”. That’s why her ultimate goal is to be the go-to resource that women turn to before Google whenever they have a sensitive health question or want to more broadly learn about women’s health. “We want to help change the culture around these health topics to reduce some of the anxiety and insecurity around it”, mentions Tess.
Using Piktochart To Grow Confi
When asked about her plans for success in the next 12 months, Tess mentions she needs to start focusing more on building our user-base and continuing to produce more content.
One of they key tools in her toolset is Piktochart. As she desn’t have any previous graphic design experience (her main experience is making powerpoint slides at Bain for clients, but that’s a very different audience!), she use Piktochart for all of her articles for Confi.
“We came across Piktochart right from the start when we started developing content and have been using it ever since”. Tess needed to make content more relatable and user-friendly for women, so she start making infographics. “Some of our articles include uncomfortable topics like contraceptives, STDs, intimate partner violence, pelvic pain, and sexual orientation. We knew we didn’t want to just produce blocks of paragraphs of text, since that’s not what resonates with 16-25 year old women, and our infographics have been getting great feedback!”
When we asked about what she loved about Piktochart, Tess mentioned she is a fan of our great templates that “helps her get her creative juices flowing when she feels blocked”. Apart from that, she appreciates that there are diverse icons (like female doctor icons, and racially diverse people icons) “because we are an inclusive organization, and we’ve been struggling to find diverse stock images!”.
“As a whole, Piktochart is perfectly in line with what we’re doing at Confi in terms of making information more user-friendly. I also like that it’s easy to use, since I’m so time-crunched running the business and don’t have a design background”, describes Tess.
Some Final Advice For Piktochart Beginners
We asked Tess if she had any tips she wishes she would have known before starting to use the product or exploring communicating with visuals.
“I’ve found it helpful to come up with a general story-line before starting to design it in Piktochart. This makes it easier to decide what formats to use, like when to have 4 boxes in one section or where to include photos. But once I have a storyline, I do a lot of quick iterations in Piktochart to see what it actually looks like on paper (lots of “clone blocks” to see side-by-side which I like better).”
Images via Confi.