Modern Fertility’s Modern Woman, Afton Vechery
When she’s not watching TV shows in their reverse-order, Afton is redefining women’s accessibility to reproductive healthcare.
Not entirely sure what your birth control is doing to your body? Thinking about freezing your eggs but unsure where to start? Concerned about fertility issues that run in the family? Afton Vechery thinks it’s time to stop wondering and time to know about our own reproductive health for certain.
Enter Modern Fertility, Vechery’s women’s health company focused on making fertility information accessible. Now you can take fertility tests customized according to your own birth control in the comfort of your own home! Even more, you can address all your questions one-on-one with a fertility nurse or on Modern Fertility’s weekly Egginar. With recent initiatives to expand reproductive healthcare access for the LGBTQ+ community, Vechery is determined to make fertility testing a modern resource for everyone.
BWB had the pleasure of talking to Modern Fertility’s co-founder and CEO in order to learn about the goals driving her business and the things driving her day-to-day life.
Forstarting your business…
I stumbled upon entrepreneurship at a young age when I started a clean water testing company in high school to aid a water contamination issue in my hometown in Maryland. After pursuing a string of entrepreneurial endeavors, I learned that hard work trumps intellect when it comes to building a company. As a 23-year old working in healthcare private equity, I started looking into women’s health and specifically IVF clinics. Despite the tremendous growth of the IVF industry, I noticed an enormous unaddressed emotional component as well as a lack of proactive fertility education.
I thought, well why can’t I get this baseline now to plan ahead?
I left private equity and helped launch a few health-tech companies before leading the consumer tools division at 23andMe. Around that time, I realized I wanted to wait until later in life to start my family. I sought out the fertility hormone tests often administered only after a couple is struggling to conceive. My OBGYN told me, “You’re young, you don’t need this… you should only do that after it isn’t working.” I thought, well why can’t I get this baseline now to plan ahead?
I eventually got a referral to an infertility clinic to get the testing. After months of appointments, I finally got the results—along with a $1,500 bill. Even though the process was cumbersome and way too expensive, the results were incredibly empowering.
I knew there was a big opportunity to give women important information about their bodies on their own terms, much earlier in life. Becoming my friend group’s resident “fertility expert,” I started opening up countless conversations with other women. I realized the sheer prevalence of the information gap in reproductive health. Today, Modern Fertility is about giving women more agency over our reproductive health, so we can own the decisions impacting our bodies and futures.
How to be an effective leader…
Play to your strengths, hire for your weaknesses and lead by example. This allows you to effectively remove barriers for those around you and exercise humility by knowing what you should and shouldn’t have say over.
We respect each other and trust each other to do what’s right within our given area of expertise.
At Modern Fertility, one of our values is that we have each other’s back. That means we respect each other and trust each other to do what’s right within our given area of expertise. I think it’s critical for a leader to embody this. To that point, I’m also a big believer in leading by example, which I was fortunate to learn from several great leaders at past companies. Culture starts at the top, and I know Modern Fertility could never be the dedicated and passionate place it is without me setting that standard.
What you love most…
I love how accessible so many amazing destinations and biking routes are from the city. You can travel less than an hour to beaches, mountains, parks, forests and cool vintage shops. I think this makes San Francisco a truly unique place.
Go-to lunch place…
On weekends, I love Salumeria in the Mission District. They have this beautiful indoor/outdoor space with amazing sandwiches (don’t miss the pasta salad that they carry from Flour + Water).
A night out on the town…
I am slightly concerned by the amount of time that I had to think about this question to figure out what I do “out on the town.” My aspirational night on the town: checking out a cool trumpet player at SF Jazz or Black Cat, sipping Negronis, and feeling cool.
Morning beauty routine…
I wake up and answer emails in bed. They say you’re not supposed to start the day this way, but I’m not prioritizing changing this routine. By the time I am out of bed, I like to be able to be out the door in <15 minutes. I shower every morning and wash my face in the shower, throw on Kiehl’s SPF 30 moisturizer, and then sometimes Laura Mercier and mascara if I have 30 extra seconds. I let my hair air dry on my bike ride into the office.
During the week I keep it pretty simple with jeans, a sweater or silk top, and heeled mules and clogs. I’m 5’4″, so I prefer to see the world from 3 inches higher :). Over the weekend, I like to get much more creative. I’ve described my personal style as “puzzling, but makes you want to learn more.” I am a sucker for interesting vintage finds.
Most nights I am going through email or calls until pretty late, and then crash. If I need a mental break, I watch episodes of TV shows in the reverse order (story for another time) or play my trumpet! I just re-ordered a bunch of pieces I used to play in high school and college. It is really therapeutic.
Must-have skincare/body products…
I used Dove soap and Cetaphil– until last year when an early Modern Fertility supporter started Haldi, a company that helps you navigate the clean beauty space. Haldi recommended Indie Lee. I am obsessed with the smell and fully hooked.
Favorite makeup products…
Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer and Clinique waterproof eyeliner (b/c it doesn’t get into my contacts). I also buy value packs of vaseline intensive care (like the kind you can get at a gas stations) and slowly work my way through it throughout the year.
Send me recs! I like weird.
For Modern Fertility…
Modern Fertility fundamentally believes that all women deserve to own their fertility information, regardless of their age, identity or fertility decisions. We see a world where fertility hormone testing is as ubiquitous as pap smears and physicals. We have a long road ahead before we’ve truly integrated fertility hormone testing into mainstream consumer wellness. Staying obsessed with the problem keeps us going each hour of each day.
We also have a research division of the company where women can opt-in to have their anonymized data used in women’s health research to advance fertility science. We’re still quite early in this, but we are working to understand new nuances in fertility and develop a better vision of future fertility. The goal is to give women better information about their bodies and advance fertility research for the overall industry. We started the company to increase access to information, but also improve it.
We ultimately want to be *the* trusted consumer brand in reproductive health.
For women in 2020…
I hope women can come to see fertility as a lever for their own empowerment, independence and life planning! We are led to believe fertility is a mystery, despite there being personalized tools for every other part of life. There is immense shame surrounding our reproductive health. I believe that by replacing ambiguity with information, a lot of the stigma around fertility will start to chip away. Women will be able to better own the decisions impacting their bodies and futures.
Teresa Deely is a graduate from Columbia University with majors in English and Creative Writing. She is a freelance writer and marketing assistant working for clients in the wellness, jewelry, creative, and sports industries. She believes that one’s skin is yet another canvas and vehicle for art, and has loved styling her hair and applying makeup from a young age. Spending much of her time in educating youth and leading enrichment programs for children, she is highly motivated in discovering new ways to care for herself and sharing them with others.