by Joanne Wilson
Karin Thayer's story is really interesting and has a happy ending--which you have to love. Her concept, Fertility Planit is a sign of the times: A worldwide social network for people who are trying to create a family.
Every year our kids school has an event called Love Makes A Family. What I love about this annual event is that kids from each grade (K-12) put up pictures of their family all over the school. It is an exhibit. So what does a family mean? Gay families, inter-racial families, single parent families, divorced families, re-married families with new step-siblings...a family is a group of parents and children living in household...end of story. Karin is trying to create a place where families in the 21st century, no matter who they are, can have a community around a topic, fertility, that is not discussed so openly in many places around the globe. I bet everyone reading this piece knows at least one person who has used medical technology to get pregnant or have children.
Karin grew up in Marin County in a family of first generation Germans. Both her Mom and Grandma made their way through Canada to get here. Her Mom had her own law firm and practiced International insurance--a great role model. Karin graduated high school where she won a few journalism awards. Her teacher told her that she needed to go a good liberal arts school to be a great journalist and it should be Smith. Smith it was.
Her junior year abroad she spent in Germany. Karin spoke the language fluently and wanted to spend some time in a place that was in essence her roots. While she was there, a hipster teacher told her to check out The Film House. She walked in and met a film maker and became his PA (production assistant). She was totally bit by the bug.
Karin went back to Smith for her senior year focusing on a documentary thesis. She always loved telling stories through journalism so this was just a different outlet. After graduation she went to work for Bill Jersey, a documentary film maker for two years. He had gone to USC and gave Karin the advice that she should go there too. So she did.
At USC she found a lot of trust fund kids who had deep pockets to make their films. She really wanted to make the most of her time at USC as it s was a huge financial drain to be there for two years. Karin made a short film while she was there called SEED. It was about homeless teens living on the streets of Hollywood Boulevard. Karin spent a lot of time living on the streets with them to get their story. She first created a fictional thesis to document what the story would be about before going out to get funding. Robert Zemeckis was her professor at USC and she asked him if she could put his name down as the executive producer. He said "yes", and with that she was able to get everything donated. She was seriously scrappy and probably in a little bit above her head, yet her ambitious nature pulled it off. Karin was even able to get Rose McGowan to play the lead. The film was a success playing at Sundance going on to win awards at the Austin Film Festival and Palm Springs International Festival.
Afterward Karin pounded the pavement with scripts. Although the conversations were interesting she needed to make some money just to pay the rent. She found herself taking a job in TV doing shows, series and documentaries. Then Oxygen came into her life as they were looking for some producers. She took a job doing their daily news magazine in Los Angeles. At that point the hot word was convergence. It was a great gig and she met a lot of wonderful people and after four years the show was cancelled.
While at Oxygen she had met Michael Rosenblum, a self-proscribed video journalist guru and he said, "come join me and we are going to do something with the BBC". It was so old school there. They weren't even creating their own content so over the next four years they helped 250 journalists learn how to create, tape and edit their own content. Karin continued to come back and forth to the states. She still wanted to make another documentary and found herself co-producing and being the cinematographer for City of Borders, a documentary about the underground gay community between Israel and Palestine. The film focuses on the one gay bar in Jerusalem which is an oasis for many in that area of the world and the community that goes there. The film went on to play at the Berlin Film Festival in 2009. Again, telling stories.
Karin is now entering her thirties and wondering to herself, how about my life? She took a full time job at the BBC and met a really nice guy. Three lost pregnancies later that relationship ends. She was 37 years old and wanted to be a mother. Not so easy being a single woman, particularly in England where they do not even have a program around anonymous sperm donors. She starts to think about who would her sperm donor be? She finds herself traveling to Denmark to try and get pregnant. Seventeen attempts and three failed pregnancies later they basically tell Karin, "enough". The whole experience felt like medical tourism meets fertility treatment. She had given that attempt three years of her life. She asked about egg donation but that wasn't something they did. She thought about adoption but the chances were so slim. She felt incredibly dis-empowered and wanted to take control of her life. So she did.
Karin knew one thing when this was all over she wanted to create a community towards the pursuit of building a family. She returned to London and started to take care of herself. She began doing meditation, reading nutrition books, sleeping more, doing accupunture and creating a better balance in her life. She met a friend who said he was game to help her have a kid. One try and she got pregnant. A friend for life. Karin is now a single mother of a ten month old son. See...a happy ending.
She went on maternity leave at the BBC, took a trip to San Francisco and applied to Astia with the idea of Fertility Planit. She was accepted to the program and moved her life back to the states with her son in tow. At Astia she really learned about how to grow a start-up business. It was Los Angeles where she had so many connections and it was there she could start to raise some money and put together an incredible advisory group. The vision is not only about the obvious, getting pregnant but it is also about complementary medicine, mind body spirit work, positive reflex and what it takes to create a non-traditional family in the 21st century. There are more adults living alone now more than ever. What is indisputable is that the way we create families and move into adulthood has changed dramatically over the past fifty years. Fertility Planit wants to be around those conversations. It is the stories that lend itself to this space.
I really think Karin is on to something here and Los Angeles is the perfect place to begin. She had connections there and if you think that people having babies at 40 are not using fertility treatment, think again. Perhaps a reality show around the trials and tributions of fertility is in her future...
Joanne Wilson has been blogging since 1994 as Gotham gal and recently started The Women's Entrepreneurial Festival affiliated with NYU. Wilson is an advisor and investor in startups, including Curbed (Eater/Racked), Food52, Red Stamp, Catchafire, DailyWorth, Editd, Hot Bread Kitchen, Nest.io, Gotham Gym, The Moon Group and MOUSE. Her most successful venture is being married to her best friend Fred and raising her three kids, Jessica, Emily and Josh. Follow her on Twitter at @thegothamgal
Part of Gotham Gal's Entrepreneur Monday series, this interview has been reposted with permission