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How to turn a passion project into a profitable, global business.

Marissa Fayer wears multiple hats and executes each of her roles with great success, typical of the Type A personality that she is. She’s an engineer by profession and the president of Fayer Consulting LLC, which is a global consulting and advisory firm focused on small to mid-size life-science / medical device companies who are innovating and changing the world. 

She’s also the CEO and founder of HERHealthEQ which is a global, social, nonprofit enterprise that’s centered on women’s health in developing countries. Her work has reduced the mortality rate in different regions all over the world and prevented a lot of girls from dropping out of school.

She recently became a venture partner and is on the board of three companies: Welwaze Medical, DeepLook and Precision Medical Devices. To cap it all, she’s a TED speaker.

Of course, to be able to multitask at such a high level and still find time to vacation and have a personal life, you have to have superb organizational skills. Marissa shares her routine, and the tactics she employs to manage her roles and heavy workload. 

During this episode, Marissa also shared the trends she foresees for the medtech industry and her journey and tips for starting a healthcare organization and medtech consultancy.

Going From Wanting to be an Astronaut to Becoming an Engineer in the Medical Device Industry

Marissa grew up wanting to be an astronaut and was influenced by Sally Ride, the first woman in space. She ticked off all the boxes necessary to become an astronaut such as attending Space Camp several times, studying STEM subjects and aerospace engineering at university. 

Unfortunately, she didn’t qualify for the astronaut corps because she didn’t have perfect vision. She had to seek an alternative and chose manufacturing engineering for the reasons that it was hands-on and very real life. 

She still intended to work in the aerospace industry and interned at several aerospace companies. As she was trying to figure out the way forward in her career, a professor of hers pointed out that joining the medical industry was a great career option to pursue since it’s always new, always innovating, and she’d be helping people. 

A company in the medical device industry made her an offer right out of university and she’s never looked back.

“I was one of the lead partners in developing the first 3D mammography system. I was the one that brought it into manufacturing for the first time, wheeled the first one off the manufacturing line. That’s new innovation that is part of the medtech industry. I’ve been part of so many new product launches and not just iterations on new products. 

I’ve been part of mergers and acquisitions for years which is bringing new innovation into sometimes an established larger company. And it’s so true, the industry in medtech and medical devices just always changes.”

Marissa’s Medical Technology Trends Forecast for 2021

      1. Marissa predicts that the swift progress that took place this year in the digital health platform is going to continue. People now have a better understanding of it which has given room for more advances like we saw with telehealth and ventilators.
      2. Because of the explosion in innovations and progress made in the digital health platform, hospitals and doctors are going to become choosy about what’s being offered. Marissa hopes that they will push back on some of the medical device communities and voice what they need.
      3. Global innovation – “A lot of people are going to start to look at how we can also develop for the rest of the world and there’s some innovations that are launched in Latin America, that are then launched in Africa that are far more state of the art than they are in the U.S. or Europe.”
      4. Medical device companies are setting up venture arms. These venture arms are finding small medical device companies or tech companies to partner with and foster innovation.
      5. More tech companies are going to pivot to the medical device industry.
      6. More non-tech companies like manufacturing companies are also going to pivot to medical devices.
      7. Increase in telehealth because doctors are no longer resistant to it as they were before since they experience it during covid-19.
      8. Increase in training doctors digitally who are in remote locations by a supervisor who is a specialist, overseeing them.

How did You Start Your Non-Profit and What’s Your Purpose?

Marissa had felt like something was missing in her professional life. During a conversation in Costa Rica, she was told how women in a certain region were dying because the mammogram machine in their town broke down. 

At this time, she was only 30, and boldly remarked that the company she worked for made them and she could get one delivered to that hospital. She arranged for the mammogram to be delivered and during that process, she realized that there was a gap that she could fill by supplying medical devices to communities that couldn’t afford them. 

She’s passionate about seeing girls get educated especially in STEM subjects but in many developing countries, they’re the first ones to drop out whenever their female caregivers such as their mothers, sisters, aunties, get sick. By providing the medical devices, her company ensures that the female caregivers don’t get sick or die, which has helped keep a lot of girls stay in school. 

“So I founded HERHealthEQ Several years ago and what we do is we work with medical device companies, take their returned products which, by the way, is returned from hospitals every two to three years because they want the new innovation which makes sense. 

But this equipment, it has a 25-year lifespan at least.

We’re also providing the support that these hospitals and clinics need so we’re making sure that the equipment is serviced for many years. We’re making sure people are trained and it’s installed correctly. We’re also checking up on them and working with them to make sure that they’re seeing patients because that’s really important.”

Did You Ever Have Self-doubt?

“I have self-doubt every day just like every entrepreneur does.”

What has kept her going despite the doubt is her passion for what she does and knowing that her work is helping women which pushes her to do whatever she can in the advocacy for them, be it speaking on a podcast or speaking at a TED talk.

“Every day where I’m like I’m done, this is too hard, every time one woman is treated or saved or diagnosed with something that can be treated, that makes me keep going. And that’s the importance of what we do.”

Tips for Starting a Business

      • Keep going.
      • Plan accordingly.
      • Network – meet the right people and maintain relationships. 15 years down the line, you could be working or partnering with someone in your network that you never thought you would.
      • Keep your mind open – she never had the intention of starting a non-profit but when she saw a gap that she could fill, she took the leap. 
      • It’s tough. Much tougher than working for a corporation. You start without systems and stability and have to build that up as the company grows. 
      • You’ll have to do work that you don’t like. At the beginning, you’ll be doing multiple roles besides what you’re interested in or passionate about. You have to pay your dues.
      • Be a team player – No one is gifted with all the talents necessary to start and grow a business. Running a successful organization is a collaborative effort. 

How to Succeed at Business Development – Even When You Don’t Like it

Start by reaching out to people that you know, especially people that are aware of your expertise and tell them what you’re currently doing. Express the kind of projects that you’re interested in working on. From there, broaden your scope and approach companies or people that aren’t in your network. 

As you’re reaching out, you can offer to work for 6 months to a year until the organization you’re working for finds a full-time hire.

There are also placement agencies like Catalent, a-connect and Slide Books Consulting that consultants can register on to find consulting opportunities. 

Begin with small projects and build your way up until you land a big client. At the beginning, you’ll probably have to play multiple roles that are outside your professional expertise.

Again, teamwork is key when you’re starting a business. You may get projects where you’ll have to collaborate with other experts. Sometimes you’ll need them because of their CV so that your proposals qualify for submission.

Use platforms like LinkedIn to post your original thoughts to get recognized as a thought leader. 

Identify your niche. You can start with a small and specific niche at the beginning and then expand. Marissa started in outsourcing and offshoring and as her company grew, it moved into strategy. 

Time Management

“I color code my schedule. I have seven e-mail addresses and I use them for very different things. Each one has a different color code in my calendar so that’s helpful.”

She also blocks out chunks of time. For example, she’ll block three hours for HERHealthEG and two hours to work with a client. The blocks of time are flexible in case she wants to add or do something that she hadn’t planned to.

Every quarter, she creates high-level focus and goals and puts them in buckets. “I have a bucket for HERHealthEQ, a bucket for consulting and advisory work. I have a bucket for life. It’s posted on my refrigerator, I carry it around in my notebook with me everywhere I go. I look at it every day and then I look at my calendar and just say, “Okay, am I doing everything that I should be doing in alignment with those goals?”

She starts her goal-setting from three to five-year goals and then breaks those goals down to annual goals then quarterly goals then weekly and finally, daily to-do lists. 

“I make sure that there’s time off. You can work every hour of every day of every week of every month but you have to take the time to sit down and whether it’s spending time with your family or watching a ridiculous movie on TV or just going for a walk. That’s when ideas happen. That’s also when things all come together.”

How Important has Goal Setting Been for You in Your Career?

“It’s so important. I think I’m also a person who loves to check stuff off and hit those achievements and make those milestones so for me it’s important. It’s not just about checking them off, it’s about doing the work to say that you can check them off.”

She cautions that goals will have deviations. You’re not always going to achieve your goals the way you set out to and hence, you should be open-minded.

Having a “Why”, behind certain goals is critical. It will give you a sense of purpose and a reason to keep going on days when you want to throw in the towel. 

What is the Legacy That You Want to Leave on the World?

“I really want to ensure that women have access to healthcare so that they can lead and live healthy lives. I just want to be one part of the solution. 

We have a hefty goal of treating and serving one million women by the end of 2025. Honestly, even if we achieve that in 20 years, that would be miraculous. 

I would always hope that the person who solves cancer is directly impacted by it because we were able to impact the lives of their mother and them or themselves or they were able to go to school or a Nobel Prize winner or something like that. In reality, I just want people to have the same life that I was blessed to have.

I would love to put us out of a job quite honestly. I would love for us to be irrelevant in many years to come.”

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