Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Marlina Kinnersley, Co-Founder and CEO of Fortay, located in Toronto, ON, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Fortay.ai, or as we call ourselves, The Team Success Platform, is a leading enterprise employee experience platform that helps forward-thinking organizations build diverse, healthy, high-performance cultures for organizational success. Think of us as company culture health as a software service. We use a revolutionary, holistic, human-centered approach to drive better business outcomes with powerful modern research and advanced technology.
Our customers are small to large enterprises that understand an inclusive culture is a competitive advantage and invests resources into building a people-first company where every person thrives at work. Fortay's suite of impactful products delivers actionable data insights to improve the employee experience, diversity, equity, inclusion, & belonging progress and other business outcomes, including productivity, team performance, culture, and tenure.
Tell us about yourself
Before founding Fortay.ai, I worked in industries where bias, sexism, ageism, and other forms of oppression or 'isms' are frequently experienced, especially for women - Advertising Film & TV. I saw firsthand the extremes people go to 'fit in,' covering aspects of their identity, and the unfortunate shame we can carry for trying to be something we are not. My worst toxic workplace culture was at a small marketing services company which was the catalyst for Fortay. Their business problems of high turnover, misalignment, slower sales, poor communication, and performance - not to mention my regular feelings of not belonging, non-inclusive behaviors, and regular headaches - were all symptoms of a toxic culture. My lived experiences prepared me for this role to build a purpose-built company to identify root causes, reduce biases, and fight exclusion in the workplace.
Everyone deserves to feel valued, respected, accepted, and fully supported in their roles so they can do their best work for their organization. This is what fuels me every day.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Our biggest accomplishment is building our robust and impactful platform, thanks to the support of our customers! It's unheard of to bootstrap an HR tech platform of our size successfully, and I haven't found anyone else that has. It requires stellar problem-solving talent, clear focus, a strong mission and vision, and exceptional execution. I'm excited about our future as we continue to grow our platform with the driving mission to make the future of work more inclusive and equitable for everyone!
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Oh, do I have to choose one because there are so many. Looking at the business first would be finding product-market fit quickly, finding your ideal customer profile, getting your first initial set of customers, and hiring and retaining top talent. On the personal front, it would be the loneliness that founders experience. You cannot discuss your worries or issues with your employees, customers, or investors. I highly recommend having a Co-Founder and solid support network to uplift and ground you when you need it the most.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Go Big - Aiming small doesn't keep you motivated, and you'll be putting in the same amount of effort. As Norman Vincent Peale said, "Shoot for the Moon; Even If You Miss, You'll Land Among the Stars."
- Stay Curious - You will want to stay curious in your business to keep up with trends, changing market needs, or technology. The most successful businesses foster a learning culture.
- Practice Self-Care - If you are burnt out, you can't deliver your best work for your employees, customers, board/investors, or community. Your brain actually needs you to take regular breaks throughout the day, even just 5-10 minutes between chunks of time, to reset, process, and make better business decisions.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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