Each week, Female CoFounder features a female founder in the community. Follow along each week and learn from different founders and their journeys.
FcF: Tell us about yourself?
Mallory: I studied International Development at the University of Guelph and always dreamed of working in charity. Unfortunately, I found it very difficult to land a job after graduating, so I took an unpaid internship at a non-profit. It ended up being a great decision because it led me to Wealthsimple. The founder of that non-profit joined Wealthsimple as their head of marketing and asked me to start as his intern.
I joined as employee number five and spent many years there helping grow the business. I started my time in marketing getting our first few thousand customers, moved to HR/recruiting as I was very passionate about building a great place to work, and spent my final time there launching the Wealthsimple Foundation - which has a mission of making post-secondary education accessible to all Canadians.
After five years, I left Wealthsimple to pursue my dream of launching my own business: Eirene. My background is an excellent demonstration that there is no linear path in our careers. We should follow our intuition and when an opportunity presents itself, take a leap of faith!
FcF: What is Eirene?
Mallory: Eirene is a high-quality, affordable online cremation platform. Our goal is to make the funeral arrangement process a little bit easier on families. And how we do that is, we allow families to make their arrangements online or by phone, from the comfort of their own home. The process takes 15 minutes to complete, and then we say that you can then go back to doing what you should be during that time, which is being with your family and friends during a time of mourning.
We use the same industry providers that your local funeral home relies on, and your loved one is still receiving the highest standard of death care. We have licensed funeral directors that you can speak to whenever you need it, by phone, email or live chat.
We’re also half the cost of a traditional funeral home. We charge only one price, which means that unlike other providers, there are no surprises or hidden fees as you make the arrangement.
At Eirene, our goal is to combine high-quality, compassionate funeral services, with the convenience of an online platform, at a price that makes sense to consumers.
FcF: How did you come up with Eirene?
Mallory: Eirene came to be based on my background in technology and my personal connection to the funeral industry.
Previously, I worked at Wealthsimple as part of their founding team. I held various roles at the organization, learning how to successfully launch and scale a business. Throughout my time there, I was always looking for an industry that I felt I had a deep understanding of.
It just so happens that I am the daughter of a funeral director. Growing up, death was a normalized conversation in my house. After years of research and user interviews, I recognized that families were looking for a change in their funeral experience.
I felt that I was in a unique position to build something in the space, and so Eirene was founded.
FcF: What were the first 3 steps you took after you knew you wanted to pursue this idea?
1. Finding a co-founder. I knew that to build something, I needed a technical co-founder. I didn't necessarily seek anyone out, but everything aligned when I was introduced to Faisal, and I felt that I could start pursuing this opportunity.
2. Research. I needed to validate what I was trying to build, see where the current gaps were and see where I could fit in the landscape. I had theories about what families were looking for, but I looked at 10-20 year trends and current feedback from families who had gone through the funeral experience to confirm what I needed to create.
3. Taking the leap! The hardest part. After five years at Wealthsimple, I learned everything I could, and I knew it was the perfect time in my career to build something. I left, took a few months off and then dove right in.
FcF: How did you meet your co-founder?
Mallory: My co-founder Faisal and I were introduced by a mutual friend over five years ago. We were connected as two passionate, hard-working people who wanted to build something meaningful. We met for coffee downtown Toronto, and we were bouncing ideas off of each other. Faisal asked me what my big idea was, and I shared my vision for building something in the funeral industry. One of his mentors had built a successful funeral business in Japan, and he had also been looking into the industry. It was a bit of fate and luck that we met, and we started to build Eirene after that meeting.
Faisal and I have the perfect co-founder relationship because we have very different skill sets. I have marketing and operations expertise, and Faisal is an expert on tech and finance. We both can trust that we'll carry our weight in the business, which allows us to do our best work.
We are also very different personality types, which means that from a personal level, we balance each other out. Most importantly, we are both extremely transparent people and lead with radical candour. Anything that's on our mind, we say it. It makes for a very healthy working relationship.
Building a business is stressful, and there are so many things to worry about already - if you can't say what's on your mind or trust your co-founder to hold up their end of the bargain, it'll be hard to build a successful venture.
FcF: What did you learn from Wealthsimple on scaling a business that you’ve applied to Eirene Cremations?
Mallory: In our early days at Wealthsimple, we often focused on doing things that don’t scale. Whether that be biking across the city to deliver paperwork, sending doughnuts to our clients for a referral campaign, or having our CEO present Lunch & Learns at offices across the city. It was about getting our first thousand clients, and we did anything to get to that point. I have a similar approach at Eirene - go above and beyond for our families, experiment and have fun with growth, and do whatever it takes to get your brand in front of others.
FcF: How have you been able to build your team up to 6 people now? Any tips for founders building / expanding their team?
Mallory: Recruiting is time-consuming, and for me, it felt a bit scary to trust others to have as much drive and passion for my business as I did. But those early hires are crucial to your success, and of course, you can't grow a business without the right talent.
When I was recruiting, I found that bad hiring decisions happened when you needed that headcount months ago and lowered your expectations of a candidate. Those people rarely worked out, and you weren't setting them up for success by bringing them on in that environment. You have to recognize the right time to bring someone on and level up your organization.
I have been fortunate for our hires to date. We're all equally passionate about the problem we're solving, and each of us adds our expertise and value to the work we do. I've taken my time with each hire and followed my gut on who was right for the business.
FcF: What advice do you have for other women who have a start-up idea or side project idea?
Mallory: Just do it! When I speak to other women who want to launch their own business, taking that first step into pursuing their idea is the scariest part. Whether that be quitting their job, starting to build it on weekends, or even sharing their ideas with others, I think many of us get in our heads and underestimate our abilities. Speaking from experience, it's the confidence to pursue an idea that is the most challenging hurdle to overcome.
It is scary. It will likely always feel scary. You'll question your abilities, feel like you're not qualified and, at times, want to give up. I firmly believe that nobody is qualified to build a start-up. All you need is the drive, an idea that you believe in and the right support network.
FcF: How can the Female CoFounder community help you?
Mallory: I'm always looking to connect with other founders who are building their businesses in highly regulated industries. I'm interested to learn how they've navigated regulatory hurdles and successfully scaled their businesses despite those hindrances.
FcF: How can people contact you?
Mallory: Whether you have lost someone you love, you’re interested in pre-paying for your funeral or you’d simply like to start educating yourself on end-of-life options, you can visit our website at Eirene.ca.
You can also follow me on Twitter!
Feel free to also DM @Mallory Greene in our Slack Channel!
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