Mary Farrow is the innovator behind Gramsly, an online platform that allows you to send customized care packages to people aged 50 and older. After many years of sending care packages to her grandparents, the MIT and Harvard graduate, realized she was on to something. “I was inspired to start Gramsly because of my relationship with my grandparents. They live far away and I’ve struggled to stay close. I created Gramsly to help people like me but, since the launch, I’ve found that I’m also solving a business problem: Companies that serve older adults need to build relationships with their clients, and we help them do that,” said Farrow who has a Ph.D. in biological sciences in public health.
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Since starting Gramsly, Farrow has used Google Analytics and relevant key words to build a customer base in which over 90% make repeat purchases, and she’s achieved an average of 22% monthly revenue growth for nine months straight.
In addition to Farrow’s passion for building Gramsly into a brand that is synonymous with making older people happy, and expanding into other products and services for seniors, Farrow has an exceptional background in science and engineering. She’s received fellowships and awards, including a postdoctoral grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, a UNCF/Merck Postdoctoral Fellowship, and the Harvard Graduate Prize Award for minority graduate students.
Black Enterprise caught up with the tech innovator to learn more about her career journey.
Black Enterprise: Tell us about your background.
Farrow: Before making the leap into entrepreneurship, I was a researcher at Caltech. I have a bachelor’s degree from MIT and a Ph.D. from Harvard. I have long had an interest in increasing female participation in science and technology. As a graduate student, I was one of the founders of Harvard Graduate Women in Science and Engineering (HGWISE), an organization that supports female graduate students in STEM disciplines.
How long did it take you to go from idea to execution with Gramsly? I believe in the lean startup model, so I wanted to execute as quickly as possible. The first products were shipped to my beta testers within a month from when I first had the idea.
Since launching Gramsly, what are the top three challenges you’ve faced and how have you overcome them? The biggest challenges all businesses face are how to get customers, make them happy, and keep them coming back. Our solution is to make a great product, provide excellent service, and always listen to our customers. When I first launched Gramsly, I interviewed dozens of seniors to get their feedback on the product, and conducted market research to identify likely customer demographics. This helped us get our first customers and was instrumental in product development. We also regularly collect feedback from our customers to find out how we can improve.
Statistics show fewer women than men in STEM fields. Do you have any ideas on how we can engage more young women to purse STEM careers? Initiatives that encourage active participation and give real-world tech experience are crucial. This includes hackathons, tech internships, and startup labs. One organization that is doing a great job at this is Black Girls Code.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from taking the leap from employee to entrepreneur? The biggest lesson you learn as an entrepreneur is that execution is everything. Get things done and don’t be afraid of mistakes.
Describe your experiences as a black woman in the tech space? Very positive, actually. The secret is to act as if you belong and no one will question your right to be there.
Your best piece of advice for a young woman pursing a STEM career. Take ownership of your professional development. Make as many connections as you can. Build a strong network and be proactive about asking for help. Also, always look for ways you can help others. Someone you help out might be in a position to return the favor in ways you can’t predict.