The Business Gay Podcast with Host Calan Breckon
The Business Gay
Birth Control Made Easy with the Reya Health App
Birth Control Made Easy with the Reya Health App. Founder and CEO Dallas Barnes.

In this episode of The Business Gay Podcast, host Calan Breckon speaks with the Founder and CEO of Reya Health, Dallas Barnes.

Reya Health is a company founded by a birth control user for birth control users. After years of experiencing the gruelling trial and error process of trying to find a suitable contraceptive, founder and CEO Dallas Barnes set out to change the way people approach birth control. Building a birth control matching and tracking app that takes the guesswork and frustration out of the process, Reya Health aims to make your search for the right birth control more personalized, less painful, and maybe even a little fun.

Dallas has spent her career focusing on impact and innovation and she sits on the board of Femtech Canada, an organization that supports women’s health innovation in Canada. She’s also the co-president for StartOut Canada, a non-profit dedicated to supporting Canadian LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs. Dallas is a passionate and vocal reproductive rights and sexual health advocate who has spoken globally at workshops, events, and keynotes.

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Key Takeaways for quick navigation:

  • [03:06] Starting as a Non-Technical Founder: Dallas discusses how her lack of technical and medical background initially worked in her favor by driving her passion and determination to solve a personal problem.
  • [05:33] Challenges as a Non-Technical Founder: Dallas talks about the steep learning curve and the importance of building a strong team to fill her knowledge gaps.
  • [06:55] Lessons Learned: Dallas shares insights on the importance of understanding funding programs and being more assertive in a male-dominated industry.
  • [08:39] Representation in the Industry: Dallas reflects on the challenges and barriers she faced as a female and LGBTQ+ founder in the medtech and health sectors.
  • [11:33] Pitching Experiences: Dallas recounts a challenging experience pitching to a room full of male investors and how it shaped her approach to such meetings.
  • [18:17] Building a Team with Limited Resources: Dallas explains how she assembled her team through networking, leveraging sweat equity, and finding individuals passionate about the mission.
  • [24:12] Achievements of Reya Health: Dallas highlights the milestones Reya Health has achieved, including a 95% user satisfaction rate and the development of a new fully automated mobile app.
  • [27:00] Future Goals: Dallas outlines the next steps for Reya Health, focusing on the upcoming app launch and expanding support to underserved communities.


[00:00:00] Calan Breckon: Looking to start a business? Ownr gives you the tools you need to get started today. Trusted by companies like RBC, Futurepreneur, and the City of Toronto, owner enables Canadian entrepreneurs to start, manage and grow their business. Right now, ownr is offering their sole proprietor registration for just $49. I used ownr to register my business back in 2020 and it was so easy to do. When I make the move to incorporate, I am definitely going through ownr. Find out how easy it is to store your business today that’s O-W-N-R or click the link in the show notes. Now let’s get on to today’s episode.

Welcome to the Business Gay podcast, where we talk about all things business, marketing and entrepreneurship. I’m your host, Calan Breckon. And on today’s todays episode, I have founder and CEO of Reya Health, Dallas Barnes. Reya Health is a company founded by a birth control user for birth control users. After years of experiencing the grueling trial and error process of trying to find a suitable contraceptive, founder and CEO Dallas Barnes set out to change the way people approach birth control, building a birth control matching and tracking app that takes the guesswork and frustration out of the process. Reya Health aims to make your search for the right birth control more personalized, less painful, and even maybe a little bit fun. Dallas has spent her career focusing on impact and innovation, and she sits on the board of Femtech Canada, an organization that supports women’s health innovation in Canada. She’s also the co-president for StartOut Canada, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting Canadian LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs. And Dallas is a passionate and vocal reproductive rights and sexual health advocate who has spoken globally at workshops, events, and keynotes. I’m super excited to chat with Dallas today, so let’s jump in.

Hey, Dallas. Welcome to the show. I’m so excited to have you. How are you doing?

[00:01:59] Dallas Barnes: I’m doing well. Thanks so much for having me. I’ve been super excited to have this conversation.

[00:02:04] Calan Breckon: Yes. Well, originally we were going to record this episode a while ago, but there was some technical difficulties, so now we’re here for round two.

[00:02:13] Dallas Barnes: Yeah. Oh, my God. The technical difficulties are the bane of my existence. Living on a farm in the middle of nowhere.

[00:02:20] Calan Breckon: Yeah, well, I mean, to be fair, I think it was also still mercury retrograde when we were trying to record before, so everything technical was going wrong. Um, all right, I’m really, really excited to jump into this conversation with you. You were doing some really amazing and fun stuff, so getting into it.

You started a medical tech company as a non technical, non medical professional. I really, yeah.

I’m really curious, in what ways do you think that helped you? And then later on, on the flip side, I’m also going to say, in what ways did it work against you? So in what ways did it help you? And then after we can get into, like, the other ways.

[00:03:06] Dallas Barnes: Yeah, honestly, I’ve reflected on this quite a bit just in my trajectory, my journey as an entrepreneur. I truly think that my naivety in a lot of these regards sort of works in my favor in that I was like, yeah, this is something I’m going to do and I’m just going to keep doing it. And then you get to a roadblock and you’re like, okay, we’ll figure this out. We’re going to keep going, get to the next roadblock, and, you know, it’s just a matter of working through things. Whereas speaking to, you know, any medical professionals, they have a lot of apprehensions in the space of just, you know, going out of what they know. And I think sometimes it does take that outsider to come with the passion and come with, you know, this personal attachment to, say, a problem and actually move that needle forward and challenge what that status quo is. And I think being that outsider and actually coming from, maybe I’m getting ahead of myself in this conversation, but coming from that patient perspective really allowed me to be like, hey, now, I think that there’s a whole community here that needs better care and better support.

So I think in a way, just the not knowing what I was getting myself into actually did have its benefits.

On the flip side to the other half of your question, why it didn’t work well in my favor.

I just have so much to learn. I’m learning new things every day, and I guess that is a pro in itself.

I will say, actually, it has opened me up another opportunity to connect with really amazing people. I write on the onset how to create a team to fill in these gaps as a non technical and a non medical person. And that really allowed me to be purposeful in my network creation and building that community not only just around the problem and around the company, but around myself. And that core team was really blessed to have that opportunity and sort of that, like, push forward.

But it’s not for the faint of heart. I think the most challenging thing is just that it’s difficult and it’s hard. And hiring people, developers tell me that they can do something, and I’m like, all right, if you say so, because I have no idea how to check.

So that definitely has presented various challenges.

[00:05:33] Calan Breckon: Yeah, I think it’s very fair to say that a lot.

Basically, any founder I know is like, if I knew what I knew now, and I knew it, then I would not have done the thing. Um, and so bringing in that naive, kind of, like, starry eyes, like, it’s going to be amazing into anything is why a lot of founders do what they do. And I think that that’s the energy that we kind of have to bring as founders into the energy. Um, and that that’s maybe why spaces get so bogged down and don’t move forward is because people then know what they know, and they’re like, oh, I can’t do this. It takes somebody coming in and be like, I’ll do it. And everybody going, you can’t do it. And then proving them wrong, because that’s always the roadblock for so many people, is it’s like, oh, this is the way it’s always been done. You can’t do that. You can’t do that. And you’re like, watch me, bitch.

I’m going to do it.

[00:06:32] Dallas Barnes: As you said, I can’t.

[00:06:34] Calan Breckon: I’m going to 110%. And so knowing what you know now, looking back on it, are there anything, is there anything that you wish you had known? Like, if there was one thing that you’re like, okay, I wish I had known that specifically before I kind of got ahead of myself.

[00:06:55] Dallas Barnes: There’s a ton.

I would say that it took me about, like, a good two years to really have an understanding, and there’s still so much out there that I don’t know, but have an understanding of all of the funding programs available in Canada and how to really work those funding programs to your benefit and even match them or pile them together or whatever it might be or plan for that.

That took me a long time, and there wasn’t a lot of resources or when I first started, I didn’t know anything about grants or, you know, reimbursements or subsidies or things like that.

So definitely that, I think would have helped at the very beginning a lot, a lot more.

But I also wish that, looking back, I wish I was just more aggressive or more assertive with things. I think coming into this space, it’s, as I said, not for the faint of heart, and I wish that I had been a lot more. And I’m coming into that, I think now, just even with my confidence as an entrepreneur and as a leader, gaining that assertiveness, but having these conversations with people within medtech within health, it can be quite, like, masculine dominated. And not to say that I strive to emulate a lot of those behaviors and attitudes, but just to stand in that confidence more, that this is a massive problem. This is something that we need to be paying attention to, and you’re losing out by not giving it the time of day.

[00:08:39] Calan Breckon: Yeah. Like, it’s. It’s no secret that there is a serious lack of both female and LGBTQ like, founders being represented in the space. Like, can you tell me, like, speak a little bit more on your experience about filling those roles in this space? Because it’s. I’ve heard very mixed things, and I don’t have. I don’t know, that experience, so.

[00:09:04] Dallas Barnes: Yeah. And to be honest, speaking out and sharing that I am a queer founder isn’t something that I have done the entire journey being an entrepreneur. It’s actually only been something that I’ve talked about on my LinkedIn or on the Internet, online, maybe just within the past year.

Maybe that’s something to unpack in therapy as to why.

[00:09:29] Calan Breckon: Well, I mean, I’m sure we know.

[00:09:31] Dallas Barnes: That I’m saying it out loud.

[00:09:33] Calan Breckon: Like, it’s. It’s. It makes sense. Like, it’s already difficult enough being a female founder in this world that, like, just statistics around that makes it difficult. And then adding LGBTQ founder on top of that, that has its own stick. It’s like, these intersections are, like, double whammies for, like, a lot of us.

[00:09:51] Dallas Barnes: Yeah, absolutely. And, yeah, just, as you say, like, being a woman founder in a space.

Femtech. Women’s health, you know, marginalized individuals health is just so under represented and misunderstood and, quite frankly, just has not been given the light that it needs and that it deserves. People are still quite uncomfortable talking about it. A lot of the money and the finance holders are typically fit a profile of, you know, older white men. And these are things that they are just not accustomed to speaking to, let alone, you know, then a young female identifying person coming in and talking about these things and trying to get them to be comfortable about, like, menstruation and sexual health and STI’s that it’s. That can already create a little bit of a.

An environment where they’re not as willing to lean in to the conversation and then to come in and also be like, oh, by the way, I love women. It’s, like, not.

It’s just. It definitely does make those conversations a little bit more difficult. And I don’t know who’s seeing that, and I don’t know how that is going to make them perceive the company or perceive our narrative. However, that being said, if somebody, you know, obviously isn’t okay with that, that’s not the type of person I want to run the company anyway. But it does. It does create different barriers. Absolutely.

[00:11:33] Calan Breckon: Yeah. Have you ever had an experience where it was just very obvious that you’re like, why am I even here? And having this meeting with this person? Like, it’s so clear that they are just not interested in it?

[00:11:45] Dallas Barnes: Oh, for sure.

[00:11:49] Calan Breckon: For those who aren’t watching and just listening, like, the look on Dallas is base. It just like, they’re like, be there.

[00:11:58] Dallas Barnes: Oh, my God. Yeah. And it just sucks. And honestly, like, when that happens, at first it was kind of a blow, and you take that personally, but now I’ve sort of, within the first, like, five minutes, you can tell what somebody’s attitude is once you start getting into it and I explain why I’m there, and you can read the room and you pay attention to various cues, and then I know, okay, maybe this isn’t obviously the right fit for the ask that I’m making, but this could be a great opportunity for me to share and share knowledge and actually shed light on these things. And then maybe that helps them in future conversations with other founders or with other people and allowing them to have a little bit more compassion or empathy or just understanding of these things because they haven’t been exposed to it and you don’t know what. Don’t know.

So I’m trying to, you know, flip that perspective for me in those situations. And it sort of helped me, like, swallow it a little better, I guess, but absolutely. I remember one time at the very close to the beginning of Reya Health, I had actually flown. I was invited to this, like, very exclusive angel investor group where they fly you in and you stay at a hotel and you do, like, this whole, like, pitch thing. It was like, one of the bougiest things that I’ve ever been a part of. And I was like, absolutely. Sign me up.

I go there. I am one of three, like, founding teams. The other two teams were both.

Both had two founders and all men. And then it’s me, solo founder, go into the room. There’s 30 dudes, just 30 guys looking at me. And this is, like, one of the first pitches that I had done. So I’m, like, going in there, like, terrified.

Let’s talk about this. And it’s like a boardroom style, like, incredibly intimidating.

And prior to that, the guy who was organizing it came up to me he’s like, I apologize. It’s a room full of men. Like, we wanted women there to, you know, sort of help or just make you more comfortable, but they. We. We tried, but it just, like, nobody came, right? I don’t know what happened, if they invited people or what, but I remember, like, it was basically crickets during the question period, and everyone was just kind of like, you know, they’re uncomfortable, I’m uncomfortable. They don’t know what to ask. And it was just. It was weird. It was the whole thing. But I got a fun little trip.

[00:14:48] Calan Breckon: Out of it, I guess, so my mind instantaneously when you said that, I’m, like, one of these, like, figure it out, people. My mind instantly goes, what’s the angle I can take with them that they’re going to get? And, like, the first thing out of my mouth would be something like, how many of you in this room would be really not super excited if you instantly found out your girlfriend or wife was pregnant, like, right now? And, like, that’s the thing that would set them be like, uh. Like, are you ready physically, mentally, and emotionally, like, right this second? If you’re not, let’s get into conversation.

[00:15:24] Dallas Barnes: I’m writing that down.

[00:15:27] Calan Breckon: Like, that’s, like, you have to attach it to, like, this is. This is awful. But, like, attach it to, like, their fear of, like, not that it’s a bad thing, like, anything like that, but, like, it’s. It’s that thing that kind of plays in the back of, you know, heterosexual, normal, straight guys minds of, like, if they’re not ready for it or, like, it’s unexpected, that trigger goes off in their brain, right? And so, like, attaching it to that, then that would get them sitting up and go, okay, let’s pay attention to, like, what’s going on here. Because even just them having the knowledge, because people probably will not. People, women may have not have just taken the time to actually explain it in a comfortable way where they’re sitting. There’s no pressure. There’s other guys there. And if you give that space to them and go, look, we’re all just going to learn in here today, because, you know, you probably have never had anybody take the time with you, even during sexual education when you were a kid, which was probably ages ago. And so let’s just do a refresher.

[00:16:25] Dallas Barnes: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And I think it goes back to even reflecting on that experience now ties back to my point of, like, I wish I had been just more assertive in that moment and just, like, stood more and just developing that confidence over time. As a founder, this is my first time launching a company, learning a ton along the way.

But, yeah, it’s definitely another founder friend of mine. Shout out to Marlowe lubricated tampons.

But they, in their pitches, oftentimes pitching men, male angel investors, and they will relate it back to imagine shaving without shaving cream, shaving your face dry.

Similar experience to putting a tampon in without any lubrication. Like, it’s dryness. It’s uncomfortable, sometimes painful, and, like, when they say that.

[00:17:21] Calan Breckon: Sorry, it’s all good. We’re live here, people. We’re live.

[00:17:25] Dallas Barnes: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:17:27] Calan Breckon: Oh, somebody at the door.

[00:17:29] Dallas Barnes: Yeah, somebody is at the door. Maybe this will be the first time I have to edit.

[00:17:34] Calan Breckon: Maybe. I don’t know. I think people will like it.

You need to go answer the door.

[00:17:40] Dallas Barnes: I actually think I do.

[00:17:45] Calan Breckon: So there was just a dog going crazy. So we took it. Took a little pause. Took a little pause. But we’re back, and we’re ready to rock in action. Okay, so everything that we’ve talked about up until now, with all of these factors, we’ve talked about difficulties around being a woman, an LGBTQ person. Um, starting off with the naivete of just not having understood or known these sectors beforehand, with all of that, how did you manage to actually build your team with limited resources?

[00:18:17] Dallas Barnes: Yeah, absolutely.

The original medical team and the original tech team actually came out of when I was just during COVID laid off, had a ton of time on my hands, and I just wanted to understand the problem and the market more. I knew that I had had this horrible experience navigating sexual and reproductive health for me, had talked to people in my life and other people that I knew had also struggled with this. And so it was definitely a problem and something that I knew to be true but wanted to understand that even further.

At the time, I was at business school, and so.

Or had been at business school, and so I sort of was connecting some dots and maybe had a hunch that there could be something here, there could be some kind of solution, but let’s just learn a little bit more about it. And so I started talking to as many medical professionals that I could, cold calling people, talking to family doctors, to nurses, to gynecologist, and really just wanting to understand their experience.

And on the flip side, also spoke to developers, people in AI and machine learning, and just people who build apps or people who, you know, develop medical technologies and med devices and things and had no idea what Reya would turn into. But just wanted to see, you know, what is out there. How are people solving just these medical problems and disparities within data and information and support?

What does that look like now and then? How could potentially that be translated to sexual and reproductive health through that, just networking and asking people to coffee.

I met my CTO and the two medical doctors that came on board at the very beginning. I basically, the first person besides me to come on the team was Doctor Thara Bailey, and I was speaking with them. And at the time I had this like, wonderful, in my mind idea of coming up with everyone’s own individualized hormonal concoction pill that matches your hormones and it changes throughout your cycle, and everybody has their own personalized little, like birth control. And they were like, yeah, no, that is not gonna work.

What are you doing? You’re gonna have to go through like, Health Canada or FDA approval for like every single drug and for every single person. Like, that’s just, there’s just no way. And they’re like, but you could do this. And basically in like 30 seconds, this individual had laid out like this streamlined process of this utopian vision of what, you know, personalized contraceptive counseling could look like. And I was like, do you want to help me maybe do that?

And so there are a number of conversations after that. But honestly, building the team really came from just building that community and building that network and then trying to figure out, okay, how am I going to, obviously, these people’s inputs are incredibly valuable and they need to be compensated in some way. How are we going to do that? And without a dollar to the company’s name, like, how are we going to make that happen? And that was where we had to be incredibly creative, in my opinion, and work with folks situations and honestly individualize and personalize each situation to them. So lots of, you know, sweat equity situations, some folks came on pro bono volunteer basis to help build up portfolios, you know, some delayed payments or payment schedules once we actually started getting some funds in.

It takes a long time going this way with limited resources, and it takes a long time to find the people who believe in that mission and are okay in, you know, putting in all of this work up front and having more of that entrepreneurial spirit and wanting to be part of creating that solution regardless of how risky it actually is. You know, these folks getting involved and putting a lot of time into this, you know, what is it? Like 90% of startups fail in their first year or something? And so just that alone, I am so grateful and just, yeah, I couldn’t be more grateful for those folks taking that early leap, but definitely have to be creative in what those situations look like and continue to touch base with those people. We have set dedicated check ins with folks, whether they’re volunteers, whether they’re interns or practicum students, to our medical board, checking in with them and seeing how is this relationship working. Is there an opportunity to switch things up if we need to? Obviously keeping within set parameters, because we don’t want these conversations to get ahead of us.

But I think that really helps. And it continues to, you know, solidify and run home and just demonstrate that we care about them and we care about their contributions. And I think that goes a long way just in itself.

[00:23:59] Calan Breckon: And so with all that, oh, pardon me, and the amazing team that you have put together, tell me about all the amazing and great things that are happening and have happened with Reya Health to this point.

[00:24:12] Dallas Barnes: Yeah, so we launched a few years ago now, which is crazy to think about. And in that time, we’ve launched various versions of our product. So everything from your very basic spreadsheet to a web based version. And with that, we personalize the contraceptive counseling process so that it encompasses, you know, not only medical history and hormonal profile, but also lifestyle preferences and the individual’s situation and their goals when it comes to contraceptives and sexual health at large. So something that we are moving towards is more of a full suite sexual health platform. So, looking at STI’s, pregnancy loss, abortion support, sexual and gender based violence, and then other hormonal conditions that folks with ovaries and uteruses experience, such as pcos and endometriosis. But with our early validation with those early products, we actually worked with hundreds of beta users that found us all through word of mouth.

And through that, we achieved a 95% user satisfaction rate. So people were going through our process, acquiring the knowledge and the support that they needed, applying it to their life, and it turning out to be successful, that’s major wins for us. And we wanted to blow up that scale and scale that impact. Sorry.

In doing so, we’ve. We’re now at the very final testing stages of our new launch and our new platform, which will be a fully automated mobile app that utilizes smart algorithms to match people into the right, not only birth control, but also just sexual health treatments and supports that they need, and therefore that continued follow up support. So helping them track and monitor any symptoms that they might be experiencing and providing personalized insights into their experience so that they have their, we like to call it your sexual health best friend at home with Reya.

But lots of work with the team have made lots of pivots in the past. Everything from going direct to consumer to now going b two b enterprise.

So many things, so many learnings all along the way.

But that’s all a part of the journey as we were actually just chatting about before jumping onto the podcast and recording. It’s all part of the fun.

[00:26:49] Calan Breckon: Yeah, right. So I guess you kind of touched a little bit about what the next big goal for the company is. Is this launch or is there another goal also after past that?

[00:27:00] Dallas Barnes: Yeah, absolutely. So the big thing on the radar for us is our upcoming launch. So getting it out to the public, getting feedback from it as well, just getting people using it and getting it to the hands of the people that need it the most. So we really try and prioritize serving equity deserving individuals and communities. In Canada, we have a lot of remote communities, specifically even remote indigenous communities, that have even further barriers to access to health information and health support. And at RhEA, we really believe that equity and health equity can come through equal access to health information.

A big part of the problem is just people, you know, we don’t know what we don’t know and not having access to that information and just even how to get that information, that information might be there, but even the know how of acquiring it can present massive barriers and perpetuate these problems that we’re seeing and these sexual health outcomes that are unintended and unplanned. And so really trying to work with organizations, governments, establish strategic partnerships and build relationships with these communities so that we can aid in their success and enable healthy individuals and healthy communities.

So for sure, the launch is really exciting to us and looking for any dedicated partners that have those values aligned and mission to lines values to help us really scale and have the impact that we hope to have.

[00:28:49] Calan Breckon: Nice. Amazing. I love it. Where can folks find out more? Download the app, all that kind of stuff.

[00:28:56] Dallas Barnes: Yeah, all the good stuff.

Pretty simple. So we’re @ReyaHealth on all social channels. So TikTok, Instagram, LinkedIn is another one that we use frequently on our website Folks can learn more about how to access the platform and even join our research project. So we’re looking for folks to just try the platform, give us feedback, and then they get free access to it for a whole year. We really just want to see. Okay, do you like it?

How is this to navigate? So folks are interested in being part of that experience.

It’s actually just and that is a really great way to get the updates first and access to the platform first.

[00:29:53] Calan Breckon: Nice. Awesome. I’ll make sure to have all those links and everything in the show. Notes for everybody. Dallas, thank you so much for taking the time to be on the podcast today.

[00:30:02] Dallas Barnes: Oh my gosh, it’s absolutely my pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.

[00:30:05] Calan Breckon: I absolutely adore Dallas. She is always just so lovely to speak with. If you are a person who has reproductive needs, please, please go check out Reya Health. Thanks again for tuning in today. Today, don’t forget to hit that subscribe button. And if you really like today’s episode, I would love a star rating from you. The Business Gay podcast is written, produced and edited by me, Calan Breckon. Thank you so much for today. Peace, love, rainbows.

Calan Breckon
Calan Breckon

Calan Breckon is an SEO Specialist and host of "The Business Gay" podcast. He has worked with companies such as Cohere and Canada Life and has been a guest on the "Online Marketing Made Easy" podcast with Amy Porterfield as well as featured in publications like Authority Magazine and CourseMethod.

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