LEADING LADIES INTERVIEW: Alyssa Bertram, Founder of easy.
Interview By: Liron Davis
Photos By: Scarlet O’Neill
When talking to Alyssa Bertram for the first time, you quickly forget you’re not chatting with a long-time friend. Her magnetic, warm personality draws you in and makes you feel like the most important person in the room. Its no wonder Alyssa started easy. – An organic menstrual product subscription service that makes people feel good about what they’re using, serving it to them in a patently ‘easy’ manner. Although easy. is still in its infancy, Alyssa splits her time between the business, public speaking and organizing events to help empower and inspire other women. Fortnight met up with Alyssa to find out how this gal-on-the-go makes it all look so effortless.
FORTNIGHT: Who are you and what do you do?
ALYSSA: I’m Alyssa Bertram and I run a company called easy. We deliver organic, cotton menstrual hygiene products to women’s doors and donate a portion of the profits to ZanaAfrica Foundation, an organization that sends sanitary pads and reproductive health education to girls in Kenya. Overall, I’m a lover and a talker, and someone who made a career out of those two things.
FORTNIGHT: What were you doing before you started this company?
ALYSSA: I went to school here in Toronto at Ryerson University and studied psychology. My plan was to get my PhD and become a child psychologist. I did a research thesis in psychology graduated and went on to do research in a few hospitals in the city. I actually got rejected to go on in my schooling for psychology, so I took some time to try and think of what was next for me. Then my mom got really sick in the summer of 2015 – she’s doing really well today – but that situation shook me up. It had me take a look at what I was doing and forced me to come to the terms with the fact that I wasn’t really happy with my job. There was nothing wrong with the role, but I felt like my passion wasn’t being utilized. I had this idea for a tampon delivery service that I had been sitting on for a while and I would always end up talking about it to my friends and family. After the experience with my mom, I had the courage to start taking actions towards making it a reality.
FORTNIGHT: How did you come up with the idea to start easy.?
ALYSSA: I always say that it came from my own complaining when I was on my period. I would be ‘crampy’ and tired and wouldn’t want to go out and buy them. Originally the business was just going to be the delivery of generic tampons similar to the ones you would find at a pharmacy. Then I started doing some homework to source those products and came across medical journals talking about the large corporations that produced tampons and the practices, legal responsibilities and lack of transparency that existed for their production. As someone with a research background, I wasn’t aware of this and it didn’t seem right. So I began looking for alternatives options. I started buying organic tampons at my local health food store and it became apparent that my business would be an organic service, delivering the safest menstrual products you could find.
FORTNIGHT: What’s been the most rewarding thing about starting your own business?
ALYSSA: Definitely the people I’ve connected with. As soon as I started taking action towards this idea, I felt like I became more open to connecting with other people because I had something to share that I was super passionate about. I’m kind of a shy, introverted person but I had this thing that I wanted to talk about with others. I believe that my eagerness to connect attracted all these awesome people. From the beginning of 2016 to today, the number of interesting people that I’ve met doing incredible things is more than I have met in my entire life. The people around me are creating things, curating, and giving back. It is all very surreal. Based on the people I’m surrounded by, I truly feel that anything is possible.
FORTNIGHT: What’s been the scariest or most challenging thing about starting your own business?
ALYSSA: Funding has been the most terrifying. If I knew at the beginning how much I would have spent by this point to keep things going, I would have thought, “I don’t have that money, so I can’t do it.” I think there is something about me being naïve that helped propel me forward. I was just taking it one step at a time and the ball has kept rolling. I feel like starting easy. has taught me a lot about myself and my own strengths and weaknesses as a person. I don’t think any of us are born knowing how to manage money well, but when you’re put in my position you have to learn. You hit the ground running and you either sink or swim.
FORTNIGHT: Can you tell me about an event you recently organized, called A Woman’s Worth?
ALYSSA: This was actually the second event of its kind. The first one was supposed to just be a one-off event. I read this book called “A Woman’s Worth” by Marianne Williamson, which is all about femininity and how over time it has been devalued by society. We are taught to appreciate masculine traits and how the more feminine qualities (intuition, nurture, compassion) have been devalued. She reframes it as the feminine being very powerful and not looking to the world to find your worth. When I read that book back in university and several times since, it changed my life. So I thought it would be awesome to share this information with other women. In November 2016 I hosted the A Woman’s Worth, in which I organized a dinner party and led a discussion based on the book. At the event, people got so real and vulnerable about their struggles, when they felt they gave their power away or when they felt most powerful. Afterwards, people kept asking when the next one would be. So on April 1, 2017 I organized the second one. It was around the themes of spring and abundance. These events are so special to me it’s hard to describe.
FORTNIGHT: I noticed you frequently do public speaking. What is it you enjoy most about it?
ALYSSA: When I was in grade school I was in a speech competition. Speaking gave me this huge thrill and I won, continuing on to the town-wide speech competition. The seed was planted at that point. I like engaging people in that way – it gives me an energy rush. I think my biggest asset is that I can be honest when I’m public speaking and that’s what really resonates with people. On International Women’s Day I spoke in front of 150 people. I got nervous about failing right before and the only thing that calmed me down was thinking that all I had to do was be myself and people can love it or hate it, but that is all I can be.
FORTNIGHT: What gets you motivated to keep moving forward and continually collaborating & creating?
ALYSSA: I think my network helps keep me going. Events are also important to me because it’s about creating experiences for people and that keeps me going. I can’t wait to bring all these people together and show them an amazing time. It’s important to me especially since I have a business that mainly exists online. There is something incredible about that in-person connection. Once I have an experience with someone in person, they share that with their network. That is how I market. I bring people into my energy.
FORTNIGHT: What is a really good piece of advice you’ve been given?
ALYSSA: Something I live by is to trust your intuition. I had to learn that the hard way. For many years I would not trust my gut. I could hear it – that voice – telling me that I shouldn’t do this or should do that. And I would just tune it out. Then things wouldn’t work out. The more I tapped into my gut and listened to it, the smoother things went and the more things opened up for me. I’ve learned to trust myself and trust that my intuition is a tangible resource.
FORTNIGHT: What advice would you give to women who wanted to start their own business?
ALYSSA: I think the best thing you can do is to frame your business idea in your head as something that is not about you. A lot of times you might have an idea or something you’re passionate about that you want to pursue, but your own shit can get in the way and hold you back from doing it. If you can reframe it in this way that it isn’t about you then it can be easier. Often we think that we have to wait for circumstances to be perfect – that we need to heal more or lose weight or have a certain amount of money or whatever it is for things to be right. I believe that the most authentic gift that you can give is sharing what’s true in your life right now. Because there is someone out there that needs to hear it. And by holding that back, you are withholding it from somebody who might need it. When I launched easy. in summer 2015, I was a mess. My mom had just come out of an eight-day coma but was on the mend and I was ending a really awful relationship. I threw myself into this business and understood that my goal was to create value for other people. I was creating a service that would hopefully improve other’s lives and it was not about me. If I focused on my own trauma in that moment then I would have stayed stuck.
FORTNIGHT: How do you recharge & unwind?
ALYSSA: I am a big bath person. Music is really important to me; it helps me zone out. I also need exercise. If I don’t exercise, I experience a noticeable difference in my mental health and well-being. Writing keeps me sane. I need to write to gather my thoughts to see where I am at.
FORTNIGHT: Beyond work, what is important to you right now?
ALYSSA: I have a brother and sister that are amazing. My brother is 11 and my sister is 5 and they are the lights in my life. My brother plays soccer and my sister is just such a character. They make me very happy. I have an awesome family that I love. I’m also obsessed with this city (Toronto). One of my favourite things to do if I have a free day is to walk around with headphones on and just take in the city.
FORTNIGHT: What is your equivalent of the power suit? What is an outfit that makes you feel strong powerful, like you could take over the world?
ALYSSA: High Waisted jeans, a blouse and heeled boots.
FORTNIGHT: What are some of your favourite independent labels or products?
FORTNIGHT: If you could be locked in one store overnight and raid its contents, which store would it be?
ALYSSA: Easy Tiger for sure.
FORTNIGHT: In three words or less, how would you describe your personal style?
ALYSSA: Classy, gangster, nerd.
FORTNIGHT: What does a day of indulgence look like to you?
ALYSSA: Sleeping until I naturally wake up, buying fresh-cut flowers, listening to music, and wandering the city. Later I would go to Vivoli in Little Italy – I’d order the chicken parm – and then meet up with my friends for an event.
FORTNIGHT: What’s your favourite song to put you in a good mood?
ALYSSA: There is a song called “With You” by Monica that reminds me of my childhood.
FORTNIGHT: When you were a child, what did you imagine being when you grew up?
ALYSSA: I wanted to be a performer, an actress.
FORTNIGHT: What’s on the horizon for you?
ALYSSA: I’m in the budding stage of the business so my focus is on building that up and keeping it thriving. Once it becomes a toddler, I would like to travel more. I need to experience things and get outside of Canada. Down the line, I have a vision for a space – some sort of wellness space… and more writing.