We had the good fortune of connecting with Jerrica Kirkley and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jerrica, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
Honestly, I never thought about starting my own healthcare business, until shortly before founding Plume. When I went to medical school, my goal was to provide high quality healthcare to marginalized and under-resourced communities. At the time, the surest path to doing that seemed to be working in the federally qualified community health center and free clinic networks so that is what I did as soon as I finished my medical residency. But, over time, I realized that despite the cost access these systems afforded to some, they were barriers to care in many other ways due to the structure of the legacy healthcare system and I found myself delivering a substandard quality of medical care due to inflexible systems that were prioritizing stakeholders other than patients and clinicians. This was especially true for trans patients whose barriers and pain points are both increased and amplified compared to most in the legacy brick and mortar, insurance and fee-for-service based healthcare system. As a trans person myself, I have been a patient as well and experienced many of these pain points personally. So, it was a combination of being a practitioner of gender-affirming care for almost 10 years and a patient in a system that does not adequately support trans folks, that drove me and my co-founder, Matthew Wetschler, to start our own company outside of the legacy system which not only breaks down access barriers but delivers affirming and celebratory care in a way that is very hard to do in a physical clinic in our current landscape of care. Funnily enough, I actually did start my own business prior to Plume. I started a small bike shop with a friend to help expand access to bicycles, using personalized affirming service with creative ways to keep it affordable. So, I guess I had a decent foundation for Plume after all!
Please tell us more about your business. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today business-wise. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
Plume is the first health technology company fully dedicated to the trans community. We offer virtual gender-affirming care services for the trans community by providing an individualized evaluation with a clinician, blood testing, and prescribing all through a secure app. We have started with gender-affirming hormone therapy and plan to expand into other services to support the gender journey. I am most proud that we have built a business that provides invaluable services to trans folks but also offers a place of employment for trans folks that is safe and affirming. The majority of our organization is trans ourselves and we have absolutely amazing allies working alongside us. We are here to transform healthcare for every trans life.
We have done a lot of learning on the job! We certainly have our respective backgrounds that have been crucial to building the business, but it is a steep learning curve. Matthew and I have worked to surround ourselves with folks who have lots of experience and read a lot. It certainly hasn’t been easy but medical training prepares you for a life of perpetual learning. Matthew and I come from a background rooted in athletics and have always had a “drag ourselves to the finish line or bust” mentality. It has taken tireless work from a lot of folks. One of the most challenging aspects is doing our best to make sure our team and our patients have the resources and support they need to thrive in often vulnerable and traumatic times in this country and the world right now. But, we have come a long way in a very short time. I think the biggest lessons have been around self forgiveness and taking time for myself. No matter what your position in the company it is easy to put a lot of pressure on yourself to make sure you are delivering something incredible to our community because we all care so deeply. So, when something doesn’t turn out as planned, it is easy to internalize blame, but it is important to be tender with ourselves and learn from the moment.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
This is such a hard question to answer during the pandemic because some of my favorite places have closed down, which is so sad. But, I’ll pretend they are still going strong.
Besides work and my kid, my life revolves around vegan food, bicycles and being outside. We would spend at least a full day doing an urban bike ride with stops at Beet Box bakery, the Denver Bicycle Cafe, a ride on the Cherry Creek bike trail to the reservoir for a picnic and dinner at Watercourse Foods. We would hike in the many beautiful foothills destinations just 30 minutes west of Denver. We would catch a show at one of the historic music halls on Colfax like the Bluebird Theatre or the Fillmore Auditorium and one at Red Rocks. We would make sure to time the trip so that we could attend both New Belgium Brewing’sTour de Fat in Fort Collins and the Lyon’s Folk Festival, which I’m realizing is probably not possible, but hey, we can dream. We would catch a few sessions of yoga at the Leon art gallery and sprinkle in some rock climbing, mountain biking, Sunday bluegrass at Station 26, and an Ethiopian coffee ceremony at Whittier Cafe. Haha, this is so hard! So many fun things to do here.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to shoutout to my family and close friends (you know who you are) who have unequivocally supported me through my professional and personal journeys. I also want to specifically shoutout to Matthew Wetschler, my co-founder of Plume. We have been best friends for almost 15 years since our first year of medical school. We spent essentially every waking hour together for 4 years of medical school before parting ways for residency, but still talked regularly before starting Plume and have been with each other through some very heavy and beautiful moments. We constantly push each other to grow and find happiness in life. I learn so much from Matthew every day and I could not have built Plume without him.
Other: TikTok @getplume
Headshot of Jerrica: Kaitlynn Anne Photography