Shemaine Pickens

Shemaine Fox-Pickens: From Personal Trials to Trailblazing Advocacy and Entrepreneurship

By Myra Stacey

I delve into the life and mission of Shemaine Fox-Pickens, the dynamic Founder and Director of the Fertile Ground Foundation and CEO of Sweet Pea Chic Baby Box Co. Based in Charlotte, North Carolina, Shemaine shares her 15-year journey as an entrepreneur and corporate professional with her deeply personal roles as a wife and mother. Driven by her own battles with infertility, she has become a light of hope and support for women and families globally, using her platform to foster unity, healing, and awareness around infertility challenges. Through initiatives like the Fertile Ground Podcast and the Foundation, she tirelessly works to dismantle stigmas and provide invaluable resources. Beyond her advocacy, Shemaine is passionate about mentoring female entrepreneurs, guiding them to turn their dreams into thriving businesses.

Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
The genesis of the Fertile Ground Foundation is deeply intertwined with my own personal saga. My entrepreneurial journey took a pivotal turn when my husband and I decided to start a family. This journey, spanning over a decade, was our initiation into the complex world of fertility—a journey mired in uncertainty and a lack of public discourse on the subject. We found ourselves navigating through this challenging path almost blindfolded, grappling with questions we didn’t even know we should be asking.

This ordeal illuminated a stark gap in resources and support for those battling infertility. It wasn’t just about the lack of information; it was the profound silence around the topic that compounded the isolation many of us felt. I was confronted with the harsh reality that many women and couples were, like us, floundering for guidance and support in their fertility journeys.

Fuelled by this realization, I was driven to create something that would offer much-needed information and resources and carve out a space for open dialogue and healing. I envisioned a platform that could demystify infertility, provide answers, present options, and, most importantly, let individuals know they weren’t alone in their struggle.

Thus, Fertile Ground was conceived from a personal need to bridge this void. It’s more than just a foundation; it’s a mission to empower women and couples with knowledge, options, and a community. It’s about transforming the narrative around infertility from silence and isolation to support and solidarity. I hope to light the way for others on this journey, ensuring they have the knowledge to navigate their path and a community to support them.

What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the creation of your current company?
The pivotal moment that spurred me to create Fertile Ground struck me during an IVF consultation with my husband a few years back. By then, the idea of Fertile Ground had been simmering in the back of my mind, but it hadn’t fully taken shape. We were in the thick of discussing treatments, costs, and insurance coverages when the stark reality of fertility medication expenses hit me. Despite having insurance that covered the IVF procedure, the medications remained a significant out-of-pocket expense.

I remember asking my doctor if there was any way to mitigate these costs, to which she explained that the older you get, the more medication you typically need, which directly impacts the cost. This revelation was a gut punch. It dawned on me that had we embarked on this journey a decade earlier, the financial burden would have been significantly lighter. Age, it turns out, was a crucial factor in fertility treatments, contrary to the somewhat misleading reassurance that IVF could wait because it was an option regardless of age.

That conversation was my “Aha Moment.” It crystallized the urgent need for Fertile Ground. I realized how vital it was for women and families to be armed with this knowledge, to understand the intricate dance between age, medication, and cost. It was unacceptable to me that families were draining their savings and retirement funds without full insight into how their choices today could financially impact their fertility options tomorrow.

I was compelled to act. I couldn’t stand by and watch another woman navigate this complex journey without the critical information she needed. Fertility care, particularly IVF, was shrouded in mystery and misconceptions. My mission became clear: to demystify fertility treatments, advocate for informed early decisions, and spotlight preventative fertility care. By sharing this knowledge, I hoped to empower women and couples to make informed choices about their fertility journeys, ensuring they understood the implications of timing and financial planning for treatments like IVF or IUI. This realization was not just a call to action—it was a call to advocacy and support for those walking the challenging path of fertility treatments.

What do you think makes your company stand out?
What truly sets Fertile Ground apart, something I pondered deeply while shaping its foundations and comparing it to other organizations like Resolve, is its deeply personal approach and commitment to diversity. While other foundations often focus on infertility as a medical condition, which is undoubtedly important, I envisioned Fertile Ground to be a voice and a mirror for the women and couples enduring this journey. I wanted it to reflect the diversity of experiences, to show that infertility isn’t a monolithic issue but a multifaceted one with many faces and stories.

In curating Fertile Ground, my goal was for anyone engaging with us—be it through our website or our community initiatives—to see the broad spectrum of individuals affected by infertility. It was crucial for me that all women from every background and culture saw themselves represented. Infertility is a global challenge, touching lives across all divides, and I felt a strong need to highlight this universality.

I aimed to make Fertile Ground personal. When someone looks at what we’ve built, I want them to feel a connection, to see the real lives and faces behind the statistics. This personal touch, this commitment to showing the real and diverse stories of infertility, is what I believe truly distinguishes us. It’s not just about creating awareness; it’s about creating a community where individuals see their struggles reflected and understood. That’s the essence of Fertile Ground—making every woman, every couple feel seen, heard, and supported. This, to me, is our standout feature: the ability to make the issue of infertility feel personal, relatable, and, most importantly, shared.

What has been your favorite moment in your career so far?
Reflecting on my journey so far, it’s hard to pinpoint just one moment that stands out above the rest. Yet, if I had to choose, it would likely be a recent, seemingly small, but profoundly impactful instance. I dedicate a lot of my time to engaging with women, listening to their stories, and offering support through their infertility challenges. The highlight for me came unexpectedly through a simple text from a friend.

She was attending an event, and out of the blue, she mentioned that my work with Fertile Ground was a topic of conversation among a group of women there. This small acknowledgment filled me with an immense sense of pride. It was a tangible sign that the efforts to create a supportive community, to spark discussions, and to make a meaningful impact were bearing fruit. Knowing that Fertile Ground had become a point of reference, a topic of discussion among women navigating their fertility journeys, was incredibly rewarding.

This moment reinforced my belief in the mission of Fertile Ground. It was a confirmation that we were on the right path, making the conversations about infertility more accessible and less isolating. The knowledge that Fertile Ground is becoming a go-to resource for women in need and that it’s making a difference in their lives is deeply fulfilling. It symbolizes not just the success of the foundation but also the power of community, conversation, and shared experiences in healing and support. This, to me, signifies mission accomplished, even as we continue to strive for more.

What measure do you use to determine success?
For me, success isn’t a destination but a journey, marked not by grand milestones but by small, daily achievements and efforts. It’s about setting personal goals and striving to meet them, no matter how modest they may seem. Whether it’s making it to every meeting in a week or ticking off all my weekly goals, each accomplishment is a step towards success. And even on the days when I fall short, it doesn’t signify failure; rather, it’s an opportunity to learn and grow.

Success, in my eyes, isn’t determined by others’ perceptions or societal benchmarks. It’s deeply personal, rooted in how I perceive my own progress, my contributions to my business, and the steady pursuit of my goals. Discipline and consistency form the bedrock of success for me. It’s in the daily grind, the relentless pursuit of improvement and impact, where I find true achievement.

Turning an idea into a tangible, running business that serves the community or provides a valuable product is a monumental success in its own right. Many dream, but few bring those dreams to fruition. Therefore, to any business owner who has breathed life into their vision, remember that success is your own creation, not defined by external validation but by your commitment to your mission and the strides you make every day. So long as you’re working towards your goals, no matter the pace, you’re embodying success. What matters most is the journey itself and the impact you make along the way.

What piece of advice has impacted you the most?
One piece of advice that has profoundly shaped my journey came to me early in my corporate career, offered by a mentor whose insights I greatly valued. They told me, “Dress for the job you want, gear yourself for the job you want, and prepare yourself for the job that you want.” This advice was a game-changer for me. It wasn’t just about the clothes I wore but symbolized the importance of first impressions, the projection of my ambitions, and how I wanted the world to perceive and respect me.

Embracing this counsel, I began to meticulously prepare myself—not just externally, but in every facet of my being. I embraced education and self-improvement with a renewed vigor, aiming to align every aspect of my life with the vision I had for my future self. This advice underscored the significance of embodying the qualities and professionalism of the role I aspired to, long before it was mine.

Moreover, it instilled in me the belief that I am my brand. Every interaction, every appearance, and every decision I make reflects on my business and me. In essence, to present myself in a manner that mirrors my aspirations and values is to prepare the path for achieving them. This ethos of perpetual preparation and self-presentation has been instrumental in my growth. It’s a reminder that our actions, appearance, and attitudes are integral to navigating the trajectory of our success.

What message would you like to give to anybody who has a plan of creating something of their own and making a living through it?
To anyone standing on the precipice of creating something of their own and dreaming of making a living from it, my message is clear: do your homework. Embrace planning and preparation with open arms. This advice comes from my own journey of growth and self-discipline. As someone deeply entrenched in creativity, my instinct has always been to take an idea and soar with it, to see where the wind takes me. However, the crucial lesson I’ve learned is the importance of laying a solid foundation beneath the wings of my ideas.

Whether it was establishing Fertile Ground or launching my baby box company, I had to educate myself thoroughly. Understanding the bedrock upon which your business will stand is essential. This means delving into the nuances of starting and sustaining your venture, from the legalities of forming an LLC or a corporation to grasping tax laws and their implications on your business and personal finances.

It’s about more than just the excitement of bringing an idea to life; it’s about ensuring that your dream has the durability to last. A shaky foundation can lead to a swift collapse, and ignorance of the essential elements of business setup and maintenance can be your downfall. So, before you take your idea and sculpt it into your dream business, take the time to understand what it needs to thrive independently.

This foundational knowledge isn’t just a safety net; it’s the soil in which your business will root and grow. It’s about securing the longevity and stability of your creation. So, immerse yourself in research, understand every facet of the journey ahead, and prepare. This preparation might not be the most exhilarating part of the entrepreneurial journey, but it’s unquestionably the most critical.

I want to leave anyone reading this with the belief that has been a cornerstone of my journey: the notion that there are no limits to what we can achieve. My husband and I often reflect on our journey together, marveling at how far we’ve come and what we’ve managed to accomplish. Through it all, our underlying philosophy has been a steadfast refusal to confine ourselves within the bounds of what seems possible.

There truly is nothing beyond your reach if you desire it passionately enough. This conviction isn’t just motivational rhetoric; it’s a lived reality for us. The belief is that you can become anything and achieve anything. Of course, it demands consistency, effort, and discipline, but the path to your dreams is not fixed. It’s often a winding road, requiring exploration and the courage to try different routes until you find the one that leads you to your destination.

So, if there’s one message I could amplify, it would be this:

Cast aside any notion of limits.
Don’t box yourself in or shy away from the vastness of your potential.
Be open to the myriad paths your journey could take, and remember, sometimes the detours are what lead you to the most remarkable destinations.
Go forth with the belief that anything is attainable, and let that be the fuel that propels you forward.

Shemaine Pickens

More About Shemaine Fox-Pickens

Meet Shemaine Fox-Pickens, the Founder and Director of the Fertile Ground Foundation and CEO of Sweet Pea Chic Baby Box Co. Hailing from Charlotte, North Carolina, Shemaine has blended her 15 years as an entrepreneur and corporate professional with her roles as a wife and mother. Her advocacy for women and families is deeply personal, stemming from her battle with infertility and a desire to increase awareness in this area. Through Fertile Ground, she aims to unite women to share and heal from their experiences while offering resources and support globally to those facing infertility challenges. Over the past decade, Shemaine has been a vocal infertility survivor, leveraging the Fertile Ground Podcast and the Foundation to educate and break down stigmas surrounding infertility. She is also dedicated to empowering female entrepreneurs, sharing her insights and advice to help them transform their visions into successful businesses.