Kellan Barfield discusses her booming tech company, SOURCE EXPLORER, with Diversity in STEAM Magazine.
How did you develop the platform for SOURCE EXPLORER?
I started by interviewing Life Science Professionals about what their needs were when searching for a supplier. I observed a common theme. They were tired of hearing from vendors that they “can do it all,” when they want a specialist who has a proven track record of the exact services they’re looking for. I used this feedback to create a search engine that pulls up vetted, reviewed, and relevant supplier profile matches for their needs. This allows them to begin a new supplier relationship with trust from the start, knowing their project is not a “guinea pig” for a supplier who is just hoping for business. They are a valued client who will have experts working with them side-by-side, making the best recommendations and achieving the highest quality results.
What is your biggest challenge in running a woman-owned pharma company?
This isn’t specific to serving pharmaceutical companies, but it’s much harder for women to find funding for any new venture. Most investors are men, and there is an echo chamber of male voices reinforcing bias. There are still both men and women who have questions about whether or not women are “stable enough” to invest in, or if they’re “at risk” of taking time off for the same family commitments men have. A fellow female founder I know well was asked by a male bank representative if perhaps “her daddy could co-sign” a loan when she had plenty of collateral and $800k of orders from Walgreens in her hand. This kind of thing happens every single day. It’s real.
How is your company impacting the life sciences community?
Life Science projects are so important—this is how we get treatments to patients. So, there’s a sense of urgency to get them started. But when I managed $30M+ commercial budgets for pharmaceutical companies like Alcon and Gilead just a couple of years ago, I had multiple projects where it took up to four months just to find the suppliers I wanted to include in an RFP. And that’s before we actually go through the process of receiving and reviewing proposals and pitches. It’s months and months before progress can be made that way.
I saw a need—because it was my own—and I addressed it with SOURCE EXPLORER. It’s much easier and faster to do everything from searching to sourcing, even requesting work samples and following updates from favorite suppliers. The easier it gets, the faster vital projects get started, and the closer we get to helping people who need medical intervention.
What other goals would you like to accomplish?
Ultimately, it’s all about achieving greater patient outcomes. My way of accomplishing this is to support the people making it happen. Life Science Professionals work hard, often navigating and juggling so many factors, priorities, and processes that it would make your head spin. With SOURCE EXPLORER, I’ve taken one of those processes down to minutes, connecting them with the suppliers they need when they need them. But there’s so much more support this industry needs, even if it’s just a laugh. Ultimately, I would like to continue investing in making SOURCE EXPLORER the go-to place where Life Science lives.
What advice would you give young women looking to get into the pharma/life sciences industry?
Build relationships within the industry before you think you need them. Use platforms like LinkedIn to connect with people in your classes, at your internships, and who are already established in Life Sciences. Stay in touch with them as you develop in your education and career, and get to know how you can support them in their goals whenever possible. Relationships will get you farther than your degree alone.