It seems like getting healthy is everyone’s New Year’s resolution, but we all know how frustrating a trip to the doctor can be. Between spending way more time than you want to in the waiting room and attempting to navigate your health insurance options, you end up needing to schedule even more time for self-care routines, though it feels like you’re *already* working 24/7 to be less stressed. Getting affordable, easy-to-access testing that can help you understand your health shouldn’t be another reason for a bad attitude. And our new favorite tech-forward healthcare-shakeup #girlboss Julia Cheek doesn’t just agree: She created a business to do something about it. As the founder of EverlyWell, a digital health startup that offers their customers consumer-ordered health and wellness tests AND easy-to-read results, Julia is breaking barriers in practically every room she walks into. We caught up with her to talk health, startups, success and (somehow) keeping it all together.
B+C: All right, first things first. Exactly what is EverlyWell, and how does it work?
JC: EverlyWell is transforming the super cumbersome, confusing and time-consuming process of lab testing to make it accessible and convenient for consumers. You can order our test kits online, collect at home (which means no lab visit), and then receive your physician-reviewed, easy-to-read results in just a few days.
We currently have test kits available for food sensitivity, thyroid, inflammation, fertility, etc. And we partner with some of the best laboratories in the country to conduct the analysis. That means these tests are as accurate as a normal test you would get in a brick-and-mortar lab.
B+C: So you must have *some* sort of healthcare/medical background, right?
JC: I actually don’t! However, I am a consumer of healthcare, which I think provides a unique perspective as to how and why we built EverlyWell. Our market is really the average American woman who is too busy to deal with expensive and time-consuming testing processes. I personally had a really bad experience with very expensive lab testing that resulted in little explanation from my doctors. I spent a ton of time Googling confusing results after I had already spent a lot of time and money getting these tests run. I thought there had to be a better way, so I worked with an investor and our excellent chief medical officer to bring that vision to life. We have an excellent team of healthcare experts to round out the team.
My background is in strategy and operations — I ran corporate strategy for a public company, earned my MBA from Harvard Business School and started my career in consulting. So I came from a pretty traditional corporate background, but I always knew I wanted to start a company. I just waited for an idea and the right time/market to start it.
B+C: What were some of the factors you were seeing in the healthcare market and the way consumers were approaching their health that led you to really believe there was a need for EverlyWell in the market?
JC: I had lots of ideas for companies before we started EverlyWell, but I decided to take the leap because timing is really important for startups, and this is the right time for consumer lab testing. There’s a fast-growing, $250B industry around consumer-centered care — think 23andMe, FitBit, Doctor on Demand, Lemonaid Health, etc. I also believed people were more comfortable self-collecting, which was a behavior first set out by 23andMe. But lab testing has been virtually untouched in the consumer health revolution — yet it’s so important to health management.
Healthcare costs are also catching up to consumers, with deductibles increasing 70 percent in the last six years. Consumers are now making market-based decisions about health and evaluating what they are spending money on. I was super passionate about the idea and solution, but I also looked at the market forces and believed this could actually work.
B+C: Talk to us a little bit about what the early days of EverlyWell looked like and how it’s grown since 2015.
JC: Though it’s still very early days, it’s fun to think about what I was doing this time a year ago. EverlyWell was less than 100 days old, and I’d found our chief medical officer. We were working on convincing labs to partner with an unproven company and building out our lab kits and the MVP e-commerce site and results. It seems impossible that that was only a year ago. Now we have nearly 10 employees, several lab partners, thousands of customers and a great team of investors as we head into 2017. We are constantly adding new tests, new resources and new labs to bring more value to our customers.
B+C: Do you have any house rules at EveryWell that you think contribute to your success?
JC: We don’t have any rules, except that we want to win. We have a big mission to bring lab testing to consumers in a convenient, affordable and understandable way. And we have a lot of work to do to make that happen. Our customers are depending on us, and our entire focus is to grow and “get stuff done” quickly!
B+C: You were the only female finalist at the TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield — which is amazing but also kind of a little WTF. What do you think is the key to getting more women into positions of success in the tech space?
JC: Being a part of TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield was an amazing and humbling experience, and we were even more thrilled to finish as finalists. I will say, it was nice to have no line at the women’s restroom for the entire week, while the line for the men’s room was out the door. I’ve always worked in mostly male industries, so the startup world isn’t any different for me, but I think that female founders tend to have less of a support network than when you are in a corporate leadership role. Many — not all — female founders are non-technical founders like me (read: They don’t code), so they have to build teams of engineers to even get to market. We need more female engineers to fill that pipeline and start companies at the same rates as men and also more focused opportunities for women to build their funding networks. Raising money is all about relationships that are built over time, and women sometimes don’t have those same connections when they get started.
B+C: EverlyWell wants to empower everyone to take control of their health. What are some of your favorite health and fitness tips?
JC: I recently purchased a Beddit to provide a comprehensive sleep analysis, which I’m really enjoying to track heart rate, sleep patterns and sleep quality without having to wear a device. I am also a huge fan of Bulletproof coffee with MCT oil and grassfed butter to improve energy and brain function — it keeps you full for the entire morning! I mostly walk outside now that we live in Austin where there’s lots of access to outdoor trails and hills, but I also love Daily Burn and Kayla Itsines/BBG workouts, if you are looking for something easy to manage while working a lot of hours.
B+C: If you could tell every aspiring #girlboss in the world one key piece of advice, what would you tell them?
JC: I have the great benefit of caring very, very little of what other people think of me and my life choices. That has served me extremely well in all of my decisions: how I spend my time, what I enjoy doing, my career path (or lack thereof). You don’t owe anyone an explanation for your life except yourself.
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(Photos via EverlyWell)