How This Solo Female Founder Built A White-Glove Service For Healthcare Providers
I'm Rachael McCrary, the founder and CEO of Gather Labs, the first 100% vertically-integrated, high-complexity CLIA laboratory of its kind to offer same-day lab results for over 100 diagnostic tests.
We are a white-glove service for healthcare providers that aims to radically elevate, optimize, and modernize the broken healthcare system by reducing the average wait time for a wide variety of lab results from 2-10 days down to under 24 hours.
Our platform is completely customizable and easily plugs into existing systems to deliver same-day, on-demand diagnostics with the highest level of care and attention.
With our state-of-the-art technology and an extensive menu of lab services, we are rapidly accelerating and reimagining the current diagnostics process in the U.S. healthcare system by proving that test results don’t need to take days to process — in fact, our proprietary process has perfected the science of on-demand testing and can turnaround results for most standard diagnostics in as little as 15 minutes.
We’re also on a mission to change how patients feel about diagnostics. Our flagship lab is located in the heart of Beverly Hills, where we offer every patient a spa-like experience when they come in to get tested. We promote a customer-first culture and a commitment to our patient’s total well-being, health, and happiness.
Some of the same-day tests we provide and process onsite include COVID-19, Flu A+B, Strep, Hepatitis, hormonal analysis, urinalysis, autoimmune conditions, STIs, UTIs, drugs of abuse, infectious diseases, cancer screenings, and much more.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I've worked heavily in the healthcare space since the beginning of the pandemic, but before then, my background was in fashion.
I spent over two decades in product development and crossed over into the medical field, where I created the RxBra (an FDA-approved post-surgical compression bra that supports and accelerates patient recovery).
Right before the pandemic, while selling RxBra to surgeons in Asia and living in Hong Kong, I received hundreds of calls from various surgeons and MedTech operators about Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and COVID-19 tests.
I thought they were asking for the wrong person, but as it turns out, the surgeons were looking for the RxBra designer who’d been importing to Hong Kong for over 20 years. That was me, so I decided to get trained via Zoom by the inventor of the COVID-19 PCR test, Kary Mullis, and eventually began training doctors on how to administer and read the tests. I then tapped into my MedTech connections in Asia to supply PPE, COVID-19 tests, and antibody kits to medical professionals, hospitals, first responders, and local businesses in need.
At the tail end of 2021, I was visiting Costa Rica during the Omicron surge to implement proper COVID-19 testing to address the uptick — running clinical trials, working with the FDA, and trying to increase access to PPE and antibody kits.
But I knew there had to be a better way to maximize my efforts and optimize the approach. Instead of trying to create a new product, which requires years of R&D and extensive marketing to get off the ground, I figured there would always be a more acute need for testing services.
People needed a reliable way to get their results quickly, and I knew I had the earned experience and tenacity to make that happen. We opened the doors to Gather Labs on January 2nd, 2022 — with a line of people waiting to enter wrapped around the block.
We started with just COVID-19 testing and other similar seasonal viruses (such as the flu and strep throat), but I wanted to scale up and take on the entire spectrum of diagnostic testing, from STDs and UTIs to thyroid and metabolic panels that can save lives if delivered on time. I also wanted to reimagine the physical experience of getting lab work done.
We’re all all-too-familiar with the traditional diagnostics facilities that lack a sense of comfort, personality, and warmth: the typical lab or hospital setting with years-old magazines, fluorescent lights, and a person at a desk telling patients to fill out paperwork without ever looking at them in the eyes. I wanted to eliminate that mundane, impersonal experience and replace it with the same type of luxe hospitality and care you'd receive at a day spa.
Later that year, I started experiencing some intensely painful stomach issues. I remember being sent back and forth between my doctor and the lab, from one hospital to an emergency room in another hospital, and back again, being told something different by each new person I spoke with.
They said I needed to get a test or an ultrasound or a CT scan — and that I couldn't get any of those tests that day even though I was doubled over, screaming in pain, and vomiting green goop while going through this whole process.
Finally, once I was able to see a radiologist get my bloodwork done, I was told it’d still take several days to receive the results. I had to demand my results to get a hold of them — which, legally, these companies are required to provide to patients upon request, but most people do not realize their rights or feel comfortable speaking up for themselves.
The only reason I ever made any headway at all was that I was bold enough to unwaveringly advocate for myself, which so few people feel comfortable enough to do for themselves in this broken system. I knew something had to change from both the UrgentCare and clinician experience. I knew I could help establish a better standard of care for them and a more optimized diagnostics workflow — because there didn’t seem to be any sort of standards, to begin with. I made it my mission to ensure that both doctors and patients know that there’s an alternative to this broken system and that it’s so much faster than they think it is.
Take us through the process of building the first version of your product.
Once we knew we wanted to do high-complexity tests with a same-day turnaround, our focus was to acquire all the right tools and instruments to do so. Getting a hold of these instruments is a lot harder to acquire than one might think.
Some of them are the size of a Honda Civic, and what should've arrived in weeks took months because of weather conditions. Once they did arrive, we had to implement the right software into each — and then let it all percolate. After all that is done, you must continuously validate every test to ensure it’s performing properly.
The kind of quantitative information we have access to with high-complexity instruments is powerful. Most rapid tests only deliver qualitative results, like yes, you have COVID-19, or no, you don’t.
Quantitative results like ours can tell you where you’re at in your cycle, when you contracted it, how long you’ve had it, and whether you’re on the way in or on the way out. That kind of data opens up a world of possibilities in diagnostics and treatment.
Our tests give patients and doctors all the details they need to understand the nature of their diagnosis for serological (blood, serum, plasma) and molecular (saliva, mucus, urine) samples, rather than just a simple positive or negative result. We also provide tech simplicity making us an easy lab to integrate with.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Launching the business wasn't easy in the beginning, because it was born out of a pandemic when the world seemed broken.
Despite these limitations, people still found their way to us — proving that our business model and vision were definitely resonating.
With a CapEx of $1.5 million, we were undercapitalized (having only raised $400,000) and were still trying to figure things out. Some of our investors weren’t working, and some were battling extremely difficult circumstances at home.
A few investors even passed away while we were in due diligence. We struggled to find a location because landlords and real estate agents weren’t working, and government documents were taking much longer to finalize as people adjusted to remote work.
We combined our initial capital and revenue with our own savings and put it all back into the business by buying one instrument at a time and working really lean. We built our own website and did our own marketing.
The business grew locally and organically through word-of-mouth reviews. We didn’t even have a sign on the building until recently (one year after launching), as that wasn’t a financial priority. Despite these limitations, people still found their way to us — proving that our business model and vision were definitely resonating.
We also needed to establish our B2C and B2B markets. From a B2B standpoint, we experienced the most interest from hospitals for our metabolic panels, pre-surgery prep, and thyroid tests.
You see, surgeons must see a negative COVID-19 test before a patient can undergo surgery (which is easier to get same-day results for), but they also need to see a patient’s metabolic panels and thyroid levels to conduct surgery safely.
Those tests usually have a longer waiting period for results and leave the doctor beholden to a lab’s timetable, rather than to what would be optimal timing for the patient.
At Gather Labs, we've proven that same-day results for all three of these time-sensitive labs (and many more) are possible, so patients can receive the care they need exactly when they need it.
We also support patient walk-ins through our B2C model, but we’re mostly focused on serving healthcare providers and their patients. We work in an industry that requires specific and diverse types of testing — and we know that everybody needs those results sooner than they’re currently getting them.
We partner with sports teams, gyms that offer concierge metabolic testing, adult film companies, elder care facilities, integrated health medicine facilities, corporate businesses, general doctors, and other medical facilities/functions, such as dialysis and UrgentCare.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
For us, customer acquisition has really been about understanding what people and companies are looking for from diagnostics. Empathy is a big part of it. For example, two of the biggest industries we’re serving are the adult film industry and elder care facilities.
For adult films, these workers need tests regularly with fast results in order to validate their health and continue working. They can’t rely on a traditional system that may or may not give their results back that week if they have an upcoming shoot. And, of course, an STD or STI can be life-threatening if not diagnosed or treated in due time.
Rapid testing is crucial. Same goes for elder care. We understand it’s hard for seniors to see their doctor when they really need/ought to. When I worked in an ambulance for several years to earn my accreditation, we were mostly handling transport. It would be especially difficult to transport someone from an elder care facility to another medical facility because many of these patients aren’t very mobile.
Many of them can’t drive or don’t have family support. Gather Labs is saying: not only can we go to their facility to get the sample, but we will also bring them their results that same day. The older a patient, the direr and more consequential it is to get on-demand diagnostics. That time saved can truly save a life.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Take one step at a time, and pivot your direction when your intuition tells you to.
Business is great, and the future is looking bright. We’re extensively expanding our instruments, services, and core capabilities. We’re adding 100 different tests to our menu to provide concierge care and same-day results for blood tests and specialty tests. This is huge — we all think of testing as a multi-step process that we simply must accept.
We often get a sample taken and don’t know when it’s coming back, or if we’ll ever see the results ourselves. But if patients can go to a spa-like environment and get their results back the same day, they’ll begin to associate labs with a more pleasant experience and will likely get tested more often. This, again, can help save more lives and accelerate care.
Ultimately, we want to create a world where everyday people can walk into a doctor's office or UrgentCare facility, and if they require labs, the team can process those labs right there, right then, and the patient can receive their results that same day. We want patients to be treated like people, with white-glove service and concierge care in an efficient, comfortable environment.
We want to normalize a system that delivers time-sensitive lab results to both the patient and the doctor in an appropriate, time-sensitive fashion so that necessary treatment can be given as soon as possible. And we want people to know that this vision is not only possible — it is a necessity.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I learned that it's important for entrepreneurs to look at their business and growth from a risk perspective. Analyzing your metrics and projections from this angle allows you to think of problems in advance so you can set processes and protocols in place proactively to prevent problems from happening and/or address them the right way if they do arise.
Entrepreneurs aren’t just product developers — that’s maybe 10% of the job. We also need to know the numbers inside and out to truly understand how our businesses are doing and where we can take them next. We need to know the mechanics ourselves.
While it’s good to have a certified specialist compile your profit and loss statements, it's up to you to always analyze those statements thoroughly and ask the right questions. You’ll find out what is and isn't producing results — and then figure out how to scale from there.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We use the platforms Slack and Things. Slack makes it simple and easy for our team to communicate with each other in real time, and it saves us from having to rely solely on email (as inboxes can get cluttered, burying important messages and updates).
Things help us manage our tasks and projects on a day-to-day basis, which makes it easier for the team to track their progress and ensure we're all on the same page regarding deadlines and other details. I enjoy the workflow and efficiency of both tools.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
One of my favorite books is The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. It focuses on business rather than healthcare, but it provides great insight into how to build a team from the ground up, how to manage operational flow, and how to build out the order of operations in a leadership role. This is important for healthcare, especially, because it offers a reminder that patients feel the energy of the facility they’re in.
As a leader, your team must be your first patient. We always say that to operate a successful healthcare entity, you must implement the following workflow:
(1) Legal or compliance adherence.
(2) Patient care.
(3) Team care.
But I think your team needs to also be viewed as your patients. Healthcare facilities have to practice what they preach. How can we say we’re going to improve health outcomes for patients if our workers look exhausted, beat, and overwhelmed all the time?
For Gather Labs, specifically, we believe that achieving excellent patient care and diagnostics starts with ensuring our team is receiving that same level of care. We make sure they are fulfilled and feel purposeful. Most of all, I want them to feel like they are truly making a difference.
If the energy is comfortable for healthcare workers, it’ll be more comfortable for patients. It's not just about creating a positive work culture, it's about the deeper humanity of everyone working. The book teaches you how to prioritize what matters, and for me, making sure my team feels safe and supported is priority number one.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Yes. First, I'd say that you don't need to know every single pit stop and diversion that inevitably lies ahead of you to begin your entrepreneurial path. Just take that first step. After that, take another.
Take one step at a time, and pivot your direction when your intuition tells you to. You won't know what direction will lead to your success until you start the journey. My career has taken me from fashion and design to healthcare and diagnostics — I would've never fathomed making such a huge transition if I’d tried to map it all out from the beginning. Your wins will fall into place and play out organically, so long as you keep putting in the work and following your gut when new roads call to you.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Yes, we are! We're currently looking to hire a COO to help oversee day-to-day operations and logistics as we continue expanding and growing our client base.
We're also looking for an account manager to help manage our existing clients and maintain communication with them while ensuring their needs are met.
We’d also love to add another RN to our team to be a part of the future of diagnostics!
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
Get our 5-minute email newsletter packed with business ideas and money-making opportunities, backed by real-life case studies.
- 4,818 founder case studies
- Access to our founder directory
- Live events, courses and recordings
- 8,628 business ideas
- $1M in software savings