Julia Cheek’s time at HBS was nothing short of inspirational. In fact, two unicorn startups, Coupang, and Grab-Taxi all came out of her section alone! When she started at HBS in 2009, many of her classmates, regardless of previous experience, were interested in entrepreneurship inspired by recent HBS founded companies including Gilt Group and Birchbox.

Julia had gone to Vanderbilt, where she majored in Economics and Psychology. When she started at HBS, she thought she would pursue a traditional corporate path, perhaps in brand management or Consumer Packaged Goods. During her first year at HBS, Julia was fortunate to have Professor Toby Stewart for the required course called The Entrepreneurial Manager (TEM). She also particularly enjoyed an Elective Curriculum (second-year) class called Founder’s Dilemma, taught by Professor Noam Wasserman. As a student, Julia co-authored a case on entrepreneurship through the Rock Center, titled Earl Martin Phalen: Ready to Roar. Though she did not start a company while at HBS, she still focused heavily on taking entrepreneurship courses. 

Julia also excelled academically, and when she ended her first year with honors, she made an explicit decision to focus on her academics, ultimately leading to her Baker Scholar distinction at Commencement, an honor only bestowed upon the top 5% of each graduating class. By the time she finished her two years at HBS, the seeds to start a company were planted - but she didn’t quite feel ready to work on a company full-time. Although Julia does not regret the choice to focus on schoolwork, reflecting she thinks maybe should have used that time to start a company instead. 

After HBS, Julia ended up taking a job, and then another, before deciding to come back to her dreams of entrepreneurship. When she was finally ready to start EverlyWell a few years later, her education at HBS allowed her to jumpstart the company. Everlywell is a health and wellness company that provides at-home lab testing kits and digital results. The company offers a suite of validated tests, including; food sensitivity, fertility, STDs, and thyroid. In addition to being featured on ABC’s Shark Tank, she placed first runner up in 2016 at the Alumni New Venture Competition, winning the prize of $25,000 and significant exposure to investors. In fact, many of her earliest investors were HBS alumni.

Julia, who is from Texas, says being close to family was important to her, so she chose Austin as the headquarters for Everlywell. This past year Everlywell did $40M in sales. Julia has found Austin to be a great location as she is building her own network in addition to having strong existing networks on both coasts. She routinely returns to Boston to attend the Rock 100, a biennial event that HBS holds for start-up alums in entrepreneurship, and feels “it is by far the most helpful event put on my HBS. It’s a world-class resource for alums. HBS has been a huge support for me.”

Julia shared there is “no better time to start a venture other than during or right out of HBS. HBS has a ton of resources. You are in the best place to start a company and set yourself up for success.”