LIGHT LABS Celebrates 10 Years of Success at Fitzsimons Innovation Community

Personal relationships are the key to success for this small lab distributor.

By: Fitzsimons Innovation Community

If you spend much time on the Fitzsimons Innovation Community campus, at some point you’re likely to see someone pushing a rolling cart full of lab supplies across Montview Boulevard to the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. It happens a few times a day, and that cart and employee come from LIGHT LABS, a distributor, supplier, and occasional manufacturer of lab supplies located in the Bioscience 1 building. LIGHT LABS is celebrating ten years of running their operations at Fitzsimons Innovation Community, and we got a chance to talk to Cary Gummelt, LIGHT LABS founder, president, and CEO about how they got their start and how they found their niche here on our campus.

Gummelt and his former business partner founded LIGHT LABS in half of a two-car garage in their home state of Texas in 2002. At the time, both were looking to start their own business, and Gummelt had a background in lab equipment that he felt could translate into an entrepreneurial venture. They were 22 years old and had $2,000 to start, most of which had to be spent on a computer. If you ask Gummelt, he isn’t totally sure how the company survived the first few years. “We used to print our catalogs on regular printer paper and bind them like you would a high school report,” he said. “We offered an extremely limited number of SKUs, and we really didn’t have a competitive advantage.”

After buying his partner out of the business a few years in and relocating to a small warehouse in Richardson, Texas, Gummelt realized that one way to gain competitive advantage was to be near medical schools and bio-incubation communities. Proximity to his customers was making all the difference in his business model.

It was around this time that LIGHT LABS got a chance to occupy a small space at Fitzsimons Innovation Community. And by small, Gummelt explains that it was basically a storage closet in Bioscience 1. “We started in a room on the loading dock that was nine by ten with no windows. At the time, it was all that was available, but when they built the next section of Bioscience 1 we were able to expand to a larger space where we now have windows.” He smiles at the memory of it.

Though the space is larger now, LIGHT LABS is still a small business while many of their competitors operate out of huge warehouses and distribution facilities. This means that the way LIGHT LABS manages inventory is key to being able to work within their space limitations. The location comes with many positives, too, the most important of which is sharing a Community with their customers. While LIGHT LABS ships across the U.S., their main clientele is right here.

Between the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, the Community members at Fitzsimons Innovation Community, and other clientele in Boulder and Denver, the team is constantly on the go providing personalized service to their very local customer base. They stock the supplies they know their customers need, they get to know the lab managers and business owners on a personal basis, and they can often deliver same day, giving them a distinct advantage over those billion-dollar distributors in the huge facilities. Gummelt explains how the personal relationships make such a difference: “We stock about 90 kinds of pipette tips, but a lot of times someone from one of the labs upstairs will pop their head in our door and instead of filling out an order they simply say, ‘hey, we need more pipette tips’. Our advantage is that we already know which tips they need and how many. We put the order together and deliver within hours (and sometimes minutes). We know our customers and we’ve built the relationship, so it saves everyone time.” 

With this type of customer service and the location at Fitzsimons Innovation Community, LIGHT LABS has been able to create a very different business model from their competitors.

After several years of Gummelt commuting back and forth from Texas to Colorado, the Fitzsimons Innovation Community location of LIGHT LABS is now the only location. He jokes about how all Texans are enamored with Colorado, so part of the dream he had for his family was how they could move here permanently. The success of their location on this campus is what allowed them to do that.

While LIGHT LABS has grown and seen a lot of success in their ten years here, Gummelt takes pride in the “mom and pop shop” feel of how he does business. Their success comes from word of mouth, longevity, personal customer relationships, and his loyal employees whom Gummelt refers to as family. They know their customers as people and as friends, and their customers know that LIGHT LABS understands their businesses and anticipates their needs.

As Cary Gummelt looks toward the future of LIGHT LABS, things aren’t as set in stone as they used to be for him. “Before COVID, I would have had a concrete answer about what the next ten years looks like for us, but things are different now. Where I had once been focused on growth and new locations, for now I love how this model works and love being small and agile.”

Gummelt knows that being a small company means having to work harder to weather adversity, but he also loves being a local business that builds close relationships with customers. “For now, my plan is just to grow along with this Community. The life sciences industry in Colorado is exploding, and it’s one of the most beautiful, sought-after places in the country, so new life sciences companies are moving here all the time. I just want to keep up with that growth and keep building relationships on this campus as it expands. We haven’t been here since the very beginning, but we’ve been here a long time, and I think we’re really in a sweet spot.”

For ten years, LIGHT LABS has been providing lab supplies for companies at Fitzsimons Innovation Community, as well as for the medical school and research facilities on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus across the street. The common refrain we’ve heard from customers is they are elated that LIGHT LABS found its sweet spot right here. Congratulations to Cary Gummelt and everyone at LIGHT LABS on ten successful years in your home at Fitzsimons Innovation Community!