At Perlstein Lab, we want to set an example to help other scientists and startups be more prepared for their journey. Therefore we will post once a month about our experience with managing a lab with a focus on searching for and purchasing lab supplies and equipment.

To do this, our Virtual Lab Manager from HappiLabs.org has put together a report about our startup spending over the first two months. Some of the data from the report is included in this post. Please use it as a guide to help you better understand your needs as your company or lab is set up.

26 supplier accounts were created. Each took about 75 minutes to create. The process includes creating an online account, filling out credit and account applications, and calling customer service to ask questions about the sometimes confusing process.

There were 55 transactions for ordering 305 items. Each transaction takes about 30-45 minutes to login to a website (or call the company), load the shopping cart, enter the purchasing information, confirm the order, and file the receipt of payment. Do the math….you will spend A LOT of time interacting with suppliers in the first two months. And this DOESN’T include the time consumed when an order goes wrong and you have to call customer service or the sales rep.

Once the shipment arrives, we compare the packing slip with the order confirmation to make sure everything arrived. Finally, we reconcile the receipt with the bank statement to make sure all finances add up and there were no mistaken charges. Here is a breakdown:

Examples from categories:

Small equipment – shakers, vortex, pipettes, scales, etc.
Consumables – tubes, pipette tips, gloves, etc.
Chemicals – the basics, including ethanol, NaCl, and many more.
Media, Reagents & Enzymes – taq, antibodies, cell culture media, etc.
General Lab Supplies – labels, beakers, spatulas, razor blades, erlenmeyer flasks, lab coats, etc.
Small Organism Supplies – specialty items and stocks for our work with flies, worms, and yeast

Large, expensive equipment was left out because they skew the numbers and we work at [email protected], an incubator for biotech companies, which provides common equipment such as -80c freezers and incubators.

4 Lessons We Learned About Starting a Lab

  • Shopping around is more cost efficient than buying from one supplier who offers a “deep discount”
  • Budget for shipping costs, about $23 per order
  • Return policies, aside from Amazon, are not favorable to the consumer
  • The bigger the company, the longer it takes to set up an account

If you have questions about setting up your lab, contact our HappiLabs Virtual Lab Manager, Tom Ruginis, at [email protected].

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