Features, Off-Campus Profiles, Profiles

Through StaffOnTap, Wooley Fills Gap in Senior Care Industry

When Kayla Wooley first came to study at Boston College, she had no intention of working in senior care after graduation. Having grown up in a family who worked in the business of nursing homes, she said she was ready to move on to something else entirely.

“I grew up working in my family business of nursing homes really since the seventh grade,” Wooley, BC ’17, said. “Senior care was not cool back then. Every family dinner conversation has been around senior care since I can remember.”

Now, Wooley is the founder of StaffOnTap, a company that connects long-term care providers in Connecticut with temporary nurses. When nursing homes need someone to fill in on a shift, they can book nurses directly through the StaffOnTap website. 

(Photo Courtesy of Kayla Wooley)

When determining what to study in college, Wooley said she decided to pivot to working with children and enrolled in BC’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development after spending so much time working with the elderly through her family’s business.

“I started at BC in the school of education, and I took the classes and I was so bad at them,’ Wooley said. “I just didn’t like them.”

As she reevaluated her academic plan and searched for a new future career path, Wooley decided to take a course called Death and Dying.

“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so interesting,’ because it was about senior care and end of life,” Wopley said. “I was like, ‘Wow, I know this space really well. I’m good at it and I actually find it really interesting.’”

No longer set on abandoning her family’s area of expertise, Wooley returned to the world of senior care with full force. She switched into the Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences, where she minored in medical humanities, which she said allowed her to focus on health care.

“BC definitely changed my perspective and gave me the opportunity to explore a route that I probably wouldn’t have if they didn’t have those classes available,” Wooley said. 

After graduating from BC, Wooley got a master’s degree in public health at Yale University and then moved on to get an MBA at Cornell. Wooley participated in the Blackstone LaunchPad program at Cornell University, which provides students, alumni, and faculty with entrepreneurship mentorship and support.

In this program, she developed the idea for her business. Because she observed a shortage of health care workers within the senior care industry, Wooley said she began to think about how she could connect temporary nurses to long-term care providers.

When Wooley first came to Felix Litvinsky, the managing director of the LaunchPad program, with her business proposal, he said he immediately recognized how she would be solving a problem within the health care industry. 

“With all due respect to doctors, it’s the nurses that really carry the heavy burden,” Litvinsky said. “And there’s always a shortage and burnout rate. So [I thought] here is an opportunity, where someone can match the need. So to me, it was a win-win.”

Litvinsky encouraged Wooley to find additional support for the program, which led Wooley to conduct research on the nursing industry—she aimed to figure out why nurses were leaving senior care and what it would take for them to return, she said.

“I spent 10 months doing customer discovery, interviewing hundreds of nurses, as many nursing home administrators and owners as I could to figure out on the nurse side,” Wooley said. “I mean, just during the pandemic, I think almost 250,000 caregivers left nursing home jobs, so like 14 percent of their workforce.”

Throughout her time in the Blackstone LaunchPad program, Wooley said she built her business by researching the market, creating a business model, and forming a pitch deck. Yet, when she graduated from the program, she was still unsure of her future path. She could not decide whether she wanted to pursue StaffOnTap or work for her family’s business. 

“I was graduating in four months and I needed to say, ‘Either I’m going to graduate and do this business full time, or I need to figure out what I’m doing because I need a job at the end of this,’” Wooley said. “I took a couple of weeks to be like ‘Okay, what do I want for myself? What are the opportunities out there right now?’ And at that point, I decided I’m gonna go full throttle into this business.”

Wooley officially launched StaffOnTap in March of 2022, and she said the business has grown substantially since then.

“We started in March with one nurse at one nursing home, but now we have 100 nurses, 32 nursing homes, and we’ve done almost a million in total sales,” Wooley said. “So that’s helped a lot, being like, ‘Hey, this isn’t just an idea in our headwe actually have traction. That makes it a lot easier for people to jump on for investing.”

As the pandemic exacerbated the preexisting staffing shortages in nursing homes, Wooley said her company seized the window of opportunity by offering a potential solution to the problem.

Despite StaffOnTap’s general success since its launch, Wooley said she faced many challenges as a first-time business founder and learned to have tough skin as she pitched her business to potential investors. To push through, she said she has leaned on support from other founders and mentors.

“Being a first-time founder has its benefits and it also has weaknesses,” Wooley said. “You don’t know what you don’t know. I couldn’t have done this without my support system, and also other founders. One thing I love about the network of entrepreneurs that I didn’t necessarily expect is that other founders are so supportive. I think we all know it can be isolating.”

Litvinsky still serves as one of Kayla’s mentors, and he said one of her strengths as an entrepreneur is how much she values mentorship and advice. 

“Kayla’s coachability was invaluable during the startup process,” Litvinsky said. “Her ability to manage constructive criticism and apply all the best advice to strategy and execution of her business plan [was] above par.”

Jake Cooper, an investor in StaffOnTap and a fellow CEO, shares a similar respect for Wooley’s entrepreneurial work ethic. 

“She leads by example,” Cooper said. “She’s very deeply involved at an execution level and in everything that she’s doing. In all the work that she’s doing, she comes across as extremely humble. She’s motivated and tactical, and someone who I would be really excited to work for.”

Cooper is familiar with entrepreneurship himself as a co-founder and CEO of GrowTherapy, a platform that helps therapists launch their own practices, and he admires Wooley’s ability to navigate the space. 

“I’m so excited about Kayla as a founder,” Cooper said. “She is an amazing combination of mission-oriented, hungry, in the weeds, but also strategic. A lot of things that rarely coexist together. But I think she balances them well.”

Given StaffOnTap’s success in connecting dozens of nursing homes with new nurses thus far, Wooley said she has big plans to continue carrying out StaffOnTap’s mission by expanding out of Connecticut and into other states in the Northeast.

“My goal is to be the number one temp staffing agency for nursing homes,” Wooley said. “Over the next couple years, we want to scale big and quickly while maintaining that quality. The big reason we can maintain that quality when other agencies haven’t been able to is because we’re in those nursing homes. We know this industry. I’ve been in it forever.”

February 21, 2023