Lydia Nelson wasn’t always CEO of a multi-million dollar healthcare apparel company with a global clientele that continues to thrive during an unprecedented global pandemic.
Like many entrepreneurs, she was someone’s overworked, underpayed employee who realized her worth before quitting her job, betting on herself with only a few hundred dollars and leaping into business ownership on faith.
Owner of Cscrubs With Love Wholesale & Supply Store, she provides quality high-fashion apparel to healthcare employees across the world with a personable shopping experience that’s propelled her company into enviable success.
Fueled by admirable ambition, the dynamic mother and wife spreads the wealth by putting others in business for themselves with starter packages and mentorship programs to jumpstart their companies in the hyper-competitive industry.
We caught up with the successful visionary who told us how she flipped her hopeless CNA gig into a multi-million dollar Black-owned enterprise with only a few dollars and a dream.
“I started out as a CNA, as you know, and absolutely hated my job and that may sound abrupt but it’s just the truth, you know.
And I didn’t choose CNA because it was a passion. I chose it because it was an option. You know what I’m saying? And so I dropped out of high school. My mother could no longer take care of me in a decent way. You know, several evictions, no money for food, just struggling.
So I found out Job Corps would take me at a young age–at age 16 and I dropped out of high school, left home, and went to Job Corps for a place to live and it just so happened that they had a CNA certificate program there, GED, they had a few things, a few trades.
So I took what I felt I could get a job in quickly. In my mind, I said it beats working at McDonald’s. Little did I know, same thing pay-wise. And so I worked as a CNA for about six years.
And it was rough, I hated it. The patient care wasn’t fair. The rules weren’t fair, the laws weren’t fair, everything was just wrong. And I realized, at an early age, that I was a boss mentally, not financially yet, but I had a different mentality.
I was fired multiple times for talking back and speaking up about my concerns. And, you know, I wouldn’t go along with things just to keep a job. So I kind of knew inside that I was different.
And one day I said to myself ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ There wasn’t a plan, you know, a lot of people when they pursue entrepreneurship, they have a plan in place. They talk to their loved ones, their family about what they’re going to do.
You know, I didn’t have that situation and I just took a leap. And the idea of selling scrubs came to me because I wore scrubs every day, all day working as a CNA.
And I contacted the facility and it just so happened–I didn’t even think they would say ‘sure, we’d love to do business with you.’ I hadn’t even filed for my business license yet but something just told me to call around and see if people would allow me to come in and sell scrubs.
This was 11 years ago so there was no social media that I knew of so the old way by going into places of business and setting up as a vendor and she told me yes and the rest is history.
And so, here I am, once I went in I sold at my very first facility and made more in two hours than I could make in two weeks. I quit my job immediately and I’ve been selling scrubs ever since.
It sounds so easy but what was the challenge? I know there was a challenge, a big challenge.
You know, my husband is incarcerated. I’m a single mother of two young boys. He’s been incarcerated for a little bit over four years. So I’ve been a single mother during this journey. My mother is mentally ill. So our relationship… I’m trying to get on the right track. She was very abusive as a child. So it was rough and I’m trying to patch that up. So I’ve had a lot of pain and a lot of hurt.
I did this alone. You know, my husband at the time was in the streets so he didn’t see a vision for entrepreneurship. He was always proud of me and supportive in that way. But he wasn’t on the journey with me because he was on his own journey. And thank God he has now changed totally. His mental is totally different. His goals, everything’s different. So I’m thankful for that. But it was a lonely journey and so it hasn’t always been easy.
I’ve had to work hard. I’ve been told no, you know, I’ve had facilities not pay for invoices that were due. I’ve been through several things, but I think, for me, my biggest trouble came from my personal life.
Business is hard because it’s a big job but I love it. You know, I love business and I love everything about it. So, you know, when you come from working as a CNA you don’t find too much else hard after that. It’s a tough job.
And so I think that my journey for entrepreneurship became hard because of no support, you know, just no support from family because I didn’t have any. I was out here alone, young, doing it. And just basically took a leap.
So, I encourage all my young entrepreneurs, especially if you’re afraid to step out there because you don’t have the support that you need to step out there, to take a leap. I did it. You can do the same thing for sure.
When it comes to taking a leap, you absolutely have to do a few things. What are the first things you have to do to start your business?
The first thing you want to do is make up your mind to be successful. If your mind is not made up to be successful, you are wasting your time. And that’s what a lot of people don’t understand that anything that you believe you can be, you can be. If you believe that you cannot do something, you cannot do it.
So it’s all in the mental, and then, of course, after you make up your mind, which is what I had done–I made up my mind that this is what I wanted to do and I wasn’t going back to working as a CNA for low wages and, you know, being overworked, underpaid and all that stuff.
You want to go ahead and create a business name, something that’s meaningful, something that you want to keep preferably long term because I think once the customers get familiar with the game it goes far quickly. And so, at that point, you want to go ahead and file for a sole prop(rietorship) at City Hall if you want but I recommend starting out with an LLC so you can protect your business assets from your personal assets.
Who are some of your role models in entrepreneurship?
It’s going to sound cliché because everybody says her but she’s the queen, you know, she’s just the queen… Beyoncé is forever my idol and business wise she is as well, not just entertainment.
She reminds me so much of myself because she never gets comfortable and I really admire that about her. She’s never, ever complacent. She’s never, ever good. And that’s just the way that I am, no matter what level that I get to in business I’m always hustling. I definitely love and respect Bey for that.
What advice would you give to Black business owners during this pandemic?
You need to be essential. Thank God, you know, when I started this business at 22, I didn’t know what essential was. I truly didn’t. And our sales have tripled. We’ve been able to give back. We’ve been able to ship thousands of masks and uniforms to workers in New York that were assigned to work just COVID floors. You need to be essential.
If you are an entrepreneur who wants to have multiple businesses, definitely, that’s fine. But one of those businesses needs to be essential. You need to have something in your portfolio that will always be a need forever no matter what the circumstances are and you will survive.
There’s a lot of new millionaires because of this pandemic as well.