A CEO’s compelling story – From working with HIV positive kids to starting an organic scrubs biz.

Rachel Lewin, CEO and founder of RxOrganics, knows a good deal about the struggle almost every start-up business encounters during the first two years.

Rachel holdingupblueshirt

Rachel holding up one of her scrubs tops in front of her current line.

Rachel Lewin, a skilled fashion designer, was on a mission to create scrubs that felt good. Her experience as a registered nurse, often spending up to 12 hours in the same uniform, brought this need to her attention.“The scrubs hospitals gave us were ugly and the strings and pockets weren’t efficient at all,” Rachel says during our interview at her office in the Bayview.

“I wanted to make scrubs that made sense! I was eager to learn how to make garments and decided to go to fashion school while working as a full-time nurse”, she says smiling as I open my eyes widely imagining what a busy schedule that must have been.

 

rachel office

Rachel’s collection of a variety of scrubs, work aprons and even a scrubs dress.

When I ask Rachel how she got into nursing she tells me a very compelling story. “When I was 22 I used to work at this small children’s hospital in the 90’s in New York dedicated to HIV positive kids,” she says.

“Work was very difficult, and the small staff was often overwhelmed – emotionally and physically. It was one of the most unique jobs I’ve ever had but it was draining,” she continues.

“I specifically remember one of the kids, a 5 year old African American boy named Mufasa. He wore these cowboy boots he must have found somewhere, and he loved them so much he would wear them to bed,” Rachel reminiscently adds.

“I can still hear the sound of his boots running down the hallway,” she says looking at me with a sentimental smile.

rachel dog

Rachel with loving companion Tash

Following the beat of her own drum, Rachel established RxOrganics in 2010, a company dedicated to local manufacturing and sustainable textile kitchen and medical garments, in a little space between her bedroom and stairwell.

“I was literally sewing in a 4 by 2 foot space, creating, sampling and testing prototypes,” Rachel tells me while thinking about her meager beginnings. “It took me a long time to create the perfect pattern, figure out how to use reclaimed and recyclable fabrics and find the right manufacturers,” she says.

 

rachel showing donation

Rachel showing me a bag of her many prototypes. 
In 2011 RxOrganic’s (then Rxclothing:organic scubs) scored their first client – a large, local multi campus hospital called Sutter Health CPMC San Francisco. They liked her presentation, values and vision and agreed to a contract on site.
The young nurse and business woman was delighted, and knew she was on the right path. “There were ensuing up’s and down’s – website troubles and manufacturing inconsistencies, but the business ultimately continued to move in the right direction”, she recalls.

rachel rack

Rachel at her desk with her many awards including the Green Business Certification and Renaissance’s Certificate of Completion.

“I had a great product and great clients, but I had insecurities. I needed to make sure I knew how to run my business and that what I was doing was correct,” Rachel says when I ask her how she got involved with Renaissance.
“Renaissance was phenomenal with helping me complete a thorough Business Plan, and I still use the original plan as a living document,” she enthusiastically adds. “I still keep it updated and reflect and rewrite it because business is never static, and my business model has changed a few times since I’ve written the original”.

Fast forward to 2014, Rachel was concerned profits weren’t enough to justify the amount of time she put into her business.

However, even when she struggled with the idea of giving up on her dream, a few key developments came to fruition – her business was awarded the Green Certification by the city of San Francisco, some new clients emerged, and a dynamic new partnership was formed between RxOrganics and Operation Smile – an international children’s medical charity.

“We are now doing more work than ever, and it’s really all coming together,” Rachel says.

 

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Rachel showcasing one of her comfortable RxOrganics scrubs.

 

I left Rachel’s office with a big smile on my face. “What an inspiring story”, I think to myself, and wave Rachel good-bye as I return to Renaissance SoMa.

We can all learn from Rachel inspiring story simply because it shows that no business start-up is perfect, and that it takes time and persistence to achieve success.

No matter how hard the road may be remember that the first two years will always be the most challenging years of your life!
Don’t give up on your dream! It is persistence that will lead you to success.
Interested in starting your own business? Check out our upcoming calendar of classes HERE or simply visit us for our next ORIENTATION on June 1st.
Want to see more of Rachel? Click here for a video, and click here to follow RxOrganics on Social Media.
Furthermore, to learn more about the unique partnership between RxOrganics and Operation Smile click here
 
Happy Memorial Weekend 2015!
Yours,
Petra O.
Renaissance Programs Coordinator & Fashion Entrepreneur
415.348.6212