Fashion Scrub Depot of Pinellas County
For the past 17 years, Lillian Baker has spent her time helping people as a respiratory therapist and nurse. Her love of health care and passion to own a business inspired Baker to open Fashion Scrub Depot in St. Petersburg.
“I had a passion to start a business, but I didn’t expect that I would be doing uniforms,” Baker said. “I just wanted the flexibility in the schedule and the ability to be my own boss.”
Baker said she originally wanted to be a one-stop shop for scrubs and durable medical equipment, but quickly found out that the government went into competitive bidding for medical supplies. This led to Baker’s decision to focus on scrubs.
In conversation one day, Commissioner Kenneth Welch of the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners asked Baker if she was a certified minority and woman-owned business. Since she didn’t know what that meant at the time, he recommended Baker try the Florida SBDC at Pinellas County Economic Development.
After only six months at the FSBDC at PCED, Baker said she has already seen a change.
“They have really assisted in the growth of my business,” Baker said. I had never done any marketing before. I was running the business through word of mouth. It was time for me to get outside of the box.”
Yolanda Cowart, a certified business consultant at the FSBDC at PCED, said she saw the potential in Baker right away.
“She came to the office and I immediately recognized that she had a very unique business,” Cowart said. “I knew there was a market in the contracting arena for her scrubs. There are a lot of opportunities not only for government contracting, but commercial contracting as well.”
Along with assisting in developing a marketing plan, Cowart has also helped Baker obtain two certifications — woman-minority-owned business and small business enterprise.
“I was surprised how fast it was to get the WBE certification,” Baker said. “I was told that it was going to take years. I followed the directions Yolanda sent me and got the certification in three weeks. “
Baker has also attended classes, joined a women’s CEO focus group and attended a Finance Fair where she was able to network with area financial representatives.
In the immediate future, she plans to land a U.S. Small Business Administration loan to help her expand to a bigger location in the next few months. That expansion will include a new storefront with double the space and will allow her to expand her product line into chef wear and some of the other most popular lines in the industry. Currently Baker is the only one working at her shop. The growth also means Baker will be able to hire employees.
Even as she plans to expand to her operations, she prides herself on being able to continue the relationships she’s built with those who come into her store.
“I have always been laid back,” Baker said. “When people would come into my shop, they would have never known I was the owner. I want to continue that relationship with my customers. I love dressing and outfitting, especially when the nurses go from the basic outfits into something more fashionable and stylish. I just love it.”
Baker said that she has enjoyed working with the FSBDC and plans to continue to do so. She will continue to seek out help in website help, marketing and advertising.
“I wish I would have known about the SBDC when I first started,” Baker said. “But now I am rebranding and moving outside of the box. The SBDC has all of the resources to move me forward and help my business grow.”