There are many needs amplified during the pandemic, and among them are the needs to support small businesses and healthcare workers. It’s possible to do both through the plan shared here by Ileana Rodriguez of Scrubs Station.
Read about Ileana.
Get inspired by her story.
And, if you can, buy a gift card to bring scrubs to healthcare workers.
Why Highlight Ileana Rodriquez and Scrubs Station?
I met Ileana Rodriguez back in 2008 in the Madison Public Library. At the time, I was working with Community Writing Assistance, and Ileana was offering educational/career advising and job search coaching through UW-Madison Continuing Studies (serving in the Madison community for 20 years).
Ileana quickly became a big influence in my life: modeling a deeply relational ethic and approach to care. From our first meetings in the public library, I observed that Ileana could identify and highlight each person’s potential, charting pathways to school, work, and family. And she could see my potential, too. As we became friends, Ileana held dreams with me, watering seeds of ideas. She consistently supported me as I stepped away from my faculty position and started this small business, Heart-Head-Hands: Everyday Living for Justice.
So, in 2019, when Ileana opened her own small business, Scrubs Station (in Madison, Wisconsin), I couldn’t be more excited.
From the start, Ileana had a vision of opening much more than a scrubs store. With years of work in career advising, community outreach, and campus-community relations, Ileana has articulated a vision for Scrubs Station of servant leadership and community support, which includes a scholarship program:
We care about our community and lead by example. We are committed to making a difference, and a portion of group sales goes towards supporting a scholarship award for a returning adult student pursuing a healthcare program.”
Also in Ileana’s words: “We value people and the differences among people. One size does not fit all!”
Now, in the midst of a pandemic, Ileana is creatively continuing to support healthcare workers, while making it as a small business (open by appointment). And we want to ask for your help in these efforts.
Ileana explains how in the interview that follows.
1. Tell us about yourself and how you came to open Scrubs Station.
I think journalist Jonathan Grambling captures the story well in Capital City Hues.
I loved working with students and never really thought about changing careers, but my story, like yours, involved burnout and needing to prioritize what really matters to me. I’ve always valued helping others: it’s what I did as a career advisor. I was helping others find jobs, and in the last five years, I was really inspired by supporting students in healthcare. That experience (and memories of my grandpa’s shoe store) sparked the idea of the scrubs store.
I took a leap of faith after hurdling a lot of barriers. A LOT … It took a strong will and belief that it’s worth it.
Now I’m still able to connect with students and professionals. Yes, they are coming in looking for something to wear for school, clinicals, or work. But it’s more than that. Many times they come in after a job offer or when thinking about what’s next with their careers. There are still a lot of ways I’m connecting with students and professionals and encouraging others. I’m grateful that it feels like much more than a store.
Of course, there’s pressure for the store to be successful because it’s how I support my family. But I also designed the store differently because I was guided by my grandpa’s shoe store in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico. He was always about serving the community first, and that’s the same priority I keep in mind.
2. How does the gift card program work?
I’ve been working with Orange from Orange Tree Imports (also in Madison, Wisconsin). She’s been helping all the small businesses on Monroe Street—like the fairy mentor of all of us. I had shared with her that one of my customers donated an $80 gift card, and I asked her what would be the best way of honoring him: not just using the gift card for one healthcare worker, but using his generosity to inspire something bigger… a way to pay it forward.
She suggested connecting with United Way of Dane County, which is assembling and delivering food baskets for healthcare workers. Our goal is to put $25 gift cards for Scrubs Station in those baskets.
It’s all coming together on May 1st, which is the one-year anniversary of Scrubs Station. Orange Tree Imports is also celebrating their 45th anniversary on May 1st. And now a well-known and established business is partnering with a small one and connecting the dots with the tradition of sending May Day baskets.
So, we’re asking others to donate $25 gift cards in an effort to honor my customer’s generous act. This is a way to thank healthcare workers for their service, while supporting a local, woman-owned small business. We’re hoping that people will invest in Scrubs Station at this time when healthcare workers are also needing scrubs more than ever.
The gift baskets are a small way to thank people who are giving it all—working long shifts and risking their lives to deliver great care. Some Madison hospitals have banned lab coats, so there’s an even greater need for scrubs. We hope gift cards will lead to some new scrubs, alleviating the constant laundering. And our motto is that “we sell comfort”: we hope that in these uncertain and hard times, some comfy scrubs will bring smiles.
3. So, how does this connect with the vision of this blog, striving toward “everyday living for justice”?
I’m really guided by the healthcare students and professionals who are out there giving it all.
When it comes to Scrubs Station, I hope that the gift card program is an example of what sets us apart. It’s all about values. First, second, and third, I care about doing what’s right and thinking about customers (people) and prioritizing our community.
Among other issues that matter to me, I want to mention the Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County. My husband Raj and I are involved with this small grassroots organization, and they hold space for all of us in the community who need support. They advocate for us, make connections, bring in presenters, and offer so many courses—in Spanish and in English … They’re working with so little funding, yet they’re working so hard and creating space for more community resources. Truly, organizations like this are vital to strengthening small businesses: they hold up dreams and say, yes: they’re worth fighting for. You’re worth fighting for.
Whenever I visit, I leave nourished with a sense of hope. And we certainly need hope now.
In addition to supporting Scrubs Station and healthcare workers through the gift card program, you can also support the work of Heart-Head-Hands: Everyday Living for Justice through Patreon, where you’ll find additional monthly content.