Colombian immigrant, brain tumor survivor is creating employment, ownership opportunities for marginalized communities.
Location: Miami Lakes, FL
Industry: Window Treatment Retail
Leadership: BIPOC-Owned/Led, Woman-Owned/Led
ICIC Program: Inner City 100, Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses
It was twenty-three years ago when fate intervened and put Susana Robledo – a Colombian immigrant working in a commercial laundry facility in Miami – on a new path towards prosperity.
It was a gigantic commercial laundry that processed hospital linens. One day, a director of environmental services from a local hospital pulled Susana aside and said they desperately needed privacy curtains before an inspection and asked if she knew any local seamstresses. Susana shared that her mother bought a sewing machine for Mother’s Day, and the director asked if her mother could manufacture the privacy curtains herself.
This landed Susana’s first contract. She and her mother spent the next three weeks cutting and sewing curtains for the hospital. They were able to deliver and install privacy curtains that provided privacy and protection for the patients in time for the hospital to pass its inspection.
Susana discovered she had found a niche and launched Cube Care Company, which has since become a multi-million-dollar enterprise making a significant impact on the healthcare industry – and the local South Florida community. A business mentor advised her to save up enough money to cover a year’s worth of expenses so she wouldn’t be focused solely on making money and could instead focus on making decisions that would be best for the business. It was great advice, and she took it.
“My business started to thrive,” she remembers. “I never took a loan. I always winged it,” she says. “Every cent I earned, I gave back to the company.”
Today, she owns six buildings in South Florida and has 70 employees.
An immigrant story
Susana’s immigrant journey began when she and her mother fled Colombia after her father, a farmer and businessman, was murdered at the family estate when she was just a young girl. They traveled to the United States, settling in South Florida.
“We had it really rough. I didn’t know the language,” she says.
Her mother worked three jobs and cleaned houses to keep a roof over their heads.
“We could only afford a room in somebody’s home,” she says. “But my mom saved every penny.”
Susana became a naturalized citizen as soon as she was eligible and now considers the United States to be her homeland.
“I’m eternally grateful to the United States for allowing me to be here and learning the language. I am an American by choice,” she says. “People here don’t realize what it is like to be in another country. When you actually get to live in a different place, you get very appreciative. This country is second to none. There’s nothing like it. I love being an American.”
Building Cube Care, she has focused on not only building the company but also building communities. The company customizes privacy curtains for hospitals, working with designers to create color schemes for different types of healthcare facilities. They also manufacture and install privacy curtains and have a service center where they launder and repair privacy curtains.
In addition, the company manufactures its own polypropylene disposable and recyclable curtains. It’s a fertile market because linens often get ruined in hospitals or lost in commercial laundries and become expensive to re-stock. Cube Care manages the entire curtain lifecycle for customers, bridging the gaps between maintenance, manufacturing, and installation. It is the only company in the U.S. with all these capabilities in-house. The unique one-stop approach gives customers confidence that they’re receiving the highest quality decorative products, tailored precisely to their needs, and with unparalleled service that exceeds the highest expectations.
The business flourished during the pandemic as hospitals across the nation needed more and more of their core product: disposable privacy curtains and bedding.
A commitment to hiring local
Susana invests heavily in employee development, hiring from local neighborhoods in the Miami-Dade area. Her products are handmade by local seamstresses, many of whom are retirees. She recruits from local halfway houses, offering a training program for residents looking for an opportunity to get on a path to success. She recruits leaders from all different ages and races, always seeking to diversify her management team.
Susana was nominated for ICIC’s Inner City 100 award to celebrate small business growth and community impact. Recently, the company was awarded the prestigious Chevron Dorothy A. Terrell Community Impact Award. Through ICIC’s connections, she connected with professors from Harvard University who invited her to speak at the college about leading in turbulent times.
Susana also survived a brain tumor and attributes the experience to her drive to succeed and provide opportunities for others.
“It gave me mindfulness. I thought to myself, ‘If you die today, what have you accomplished?’” she says. “I want to change people’s lives and impact them. I want to be able to make them very successful and that will be how I pay back all the people along the way that helped me.”
She’s now franchising Cube Care to provide business ownership opportunities in marginalized communities.
“Our services need to be everywhere in the United States, not just locally,” she says. “The idea is to be able to service the entire U.S.”
“I want to make 100 millionaires by franchising my company,” she continues. “That would be my legacy of giving back. I have so many people who have helped me, like ICIC, along the way on my path to success. I have to some how, some way give back.”
With a franchise program launching, new products in development and expansion plans, Cube Care is growing fast. As she reflects on the past few years, including her health issues and the pandemic, she’s excited for the future and is eager to continue making her mark in Miami and throughout the nation.
Photo credits: Photos courtesy of Cube Care.