Clipper Corp., which supplies uniforms and other goods to a range of high-profile businesses, is projected to earn about $40 million this year. But the company had humble beginnings. Its founder, Lina Hu, was inspired to launch the venture after interviewing for a job as a restaurant dishwasher.
According to The Los Angeles Times, Hu, 52, struggled to find work in the early 1990s after moving to the U.S. from China. Her job prospects were limited, she said, given her education and command of English when she arrived in California. She wanted to find a job as a waitress at a Chinese restaurant, but the owner of an eatery where she sought work said she didn’t have enough experience to work in the front of the house. So, she applied to be a dishwasher there, and during her interview, a light bulb went off.
“I saw the opportunity, while they interviewed me,” Hu told the Times. “They showed me the dishes, what products to wash. I saw all of the pots and pans, silverware, plateware. I thought ‘China has a lot of factories. They can make these things cheaper, and I can supply it for them.’”
Most companies rejected Hu’s calls. But Burger King eventually agreed to hear her pitch and became her first customer.
Working with manufacturers in China, Hu’s business now supplies “anything you cannot eat” to companies in the retail, food services, hospitality, and delivery industries. Clipper’s clients include Target Corp., Home Depot Inc., and FedEx Corp.
Hu, who was raised in China, said that the cards were stacked against her success. “One, you don’t speak English,” she told the Times. “Two, you don’t have any merchandise, you just have an idea. Third, you’re Asian, and they don’t respect you.”
But Hu refused to be deterred when she was met with failure. “For me, I don’t give up,” she said. “I called all of the other national chain restaurants. I said, ‘I can supply you with the same quality, but at reduced costs.’” Now she has a roster of some of the country’s largest corporations as clients. In 2015, Hu sat down for an on camera interview and elaborated on her humble beginnings and how she built her company from the ground up. Watch it below.
Read the full story at The Los Angeles Times.