By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer
The road to success hasn’t been easy for Khaula Nixon, but with commitment and sacrifice she has paved a way for herself and her family to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Nixon recently opened BrightStar Care of South Sacramento. The new franchise is part of a larger corporation that provides in-home care support and staffing services. It serves families in Elk Grove, Wilton, Lodi, Clarksburg, Isleton, Galt and West Sacramento. BrightStar Care of South Sacramento is business No. 5 for Nixon and her husband Andre. The couple, who met in second grade, also own EZ Trucking and EZ Transportation, which provides nonemergency medical transportation to individuals who need to get to things like doctors appointments and dialysis treatments.
Nixon, who holds a bachelor’s degree in finance and a master’s in business administration from Sacramento State, started with a financial services business, providing assistance with insurance and tax preparation. She did this while maintaining a full-time state job.
“I was able to keep my day job with the State of California and do that evenings and weekends,” Nixon said. “It worked perfectly, because the majority of my clientele had day jobs, so they were only available evenings and weekends.”
The South Sacramento native desired to delve more into entrepreneurship.
“I wanted to really use everything that I learned in my master’s program and apply it to practical life,” she shared. “I just found that I’m a lover of operations, seeing a simple thought come to fruition and a business just blossom with not only good operations and good services that you provide, but also happy staff.”
Nixon seeks to create a stress-free work culture.
“At the end of the day, we all have lives outside of our regular 9-to-5. I always feel like work should not be a stressor,” she said. “There should be an environment where people can go to work, do their job, use their skills and their assets for the greater good.”
Nixon, like most people, has had adverse work experiences. Those experiences prompted her to not only want something different, but create it.
EZ Transportation was started in July 2016. In six months it had doubled its clientele, expanding service from Sacramento County to four Bay Area counties, as well as Kern and Fresno counties. In January 2020, just before the coronavirus pandemic, the Nixons pared down to focus solely on the local area and on her three children as they continued to age.
Family is important to Nixon. While growing her businesses, there were a lot of late nights spent at the office. At one point they set up palettes and a pressure cooker for when they couldn’t make it home. The transportation business operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“Sometimes we weren’t getting off work until 9 o’clock at night. We were starting to get in as early as 3 a.m.,” she said. “A lot of our patients go to dialysis clinics, and some of them are 24 hours or starting at 4 a.m.. Luckily, I have pretty good children to where they didn’t give me any issue. They just knew what it was.”
Her three children were raised with an “if you don’t work, you don’t eat” mentality. If you want something, if you’re hungry, then you work for it.
“It definitely builds character,” Nixon said. “Luckily we all genuinely care for each other and get along. I feel like the schedule that we’ve maintained and the way that we push, it was a mutual respect, not just that the kids have for us, but that we have for them to allow it all to work.”
Maintaining that “insane” work schedule for two years just about killed her, she admits. She was also diagnosed with six autoimmune diseases. She had to recalibrate and do a better job of creating a work-life balance. That was hard for a woman who doesn’t do idle.
“I was just always so used to managing different things,” Nixon shared.
The latest business came about after clients began asking if she provided other needed services. It kicked into gear as Nixon sought care for her ailing father-in-law.
“I wanted to somewhat control his care. I couldn’t physically do it, but I wanted to be sure it was done to my liking and to my standards,” she said.
“I started looking at different companies and what they had to offer and I ran across BrightStar Care. I really appreciated their business model and everything they stood for. It came from my desire to make sure that my loved one was taken care of. Then when I researched everything from A to Z, I said, ‘If I’m going to do this for my loved one, I might as well do it also for others’ loved ones’ because as we know, within the care field, it can be really dicey on the level of service.”
Money isn’t the only motivation, Nixon said. Quality care must include compassion and that informs her hiring process. “Sometimes you are the only conversation they’re going to have that day,” she said of the relationships between her EZ Transportation drivers and clients. “Some people don’t have family, they don’t have friends, so their only outlet is the driver. On that day, that conversation they have about the weather, that’s probably the most conversation they’ve had. We grew so rapidly because we actually care and it starts with creating the work environment where everyone’s happy, because then that’s demonstrated when people walk outside of this office and deal with the public. If you’re working for an unhappy employer and being mistreated, that’s a domino effect.
“There have been transporters that we’ve had that were the last person they saw. Granted, it’s not emergency transportation – we might take someone to dialysis [and] there’ll be a complication in that procedure. We go to take them home, then they’re in the hospital the next day, and their loved one calls and says, ‘Cancel their trips, they are no longer with us,’ so it is an industry that definitely has a heart to it.”
Nixon has gotten the transportation side of the business to the point of sustainability and she’s “more of a consultant.” Her focus now is providing social services. Before opening BrightStar Care of South Sacramento, Nixon spent nearly two years learning about the in-home care industry and all the facets of state compliance.
“There’s certain things that a [registered nurse] does that a [licensed vocational nurse] can’t do, certain things that an LVN can do that a medical assistant can’t do. There’s so many layers,” she said. “I feel like it took a good 18 months for me to understand the industry before I had a comfort with actually moving forward with the franchise.”
Nixon has been in her current location for more than 15 years. She has occupied different spaces in the building, expanding from a small day office, to a row of offices to currently having a suite of 13 offices that among other things allows them to meet with various provider partners and maintain state-regulated record confidentiality.
“We have quite a bit behind these two doors,” she said.
Some of the spaces are empty and mention of them gets Nixon thinking of ways – and businesses – to fill them. But she’s trying to stay true to her promise to not add more to her plate. “Right now, I’m not growing, starting or franchising anything else. I’m just going to slowly wait for my successors to take over and add to my capacity as a consultant,” she said. “That’s my goal.”
BrightStar Care of South Sacramento is located at 1104 Corporate Way. For more information, call 844-487-3901 or visit brightstarcare.com/south-sacramento.