Rueben Hays – Crescent Surgical Supply

Gamal Williams | July 19th, 2021
Rueben Hays

Rueben Hays

The comedian Milton Berle once said, “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” Rueben Hays built that door, and the company it led to, Crescent Surgical Supply. The Los Angelos native, and seven-year Navy veteran where he served as a surgical technician, started his journey when he took a chance.

After separating from the Navy, In 2003 Rueben briefly worked as a sales representative for a major surgical device manufacturer. The field was very competetive and severely underrepresented by African-Americans. One day, he learned surplus surgical supplies were being sold on eBay. “I asked myself ‘What is this equipment doing being sold online? It was a different time back then,” Rueben recalls. “You can’t do that anymore. That limitation is how I was able to get into the industry, get buyers and connect with vendors.” As Louis Pasteur said, “chance favors the prepared mind.”

Formerly kown as RomeMed Inc. which was founded in 2003, Crescent Surgical LLC was birthed in Greenville, S.C. in August 2019. This represented more than a name change, it represented a new chapter in life and business. A painful divorce set the stage for Rueben’s renewed focus and limitless vision. CSS currently employs eight employees and forty contractors that work throughout the country.

Rueben and his CSS team focuses on the medical equipment set to expire and be disposed of if left unused. This is the leverage point CSS uses to acquire said equipment from wholesalers, distributors, and vendors at a lower price point, then resells them at a mark-up but much lower than the retail price. “We sell mostly specialized, one-time use devices: electro-cardio devices, mesh, implants used in hernia surgeries, staples for different types of resections, sutures, and harmonic wound sealing devices, for example,” explains Rueben. “If we don’t buy and resell short dated surplus from hospitals, most often they are thrown away. We also donate all the products that we can’t move,” he shares.

According to Allied Market Research, in 2019 the global surgical equipment market was valued at $33.72 billion. By 2027, it is estimated to grow in value by 33% to $44.48 billion. Grand View Research estimates the disposable surgical equipment market will be valued at $5.5 billion this year. Yet even with the high value of these products, in the U.S. alone, its estimated that hospitals spend almost $10 billion per year in disposal fees for supplies, equipment and trash.** Rueben has ensured CSS is seizing a piece of that market, with half of the CSS buyers being international. One can understand how Rueben’s medical training, initiative and business acumen have positioned Crescent Surgical Supply to be a key player and large stakeholder in the disposable surgical equipment market, but it was not without obstacles.

“There is not another me (African-American person) out there doing what I do. In seventeen years in this business, I have never seen another me.” When asked if entering a market with no African-American representation was difficult, Rueben let out an exasperated sigh. “Of course!” he exclaimed. “It took a while. Luckily, I was able to find a niche market. I don’t have to deal with the end users, like hospitals or clinics. I deal with the distributors. But it was challenging to break in, to get people to trust me. We just ensure that we conduct sound business practices and are trustworthy. That is what has built us into what we are today.” And should a product expire before it can be resold, Rueben has a plan for that as well. “We donate a lot of products, products we cannot move. In the United States, there must be time left on a product in order to resell it. When the expiration date is too close for resale or has expired, we donate it to Partners For World Health.” Partners For World Health, a Portland, ME based charity, has donated over 236 tons of medical supplies worldwide.

Rueben ensures CSS donates money and resources to charities in the Greensville area as well. “The biggest thing for me is giving back, philanthropy,” states Rueben. “Most of my donations are focused on the Greenville community.” Some of those charities include Lisa’s Schoolhouse Rocks, which provides camps to teach civics lessons; Vernon Veteran’s Services who help military personnel transition from the military lifestyle to civilian beginnings; Upstate GEMS (Going the Extra Mile for Success) that promotes positive qualities in young ladies; and the “Spread the Love” initiative, a food drive sponsored by Harvest Hope, amongst others.

Rueben offers this advice to any young woman or man that recognizes a potential opportunity but is unsure if they should take the chance:

“Fear is not from God. Fear is of the devil. God did not give us the spirit of fear. For me, if ever I get afraid of journeying down a path, whether it be in business or in myself, I know that is the devil trying to push me away from what it is that God really has for me,” he said. “I’d tell them to lean into it, even if you fail, failure is not final. You learn some of your best lessons from failing. This wasn’t just a linear track for me. There were ups, there were down. I had many obstacles, much to learn and I didn’t have the privilege of partners or even people that looked like me that really wanted to empower me or educate me. I had to go into places I didn’t know or what to expect. I got ran out of a few places. But I learned from it. So, I would tell them you have to go for it.”

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