LGBTBE In the Spotlight: Teaming Up Against All the Odds

| By Laura Berry
When the odds are against you, and what you had become is stripped away, it is your obligation to find creative opportunities to surge ahead. – Harvey Perle
 
After more than 17 years in business, Harvey Perle, owner of the manufacturer’s representative agency Perle & Co., hit a cascade of professional and personal challenges in 2007, including divorce, diabetes, and a spiraling economy to name just a few. 
 
“Of the many lessons my Mom taught me by her own example: ‘When life throws you curve balls, you have two choices: Survive or Survive. Pick one.’”
 
Determined to face the unexpected with creative resolve, Harvey broke out of his traditional methods, expanded his geographical coverage, diversified his business offerings, and concentrated on developing his own brand.
 
By leveraging business relationships in his local chamber, Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (CAGLCC), Harvey learned more about LGBT Business Enterprise (LGBTBE®) certification.
 

"Mark Guenther, Executive Director of CAGLCC, kept encouraging me to get certified," said Harvey. "I could not understand what the significance of certification would have on my business, but he was determined to get me to apply. After my mother passed away, I moved back to the Twin Cities full-time, and with the additional prodding of Jason Bryan, the QUORUM [Minnesota's LGBT Affiliate Chamber] Administrator, I realized that applying was not as monumental as I had envisioned."
 
As a newly certified LGBTBE at the 2012 NGLCC National Business & Leadership Conference in Chicago, Harvey was open to imaginative business ideas, including potential B2B opportunities. He knew he was on to something when he met Joe Cote of Capsule Pen, a fellow certified LGBTBE who went on to win the entrepreneur-focused Roll The Dice pitch competition event that year. 
 
"I was familiar with the kinds of retailers that Joe’s pill container product would best sell in,” explained Harvey. “Joe and I developed a retail strategy to place product, and we are now getting our first orders."
 
But Harvey didn’t stop his teaming efforts there. A year later, certified LGBTBE Paul Turner of Macher Logistics contacted Harvey to inquire if he had a network of businesses that could use a system that would simplify shipping of products and reduce freight costs. By working together, Harvey and Paul were able to merge both industries to create a service that benefits both companies and the customer.
 
"It made perfect sense that this was the kind of business that vendors in my industry should appreciate,” said Harvey. “My clientele base were no longer retailers; they were now also the vendors I represented, and other vendors in the industry as well."
 
Harvey introduced Paul to one of the buying groups in the gourmet housewares and gift industries and helped arrange for Paul to be the exclusive Freight Forwarder for members of that buyer group. Adding Paul to the features of this buying group helped differentiate them from their competition.
 
Recently, Harvey was introduced to Dina Proto and her wife Dina Poist-Proto of Teazled, another LGBTBE and manufacturer of upscale LGBT-themed greeting cards. Harvey saw not only the obvious connections to consumers in the number of states legalizing same-sex marriage, but also the potential for independent retailer success.
 
"Greeting cards support both independent retailers as much as a national retail chains," said Harvey. "Recognizing the importance of the role of the independent retailer strengthens the entire structure of the local economy. Our first account sold cards the first day they were on the sales floor."
 
Today more than ten percent of Harvey’s portfolio is connected with certified LGBTBEs. Although he has registered with NGLCC corporate partners and relentlessly pursues corporate contracts, he is an open advocate for B2B teaming.
 
"When you attach a business affiliation with a group of people who traditionally have been frowned upon by society, suddenly that minimized group rises in value," said Harvey. "Our community has a lot to contribute to a national economy. Justin and Chance had incredible vision to understand the economic impact of supplier diversity for all groups including women and people of color.  I don’t know what inspired them to make certification the main function of the NGLCC, but I am grateful that they did."
 

After looking back at the last few years and his current success, Harvey thinks of his mother: "I always think: Mom, I picked one. I’m surviving."
 
Perle & Co. is a manufacturer’s representative agency based out of Minneapolis, MN representing upscale and lead brands within the gourmet housewares and gift industries. They represent services that help businesses further reduce expenses, without changing the way they operate. Their role is to connect products and services with retailers or other businesses for a mutual beneficial relationship.