Once laid off, Shelton entrepreneur now pays it forward for minority-owned businesses

SHELTON — Ramon Peralta, Jr., hit what many would consider an employment rock bottom in 2008.

The Shelton resident had been a creative director with Walker Innovation Inc. — a firm that had launched numerous companies, including Priceline.com. But after getting laid off amidst the Great Recession, Peralta faced an uncertain future, with no job and few prospects.

Undaunted, Peralta chose to gamble on his own creativity and started his own company in the basement of his home. From those humble beginnings, Peralta Design has continually expanded its client list, employee count and office space. The company now occupies 3,000 square feet of premium office space in Enterprise Corporate Towers.

Peralta’s courage and ingenuity were important ingredients to his ultimate success, but he is quick to point out the significant assistance he received from the Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council (GNEMSDC). He now sits on the group’s board.

“I always come back to my father. A small-business owner, he had his own auto repair business,” Peralta said. “He inspired me to be an entrepreneur. But he was financially illiterate, and he suffered, his business suffered because of that.”

When Peralta was laid off in 2008, he received six months' severance pay, which he turned into Peralta Design. He said he took pride in the fact he used that money to start his company, rather than going into debt. But still, money was tight.

Because of his father’s struggles handling his own finances, Peralta decided he would bring in a CPA, who immediately told him about GNEMSDC. The help he received from the group was invaluable, he said.

“Working with them offered me the chance to learn about capital and how to access it,” Peralta said. He learned “that here were other forms of capital not considered debt. That there are business lines of credit.”

This history made Peralta, now a successful minority business owner with a diverse creative team, more than happy to host a celebration of the GNEMSDC receiving a five-year grant, worth $2 million, to launch a Connecticut satellite office of the Minority Business Development Agency, which is based in Boston.

Among those at Tuesday’s celebration was Senator Richard Blumenthal, who had backed the GNEMSDC’s grant application.

The center will provide clients free business development services with public and private sector buyers; expert assistance; and capacity- building services, including financial management, strategic planning, marketing, process improvement, assistance with mergers and acquisitions, and assistance with access to capital.

Peralta said his involvement with the center is his way of paying it forward.

Peralta Design, he said, is a creative agency that specializes in working with entrepreneurs, startup companies and existing companies that want to launch a new product or service.

The goal, as his slogan We Launch Brands® captures, is to help businesses large and small navigate complex branding, web and digital marketing challenges. The company also develops branding, marketing materials, annual reports and website design.

And the success continued during the pandemic, as Peralta added staff and relocated to a larger space. The company’s success during the pandemic is partly due to a shift in how business was done.

“We really grew in the digital marketing space during the pandemic because there was a greater need for digital marketing and advertising,” Peralta said. “We also were always big advocates for reopening safely and following all CDC guidelines, so it made sense to move into bigger space to create a safer place to work.”