Ten years ago, Ramon Peralta was enjoying what he considered to be the best job imaginable. As a creative director working with entrepreneurial wizard Jay Walker, he was part of the Walker Innovation Inc. team that launched scores of companies — most notably Priceline. Then, things went awry.
“In 2008, the market crashed and the company shifted gears,” Peralta recalled. “It stopped innovating and Jay decided that he would go after the folks who were infringing on his patents. He ended up laying off the creative team and I found myself without a job.”
Yet Peralta was still invigorated by Walker’s knack for spinning ideas into successful startups, and he wondered if he could follow that lead within a creative agency format. Peralta set forth with his Shelton-based Peralta Design agency that focused on a corner of the business world often ignored by other agencies.
“What makes us different as a creative agency is that we specialize in working with entrepreneurs, startup companies and existing companies that want to launch a new product or service,” said Peralta, who is celebrating his 10th anniversary in business by scoring $1 million in revenue. “A lot of larger agencies will not give those folks the time of day because it’s a risky space. But we got their attention because we said, ‘We’re the startup specialists. We want to work with startups. We’re willing to take a chance on you.’”
Peralta acknowledged that many entrepreneurs often take on too much responsibility for too many tasks, with results that are frequently less than satisfactory.
“Out of necessity, entrepreneurs wind up doing everything themselves, which is the biggest mistake you could make,” Peralta continued. “You do it yourself because you don’t have the funds to hire somebody, but that doesn’t mean you’re good at it. From a branding standpoint, either these entrepreneurs think they can have their cousin or their nephew create something, or they will send it overseas.”
Peralta Design offers the traditional lineup of creative agency work — including branding, marketing materials, annual reports and website design. But Perlata realized that his agency needed to stand out in a more holistic manner.
“With creative agencies, there are a million of them,” he said. “It’s like pizza shops in Shelton. If you’re going to open a pizza shop in Shelton, the first question I’m going to ask is, ‘What makes you different?’ ”
For Peralta, a key difference is the willingness to listen and help chart a path from vague idea to viable opportunity. He recalled being hired by the owner of a Milford landscaping company for a logo design, but the landscaper remarked that he had an idea for a business that he felt could succeed. That idea involved the creation of a website where students can use the online format to learn how to conduct themselves better during a job interview.
“That company is now Aced My Interview,” Peralta said. “This startup is now taking off.”
Peralta has frequently found himself taking on clients that had been treated shabbily by other agencies, which often requires an extra degree of trust-building to assure the client that not all creative agencies are take-the-money-and-run operations.
“We’re more interested in the relationship,” he stressed. “I don’t think it takes any skills to rip somebody off. We have clients who have been with us for 10 years — the whole time we’ve been around.”
But not everyone who shows up at Peralta Design’s door is immediately welcomed as a new client.
“Recently we had a guy contact us who sold Nazi memorabilia and I wanted to say, ‘Have you taken a look at our team on our website?’ ” Peralta said, referring to his multicultural creative team. “That is not something we’d get involved with.”
One of Peralta Design’s latest projects includes a partnership with the Connecticut Department of Transportation, which runs a program in collaboration with UConn to help women- and minority-owned businesses become better competitors against larger contractors for state business. Peralta’s contribution to this endeavor involves educational input on the value of marketing and branding, along with insight on creating a strong digital footprint. Peralta also conducts similar workshops on behalf of SCORE, which he considered to be an important tool in staying front and center within the local business community.
“Being part of something like that, where we’re helping other businesses become successful, is very important to us,” he said.