NM Small Busi­ness of the Year

Catron Courier - - News - by Clau­dia In­fante, projects co­or­di­na­tor, New Mex­ico MEP

Karl Halpert’s col­lab­o­ra­tive re­la­tion­ships with mul­ti­ple busi­ness ser­vice providers has helped the Taos en­tre­pre­neur build Pri­vate La­bel Select (PLS) into the per­son­al­care in­dus­try’s premier maker of lip balms, lip tints and other cos­met­ics in just 22 years.

The busi­ness is grow­ing so ro­bustly—with an­nual growth of 40% to 50%—that the U.S. Small Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion re­cently named the com­pany’s pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer the Small Busi­ness Per­son of the Year for New Mex­ico. Be­fore the cel­e­bra­tion of that achieve­ment May 5 in Albuquerque, Halpert will travel to Wash­ing­ton, DC, to learn if he’s been named the na­tion’s top en­tre­pre­neur for 2016.

At its Taos plant, PLS de­vel­ops and man­u­fac­tures nat­u­ral and or­ganic cos­met­ics for many clients, in­clud­ing such re­tail gi­ants as Wal­greens and Tar­get and pres­ti­gious cos­met­ics com­pa­nies like Estée Lauder.

“We ac­cu­rately pre­dicted years ago that or­ganic prod­ucts were go­ing to en­ter the main­stream (mass mar­ket),” Halpert said. So PLS fo­cused on re­search and de­vel­op­ment and ac­quir­ing the cre­den­tials re­quired for mass-mar­ket com­pe­ti­tion, in­clud­ing ob­tain­ing fed­eral cer­ti­fi­ca­tion as a maker of or­ganic prod­ucts.

Once he be­gan tap­ping into the net­work of fund­ing and train­ing re­sources avail­able to small busi­nesses, Halpert’s com­pany im­proved its prof­itabil­ity and be­came a sig­nif­i­cant job cre­ator in North­ern New Mex­ico.

New Mex­ico Man­u­fac­tur­ing Ex­ten­sion Part­ner­ship helped PLS im­ple­ment qual­ity-man­age­ment sys­tems and el­e­vate its sup­ply-chain man­age­ment ex­per­tise. A class on In­ter­na­tional Stan­dards Or­ga­ni­za­tion (ISO) cer­ti­fi­ca­tion co-spon­sored by New

Mex­ico MEP and the state Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Depart­ment, Halpert said, “pro­vided us with an ex­tremely im­por­tant tem­plate for set­ting our com­pany up on a qual­ity-man­age­ment sys­tem that would pass our largest cus­tomers' re­quire­ments.” Halpert cred­its MEP’s on­go­ing as­sis­tance with help­ing PLS land a ma­jor ac­count with Col­gate.

MEP also helped PLS de­sign its new plant, which is three times larger than the orig­i­nal, to ac­com­mo­date in­creased client de­mand—and to move to the new space in 2014 with­out paus­ing pro­duc­tion. “We con­ducted the move in the mid­dle of suc­cess­fully launch­ing a huge prod­uct line for The Hon­est Com­pany with­out in­ter­rup­tion. We had to bring util­i­ties to the build­ing and re­cer­tify the new fa­cil­ity to meet USDA Or­ganic and FDA guide­lines. Again, MEP's sup­port was in­valu­able.”

Once in­side the net­work of re­source providers, PLS con­nected with ad­di­tional as­sis­tance that proved crit­i­cal to its growth.

At the state level, PLS par­tic­i­pates in the Job Train­ing In­cen­tive Pro­gram and has hired, trained and pro­moted many em­ploy­ees through this chan­nel. Its col­lab­o­ra­tion with the state Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Depart­ment’s Of­fice of In­ter­na­tional Trade has al­lowed rep­re­sen­ta­tives to join sev­eral trade mis­sions to Asia and the Mid­dle East.

“Recog­ni­tion by the SBA… gives me a plat­form to en­cour­age other small busi­nesses, es­pe­cially ones in ru­ral ar­eas, to take ad­van­tage of what the state and fed­eral govern­ment of­fer in as­sis­tance,” Halpert said. “It is a com­mon mis­con­cep­tion that these pro­grams ben­e­fit the larger com­pa­nies only. While small busi­nesses cer­tainly need the in­fra­struc­ture and com­mit­ment to take ad­van­tage of these pro­grams, they are read­ily avail­able and can make a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence... In small towns and ru­ral ar­eas, this im­pact is sig­nif­i­cant.”

New Mex­ico MEP ser­vices can be found at newmex­i­comep.org. The SBA Small Busi­ness Week Awards Break­fast is May 5 from 8-10 AM at the San­dia Golf Club in Albuquerque. Reg­is­ter at ahcnm.org un­der the events tab.

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