Originally published on Realty Collective.
We recently spoke with Maria Perales, owner of Benchmark Signaats, as part of our women-owned series. As you know we are committed to supporting and promoting our fellow female-owned local businesses and we are pleased to share Maria’s inspiring words with you today. Please enjoy the interview and check out her business info and brochure below that!
What woman inspires you and why?
My mother passed away 17 years ago, but she still inspires me today. She worked hard to raise me and my four sisters and four brothers. She and my father taught us to be proud of who we are and how to fight for our rights and navigate in a world where being poor and Hispanic is not easy.
Growing up I was inspired by her convictions and always identified with other rank and file workingwomen I met who fought against the sexism, classism and racism that is used to exploit our labor, our insights and our compassion, leaving us divided, one against the other.
We still live in a predominantly male dominated society with antediluvian ideas regarding the treatment of women and about our role in society. This also separates us from our male colleagues who are misguided by this sexist ideology, making it impossible for us to advance as a society.
The hundreds of women who have fought against this way of thinking are the women who inspire me. There is not enough room or time to list them all here. We have a great deal more work to do and like Victoria, I agree we need to support and promote one another, making all of us stronger.
What do you think are the most significant challenges for women business owners or women in leadership positions?
I think one of the most significant challenges for women business owners is gaining a sense that you can succeed when society says you can’t, or even shouldn’t because of our gender. This extends to everything from executing a novel business plan devoid of sharp practices or super-exploitation to challenging the government policies that favor large multinational corporations with their tax breaks, insider deals, and virtual immunity from prosecution because they are rich!
We need organization that can provide the resources to those who need them the most and not the other way around. I think that by bringing together concerned and responsible female-owned small businesses, we can create that organization and reverse some of those policies to reverse the condition where women in the U.S. still earn significantly less than men, and for minorities the wages are even lower.
How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?
I stay motivated through retaining my goal orientation toward a mission larger than myself. It puts failures and setbacks in perspective that prevents them from becoming overwhelming and allows me to operate from my belief and experience that for every problem there is a solution.
I see challenges as opportunities for growth. I set my goals on conquering them in a way that advances my overall goal of building a more just society. In the course of solving problems, I am always adding to the group of community-minded businesses and individuals who share ideas, perspectives and are willing to support each other. When I ask for advice, they share their lessons and experiences so I don’t have to repeat them or face them alone. There are plenty of frustrations, let downs and mistakes in running a small business, but in my quest to succeed, I meet others who care and share my passions. I see this as building a training ground for the success of others seeking to make a difference. This keeps me motivated and busy.
Being a small business owner means relying on your community to support you and getting involved within your community as well. In what ways do you feel supported and actively engage with your neighborhood of residents and other business owners?
I have always invested in the community where I have set up my business. I canvass the community and introduce myself. We meet with all our clients and prospective clients to make sure we understand what their needs and challenges are and we explain and work with them to produce the products that will help their business grow.
We also attend the various events our clients organize, we refer clients to other clients and we donate to community Back To School drives. We organize a holiday gift giving campaign by featuring a basket or holiday bag of our client’s products.
When I was in Red Hook, I saw the power in the community. It was especially visible after Hurricane Sandy. In the face of government abandonment, the community organized a grass roots organization, Restore Red Hook, which helped businesses (mine included) with grants with no strings attached.
Other volunteer organizations such as Red Hook Initiative (headed by a woman) organized scores of volunteers to help residents and businesses clean up and get back on their feet.
The community also organized against the EPA when the EPA tried to use Red Hook as a dumping ground for the drudge from one of the biggest super funds in the country. A young woman who was one of the primary organizers contacted Benchmark Signaats and we printed the posters and brochures that were all over Red Hook. We also participated in the community meetings that told the EPA why they should not bring the toxic poisons to Red Hook. All sectors of the community participated in those meetings and together they won against the EPA. It was a testament that people are not apathetic and can organize to solve problems.
If you don’t have a vibrant community, you cannot have successful businesses. If you don’t have successful businesses, you cannot have a vibrant community.
Tell us about your business!
Benchmark Signaats is a 100% Minority & Women owned printing and design company. Our slogan is “Printing with the Power your ideas deserve.” We have been offering our clients state-of-the-art color printing at prices that have been winning customer loyalty in Brooklyn since 1982. We are dedicated to providing the service necessary to complete your project on time and on budget and provide the service you cannot get from an anonymous Internet printer. Our competitive pricing and quality production are welcome enhancements to any business plan.
María M. Perales/Owner of Benchmark Signaats.