Archive » May 6, 2010
GIRLS GO GLOVE
By Grant Harvey, Journal Intern
Colette Perches is a glovegirl. While this name might confuse some, to the select group who know what it means it is quite a prestigious title.
A glovegirl is what the women who work at FirstLine Gloves refer to themselves as, and as the title indicates, Firstline is a glove company, locally owned. Perches is the original glovegirl, and she built FirstLine from the ground up.
Colette Perches began as an employee of another glove company, making high-tech clean-room gloves, the likes of which are used to make IBM computers. However, after a few years into the job, Perches’ company received a call from a local Fire Captain who wanted to use the industrial gloves on medical trucks because he was all out of gloves. After Perches delivered them, she soon found out that the current gloves on the medical trucks were nowhere near as sophisticated and effective as the ones used for the clean rooms.
Using her high-tech industry background, she did a lot of researching and investigating on the higher-quality gloves, finding that gloves for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) – the group that Perches believes are “the most at risk” – had lousy gloves in comparison to the ones she was making.
As it turns out, the people producing these gloves believed the myth that thicker necessarily meant more protection. No matter how thick, gloves still have holes.
So Perches set out to educate. She started her own company at the suggestion of the Fire Captain. He said, “You know everything about gloves. Why not start your own business?” And so Perches did, and she has yet to regret it.
Even after 14 years, she still loves the small company environment. Instead of working for big Fortune 500 companies, she’s out working with the EMS market and helping heroes. Perches herself can be deemed a hero, because she has used the focus of FirstLine to help save people’s lives.
“I had always been hard-working,” Perches says. “But I was never passionate. Not until I found out about the EMS issues and started FirstLine. I go on ride-alongs, and I get to work with people who have a passion for what they did.” Needless to say, Perches was absolutely inspired.
The gloves at FirstLine are designed strictly for EMS, so they have what is called a niche market. Most glove companies design for bigger volumes, which would include Hospital/Dental/Laboratory. Those gloves design with comfort in mind over safety and transfer these gloves over to EMS. The problem? While a dentist can afford to choose comfort over safety, EMS never knows what they’ll be up against with every call, so their risk of contracting something is high if their gloves aren’t up to snuff.
Perches makes it her goal to improve the quality of gloves. For instance, gloves are considered Class 1 medical devices, but should really be considered Class 2 to receive more attention. As Class 1, the FDA awards the gloves only with a limited amount of testing. So Perches brought testing into the medical industry. FirstLine specifically tests every container and certifies higher quality with a tougher standard, making the gloves more durable. Perches has also implemented innovative features and technologies specific only to the FirstLine Gloves, one of which is a technology that allows the gloves to be stored in scorching temperatures, unlike regular gloves that degrade rapidly in heat and ruins quality.
Also, FirstLine has developed the first no-stick Nitrol glove, which is an alternative to latex that normally is notorious for sticking to medical tape. This is called Reztak.
FirstLine Gloves sells to more than 650 different cities, including all of Santa Barbara, Ventura, L.A. and Chicago counties, to name a few. Their focus is almost entirely EMS (2/3) and they’re the No. 1 supplier for EMS gloves for the last few years (ever since their ten year mark).
Perches puts in a lot of hard work to deserve this high standing. Her typical work week is 60 hours, a lot of times from home to talk to her business associates around the world. She even works on the NFPAC (National Fire Protection Association) board to raise the standard for Personal Protective Equipment and give the glove side of things.
“This business isn’t for the faint of heart. You need initiative and drive, just like for anything,” Perches says, “You’ve gotta believe in the product, understand the market and importance of what you’re doing”
Perches really does understand. FirstLine offers 24/7 access to customers and supplies with a 90-day stock to always keep their customers gloved. For example, FirstLine supplies the Gulf Coast during hurricane season and maintains stalwart disaster preparedness. When Katrina took the turn toward Louisiana, Perches boarded the first airplane out and worked inside the city for two weeks, distributing gloves when no one else was allowed in.
“People who say a glove is just a glove, let us tell you differently,” Perches says. “We really care about the health and welfare of our customers. And the job is thrilling. I love coming to work!”
Here’s what else the Valley Journal learned about FirstLine Gloves:
Why did you start this business?To provide a superior glove to the EMS market and paramedics in the field. I was shocked when I realized that medics were receiving untested quality products when they were the most at-risk segment of the medical market.
What is your business background?VP of Operations at a glove company that supplied gloves into the clean-room market, Purchasing Manager at a Fortune 500 company that purchased gloves for clean-rooms.
What is the best piece of business advice you have been given, and who gave it to you?Stick to your business plan, you will be tempted to expand your markets with initial success, which could dilute your focus and resources, ultimately costing you your business. It was given to me by Rob Hatch, the President of AQL Inc., my previous glove company.
What is the biggest challenge your business faces today?EMS agencies purchasing gloves that are diluted with fillers to save money, while compromising safety and protection for the end user.
What is the simplest thing you’ve never learned to do? Answer this question.
What sets your business apart from your competitors’?Our commitment to solely service the EMS market by way of superior quality products and education for the end-user in the field.
What books are on your bedside table?The Sales Bible and the Bible.
Why did you choose to set up your business in the Valley?It is my home, I love it and it provides a great environment to raise my children.
How could local elected officials make it easier for you to be successful?Provide tax incentives or assistance for local businesses to own their own buildings.
Where do you see your business in five years?Doubling in size and maintaining our No. 1 status as the supplier to the EMS market.
Finally, what is on your to-do list?Go sky-diving! Back east road trip visiting more than 50 fire departments!
Business name: FirstLine Gloves, Inc
Owner(s): Colette Perches
Business address: 95 Los Padres Way, Buellton CA 93427 Business telephone: (888) 688-6768
Business hours: 7 a.m.- 5 p.m. with emergency availability 24/7