Catering to a Niche

Alberto Perez, 23, prepares to take over the reins of the family business, Menper Distributors Inc., a health and beauty distributor serving the Hispanic community

It was back in 1961 that Cuban pharmacist Alberto Perez came to the United States to escape the political persecution on the island at the time, and had the idea of opening a Miami pharmacy that would cater to the growing Hispanic community. “He worked in a town called Sagua la Grande and came to the US and, in time, owned a series of pharmacies here in the Miami area and realized he had customers coming to the store to ask for items from Cuba,” says Marc Perez, the 23-year-old grandson of Alberto. “He realized he could create products that could replicate those traditional remedies or products familiar to those customers and sell them on a limited basis in his stores in Miami.”

As other Hispanic communities found their way to the area, Perez expanded his products to include those items difficult to find in the United States and catered to this niche market by manufacturing creative products that suited the different regions—such as Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico.

In 1982, Perez created Menper Distributors Inc., a Hispanic-owned distributor of health and beauty products based out of Miami. It also serves as the parent company of a subsidiary company Suero Oral, and a manufacturing company Pharmalab Enterprises, both of which operate under the management of and are owned by the Perez family.

Marc Perez currently serves as the vice president of the company, coming aboard full-time two years ago, after graduating from Duke University. “I worked with the company while I was in school during summers and right before I was to graduate, my grandfather asked me if I wanted to come work for the business. It was never our plan,” Marc says. “I came on in July of 2010 and have been here ever since.”

At 77, Alberto Perez is gracefully going into retirement, and his grandson now owns an equity stake in the company, with the idea that he will one day take over the family business alongside the founder’s son (and Marc’s uncle), Alberto Perez Jr., who serves as the head of Pharmalab Enterprises and oversees manufacturing for the companies. “We discussed that as the long-term plan,” Marc says. “I think it’s a source of familial pride for both my uncle and me, because it’s something that my grandfather has built from scratch and there’s extra motivation because we’re not just working for ourselves, we are carrying on a family legacy, which we are both pretty proud of.”

His grandfather has taught him many things, but Marc believes the most important is patience. “As a young, somewhat naive 20-something year old, you are always looking to launch headfirst into new opportunities or are overeager to take on new products but he is always in control and has given me perspective on taking tasks one at a time,” Marc says.

Over the last decade, the company has transformed from operating as a small regional company in Florida to expanding nationally, creating and selling products that replicate the Spanish tradition for the Hispanic population in the United States. Currently, the company’s top-selling product, which they made and branded, is called Suero Oral, a Gatorade-type product specifically designed for the Hispanic market.

Marc was attracted to the family business both on a personal and professional level. “More pragmatically, the company is well positioned for the future,” he says. “We have a couple of products that have been growing a lot recently and fits in with the changing population of the United States and we think we are well positioned for growth going forward.”

The differences between the three generations of Perez Family, Alberto Sr., Alberto Jr., and Marc Perez has helped the company in its growth and will continue to do so. “My grandfather, uncle, and I complement each other well. My grandfather is an older Hispanic guy and I’m younger and eager to expand upon the foundation he has built. My uncle is extremely detail oriented and does a fantastic job maintaining the quality of manufacturing operations,” Marc says. “The strong foundation of our company has allowed us to be aggressive in seeking new and larger customers.”

One of those is Walgreens. Thanks to the efforts of the younger Perez, Marc, the company has just reached an agreement with the retail giant to sell the Suero Oral product on a national level. “About three months after I came in, we were approached by Walgreens Pharmacies about them bringing in one of our products to their national distribution line,” Marc says. “My grandfather never felt he had the bandwidth or the ability to present a presentation and financial projections to service a company like Walgreens on a national scale. I went and met with them and put together a plan and we secured that account last [August]. I think there are people who I can relate to better.”

Looking ahead, Marc has big plans for the future in preserving the company’s legacy and watching it expand to new heights. “It’s a constant struggle to take what my grandfather has built here and try to position it into something that will grow, but we have a few products that I believe will grow,” Marc says. “It’s up to our team to try to develop more products that can be successful on this wide-range scale. Creating those products or identifying those that have already been developed and replicate what we’ve done with Suero Oral and positioning ourselves as the Hispanic provider of health-care products across the country.”