BY ROBERT STANTON
American Airlines knows how to create a tailwind as well as ride one, and their mentorship of Tony Ray Meyer has helped put a small business on the map.
Meyer’s Westbury, N.Y.-based company, TripleBonded, is seeing phenomenal business with its patented FastPatch solution for repairing concrete on airport runways and industrial warehouse floors nationwide.
As he prepared to expand beyond the East Coast, Meyer jumped at the chance to partner with American Airlines and the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) Mentorship Program, designed to help small businesses to move to the next level of success.
The NGLCC Mentorship Program connects certified LGBT Business Enterprises (LGBTBEs) with representatives from NGLCC Corporate Partners to provide expert guidance to LGBT entrepreneurs.
“The mentorship program has helped me invaluably,” said Meyer, who launched TripleBonded a year ago with partner and co-founder Rich Mangione. “American Airlines has advised us on our materials, pitches and trade shows to ensure we have the right tenor, message and jargon.
“They also focus on strategy, connecting us with a corporate real estate representative to talk about how a small company like ours could work with airlines like American,” he said. “American has given us introductions to partnership opportunities. Their mentorship has been incredibly important in terms of why we were able to grow so quickly this year.”
Indeed, TripleBonded’s revenues are projected to exceed $500,000 this year, not bad for a company’s second-year returns. Last year, annual revenues were $272,000, Meyer said. TripleBonded partners with Willamette Co. as the company’s exclusive distributor and installer on the East Coast. Willamette owns the patent for the polymers used.
About 95 percent of TripleBonded’s contracts are related to work on airport runways and tarmacs, which are susceptible to major wear and tear.
“The problem at airports is what is called FOD, or foreign object debris,” Meyer said. “Airplanes are fragile and numerous accidents occur because very small pieces of FOD cause millions in damage. When we go onto a runway or apron or ramp, we want to provide security for people.”
TripleBonded also repairs industrial warehouse floors, where the concrete takes a beating from daily automation processes. The company’s FastPatch process is a permanent solution for concrete repairs; it’s more flexible and prevents other breaks from occurring, according to Meyer.
Todd Rice, manager of American Airlines’ Procurement Center of Excellence, said the mentorship program is an invaluable resource for up-and-coming companies.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity for LGBT businesses to gain the knowledge of seasoned professionals and to find out how to do business with corporations,” he said. “There’s no cost to them (mentees) and the mentors are freely willing to give their time and knowledge.”
The mentorship program fits nicely into the airline’s philosophy of inclusion, Rice said.
“American was the first airline to offer domestic partner benefits, the first to have an LGBT Employee Business Resource Group, and also the first to have a marketing team directed specifically to the LGBT community,” he said.
Robin Pulford, supplier diversity manager at American Airlines, said the mentorship program is a “win-win” for both the airline and the companies that it assists.
“The mentees grow and they get a different perspective on how they are perceived from the corporate point of view,” said Pulford, who works closely with Rice on the program. The key to success for mentees like Meyer, is to be organized, and have an agenda and a business plan to stay on track, she said.
“Tony keeps his meetings and comes prepared,” she said. “He has an agenda and he follows up on calls. We have concrete action items to bring to the table, and he applies them.”
Jonathan Lovitz, NGLCC senior vice president, said the mentorship program is an invaluable tool for helping small businesses to navigate the corporate playing field.
“Mentorship is invaluable to helping certified LGBT Business Enterprises scale their businesses and navigate relationships with corporations and government agencies,” he said. “Tony continues to pay it forward by actively working with NGLCC leadership to innovate our mentorship program.”
Meyer also coaches other suppliers through NGLCC’s “Certified Superstar” pitch practice program in New York, which has helped many LGBTBEs get ready to win big business, Lovitz said.
For more information about the NGLCC Mentorship program, visit nglcc.org or call 202.234.9181.