We had the good fortune of connecting with Helen Perry and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Helen, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
Houston. Born and raised. The greatest big little city on the map! When I was a child we lived about a mile from Battlestein’s on Shepherd. I would walk there and just spend time looking around at all the beautiful clothes and accessories. When my mom sent me to the convenience store for milk, if I had any change, I’d go next door to Albert Miller Florist and buy a single flower. I just loved beauty and Houston had the stores to provide. My first job was at Hannah Niday Florist. I thought it would be just a wonderland of flowers and was surprised to find it required hours of hard work. Our neighborhood was a Norman Rockwell type of existence in the 50’s. Along with kids on the Brentwood Circle, I’d direct and put on plays in the garage to entertain everyone. Little did I know, God was preparing me for stages and podiums in my later life. My dad was a home builder. When biz was good, I went to the private schools, when things were slow, public. Switching schools every other year after 6th grade was tough but it made me stronger and allowed me to know people all over the city. I still see those friends to this day. In ’93 our family experienced the greatest tragedy ever. My beautiful sister was randomly murdered by two carjackers. The Houston Police worked tirelessly to find her perpetrators within 48 hours and the community embraced her children and all of us with unparalleled support. Houston is a can-do, generous and loving city. All this combined to make Houston a perfect place for me to develop a consulting/speaking/teaching business. Our fine city is replete with stores where I can dress clients to the nines on any budget. I am beyond grateful for the plethora of resources and treasured relationships here.
What should our readers know about your business?
Following five years in retail fashion, I began my consulting business in 1983. It wasn’t long until I found myself doing media interviews as a subject matter expert in the field of presentation. Guiding individuals and groups toward becoming the best version of themselves never gets old. In the beginning, I worked mainly with wardrobe. Throughout the years, I took more training and added makeup, speech coaching and etiquette to my repertoire. Particular highlights were winning The Pinnacle Award from The Better Business Bureau for excellence in customer service two years in a row. My column, Sage Advice, serves as a resource to businesses throughout Houston. In 1993, I developed and began teaching Eticool School, children’s manners and character development classes. My students call me “Miss Perrywinkle” and continue to be among my greatest legacies. We learn valuable life lessons and I’m thrilled to have taught over 8,000 young people in all walks of life at schools, churches, synagogues and country clubs. Bering’s Hardware has been a fabulous partner, hosting classes for over 12 years. Giving back to our community is a high priority. Among my favorite causes I’ve been honored to support are The Salvation Army, Bridges To Life, United Way, Aspiring Youth, Crime Stoppers, Star of Hope and Ronald McDonald House. A native Houstonian, born the 7th of 8 children, I learned a great deal watching my siblings. My brother was an All-American tackle at LSU. Five of us went to school there and I cherish the years and friends made there. My degree in Speech has certainly served me well as both a speaker and coach for my clients. My Irish heritage cultivated a unique use of humor that seems to make audiences comfortable when they otherwise might feel nervous about an image consultant coming to their company. With individual clients, I often start in the closet and within hours, guide them to a lifestyle of Stress-free Dressing—and they never looked better! Nothing is more gratifying than seeing them receive promotions, invitations, engagements–this is powerful stuff! Corporations I have served include Baker Botts, L.L.P., Martha Turner Realtors, Methodist Hospital, SCI, Neiman Marcus, BP, ExxonMobil and Tiffany & Co. I was honored to speak on rosters with Colin Powell, Mary Lou Retton and Dr. Ruth. My P.A.T.H program–Professional Awareness Training Heights– includes seminars on Impression Management, professional attire for the workplace-“Business Casual-What It Is and What It Isn’t”, Telephone Technique, Customer Service, Non-verbal Communication, Goal Accomplishment and Etiquette. In 1999, I was invited to Mumbai and New Delhi, India training corporate teams for optimal effectiveness. Results include employees’ improved professional appearance, heightened morale and increased productivity. Clients tell me there is great value in the work we do together and that my employee training and coaching have lasting results. Being recognized by Houston Woman Magazine as one of Houston’s 50 Most Influential Women of 2018 was a tremendous honor for a solo entrepreneur like me. I am incredibly grateful for the relationships and opportunities my career has afforded me over these 38 years and look forward to even more in the future. It hasn’t always been easy or consistent and my faith in Christ has sustained me through lots of peaks and valleys. I used to think anyone could do what I do but I really believe you must feel the call and really have the heart of a servant. I’ve been exhilarated, frustrated, overwhelmed, excited and completely exhausted at one time or another, but I can honestly say, I’ve never been bored! My 10-year-old granddaughter, Caroline Sage Perry, has been assisting me with clients and Eticool classes over the past few years. I believe she could take over the business and run circles around me some day.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
We have an awesome city! Hermann Park has many beautiful areas like the Japanese Garden, Miller Outdoor Theater, The Houston Zoo and The Mecom Fountain, Just across the street is the beautiful campus of Rice University. Homes, museums and restaurants in this neighborhood are excellent. River Oaks Blvd. and its palatial mansions are not to be missed. There’s nothing like our expansive Texas lawns when the azaleas are in bloom! Uptown Park is where the lovely Hotel Granduca can be enjoyed along with some of my favorite boutiques like Elizabeth Anthony and M. Penner. River Oaks District is the Rodeo Drive of Houston replete with the finest stores and restaurants one could desire. From Harry Winston to Hermes to Dolce & Gabbana and Theory, there is plenty of eye candy. One of my favorite eateries there is Le Colonial featuring French Vietnamese Cuisine. Pre or Post-Covid, the arts scene in Houston is tops from opera to ballet, theater and our wonderful Houston Symphony. If you want to pamper yourself, our spas are unmatched. Fitness affectionados will love The Houstonian and our newly updated Memorial Park with its Eastern Glades. For some real Texas flare, Max Lang features the best of sterling silver belt buckles, money clips and the like. The Brisket House Barbecue is among my favorites and Taste of Texas is a must-do for the best steak or salmon around. The Galleria is something visitors love to see with its fabulous stores and more surrounding a giant ice rink. Our Apple stores and Restoration Hardware are anchors and the biggest in the country. Best of all are our people. The most courteous, welcoming and friendly folks you’ll ever find.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My late sister, Marilyn Sage, was five years older and my greatest cheerleader. She made me think I could go anywhere and do anything. Together, we could work a room and know just about everyone before the party ended. She was fun, mischievous and never boring. Linda Johnson, a friend in an exercise class I happened to be teaching at my church after my 3rd baby in 5 years, recognized a change in my look and asked me to come help her with her wardrobe. She had just had twins and knew I would understand. She saw a talent in me that awakened a sleeping giant! The rest is history. My parents exemplified hard work and taught us to always underpromise and overdeliver. Robert Pante is the consummate expert who trained me to become an image consultant in 1983 in San Francisco. He challenged me and raised the bar for the kind of consultant I would be and the way I’d take care of my clients. We remain close friends and to him, I am forever grateful.
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