firelight

Fashion and beauty brands that have established their potential but are looking to grow — and pick up some funds, operational expertise and branding advice along the way — have a new place to turn.

Firelight Capital brings together the expertise of private equity players Rick Perkal and Pat Collins with the marketing chops of fashion mainstay Yard NYC and is on the hunt for consumer-centric deals in the lower middle market. That is, brands with revenues of $25 million to $100 million, which often find themselves at a turning point, with businesses that have traction but need a boost to keep expanding.

Perkal, who is chief executive officer of Firelight and was formerly senior managing director of Irving Place Capital, said he’s looking for companies with earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of $2 million to $10 million. The firm is ready to invest $10 million to $25 million for anywhere from 40 to 70 percent of a company.

Firelight, which has dedicated capital sources, already took a stake in all-natural dog food company Three Dog Bakery, but is keen for more deals and is actively exploring numerous consumer sectors including apparel and accessories, beauty and personal care, footwear, health and wellness, and food and beverage.

Perkal and company are looking to invest in companies that have two key components: A solid brand and founders who are looking for partners.

“The most powerful part of investing in consumer brands is the strength of a brand and where you take it,” Perkal said. “What creates the most value is taking a brand that really has legs and getting in and helping take it to another level with the right positioning and strategy.”

That’s where Yard comes in.

The creative agency is known for working with much bigger clients — including Gap, Timberland, Tumi, John Varvatos and more — and while it won’t handle marketing for Firelight companies, it will offer guidance.

And smaller companies with big potential often need it.

“Most of these firms don’t have a lot of experience in marketing and branding because they don’t have the capital to do it,” Perkal said.

Ruth Bernstein, cofounder and chief strategic officer of Yard, said her company helps brands connect with consumers through the core principles of “brains, beauty and bravery.”

“In the early days of Yard NYC, clients were mostly looking for the beauty element, but now, with the changed digital landscape — clients are really craving all three,” she said. “We help them define the stories they want to tell, on the right platforms, at the right time.

“As Yard NYC has grown, we’re no longer able to work with brands at the Firelight scale. Our partnership with Firelight enables us to pursue our passion projects and work with more emerging brands — this time, guiding them at an oversight level. At Firelight we’re helping brands create their brand vision and a blueprint to realizing their ambitions. Instead of Yard NYC executing the work, we connect them with our deep network of talented partners and experts. The difference in scale and categories of the Firelight companies means they are not competing with our Yard NYC client base.”

Much of the deal-making lately has been in the beauty sector, where Collins, who is a managing partner at Firelight and an alum of JH Partners, has particular expertise.

But Perkal said there’s hope still for fashion.

“In the fashion, apparel, accessories, footwear space, it’s easier to find opportunities at much-lower values, given people are nervous about retail and brick and mortar,” he said. “We’re looking for a brand that has gotten some good traction, both through e-commerce and maybe a few stores, maybe a handful of Nordstroms or Neiman Marcuses, where we can really help build that brand.”

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