From punching bag to business owner - let me be HOPE.
Thank you and always do the right thing. It helps you sleep better.
Reported by Nikke Gawel.
That was the length of time Suzanne Perry was abused, isolated and estranged from her family, friends and the world around her by a husband who took every opportunity to tell her she was worthless, useless and would never amount to anything. She was allowed to go to her job, but had to come right home or face the consequences.
Her three children were prisoners of his behavior, also. Perry’s former husband wouldn’t let her talk to her children unless he was present.
By 2007, the frequency and intensity of the abuse had increased to a point where Perry’s oldest daughter gave her an ultimatum: the daughter said that either her father needed to go, or she would leave herself.
That ultimatum woke Perry up. She had left and returned to that man three times in 13 years, and the final time she had married him. Clearly, this could go on no longer.
Although Perry couldn’t really talk to her daughter alone, the two managed to make a pact that when things got bad, 911 would be called.
“I tried calling for help,” said Perry. “I was told if I had a black eye, nothing could be done, but if I was kicked with a shoe, than that was okay. So was I supposed to go home and ask to be kicked? I really started to feel helpless at that point.”
On a Thursday night in November 2007, the violence escalated. Her daughter asked if she could call after Perry’s lips swelled up. Perry declined. Her daughter asked after a second incident, which resulted in blood spattered on Perry’s shirt. She still declined. After a third incident, Perry looked in the mirror, saw bright red hand marks on her throat and, finally, with more visible evidence, the authorities were called and he was taken away.
The next morning an order of protection was issued against the father of Perry’s children, and this past July the divorce was finalized.
A month after her husband was removed, Perry and her children went to the mall in December. In more than a decade, she had not set foot in a mall. Everything was so colorful, lit up and new, just like Perry’s future.
Her new freedom gave Perry the opportunity to rediscover her children’s unique personalities and gifts. And it gave another gift of its own: the opportunity to reconnect with her mother during her mother’s last 18 months of life.
“I love having no one to answer to. I like being able to not care if someone doesn’t like how I’m dressed. I also love being a regular person and that I can walk into a public place and strike up a conversation and make someone laugh or smile,” said Perry. “It feels so good spreading smiles. I love waking up being free. It’s something regular people take for granted, but not me. It was taken away from me for 22 years, so it was like living in prison all that time.”
“I have a chipped front tooth from his wedding ring,” Perry continued. “My dentist asked if they could fix it and I told them no. It’s a reminder of the thorns I bore for so long and it keeps me strong.”
But her new life was not without challenges. She lost her job, and her employer successfully contested her unemployment claim. She found herself with no income and a new house in Orchard Park.
Throughout her entire life, Perry has worked for information technology (IT) companies. In recent years, many of the companies in the area downsized or closed up shop for good. Perry’s most recent employer couldn’t even make payroll.
“I thought, ’Okay. I’m going to take my former employer’s clients and their technicians with me.’ And that’s exactly what I did,” said Perry. “Fortunately, because of my work ethic, I had developed a good rapport with clients during the years. I decided I wouldn’t lay myself off, so I opened my own company. I had a dime and a dream.”
Perry established On A Dime Installations in April 2008. She named the company not only for the dime and a dream she started with, but also for the connotation of precision of stopping or turning on a dime. She wants her company to embody that precision, quick thinking and efficient performance.
On A Dime Installations provides telecommunication equipment. If there is a signal, Perry’s company can sell and install it. Her services and products include computer networks, phone systems, structured cabling, video walls, home theatre, point of sale systems, menu boards, and interactive vending machines.
“Because we are a small business, we can boast anti-corporate pricing,” said Perry. “I meet with every client so it’s personal.”
Currently, she is her only formal employee, although she contracts with additional technicians as needed.
By spring 2010 Perry would like to have five full-time technicians and by the fall reach 10. In late spring, she plans to open an office in the Village of Orchard Park.
“I feel my goals are very realistic because I am honest and passionate about my work and I am like an open book,” said Perry. “I can’t sell something if I don’t believe in it. I just won’t do that.”
When Perry began her company last year, she had all national-level accounts. When the recession began, those accounts reduced their spending. When the going got tough, Perry got going yet again.
Perry’s focus changed to become local. Initially, she made a presence in Orchard Park, joining the chamber of commerce and continually supporting local and small businesses. The idea of digital signage came to Perry.
After sharing her story, Perry discovered the problem of domestic violence is far more prevalent than many believe.
“People started pouring their hearts out to me. I’m not a counselor and I didn’t know what to do with it,” said Perry. “Music is expression and the ability to create without being judged seemed perfect.”
That realization inspired Perry to begin a second venture that will help raise awareness for domestic violence and family abuse victims. It is a music venue with a recording studio and coffee house. It is scheduled to open May 2010.
Perry and her daughter, who is a musician, collaborated on the idea. After extensive research from numerous victims, they found that victims of violence share a common ground. The victims are trained to be silent.
“If [the abusers] were exposed, they would shrivel up and die,” said Perry. “My idea was to sell purple musical notes just like the Juvenile Diabetes sneakers, with the word ’exposure’ written on it. I want to turn up the volume and really reach out to anyone that needs it.”
To date, Perry has aided three women to stay independent from their abusers. Perry holds the mantra that if she can help one, she can help many.
“I want to help anyone that feels helpless and isolated, like I once did, so that they may find hope and understand there is a way out,” said Perry.
For more information on On A Dime Installations, visit www.OnADimeInstallations.com, or call 716-548-5013.Information on the music venture can be found at, www.opmusichouse.org.