Powerful Partnerships: Hispanic Business Enterprises 

September 15-October 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month and we’re sharing the stories of two Hispanic-owned Business Enterprises part of MillerKnoll’s procurement process and dealer distribution network.

Meet Danny Garcia, CEO and Co-Founder of Wrk Lab – a MillerKnoll Dealer, and Alfonzo Gonzalez, Owner of Gonzalez Pallets – a MillerKnoll Supplier; both are Minority Business Enterprises, certified by the National Minority Supplier Diversity Council (NMSDC).

Danny Garcia, Co-founder and CEO, Wrk Lab, a MillerKnoll dealer

Tell us about your career journey and how you became the owner of Wrk Lab?

I was born and raised in Miami, FL. My parents migrated to the United States from Cuba in the mid-50s, fleeing their country and leaving it all behind to avoid communism. They met and married in Miami and we’re firm believers in education. They always said that “no matter what, your education can never be taken from you.”

After studying Architecture at the University of Miami, I began my career working for Arquitectonica, a local firm. After a period of eight years, I was recruited by Perkins + Will to help strengthen their local presence. After some time working for these large firms, I decided to go on my own and created a local design firm by the name of Red Design Group. Throughout my architectural career path, I realized that my expertise was in interior architecture, and it naturally led to the planning, designing, and building of interior commercial spaces. This is where my furniture love story begins.

After eight years with my own firm, I was recruited by the largest furniture dealer in the market at the time (Empire Office NYC) to run their south Florida location. Without any real prior knowledge of the industry, I was able to grow their business from $8 million to over $101 million dollars in the State of Florida and assisted in over four acquisitions of competitive dealers within a period of eight years. The next natural step for me was ownership. 

I’m not afraid of adversity. In fact, I thrive best when it’s present. Throughout my career path, I have always been challenged. I’ve pushed myself to overcome challenges and keep an open and broad perspective while doing so. When the opportunity came to create Wrk Lab and represent Herman Miller in south Florida, I immediately seized it and therefore started this amazing journey with MillerKnoll. The rest is history!

How have your professional and personal experiences intersected? How have they shaped your role today in leading a company?

My personal experiences have shaped me to be the businessperson I am today - always searching for what is best and never settling for anything less. At Wrk Lab, one of our core values is to be a “Best in Class” company. This is very challenging in today’s business climate, but I believe we are heading in the right direction. In the three short years of our existence, we were recognized by south Florida Business Journal as Best Place to Work for the past three years and were recently named a Top 50 Fastest Growing Company in south Florida.

Why is it important for you to work with businesses like MillerKnoll that value Hispanic-owned companies within their ecosystem?

I embrace every company that embraces ALL diversity. I believe that for a company to be great, it must be made of a colorful blend of people. Every person brings a unique perspective to the table and the more diverse a team is, the more successful it is. After all, the people are what defines the culture of any organization.

Working with MIllerKnoll has given me the ability to connect with ambassadors of diversity such as Cheryl Kern, Brandy Mills, and R.J. Stelter. This gave me a voice internally and it amplified our initiative. For the first time in furniture history, our voices are being heard and the needle is moving in the right direction.

Being that MillerKnoll requests our suppliers and dealers to also promote diversity and inclusion, how do you promote inclusion and diversity at Wrk Lab? 

Wrk Lab is approximately 95% diverse. You can say it’s easy because we’re in south Florida and diversity is just part of our everyday life. South Florida is a phenomenal melting pot and a true resemblance of a diverse/creative market. Diversity is easy for us because it’s the fabric that makes us who we are.

With over 42 team members we hire based on the candidate’s qualifications. In our experience most of the time, the most qualified candidate is, in fact, diverse, bringing to our team foundational skills and abilities and most importantly adding to our unique culture. 

How did Wrk Lab start and in what year did you begin your partnership with us?

On January 1, 2019, Wrk Lab was born because of a unique opportunity to represent the Herman Miller line in south Florida. I was given the opportunity by John Michael who opened the door to having a young, new, diverse dealer in the Herman Miller distribution channel. He looked beyond stereotypes and saw my ability and potential in a company like Wrk Lab. What I saw in Herman Miller was an initiative of so many people who had their heart in their work and they believed in making Wrk Lab a success. Someone had to believe in me and in Wrk Lab in order to be given the opportunity to be a Herman Miller dealer. 

Diversity to me is being able to be given the opportunity and support to succeed. The open door must come from somewhere because it’s impossible to do it alone. Ask yourself, what door are you opening for someone else? Everyone can do it! It’s beyond race, color, or sexual orientation. It’s about being a human being and doing your part to contribute to a better society. I challenge you to open that door for someone!

Alfonzo Gonzalez, Owner, Gonzalez Pallets, a MillerKnoll supplier

Tell us about your career journey and how you became the owner of Gonzalez Pallets.

I originally learned about the pallet business through another pallet company I was working for. After learning the ins and outs, I realized I had the potential to do it on my own and started Gonzalez Pallets business from the ground up 12 years ago – in my backyard!

How have your professional and personal experiences intersected? How have they shaped your role today in leading a company?

This is a family-owned and operated business, so it has been great to involve my family every step of the way. The foundation of everything is family. We all work in a warehouse together and it is truly a team effort. In my opinion, it is a competitive advantage that has allowed us to remain strong. We did not inherit this business – we built and grew it, so it is truly a reflection of us.

We’re also able to tap into our local community and support the youth. On the upper floor of our building, we’ve created a boxing ring and dance studio for children in the neighborhood to enjoy as extracurricular activities. We provide everything, they just have to maintain their grades to participate so it feels good to be able to motivate and give kids an outlet to be themselves.

Why is it important for you to work with businesses like MillerKnoll that value Hispanic-owned companies within their ecosystem?

As a minority-owned and young company, it was a game-changer to find a large company like MillerKnoll to partner with and have consistent business with. Since then, so many doors have been opened for us – much more than we could have imagined. Our company has grown by 70% and we’ve been able to expand to 30 employees because of the amount of work we fulfill just through MillerKnoll. Through the years, it’s been great to see the partnership evolve and how we’ve been able to help each other be better. We admire the partnerships MillerKnoll has with other diverse suppliers as well. We all need one another to make this work!

How did your partnership with us begin?

In 2008, employees from Herman Miller were visiting Clean Planet, an Environmental Recycling Company in Grand Rapids. During this visit, they learned that the adjacent building was being leased by Gonzalez Universal Pallets and we were highly recommended.  The owner of Clean Planet introduced them to us and there it began.

At the time, Herman Miller was looking to add a diverse supplier who could supply quality pallets and support their requirements. We currently supply them with over 22 different pallet sizes that are used daily. We’re also both committed to preserving the environment, which makes for a great partnership! We repair, reuse, and recycle any pallets we get back from their recycling trailers.

What’s next for Gonzalez Pallets?

We will continue building and strengthening our relationship with MillerKnoll and exploring how we can support other manufacturers and generate more jobs. Our business is generational, and we just want to keep it going for our family’s future and pass it down for generations to come.

Supplier Diversity at MillerKnoll

Inclusive design is a part of who we are. Through partnerships with diverse suppliers, we’re fostering opportunities for minority (Black, Asian, Indian, Asian Pacific, Hispanic, and Native-American), women, veteran, service-disabled veterans, hub zone, and LGBTQ+-owned business enterprises to contribute to the support and achievement of our purpose – design for the good of humankind. These businesses play a vital role in our success, and we’re equally committed to theirs – helping them grow, develop, and create economic vibrancy within their communities. 

Learn more about MillerKnoll’s commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion on MillerKnoll.com. For more on supplier diversity, click here.