By originating most of the deals closed in 2014 for thriving lower middle-market firm Huron Capital Partners, partner Gretchen Perkins excelled in an era of increased competition among private equity firms. As the PE asset class has matured over three decades, deal sourcing has become more important than ever, and Perkins' ubiquitous coverage of the lower middle-market landscape over her seven-year tenure at the firm has made her a rising star throughout the industry.

Perkins' coverage of the market, combined with her ability to communicate Huron's interests in investing in the growing automotive sector, contributed to Huron's successful 2014 purchase of XLerate. The Charleston, South Carolina-based company, which originally did business as American Auto Auction Group, provides dealer-to-dealer auto auction services in the used-car remarketing industry. XLerate owns six well-known, regional auto auction brands that operate a total of 19 fixed and mobile sites across South Carolina, California, Texas, Mississippi, Wisconsin and Florida.

Perkins found the XLerate deal through a relationship with the company's sell-side advisor. "I had been calling on the adviser and letting them know our acquisition interests for over a decade. It paid off," says Perkins.

Huron is also highly focused on executing buy-and-build strategies. Perkins' work in this area led to six sizeable add-on acquisitions for important Huron platform strategies. For example, Perkins initiated the relationship with the buy-side advisory firm that Huron bought Biff's Coffee Roasting Company from in January 2014. Huron added this company to Ronnoco Coffee, which it acquired in 2012 and has grown ever since. Gretchen also brought in Optimum Plastics in 2014, which was added on to Huron's portfolio company Bloomer Plastics, which Huron had acquired in 2012.

"Huron was very active in 2014, having completed 22 acquisitions within our focus areas of specialty," says Perkins. "We have a culture of responsiveness here from the top to the bottom of the organization in regards to opportunities we source. It's all about finding ways to do deals, not finding easy ways to turn them down."

In addition to her deal work, Perkins serves as a voice for the middle-market industry in Washington, D.C., by serving as co-chair of the Public Policy Committee for the Association for Corporate Growth. She also serves as a director at large for ACG Global's board of directors.

"My work as co-chair of the ACG Public Policy Committee is important, mainly because there is a fundamental lack of understanding among many legislators in Washington, D.C., about what the middle market is, how important it is to the U.S. economy and how various laws or regulations impact our industry. It is very important to educate legislators about these items as it is our hope to be impactful in future legislation or regulation," says Perkins.

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