By Michelle Burkart | #LGBTB2B
In January 2015, when the Small Business Administration and the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) announced the launch of their Supplier Diversity Initiative LGBTBE Biz Builder partnership, the purpose was to help as many of the 1.4 million LGBT-owned businesses expand their contracting opportunities by getting LGBTBE certified. It was also a way to help our business community level the playing field even more in the world of corporate supplier diversity procurement and government contracting.
The certification is an added “star” on your epaulette, if you will, that helps to promote your business further up the contracting ranks. I say that because as LGBT-identified, we are part of every gender, minority, veteran or ethnic background in business, so we have many stars available to us. Our LGBTBE certification is recognized on the state, local and corporate levels. Our goal is to be counted on the federal spend level, which takes an act of Congress and a lot more certifications!
However, I am so very proud to share with you that last month, the NGLCC announced that they have achieved their first milestone of the program, which was to certify 1,000 LGBT businesses. The next milestone is 2,000 by 2020!
In my opinion, I think that goal is too low but I can understand why they chose a conservative one. In San Diego, we contributed 1 percent to that goal by certifying 11 new businesses since our LGBT certification outreach program launched at the San Diego Imperial SBDC Regional Network in January 2017.
With their funding and additional help from our sponsors — Gay SD, Waddell & Reed, Bank of Southern California, and Diversity Supplier Alliance — we have provided 12 workshops, and over 100 hours of business consulting for LGBT businesses to date.
So why have we not certified more businesses here?
Besides some of the requirements that may be a factor, there is one strategic point missing: The lack of realization by our own LGBT business community that getting certified will not only help your business but also assist the entire LGBT community to move forward politically, and socially, as well as economically.
For example, despite the recent setbacks that this new presidential administration has thrown at the LGBT community, the one thing we do know is that they praise economic impact in the way of capital infusion to our economy and jobs creation. Our stats show we are due some praise!
The NGLCC 2016 Economic Impact Report (nglcc.org) shows:
The LGBT community contributes $1.7 trillion to our national economy (which is bigger than the gross national product of countries like Australia, Canada, or Russia).
Our 909 certified businesses, at the time of the report, represent an annual earnings power of $1.15 billion.
We contributed 33,000 jobs to the national economy.
We represent companies that are between one and 100 years old, and have revenues up to $180 million annually.
We are a diverse population that is part of all the communities in our nation (10 percent of 300 million people is a huge community).
We are 31.8 percent female-owned, 67.6 percent male-owned, and 1.8 percent transgender-owned.
We represent all industries and are a part of ethnic- and minority-owned, women-owned, veteran-owned, or service-disabled-veteran-owned businesses.
So, if you connect the economic impact data dots, you may understand the indirect ways the Victory Fund, the Human Rights Campaign, and LGBT community centers can benefit from growing the numbers of LGBTBE-certified businesses.
Even if you never go after a government or supplier diversity opportunity, you will make a difference by getting certified and being counted. The aggregate of all of us is another “star” on our LGBT business community epaulette, which we can use in our goal of being visible.
About two weeks ago, in the midst of the national debate on what constitutes showing “respect” or “support” or “political correctness” in exercising our constitutional rights as Americans, I felt it was ironic that I spent an entire Saturday at the Veteran’s Entrepreneur Summit 2017.
I presented general information on business certifications to include LGBT certification, and co-facilitated discussion groups that included a very diverse population of attendees. I was welcomed to that community of veterans in business. The week before that, I attended the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council’s Western Regional Conference, which again included the supplier diversity representatives talking about LGBT certification opportunities. I was surprised but also excited that our certification was now part of the national conversation without me having to start it.
After 15 years, the NGLCC is reaping the benefits of their work to provide our LGBT business community with the same opportunities afforded to other diverse populations. As one LGBT-certified CEO said in the 2016 report, “The NGLCC certification creates visibility for LGBT businesses. Visibility creates awareness. Awareness leads to acceptance. And widespread acceptance ends discrimination. You can’t change hearts, minds and attitudes, if you aren’t visible.”
I ask you to seriously think about getting certified to help build on this momentum. It’s important we stay visible on all fronts.
In coming issues, I will show you how third-party certification works for women-owned, veteran/disabled/service-disabled-owned, and minority-owned business and all in addition to LGBT-owned!
— Michelle Burkart is principal at Diversity Supplier Alliance and program coordinator of San Diego/Imperial Valley Small Business Development Center (SDIV SBDC) Regional Network LGBTBE Certification Program. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. For more information on the SDIV SBDC LGBTBE programs, visit sdivsbdc.org/lgbtbe-biz-builder.