By Morgan M. Hurley | Editor
LGBT businesses need to THINK of the bigger picture
(Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series.)
For decades, small-business owners — especially those who are deemed “socially and economically disadvantaged” (women, veterans, ethnic minorities and the disabled, for instance) — have been sheltered and supported by the Small Business Association, a government entity which was established in 1953.
In addition, small disadvantaged businesses often get a leg up and organizations within the federal, state and local sectors are required to award a percentage of their annual contracts to these businesses, if they are certified.
Now, the nearly 1.4 million small, LGBT-owned businesses across the country can join that club.
The initiative is called the LGBT Business Enterprise program — or LGBTBE — and it is being spearheaded by the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) in conjunction with the Small Business Association’s regional small business development centers (SBDC). There are three SBDC offices within the San Diego-Imperial Valley network.
With that many businesses to capture, the SBA and the NGLCC have decided to partner on this program, prioritizing it for the next two years, and they are dedicated to certifying as many qualifying businesses as possible.
In San Diego, local business consultant Michelle Burkart, former interim CEO of the Greater San Diego Business Association (GSDBA), can help you make it happen. The GSDBA is one of the NGLCC’s 52 affiliates nationwide. If you are a local small-business owner and you are not a member, you should be.
As founder and “chief results officer” of TH!NKbusiness, Burkart has helped small to mid-size business owners grow and expand their businesses since 1996, and one client, working with her since 2011, recently increased their profit and sales by 30 percent.
“People don’t take the time to think about their business or step away from their business and look at it differently,” Burkart said.
With regards to LGBTBE, the SDBC is her client and she is working as project coordinator on behalf of the SBDC. As such, Burkart and the LGBTBE team will offer decades of experience to guide, assist, train and consult, LGBT small-business owners through the certification process and the benefits of the program itself.
What does becoming LGBT-owned certified do for you? It not only opens you up to all those federal, state and local government contracts, but the resources that will be offered by your local SBDC are immeasurable.
According to the NGLCC website, walking the LGBTBE track is a no-brainer.
“By becoming a certified LGBTBE, businesses are able to build relationships with America’s leading corporations, generate prospective business and clients and collectively team with each other for contracting opportunities. As corporate America becomes more inclusive and further diversifies its supply chain, certification offers the opportunity for LGBT-owned businesses to differentiate themselves from their competitors,” the NGLCC website stated.
With the expected changes coming to America in the coming weeks with regard to how we do business, who gets to discriminate and the suspected impacts on the LGBT community, it seems to make even more sense to get that added assistance that certification will offer.
NGLCC also says that certified LGBTBEs are “routinely sought after” by other corporate partners within their proprietary database.
Those companies are looking to partner with other LGBT-owned businesses on myriad opportunities. The NGLCC currently also has 160 “supplier diversity” contacts — larger corporations looking to not only diversify their portfolio, but enhance their appeal to big government entities.
Locally, Burkart said the SBDCs will assist LGBT-owned businesses through the extensive vetting and certification process; provide business development training that will help lead you to contracts and be more successful; train you on your capability statements, marketing and contract accounting; and offer general business consulting — all at no fee.
“These are your tax dollars at work,” Burkart said.
The fee to get certified is $400, but if you are a member of your local LGBT chamber of commerce (i.e., GSBDA in San Diego), that will be waived.
Always ahead of the curve, the state of California already has laws in place that benefit LGBT-owned businesses, thanks to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and AB 1678.
The bill, passed in 2015 and referred to as the “Supplier Diversity Law,” requires that the CPUC and any of its affiliates award a percentage of their contracts to LGBT-owned businesses, just like as they are mandated to do so with any other disadvantaged business.
For those of us that live in California, that alone should be enough incentive for certification, but in the bigger picture, the more LGBT businesses that get certified across the country, the more power we will have as a group and as a whole on the SBA scorecard; and in Washington, D.C.
Tune in next issue when we offer more information on the LGBTBE process and its benefits and lay out the steps to get certified as an LGBT-owned business with the SBA. If you can’t wait that long, reach out to Burkart — firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Morgan M. Hurley can be reached at email@example.com.