By Michelle Burkart
One of my mom’s life lessons was “change is inevitable, and I needed to get used to it.” After that lesson, there was the “silver lining” one prompting me to always look at the bright side. This was followed by the “have faith” lesson whereby I would not be given more challenges than I could handle. If mama were still here, I would call her and declare that in 2017 all her lessons hit the fan!
In 2017, our nation experienced a change in the leadership that has impacted our LGBT community, especially for the LGBT business owner. Since 2014, the Supplier Diversity Initiative (SDI) partnership of the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) which supports certification for LGBT business enterprises, had been growing rapidly both locally and nationally. About 1,000 LGBT business owners had become certified as an LGBT business enterprise.
And then came President Donald Trump, and in January 2017, the LGBT business resources page was completely deleted from the SBA website. The agency of the federal government that supports all small business owners with resources for funding, certification, trainings, and business consulting declared us null and void. Not to worry, they said it was for redesign purposes and common for a new administration to do. But we understood the real message, as did our local SBA partners. Get ready for those lessons!
Throughout the past 18 months of chaos, we can identify heroes that have supported us through the changes, provided us with silver linings and have kept the faith that our Supplier Diversity Initiative efforts will continue.
Jill Andrews, the former deputy district director of the San Diego SBA office, was not only a hero to small business in San Diego County, she was a dynamic change agent for the LGBT small business owner. She decided SBA needed to “change things up” in their outreach to LGBT businesses in San Diego, so she sponsored our 2016 and 2017 SBA Pride booths and helped to staff it. She lobbied the SBA to help obtain $50,000 to expand the certification program in 2017. In partnership with the SBDC, we certified over 20 new businesses, provided 12 trainings on LGBT certification and success, and provided more than 100 hours of business consulting to LGBT businesses. Up until my last conversation with her in late December 2017, Andrews always saw the silver lining and never lost faith. She passed away in January 2018. We will miss her tremendously, however, we will be ever grateful for her support of the LGBT entrepreneur.
Sam McClure was the executive director of the Quorum, the Twin Cities GLBT Chamber of Commerce, in Minneapolis before joining the NGLCC staff in 2010. There she rose to the level of senior vice president of Affiliate Relations and External Affairs at the NGLCC. Described as a “passionate and tireless advocate for the LGBT business community,” with 15-plus years of nonprofit leadership experience, Sam’s understanding for the need for social equity is also evident in her relentless advocacy for LGBT people, veterans, and people with disabilities. She led the campaign to secure an executive order from President Obama for the inclusion of LGBTBEs in federal contracting until time ran out and we all know the rest of the story.
Talk about “keeping the faith,” Sam kept a busy travel schedule both nationally and internationally, but the one thing I could always count on was that she always had time for calls from small business owners and their myriad of questions from the trenches. Talk about “changes,” she participated in changing both local and state LGBT procurement policies in places like King County, Washington; in Sacramento California; in Massachusetts; or in New York. She would pass on the information to help us build our program here in San Diego so we all “kept the faith.” The big change now is that Sam’s last work day at the NGLCC was May 31. We thank you for your tireless advocacy and wish you well.
U.S. Reps. Nydia M Velazquez and Yvette Clark, both from New York and serving on the House Small Business Committee, sent a letter to SBA administrator Linda McMahon pressing her on why the content for the LGBT resources page was removed in January 2017 shortly after Trump became president and had not been restored. They expressed concerns that this may have been politically or ideologically motivated. After all, the LGBT business contributes $1.7 trillion dollars to the national economy and 33,000 jobs! Thanks to their persistence and faith in the system, it was restored within a week! I think Jill Andrews had a part in it, too, as she kept saying it would be restored.
So, the next time you resist change, lose faith, or don’t see the silver lining, just remember our heroes and what a difference they made for our community.
For more information on LGBTBE certification, visit: diversitysupplieralliance.com
Join us for our 2018 Let’s Work It certification trainings.
— Michelle Burkart is the principal at Diversity Supplier Alliance. Questions? Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on LGBTBE certification, visit diversitysupplieralliance.com.