Reports from the Road — NGLCC LGBTUnity Conference

NGLCC LGBTUNITY –

2018 International Business and Leadership Conference

The “Inclusive Movement” by the Corporate world and how it benefits LGBTQ Businesses

submitted by Ron Schutt

Did you ever wish that someone could guide you and tell you what would make your professional life easier and more profitable as an LGBTQ person? I did, and I still do. I attended NGLCC LGBTUNITY – 2018 International Business and Leadership Conference to get more information. I hope to have Western New York become a part of this Inclusive Movement attracting Corporate America. Our area of the state is an untapped resource of LGBTQ talent and leadership. People that I dealt with at the NGLCC (National LGBT Chamber of Commerce) conference were delightful to work with. Let me tell you about the organization to start – so that you can, like me, get excited about the forces at work. This information is based on statements from their website and from several of my conversations in Philadelphia.

There are 65 Chamber Affiliates with NGLCC from the US and Globally 30 countries in all. The NGLCC started in 2002 when co-founders Justin Nelson and Chance Mitchell realized the impact of LGBT people on the economy had gone largely unnoticed despite economic equality being an important component of the LGBT equality movement. The co-founders sought to showcase that as in addition to being LGBT, many LGBT people were also business owners, employers, taxpayers, providers of healthcare and a vibrant, essential part of the small business engine that makes the economy run.

An organization literally launched around a coffee table is now the voice for the nation’s 1.4 million LGBT business owners and the $1.7 trillion that they add to the national economy each year. NGLCC is supported by over 200 corporate partners as well as prominent executive leadership promoting LGBT pro-business inclusive policies.

The NGLCC has become an entity to support and advocate for diversity and inclusion for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT)-owned businesses. The NGLCC Supplier Diversity Initiative (SDI) started in 2004 and offers businesses a tool to make connections and open doors with global recognized corporations and each other. The SDI certifies LGBT-owned Business Enterprises (LGBTBEs) and works to provide opportunities for LGBTBEs to gain exposure within corporate procurement processes.

This was all amazing to me. WOW!! Actually a team of people there to help me get my foot in the door, so to speak. Not only do they get your foot in the door, but they train you how to use that “foot in the door” to get the rest of the door opened and walk into the Corporate Procurement office with your head held high and real advantages for competing for business with gigantic corporations’ procurement departments.

 

Now, let me tell you about the conference itself.

Day 1

It was a beautiful summer day in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection (Philadelphia). I was tickled on the new inclusive addition to the city’s by-line. I had received my schedule via email with many choices to fill my 4 1/2 day conference. There were educational seminars to fit every goal that NGLCC achieves to attain. Monday and Tuesday were filled with Affiliate Chamber courses teaching people running local chapters how to develop strong plans to have advocacy play a main role in affiliate mission. I wanted to attend these, but this part was only for current affiliate leaders. Western New York does not have a chapter, yet. Let’s see what we can do to change that.

In the afternoon, there was an “Early-Bird” advance registration. It was sponsored by EY (Ernst & Young) and Bristol-Meyers Squibb at the William Way LGBT Center. The local youth got a chance to connect directly with corporate and LGBTQ businesses to hear about the importance of authenticity in the workplace.

Day 2

This was the beginning of my “Boot Camp”. First thing in the morning, I met for breakfast with two mentors that accepted me for my first year as an LGBTBE (Business Entity). I am lucky to get two great mentors from CVS Health. Handsome guys, too. Woof! At breakfast, they filled me in on how they would like to see the mentorship program go for the year. That’s right- the whole year. I thought that they would just be walking me through the week. But to my surprise- they had a plan for the entire year. Raul Suarez-Rodriguez is my main mentor. He is from Cuba and has surpassed all obstacles to become the Manager, Supplier Diversity/ Strategic Procurement for CVS Health. He is really a go- getter. My other Mentor is Paul Scittarelli from Rhode Island which is where his corporate office is located. He told me that CVS spends over $1billion in printing every year. A small Request for Proposal could make or break a small business. That is exactly why it is not easy to get into that corporate loupe, and why they are here to mentor diverse companies to survive this “Hump”. I was in awe about their plans for me and my company. They are the right kind of people to be working with through this arduous process.

After breakfast I attended the introductory course called, (you guessed it) Boot Camp for LGBT Certified & Registered Businesses. This was a 3 ½ hour course. First-time certified LGBT businesses begin building a game plan unique to their own business and growth strategies.  This program had NGLCC family to discuss supplier diversity, conference breakout sessions, matchmakers, and more to help business owners get the most out of their conference experience. The second half was about Demystifying Networking: How to create meaningful connections at networking events. This session was for first-time attendees as well as veterans looking to feel calm, focused, and empowered while building their business. We learned best practices for staying centered, engaging new potential business partners, and managing distractors that can prevent business from thriving. Also, on day 2 they had matchmaker sessions. These aligned individuals with a corporate buyer and allowed each participant to give their elevator speech to a procurement specialist. This is all done for training purposes only, and I learned a bunch about what to expect from corporations. That night, after a full day that started at 7 am, I attended the first social reception. It was at the Reading Terminal Market in Downtown Philly. The market was astounding. Much like Rochester’s Public Market but all inside. I bet that is a Godsend in the Winter!! There was a chance to see the many offering of Philly- including the cheesesteak!! We met several of the other attendees and My husband and I were received with open arms into a very diverse crowd of people. We were the only people at the conference from the Western NY area, that I know of. But it was very comfortable, as if we had been a part of this for the whole time. By the end of the reception we were ready for a deep sleep.

Day3

The day starts at 7 am with “Corporate Walk and Talks”. This is where corporate buyers literally walk with you for about 5 minutes. Just so you can meet them and tell them about yourself. It is very laid back and casual. A great way to feel comfortable with the “Big Wigs” of Corporate.

Then breakfast is a 2hour session with speakers on LGBTUNITY A Frank Conversation About the Intersection of Race, Gender & Sexual Orientation. The speakers included people from many walks of life. They discussed how diverse business, political, and community leaders explore privilege, prejudice, and possibility as we become a majority minority economy that will require collaboration to succeed. What an eye-opening experience this was. We have a collective responsibility to be inclusive as a community. We need to reach out to ensure that we remain inclusive of all races, genders, and not think that we are diverse just because of our sexual orientation. A room full of white gay men, is still just a room full of white men. What is diverse in that? It is our responsibility to reach out and to invite all into the room.

The remainder of my day I concentrated on trade specific course dealing with digital workflow and adapting to the future. There were, in all, over 30 break out sessions available for Day 3. I stayed booked solid and ended up only attending 3 of those. I will have to go back next year to rake in more knowledge.

Day 4

This is the day that I anticipated the most. Martha Stewart attended our luncheon and was interviewed about a bit of everything. Martha was named as one of Forbes  “100 Greatest Business Minds” in 2017. This made her fit right in with the NGLCC agenda for the week. She spoke of her big wins and her worst mistakes. She was funny, laid back and a pleasure to listen to. She spoke about her time in prison, her nephew’s wedding at her beautiful home in Maine. The home was built for Edsel Ford, an automotive visionary. She speaks of it, the same way that I speak of my home- The best place in the world to be.

Other speakers throughout the week included:

  1. Mayor of Philadelphia, Jim Kenney. He spoke of HRC and the importance of government entities to receive the 100% grade that Philadelphia has in the Municipal Equality Index.
  2. The parents of Matthew Shepard, Dennis and Judy Shepard, whom are giants for us to follow in the footsteps of. They started the Matthew Shepard Foundation to help support their murdered son’s friends and it has grown into an international support network.
  3. Openly Gay Democratic member of the PA House of Representatives, Brian Sims, he spoke of how welcome we all are in Philly and how Philly is the most legally gay friendly city in the country. He was so hot!! And he has a twin brother. What a coincidence, because our openly gay representative from Rochester, Harry Bronson, is also a twin. Luck us. I wish we could clone a few more of these guys.

I could go on and on, but this article would never get turned in. It was a wonderful conference about making the business world a better place for LGBTQ. I am really excited about bringing these business advantages and practices to our area. Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse could all benefit from a Western New York chapter of the NGLCC. I would like to start working toward that end with anyone that is willing to pitch in. This truly could change the community here. Not just for LGBT but for our local economy, industry and our allies. I have spoken with Harry Bronson and with Robert Duffy about being supporters of this cause. Both may speak at meeting in the near future. Business is here and it is strong. Together, with a diverse outlook, Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse LGBTQ businesses can become a force for good and a strength for our communities. I have formed a small group thus far, which I call Roc Out Business Owners Together. I plan to change the name as soon as we get closer to becoming an affiliate chamber, to include all of Western NY. This will be a group decision by then. Like us on Facebook and I will be keeping updating our progress and inviting people to join our cause and to become certified as an LGBTQ business enterprise.

— Roc ‘n Ron Ronald Schutt

Community Activist

Philanthropist and one “Wild and Crazy Guy”

 

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