Being an entrepreneur in the LGBT community comes with a unique set of challenges. Sometimes those challenges are present in the form of subtle—or even overt—discriminations from potential customers or investors. Sometimes they occur in the process of trying to make valuable connections in an ecosystem dominated by straight men. And sometimes those challenges arise when a business owner decides to come out to his or her advisors or employees.
These challenges have existed for as long as LGBT-owned Business Enterprises (LGBTBEs) have existed, and since the late 1980s, LGBT Chambers of Commerce have been popping up across the United States, including in the South, in an effort to help lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender business owners overcome them.
The purpose of any local LGBT Chamber of Commerce is to establish and nurture a network of business and professional resources for LGBT and allied communities. Chambers often encourage communication, fellowship and support among member businesses by hosting networking events and mixers. Most chambers also feature an online directory, which allows people to search for LGBT-owned businesses in various industries within their community.
When LGBT chambers were first formed, the organizations operated locally and independently. But In 2002, the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) was founded to serve as the national advocate for all affiliated LGBT Chambers both present and future.
The NGLCC serves LGBTBEs in a number of ways. They offer a certification process through their Supplier Diversity Initiative (SDI), which provides LGBTBEs with opportunities to gain exposure within corporate procurement processes.
The NGLCC also takes an active role in legislation at a federal and state level. The organization partners with Federal Agencies such as the U.S. Departments of Commerce, Labor, and Transportation and the U.S. Small Business Administration in an effort to ensure the implementation of pro-business, LGBT-inclusive policies.
The organization’s headquarters, the Supplier Innovation Center in Washington D.C., offers further business resources to SDI certified LGBT businesses and serves as the nexus for those connections. It also houses all SDI certification documents.
In addition, the NGLCC partners with banks, shipping companies, airlines, hotels and educational facilities to provide LGBTBEs with the tools necessary for success.
To learn more about the NGLCC and its affiliate chambers, visit their website.