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NGLCC assists the GLBT business community

The organization is an advocate for the GLBT community on many levels, including its three-year-old supplier diversity initiative

Janice Mahlmann wanted to work with gay and lesbian businesses.
Janice Mahlmann wanted to work with gay and lesbian businesses.

Soon after Janice Mahlmann began her business, August eTech (Hamilton Square, NJ), she went Web surfing. As a lesbian business owner, “I wanted to work with the gay and lesbian business community,” she says.

She was looking for information on other GLBT-owned businesses, noting that in general, IT is an area where there aren’t so many GLBT companies. “I’m a percentage of a percentage,” she says
with a smile.

In the course of her search, Mahlmann came across the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), an organization that represents the interests of more than 800,000 GLBT-owned companies.

“They were having a conference,” Mahlmann says, “so I signed up and went.” The conference was so successful for her that she applied for certification by NGLCC. Her membership has helped her link up with other small GLBT-owned businesses, and now she’s developing some business partnerships on her own.

Founding August eTech
Mahlmann founded August eTech after fifteen years in the IT field. “I worked jobs from network engineer to project manager,” she says, gaining experience in management as well as the tech side of business.

She realized that small businesses need IT support, but many are too small to keep a full-time IT pro on staff. She began her company to provide part-time support on a contract basis. Most of her clients are small and medium-sized businesses that came to her through word-of-mouth and personal contacts.

A business owner doesn’t have to be certified to attend NGLCC events, Mahlmann notes, but certification is necessary for inclusion in the organization’s exclusive certified business database. And it gives her firm a stamp of legitimacy in the business world and credibility with the larger companies she hopes to bring in as clients.

NGLCC fills a gap
NGLCC was founded five years ago to fill a gap in the GLBT movement. Where women- and minority-owned businesses had thriving organizations to help them succeed, the GLBT community had no avenue to economic unity. Co-founders Justin Nelson and Chance Mitchell created the not-for-profit NGLCC organization to act as the GLBT community’s own chamber of commerce.

NGLCC is an advocate for the GLBT community on several levels. It has been a voice addressing Congress and on Wall Street. It has developed a women’s business initiative and a partnership with Realogy Corp, the mammoth real estate franchiser. In 2004 NGLCC began its supplier diversity initiative (SDI).

IBM was first
Aditi Dussault.
Aditi Dussault.
Always forward-looking in diversity, IBM was the first corporate partner to come on board. It has since been joined by Wells Fargo, Motorola, Intel, American Airlines, JP Morgan Chase, Wyndham Hotels, Ernst & Young, American Express and more.

“IBM expressed interest in a certification program,” explains Aditi Dussault, manager of the NGLCC supplier diversity initiative. The SDI took shape from there.

About the SDI
“NGLCC acts as a third-party certification entity for businesses that are at least fifty-one percent GLBT owned,” explains Dussault. “This allows the companies to compete for procurement contracts specifically targeted for diverse suppliers.

“We work with small GLBT businesses to get them through the certification process, and we help them learn the best ways to approach large corporations.”

Just as it is at NMSDC, WBENC and others, certification at NGLCC is a rigorous process. But, as Mahlmann discovered, it can result in excellent opportunities to grow a company.

Getting certified
Dussault explains that a small business starts the application process by going to www.nglcc.org and filling out the online application with basic information about the structure of the company. Then formal documentation is needed to show the business owner’s status in the GLBT community. “This might be information like proof of domestic partnerships or joint bank accounts.”

Once certified, a business can register with NGLCC’s corporate partners as a diverse vendor, and corporations can search NGLCC’s database to find matches to their needs, or meet NGLCC members at conferences and other gatherings. The organization helps its businesses reach out; business owners can be eligible for mentorship and leadership programs and more.

“This is the way to get connected with corporate America,” Mahlmann says. “It’s good to see that the big companies are trying to include sexual orientation in their supplier diversity policies.”

Working together
In addition to preparing its members and connecting them with corporate partners, NGLCC gives them the chance to work with each other. August eTech has partnered with other GLBT-owned IT companies, giving both partners a greater spectrum of services to offer.

In fact, Mahlmann believes the opportunity to network may just be the best thing she’s gotten out of her NGLCC certification. “You can meet a lot of people you wouldn’t get to know otherwise,” she says.

“Even when you’re gay or lesbian yourself, it’s not always easy to meet GLBT business owners.”

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