Getting certified as an LGBTQ+ can open doors, increase contacts, and give you mentorship to help take your business to the next level.
By Kim Folsom
In this two-part article, we’ll cover the benefits of getting an LGBTQ+ certification for your business as well as tips for applying.
Face it, running a business is hard. Doing it as a minority founder is even harder. That’s why certifications for women-owned or minority-owned businesses can help. You can also get certified as an LGBTQ+ business. The National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) has a certification program to help give LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs a leg up.
According to its website, the NGLCC is “the business voice of the LGBT community, the largest advocacy organization dedicated to expanding economic opportunities and advancements for LGBT people, and the exclusive certifying body for LGBT-owned businesses.”
Who can get LGBTQ+ certified?
The NGLCC says that any business that meets the following requirements is eligible to become certified:
- At least 51% owned, operated, managed, and controlled by a person or persons who identify as part of the LGBT community (including transgender and non-binary/gender non-conforming individuals) and are either U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.
- Operates independently from any non-LGBT business enterprise.
- Headquartered and has been formed as a legal, for-profit entity in the United States.
Like any certification, going through the process takes some time and effort, but the payoff can be big—new contacts, new vendors and business partners, a new credential to market yourself behind, support and mentorship, the ability to pay it forward and give back to your community, and ultimately a new avenue to grow your business.
We recently convened a panel of LGBTQ+ business leaders to get their insights on the benefits of being a certified business and the process of applying.
Improve your networking, increase your corporate contacts
According to our panel, one of the biggest benefits of getting LGBTQ+ certified is to increase your corporate contacts. Tahjar Roamartinez, Founder and CEO of Cyber Warfighters Group, said that within a short time of being certified her business relationships in Fortune 100 companies grew by 75% and her business relationships in Fortune 500 companies grew by 35%.
“Unlike other certifications that I hold, these senior executives were specifically part of the LGBT community, or their company were allies,” Roamartinez said. “And they had a real, driven purpose and a priority to work with LGBT businesses. And that’s just in the short six months.”
Charles Jordy, Founder and CEO of Jordy Construction, echoed that sentiment. “I would say on our end, the biggest leverage, if you will, is the caliber of the corporations we met. So, we’ve always done work for a lot of great companies, but literally, you are exposed to some of the finest corporations in the world. That’s a big statement, but it is Fortune 100, Fortune 500…. And for a little contractor from Denver to have the opportunity with the J.P. Morgans, Capital Ones, et cetera…. It’s really remarkable. It amazes me every time I meet a new client.”
Jordy also mentioned that he made a lot of his connections at the National Conference that the NGLCC puts on. “I’ve met most of our customers through these matchmaker sessions at the National Conference, and I would encourage anyone that gets involved to go to the National Conference,” he said. “These matchmakers really come to these events seeking out LGBT vendors.”
The NGLCC has built a large network of corporate partners looking to support the LGBTQ+ business community through its internal, proprietary database. When you get certified you get access to corporate representatives and suppliers who can help you grow your business.
Market your business and differentiate from the competition
“It’s a marketing tool to increase visibility and it confers legitimacy,” said Paulette Pantoja, Founder and CEO of Blu Digital Group.
If your business is specifically trying to reach the LGBTQ+ community or work with companies that actively seek diverse partners, getting certified can differentiate you from the competition.
“When you log into the portal for the suppliers, for the corporations that are participating, it opens doors to business opportunities,” Pantoja said.
Once those doors are open, though, you have to be ready to capitalize on them.
“I think the biggest thing I would suggest to anyone going into this is really be prepared when you sit down to talk with new potential customers,” Jordy said. “So you have to be concise. You’ve have to really know who you’re talking to, what their business is about. And you have to really understand what your value proposition is, what benefit you’re bringing them. And then you have to follow up.”
In Part 2, we’ll cover programs the NGLCC has to support business growth, tips for applying, and how you can pay it forward as an LGBTQ+ business owner.
Kim Folsom is the founder and CEO of Founders First Capital Partners, which has helped accelerate the success of hundreds of small, service-based, business-to-business companies since 2015. Visit our website to learn more.