Members from Chicago's LGBT business community, on April 27, gathered at Fulton Market Kitchen, 311 N. Sangamon St., to discuss the certification process for LGBT-owned businesses.
Certification is granted from the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and verifies that a business is majority-owned by LGBT individuals. It can provide an entryway into corporate procurement processes that designate LGBT businesses as being minority-owned.
The LGBT community was "last to the supplier-diversity party," said John Lashmett of iCandee Marketing. He noted that recognizing LGBT businesses as minority-owned depends on individual companies; the LGBT community has no status as an official minority in the eyes of the federal government as other communities do. Lashmett added, "I doubt that, in our current congress, we're going to get that."
About 150 corporations designate LGBT businesses as being minority-owned.
"Inclusion is quite honestly best for everyone," said Michael Goulding of W.W. Grainger. "…Corporations have figured this out before politicians have."
Billy Stevenson of iCandee Marketing, who is also executive director of the Chicago Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, said his organization will help local businesses undergo the certification process.
"For us it has been a really beneficial thing," said Stevenson. "If you are 51 percent-owned by someone who is LGBT, you are qualified to be certified. …This offers you a foot in the door that you would not have had before."
Lashmett added that perhaps the most significant aspect of the process is the visibility it affords LGBT business owners in the eyes of the government and other business owners.
"We are somewhat invisible," he said. "I don't know of a quicker way [to change that] than by saying, 'We are 1.4 million taxpaying businesses.'"
Also speaking at the panel was Dean Ricker of Skolnik Industries and Mark Hoppe, president and CEO of MB Financial Bank, which sponsored the event.