December 28, 2010 | by Ernesto M. Santalla J. Max Barger
YEAR IN REVIEW: Looking back on Chamber’s year

As the clock struck midnight on Jan. 1, 2010, Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (CAGLCC) turned 20 and the Chamber went from an all-volunteer organization to welcome Mark Guenther as executive director. Cheers! Happy New Year! Get to work! And work we did.

CAGLCC is in the business of promoting business — that of the LGBT community and our allies and throughout 2010 opportunities for individuals to meet and forge business relationships met high demand and expectations.

The event for which CAGLCC is best known, the monthly Networking Thursdays continued, except in February when “snowmageddon” accounted for the first cancellation in CAGLCC history. Networking Thursdays connect our members and guests and showcase a new location each month in a relaxed, informal setting. And yes, many business deals are made over a cocktail or as the result of an introduction.

Women’s Wednesdays, networking evenings especially for women entrepreneurs and professionals, were a huge success through the effort of Eileen Kessler, OmniStudio and Eboné Bell, B.O.I. Marketing and Promotions, who spearhead the CAGLCC Women and Diversity Committee. These events are testament to the power of female strength and energy.

Our Program and Events Committee, co-chaired by J. Max Barger Esq., Ackerman Legal PLLC, organizes Speed Networking, where attendees are coached on networking techniques and, on average, make 15 new business contacts in the course of a few hours. In March 2010, more than 700 attended CAGLCC’s third annual MEGA-Networking event, a tour de force due in no small part to the support of our community allies.

MasterMind Group (formerly TBAC,) offers participants — the more studious types — a weekly “think tank” led by Jay Vilar, Plan A Consulting, to discuss business issues from hiring and getting hired, making more money, developing personal strengths and of course, the “elevator pitch.”

CAGLCC Book Group, new to 2010, meets every other month to discuss topics that appeal to business professionals. This year’s selections included “The Knack” (Brodsky and Burlingham,) “The Black Swan” (Taleb) and “Drive” (Pink).

This year, CAGLCC membership increased by 20 percent through word of mouth referrals, marketing and social media. But without the efforts of Joe Kolb, The Graphic Issue, Design and Illustration; and Travis Slocum, CAGLCC board member, who co-chair CAGLCC’s Membership Committee, this monumental task, which includes member retention, would not have happened because the Membership Committee, time and time again demonstrated CAGLCC’s commitment to our members.

In April, CAGLCC’s annual awards dinner, raised the barometer once again for attendance and execution. In a room designed by Ernesto Santalla AIA, Studio Santalla, Inc., CAGLCC honored David von Storch, Excellence in Business; Cathy Renna, Business Leadership; Thomas Sanchez, Emerging Entrepreneur; Jonathan Blumenthal, Volunteer of the Year; and Wachovia, a Wells Fargo Company, Corporate Partner of the Year. The silent auction featured work from renowned artists, retailers, restaurants and hotels. Rave reviews went to co-chairs Mike Larson, Spectrum Printing and Graphics, and Mark Guenther, CAGLCC executive director. Special thanks go to Gus Elfving, Pet Peeps.

A new annual event, Connections!2010, Business and Professional Summit, connected businesses, individuals and offered a seminar series on a wide range of  significant topics including marketing, estate planning and leadership; and to round out the full docket, a speed-networking lunch. Co-chairs Steven Susher, Esq., District Title and Dr. Howard Brooks, SKIN Georgetown, revitalized the former Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs’ Economic Summit with vision and creativity.

CAGLCC Board of Directors welcomed Sean Bugg, Metro Weekly; Ernesto Santalla AIA, Studio Santalla, Inc.; Travis Slocum, Donna Smith, Raffa, P.C.; Mary Snider, State Farm Insurance; and Megan Wallace, Wallace Law LLC. They joined Kenneth White, Signal Financial; Steven Susher Esq., District Title; Eileen Kessler, Omni Studio; and Mike Larson, Spectrum Printing and Graphics (executive board president, vice president, secretary and treasurer, respectively). Returning board members Max Barger Esq., Ackerman Legal PLLC; Dr. Howard Brooks, SKIN Georgetown; Joseph Kapp, Lincoln Financial Advisors, and Joe Kolb, The Graphic Solution, round off CAGLCC leadership.

Two years ago, when PEN (Potomac Executive Network) became the Capital Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, Ken White embraced his new role as board president and undertook the challenge to make CAGLCC the voice of LGBT business. His leadership, commitment and dedication as president inspired the board, the committees and the membership at large to embrace the mission of CAGLCC: to advocate, promote and facilitate the success of LGBT businesses, professionals and their allies in the Metro DC region.

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