Local, national and even international supporters of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce filled the Supplier Innovation Center on Nov. 19 to celebrate its opening at a ribbon-cutting cocktail reception. Among the speakers were U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.) and gay U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), whose small business is certified as an LGBT Business Enterprise through NGLCC’s Supplier Diversity Initiative.
The Supplier Innovation Center, located at NGLCC’s Washington, D.C. headquarters, is a flexible meeting space, co-working center and education facility designed to support the professional growth of its member businesses. Developed with the support of title sponsor and founding corporate partner Wells Fargo, the Center can host a mix of in-person and simulcast events. A sign at the entrance to the brightly colored meeting room honors this milestone in the long-term partnership with the slogan “Powered by Wells Fargo.”
“We have this space so we can create original content and offer innovative education to LGBT business owners, and to stream that live across the country and increasingly around the world through NGLCC Global,” said Justin Nelson, co-founder and president of NGLCC. “But then we can also open it up to our local, nonprofit community partners that might not otherwise have a place to meet. That was very important to us too.”
The ceremony took place at the close of the first day of the second annual Strategic Growth & Development Institute, a two-day intensive business training program that was also the Center’s inaugural event. Business owners from across the country and as far away as Bogota, Colombia who were institute participants stayed to mingle with NGLCC staff, board members, funders and friends and to talk about the role of NGLCC in their success.
In her remarks to the assembled guests, institute attendee Betsy Cerulo, CEO of human resources placement company AdNet in Catonsville, Md., spoke about the personal and immediate impact of NGLCC’s approach.
“In the past few years that I’ve been certified, this organization has done more for me than any other organization that I’ve been part of in the 24 years that I’ve been in business,” she said. “All I have to do is pick up the phone and ask a question, and they take me to the next level.”
Talking to the Blade, Cerulo also praised the benefits of the Center as a face-to-face meeting environment. “It’s valuable to have the space to collaborate with like-minded people, to share our challenges and victories, and when it’s LGBT-driven like this, it’s also a place where you can make personal connections and talk without filters.”
Pocan’s comments from the podium echoed Cerulo’s sentiments as he spoke about his experience as a small business owner.
“It’s so important for the community to be able to connect small business owners with the suppliers who want to help us through diversity,” he said.
Other speakers at the event included NGLCC Board Chair Mike Fuller, institute keynote speaker and author of “Predictable Success” Les McKeown, board member Irwin Drucker, and John Quattlebaum, Wealth Planner at Wells Fargo and board member of the Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, NGLCC’s local affiliate.
Wells Fargo contributed $1 million to support the operation of the Center as well as NGLCC Global and other programs through the NGLCC Foundation. John Lake, Wells Fargo vice president and LGBT Segment Manager, spoke about his admiration for the way in which NGLCC has grown its membership and programs and said, “This center is really a great crown jewel in the NGLCC’s efforts to promote and grow LGBT small businesses.”