Making History in Long Beach, CA for Certified LGBTBE® Companies

| By Allyson Parco

(Esteven Gamez, Co-Founder & Director of Social Media at KEEN Social)

The NGLCC, in collaboration with the Long Beach Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (LBGLCC), made history on April 23, 2019, when Long Beach became the first city in California to recognize Certified LGBTBE® companies in the city’s procurement and purchasing process. In doing so, NGLCC certified LGBT-owned businesses now have an equitable seat at the table of local opportunity that expands diverse representation, economic equity, and opportunity for bidding. The measure was a monumental accomplishment, especially for the LBGLCC, who worked with the NGLCC Advocacy & Public Policy team, as well as Long Beach city officials, to make sure an agenda priority turned into city policy.

In 2018 and early 2019, NGLCC, in close collaboration with local affiliate chamber partners, won the inclusion of Certified LGBTBE® companies in Orlando, FL; Nashville, TN; Baltimore, MD; Jersey City, NJ; and Hoboken, NJ, while also advancing statewide bills in New York and New Jersey.  Currently, California, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania also include certified LGBT-owned businesses, along with major cities like Seattle, Newark, Columbus, and Philadelphia.

To hear more about the process behind policy making, NGLCC spoke with Esteven Gamez, Vice President of the LBGLCC, who shared advice for other chambers and his personal business ventures.

Esteven Gamez described this measure as a two year long process of developing relationships with city officials, in particular, Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez and her staff. Though Gonzalez is now a State Senator, their friendship began in 2017 with a cup of coffee. The two would talk about the chamber and procurement, but Gamez also mentioned how beneficial it was that her Chief of Staff started to attend local chamber meetings and eventually got the Councilwoman to become a member of the LBGLCC.

(Joe Mendez, President of LBGLCC, Esteven Gamez, Vice President of LBGLCC, 
and Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez.)

Because the policy was so long in the making, Gamez spoke about the challenges faced whilst trying to keep the issue alive. To keep momentum, he would write to the Councilwoman’s office on a weekly basis to check its status and make sure they understood this was an issue they were not backing down on.

“It’s a little bit time consuming and you have to have somebody who’s advocating on it a lot. If you drop the needle, then it’s definitely going to die, it’ll just never turn into anything,” noted Gamez. These challenges can be difficult especially if you are a small organization or a local chamber, but he stresses the importance to keep going.

Gamez’s words of advice for other cities are to “Develop relationships with people that are going to care, more so than the typical politician. Everybody’s got different agendas and this agenda in particular definitely helps out when you have another LGBT person or LGBT ally on the Council that is ready to fight for LGBT rights, issues, and policy. But most importantly: follow the guidance of the experts at the NGLCC.”

He provided the example of something as small as putting pronouns on business cards. From a brand perspective, Gamez mentioned how inclusivity can bring more talent and diversity, which creates a company culture of better leaders.

After attending NGLCC’s 2018 International Business & Leadership Conference in Philadelphia, PA and hearing from NGLCC leadership about successful Certified LGBTBE® inclusive policy wins, Gamez was inspired  to circle back to his own city government and implement participation in meaningful change.

Gamez described the measure as a grand collaboration from NGLCC, his fellow local chambers, and LGBT entrepreneurs that energizes him. “The big takeaway is that you have the ability to create change for others behind you and with the support of NGLCC.”

(The LBGLCC was supported by board members from the 
Long Beach LGBTQ+ Center, including Eduardo Lara and John Newell.)

As the co-founder of Keen Social, Gamez lastly brought up the story of his business and involvement with NGLCC. After founding his company three years ago, he got connected with the LGBGLCC, and President Joe Mendez took him under his wing.

“It was the biggest blessing that I could’ve gotten, because not only has it given me business, especially locally, but it has created awareness for my company on the national scale.” As a Certified LGBT Business Enterprise® (Certified LGBTBE®), Gamez proudly states how he has developed relationships with diverse suppliers and large brands with a slight edge over competition.

Additionally, Gamez recommends local chamber involvement to LGBT individuals who want to start a business. Gamez advises those to surround themselves with other people who are not only entrepreneurs, but who are LGBT, so as to have support along the journey. “Create your community locally, so you have your solid rock, and then get involved with going to the NGLCC conferences and getting involved at the national level.”

The 2019 NGLCC International Business & Leadership Conference takes place on August 13-16 in Tampa Bay, FL. Register and experience the world’s largest LGBT business event for yourself!