Supplier in the Spotlight: 360 HR Solutions
My name is Eboni Montsho and I am the CEO of 360 HR Solutions, a consulting business that offers outsourced human resource functions, virtual assistant services, workforce training, leadership development and change management strategies that assist businesses with developing high-performing employees and implementing simplified systems that create a more efficient and profitable work environment.
The journey to becoming a business owner has been quite colorful. Back in 2016, a few short years ago, I wasn’t a business owner at all. I was humming along as a Director of Human Resources for the largest government entity in the United States. I was relatively happy with my comfortable salary and great health benefits, working hard alongside my team to cultivate a workplace that focused on employee engagement programs and employee well-being initiatives. A change in our leadership, though, changed things for good, for me.
Literally overnight, I wound up with a direct supervisor who openly stated that they “didn’t support gay marriage,” questioned why I wasn’t married to a man, and repeatedly referred to my wife as my “friend” after I asked several times to be respected. It was in that moment that I decided to leave that toxic environment to start my own business in Chicago where I could be a strategic thought partner in changing workplace culture and the opportunities that are available to persons of the LGBT community.
Last year I was searching Google for chambers of commerce and business associations to join, and then I saw it. I stopped. LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois? Hmmm…this is where I belong. We became members and have been thoroughly satisfied since day one.
My choice to become a member of the Chamber arose from a very real need to have support from an organization that understood my unique challenges as a lesbian business owner. Entrepreneurship is certainly a tough journey for anyone who decides to take this road, but the additional roadblocks of discrimination that we face can literally choke out our business dreams before we have the chance to thrive.
Through my membership in the LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois, I have received access to information to grow my business, an expansion of my business network, and opportunities to reciprocate the support I receive by doing business with other identified LGBT business owners. It was here that I was assisted through the process of receiving our LGBTBE certification, an accomplishment I am very proud of.
That certification is the first such certification that I pursued for my business. As an African American woman, I recognize that my business is eligible for other certifications such as MBE and WBE. It may seem strange or out of order to some that I would complete the LGBTBE certification process first. Especially knowing it may not yield any immediate return on the investment. However, I made a conscious choice to attain our Certified LGBTBE® status first. The repeated conversations I had with that boss, fueled my fire. The one that looked at my marriage with disdain. The boss that refused to refer to my wife as anything more than just my “friend.” That boss was another African American woman. In this circumstance, it wasn’t my race or gender that disadvantaged me – it was that fact that I was a lesbian.
That experience reinforced for me that, although we have made strides in some areas around race and gender, we still have work to do. The discrimination we face in the business community is real and in need of remedy.
Getting this certification first affirmed who we were as a business. We wanted to be a part of this wave of change, as the government, business communities, and non-profits begin to recognize the value of LGBT businesses and what we can offer their organizations.
This is why I decided to attend the NGLCC International Business and Leadership Conference last month in Tampa, Florida. If you haven’t been, you definitely have to go! Most importantly, it gave me an opportunity to sit down with businesses and organizations from all over the country that recognized their deficit in this area and were actively seeking out the talents of LGBT businesses to meet their needs.
So, it is truly exciting to witness the recent commitment by Mayor Lightfoot of Chicago, Illinois to join other major cities such as Tampa and San Francisco to provide resources, technical assistance and training programs for Certified LGBTBE® suppliers. This long-needed aid is a critical step toward leveling the playing field and it gives us a fairer shot at competing for contracts that have sustained many businesses in our city. Like any other business community, we are made stronger when we stand together.