20736265852_34af3c90cc_o (Suze Orman)The National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce turned up the heat for its 12th Annual International Business & Leadership Conference on the Florida coast in August. More than 800 LGBT entrepreneurs, corporate partners, government officials, allies and organization leaders from seven countries gathered for the sold-out event, held at the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa.

Suze Orman — financial adviser, recipient of the Human Rights Campaign National Equality Award, New York Times best-selling author and CNBC host — delivered an opening day keynote address. She discussed financial management methods that can increase personal wealth and help ensure solid business operations. She also candidly shared her own struggles with being LGBT in the workplace, in business and in her personal life. Other keynote speakers included CNN anchor Richard Quest and Washington Post editorial board member Jonathan Capehart.

For the fifth consecutive year, the Biz Pitch Competition pitted three entrepreneurs against one another, as they presented their businesses and answered questions from judges. Fran Dunaway, co-founder and CEO, and Naomi Gonzalez, co-founder and chief operating officer, of TomboyX won $10,000 and a brand positioning package worth $20,000. TomboyX is a Seattle-based online clothing retailer.

The Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce was presented the Chamber of the Year Award for its ability to weather challenges and sustain growth and its position as a role model for other chambers. “The outstanding leadership at the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce has created an organization that is an enormous asset to its local business community,” said Sam McClure, NGLCC senior vice president. “We are proud to have it as our local partner, and we know it will continue its pattern of excellence for years to come.”

U.S. Small Business Administration’s Deputy Administrator Douglas Kramer addressed the attendees, encouraging them to take advantage of all the resources and programs offered by his agency. He also reminded the audience of the importance of everyone having equal access to the American dream.

“Your businesses support your communities and your country,” Kramer said. “That’s why I care so much about coming here today to talk to you. Small businesses create two out of every three net new jobs in our economy. Half of all working Americans either own or work for a small business. That’s thanks in no small part to the LGBT community. There are more than 1.4 million LGBT-owned small businesses in the United States. Right now, I want to help shape government that works for small-business owners.”

Workshops, roundtable discussions and education sessions were designed for owners of start-ups and established firms alike. Topics included employee resource groups, social media, supplier diversity, corporate wellness programs, branding, workplace visibility, corporate procurement and global commerce.

20858991581_a6827454b7_o (NGLCC Attendees)

Mark Your Calendar

August 23 – 26

NGLCC 2016 Business & Leadership Conference

Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, Los Angeles


Photos by Steven Shires