More than 700 LGBT entrepreneurs, corporate partners, government allies and organization leaders from seven countries gathered at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas for the sold-out 11th Annual National Business & Leadership Conference of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
Shaun T, celebrity fitness trainer and creator of the INSANITY workout and Focus 25, delivered the opening session keynote address. Attendees, who had been encouraged to wear workout attire, were invited to take advantage of a special workout afterwards. Other keynote speakers included Beth Brooke-Marciniak, global vice chair of public policy, Ernst & Young LLP, and one of Forbes World’s 100 Most Powerful Women; Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO, Camping World and Good Sam Enterprises LLC, and host of CNBC’s “The Profit”; and Judy Dlugacz, founder and president, The Olivia Cos. LLC.
For the fourth consecutive year, the LGBT Biz Pitch Competition pitted three entrepreneurs against each other, as they presented their businesses and answered questions from judges. Laura Spaulding, owner of Spaulding Decon LLC, a Tampa, Fla.-based crime scene cleanup service, won $15,000 in cash and a branding package worth $20,000 from LGBTBE Re Perez, founder & CEO of Branding for the People® in New York City. The prize included a spontaneous gift of $5,000 from NGLCC corporate partner Allstate Corp.
Katherine Archuleta, director, U.S. Office of Personnel Management, addressed the attendees, recapping civil rights progress of the last few years, including the executive order barring discrimination against LGBT individuals who are federal employees or federal contractors.
“I think about how far we’ve come,” Archuleta said. “‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ has been repealed. We ended the defense of the Defense of Marriage Act. The Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Windsor that the federal government must recognize the legal marriages of same-sex couples. The President signed historic hate crimes legislation into law. The Affordable Care Act has expanded access to health coverage, and in the process, we addressed LGBT health care disparities.”
Workshops were designed for owners of entry-level and established firms alike. Four tracks focused on strategic growth, using LGBTBE certification as a tool for success, corporate impact and organizational development for NGLCC affiliate chambers. A business-to-business boot camp provided entrepreneurs with tools to maximize their time at the conference. Sessions also focused on networking, social media, corporate supply chains and requests for proposals, while a roundtable presented information for those in the manufacturing industry.
American Airlines Inc. was the presenting sponsor, while Allstate Corp., International Business Machines Corp., U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo & Co. were the executive vice president level sponsors. Vice president level sponsors were Delta Air Lines Inc., The Olivia Cos. LLC and Titanium Building Group. Toyota Financial Services sponsored the Marketplace Expo. Affinity Inc Magazine was a media sponsor.