By Brenda Matamoros
The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community has had much to celebrate recently e.g., the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to allow the gay and lesbian couples to marry in all 50 states. An additional giant leap has been the acknowledgment that LGBT businesses take part in the market rights and economic empowerment allotted to every small business.
Recognizing the business imperative to embrace diversity, the U.S. Small Business Administration and the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce formalized their commitments to the LGBT community Feb. 5, 2015, by agreeing to a historic new partnership at NGLCC’s offices in Washington, D.C. Since then, SBA has started a new program called LGBT Business Builder. The events are designed to introduce the LGBT community to programs and education that help LGBT businesses start up, grow and expand.
“The President and this administration have made it very clear that the federal government should consider ways of being more inclusive,” said Mark D. Gibson, SBA LGBT national communications director. “In light of the recent advancements in equality for the LGBT community, the SBA is proud to be keeping in step through equity and economic empowerment initiatives such as the Business Builder. LGBT Business Builder — in partnership with NGLCC and Affinity Inc Magazine — is the SBA’s flagship outreach initiative that grew from the “Many Faces. One Dream.” tour. LGBT Business Builder explains the value of LGBT business enterprises certification and the programs and services the SBA has to help businesses maximize certification.”
Mark Morales, vice president of the SBA division of HomeStreet Bank, issued the first SBA loan to an LGBT business owner.
“Even though there was nothing precluding people from getting an SBA loan prior to LGBT Business Builders,” Morales said, “it wasn’t until the SBA signed this agreement with NGLCC that anybody specifically targeted and educated LGBT businesses about SBA loan programs and services.”
Morales, who has more than 18 years of experience in SBA financing, concentrates on diverse communities and was recently appointed to the California Department of Insurance’s Insurance Diversity Task Force. Its mission is to encourage insurance companies that do business in California to increase procurement from California’s diverse suppliers and to increase diversity among insurance governing boards. He is the first LGBT representative on the task force since its inception in 2011.
”Much of what they teach in LGBT Business Builders is letting people know about programs that already exist because they probably have never had any exposure —whether it is SCORE, Small Business Development Center or SBA, and how the member banks within it work and fund SBA loans,” Morales said. “For me, it’s all about getting out there and educating people on not only the ability to grow their businesses with financing through SBA loan programs, but also growing their businesses by getting LGBT business enterprise-certified.”
The first loan approved and funded after the SBA/NGLCC agreement was for Printing Palace Inc. in Santa Monica, California, owned and operated by Mark Moralez — not to be confused with HomeStreet Bank’s Mark Morales — and John Briggs. Although the two Marks have known each other for 14 years, it was Moralez’s personal story that mirrored the startup story of Morales. A few years prior when the owner decided to retire, Morales also bought a business — Charles Jacobsen Inc. — with his husband.
“When this story about Mark and Printing Palace came up on social media, I saw the same thing that we had gone through three years ago,” Morales said. “If we had a champion or mentor to help guide us through the process when we bought our business, it would have been so much easier. I wanted to be the champion for them. HomeStreet Bank funded their SBA loan in May 2015 to purchase the business and I’ve also helped them get certified as an LGBT business enterprise with NGLCC.”
Printing Palace has grown into a complete communication company, helping businesses and institutions with their marketing, promotional, communications and complete printing needs.
“The fact that we get to be the first LGBT business funded in the LGBT Business Builders is exciting, and it’s a proud moment,” Moralez said. “Mark has been very helpful, and he’s going to coach us on what to do with our certification. I didn’t even know the program existed or that we would qualify. So, it’s been really exciting.”
Moralez already has the Printing Palace on a business plan and has seen tremendous growth since he and Briggs took over.
“Now, I don’t know if that’s a fluke or if it’s just the way the calendar fell, and it was just in our favor. But, to be up 45 percent is quite promising,” Moralez said. “I think that’s where we can tap in and really be beneficial with the LGBT business enterprise certification and then be able to market with that. So, for those companies that want to do business with an LGBT-certified business and count those dollars spent within their diversity programs, you can print with us.”
Extending a helping hand to diversify the marketplace starts in the C-suite at HomeStreet Bank and is celebrated throughout the organization, according to Mark Mason, chairman, president and CEO.
“I’m extremely proud that HomeStreet Bank puts our community bank values into action every day in the way we treat employees and customers,” he said. “We believe equality starts here — whether that means being among the first companies in the nation to offer health benefits to same sex couples, marching in the PRIDE parade with over 90 employees just to show our support or working with a new customer to help finance the business he or she has always dreamed of owning. It’s gratifying to be a part of an organization where diversity is celebrated. HomeStreet Bank is proud to support the LGBT community.”