Small Business Conference for LGBT Communities Resumes After Government Shutdown

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Many Faces One Dream LGBT Economic Empowerment Tour for Communities of Color is back on track after being stalled due to the federal government shutdown. Initially set to take place last month, the New York City leg of the 13-city tour will now occur on November 20-21, 2013 at the New York Marriott near the Brooklyn Bridge. MFOD was launched this year to bring focus on innovation and creativity in the small business sphere.

“While we were excited and ready to host the MFOD-NYC conference in October, the shutdown of the federal government forced us to postpone our NYC tour stop,” says Sharon J. Lettman Hicks, Executive Director and CEO of the National Black Justice Coalition, the nation’s leading Black lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization. “Know that while our Congress was busy playing political football, we stayed the course. We are proud of our partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration, and we plan to ensure that our government continues to work for us,” says Lettman Hicks.

“We’ve got a lot of hard work that we still have to do, but we can already point to extraordinary progress that we’ve made…on behalf of Americans who are gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgender,” said President Barack Obama in a released statement.

MFOD is in keeping with the Obama Administration’s overall outreach efforts to underserved communities. “The President in this administration put out a call to all the federal agencies and said ‘we have to reach out and be more inclusive. We have to go to nontraditional places and make sure that we have a presence and that these taxpayers understand that there are services available to them,’” says Eugene Cornelius Jr., Deputy Associate Administrator for Field Operations at the SBA. A growing number of Americans dream of becoming an entrepreneur, adds Cornelius, and those dreams are represented by many faces. “We have such a community of underserved people that are feeling empowered by the mere fact that we are reaching out to them.”

MFOD will feature financial services and certification agents to support small business development. Participants will select one of two tracks: “Starting Your Business” and “Taking Your Business to the Next Level.” In the first track, training will be provided on the key elements of a business plan, loans, marketing, and SBA’s program and services. The second track will be geared toward New York City’s LGBT entrepreneurs that would like to expand and grow their business. There will also be a Small Business Marketplace where LGBT-owned businesses will have access to the resources and tools needed to grow and sustain their enterprise. In addition, the SBA and SCORE, a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses grow, will provide one-on-one counseling for entrepreneurs and small businesses.

“Economic empowerment is essential to the longevity and well-being of LGBT communities of color. Partnering with the US Small Business Administration, National Black Justice Coalition, Black Enterprise Magazine, National Gay & Lesbian Chambers of Commerce, Global Network of Black Pride, and LGBT Faith Leaders of African Descent to bring the Many Faces, One Dream Economic Empowerment Tour to New York City is another step toward solidifying our community’s foundation and promoting self-sufficiency,” says Carmen Neely, president of Harlem Pride, Inc., a community networking group.

One key component of the MFOD Tour is the opportunity for LGBT people of color to exchange business-to-business products and services information. MFOD participants will also learn about various certifications available and how to do business with the local, state and federal government.

Each year $100 billion worth of federal contracts are awarded to small businesses. Certification can significantly help a business gain access to government contracts set aside for minority groups, which includes African Americans, disabled, women and disadvantaged businesses. LGBT-owned businesses can get certified under a program by the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, another MFOD partner. While this certification is similar to that of programs overseen by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council and the National Minority Supplier Development Council, the federal government does not officially recognize NGLCC certification.

“The LGBT small business community is helping us create an economy built to last,” says the SBA’s Cornelius. “Equipped with the necessary resources and tools, LGBT small business owners and entrepreneurs will have access to a wealth of knowledge, opportunity and economic growth.”

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