Jonathan Lovitz: National LGBT Chamber of Commerce & Economic Impact of the LGBTQ+ Community

Impact Award honoree Jonathan Lovitz with Schneps Media president Victoria Schneps-Yunis
Impact Award honoree Jonathan Lovitz with Schneps Media president Victoria Schneps-Yunis

Money is power and when you stop to think about the economic impact of the LGBTQ+ community, the news tends to get a lot better.

“The LGBTQ community is a massive economic force to be reckoned with — we spend $917 billion every year as consumers, that’s our famous pink dollar,” says Jonathan Lovitz, a special advisor to the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), the largest business and economic organization for the LGBTQ community in the United States and around the world.

What can we do with that? According to Lovitz, a lot.

“We can help change hearts and minds by changing markets,” he says. “All chicken nuggets don’t taste the same, some taste like they hate you so why would you give that company your money when you know you can give it to any of those companies who not only change their logo to rainbow every June but then also commit the other 364 days that aren’t pride Sunday standing in solidarity with our community?”

Lovitz means business and he talks a lot about LGBTQ+ businesses as he travels the country, efforting LGBT-owned businesses to get certification and then getting those certified businesses added to government contracting “anywhere women and minorities are accepted.”

We spoke with Jonathan Lovitz to learn more about the value of getting LGBT business accreditation, and how to go about it, via telephone as he was traveling to accept an honor on behalf of his efforts and the NGLCC New York chapter at our Out East End Impact Awards, held on August 14 at Calissa in Water Mill.

Explain what the NGLCC does.

For 20 years NGLCC has been and remains the only organization in the public and private sector that can certify LGBT-owned; businesses; we are the parallel to both government and private institutions that do that for women, for minorities, for veterans, etc. Both government and corporate trust only the NGLCC to do so.

How does a business get accredited?

To be an accredited business with the LGBT Chamber of Commerce you must be approved by the National LGBT Chamber so it would be a lie to call any other organization that does as much, an official chamber of commerce.

A company has to be 51% or more LGBT-owned, directly by an LGBT person or persons and it also has to meet other types of business structure thresholds that are identical in every way to the same standards that are held to women and minority-owned businesses … there are so many business owners that are interceptional, meaning LGBTQ+ and other minority identities and many of them already have certifications as women or minority-owned companies and we can use that to fast track you to LGBT certification.

What are the advantages of being a certified LGBT-owned business?

It’s an exponential shift in the available opportunities to you. And I don’t just mean the ability to contract with over 400 corporations in America that actively seek out our certification and our businesses as part of the supply chain, we’re talking millions upon millions of dollars in grants and small business loans and educational opportunities that are only open to certified, minority-owned businesses and this certification is what allowed LGBT businesses which are known as LGBTE (LGBT enterprises) to take advantage of that.

Fortune magazine called it (accreditation) “the most valuable tool for an LGBT-owned business” and I agree because it has helped put more businesses literally at the table in places where they never used to be before. And we’re not just talking about, as I joke, Mom-n-Mom and Pop-n-Pop shops on Main Street. We have plenty of small businesses particularly at the local chamber level that are small service-focused and then you’ve got these multinational huge LGBT-owned companies and corporations that employ hundreds if not thousands of people in working industries from catering to construction to national defense and everything in between.

Beyond opening a network of people who are looking to buy from you, you are also entering a network of fellow small business owners who are looking to specifically work with other diverse companies on a B-to-B level.

Describe the process to becoming certified.

Getting certified is easy, almost always free and entirely free if you are a member of your local NGLCC affiliate — NGLCC members gets their certification fees waived and that’s true for any chamber across the country

You can be done in as little as 15-20 minutes uploading all of the paperwork and business certification before it goes to a review committee. The great news is you’ve got 24-7 assistance from local and national staff who will help you every step of the way to get certified and once you are certified you have the help of things like the NGLCC engagement and our supplier diversity team that directly connects you to contracting opportunities all over the country.

It renews every two years and is by far the most powerful tool in your tool belt that a business owner holds.

What do you make of the extreme backlash this past year against the LGBTQ+ community and businesses?

A critical part of the NGLCC’s missions, both locally in New York and nationally when it was founded 20 years ago, is the belief — which has been proven — that you cannot have full equality without economic equality as well.

Rights on papers is very different than equity in the system because we’ve earned recognition and opportunity in the world of business and all of these over 400 anti-LGBT bills just in 2022 and yet at the same time we are also seeing mayors and governors and even the federal government work with NGLCC to proactively include LGBT businesses wherever opportunities are as a way to push back and say we’re not going anywhere, our businesses are a critical part of America and to give us anything less than full equality of opportunity hurts the entire country whether you like LGBTQ people or not.

I know you and the NGLCC were honored in 2018 by our sister publication at the Gay City News Impact Awards — and now at the 2022 Out East End Impact Awards, where NGLCC is a presenting sponsor. What do these recognitions mean to you?

It means so much that NGLCC is being recognized on Long Island, especially this year when we exponentially increased our range and our ability to service that region. We have a full committee of business owners and volunteers helping coordinate our LGBT chamber work on Long Island as well as all over New York state so this is an incredible moment, especially since the organization (the NY Chapter) turns 15 next year, to be able to kick it off with a recognition like this, from such important story tellers in our community really means a lot.

And I’m such a huge GCN (Gay City News) fan. My husband works in television news and I’ve been part of the media world for a long time and very active in the LGBT journalists association and I’ve worked with this brand all over the country.

How can the average consumer help support LGBTQ-owned businesses?

One of the most important things an ally can do is spend with their values.

The two most important things with allies after they say they love you is 1) Who are they shopping with? 2) Who are they voting for? Because those two things tell you directly whether or not their values are the things that make a difference, which are elections and economy.

I love that quote, “You can’t tell someone you love them and then vote for someone who hates them.” And I think the same is true in the marketplace — you can’t tell your LGBT family members that you love them and then you give your kids school supplies at Hobby Lobby, that thing doesn’t work.

To help grow the economy, invest in minority businesses.

Jonathan Lovitz is a nationally recognized small business and public policy advocate, media strategist and trusted public speaker and consultant on issues of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. In his role as special advisor to the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce he has helped write, lobby for and pass more than 25 federal, state and local laws opening billions of dollars in economic opportunity to minority small business owners. He is founder and CEO of Lovitz Strategies, an LGBT-certified minority-owned company that offers public policy counsel, ERG Development and solutions, media relations and communications. For more information on Jonathan Lovitz, visit lovitzstrategies.com. For info on the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, visit nglcc.org.

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