New nglccNY Director Kellie Parkin Shares Her Vision
The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce’s (NGLCC) New York branch, nglccNY, has begun bolstering its statewide outreach in 2023 with guidance from new executive director Kellie Parkin.
Having moved to New York from Florida and started her position at nglccNY earlier this year, Parkin brings with her a wealth of experience from her time as executive director of the Pride Chamber of Orlando and as a proud bisexual businesswoman.
Meet nglccNY Director Kellie Parkin
What are your goals for nglccNY?
My big goal is to make sure that we are serving the entire state of New York. There has been that focus in the past that’s kind of Manhattan specific, and I get why that is, but I also think that we’ve got members in Rochester, we have members in the Hamptons, we have members in Buffalo. We need to make sure that we’re serving the entire state. So that’s really my big focus.
We’ve got to be offering networking opportunities and educational opportunities, and really connecting LGBTQ businesses and our ally-owned businesses with the resources to make their businesses better.
How does a business qualify to join nglccNY?
We operate like any other Chamber of Commerce in that we are an association or collection of businesses. In order to become a member, you just have to be on board with our mission, which is that we want equality for everyone. We focus on business, and we focus on LGBTQ business and all the economics that goes with that. Our membership is comprised of corporations who would be considered allies.
We have small businesses and medium-sized businesses that are not LGBTQ-owned. They’re our allies. … In order to truly achieve equality for everyone, we’re not going to get there without our allies.
Then, of course, we have that large focus on the queer-owned businesses. You don’t have to be LGBTQ to be part of the chamber; however, we do offer LGBTQ certification for businesses (through NGLCC). That’s a whole process where the LGBTQ status has to be verified, then, once a queer-owned business has that certification, they could apply for different contracts and RFPs with our corporate partners who are looking to make sure they have a diverse supply chain.
We have a certification specialist here in New York who can help answer questions for folks. Their name is Gunner Gardner. It’s not just for product-based businesses, it’s service-based businesses, as well. And it’s not only for companies looking to get contracts with big corporations, so getting certified as an LGBTQ-owned business can be really helpful depending on who your target audience is.
It’s just one additional way to set yourself apart and make yourself a little bit more different. Because that’s really what it’s all about, right? When you’re trying to sell your services or your products, you want to do everything you can to make yourself stand out, so certification can really do that. … But it’s not a magic bullet; it’s not going to immediately equate to more work or new contracts. It’s just another tool.
How else do members of nglccNY benefit?
It really depends on the business owner and the type of business that they have. In general, being part of our organization is a really great way to have another tool in your toolbox. As business owners, people rely on their networks, and so being part of nglccNY gives them a great network expansion and an opportunity to really build those relationships. …
To get a little more specific, if you have a product and you want to sell it to Macy’s, as an example, we can help facilitate some of those interactions in order to build that relationship with Macy’s and possibly get your product in there. … (Companies like that) want to make sure that the things they’re buying or services they’re using are from diverse suppliers. They want to make sure they’re using Black-owned, LGBTQ-owned and women-owned suppliers — all of those different things. So we can really help build those connections for the businesses that fit into those categories.
We have a great round table … that’s something that we did in Orlando that was successful. There’s something really helpful and great about coming together as a queer-owned business and meeting with other LGBT-owned businesses.
Most of the business owners are dealing with the same challenges as other non-queer-owned businesses — like access to capital, trying to attract and retain talent — but on top of it, there’s this other layer of being part of the LGBTQ community, which comes with a whole additional set of things, potential discrimination and all those things that come with that identity.
It’s a little bit unique to be able to talk about those challenges and to talk about the good stuff and best practices with your fellow LGBTQ business owners. That’s a really great component of what we do.
That’s a group that’s meeting monthly, but we’re also working to grow that network and help the folks really establish good relationships and friendships with each other, so they can rely on each other in more ways than just that monthly get-together. … Every other month will be in person, and then virtual, because we recognize that not everybody is here within Manhattan or the surrounding boroughs.
What about this work is most rewarding?
Oh, gosh! That is so hard because there’s so many different parts that are rewarding. I love working with the individual small businesses and watching them grow. That, to me, is really quite rewarding. I also like this pursuit of full equality — it’s exhausting — but when I see that we’re changing hearts and minds, we’re bringing awareness, or when someone comes up to me and says, “Hey, I heard you speak, and I’ve been using this thing that you said,” it’s just like, wow. I am, a little at a time, making a difference, and that, to me, makes it all worth it.
Care to share any closing thoughts?
The nglccNY has been around in New York for 15 years. The national chamber is celebrating 20 years this year, but we have a lot of work to do for people to learn that we exist. There are thousands of people across the country who are part of their LGBTQ chamber of commerce.
We’ve got affiliates throughout the country and throughout the world, but when I hear almost daily that, “Oh, I didn’t know y’all were here,” I’m like, “Dang, we’ve got a lot of work to do.” Out on Long Island, we’ve got a great core group of chamber members that have taken on that extra volunteer work to really get the word out. I’m excited.
I think you’re going to be seeing a lot more of us as we expand.
For more on nglccNY, visit nglccny.org.