The Business Gay Podcast with Host Calan Breckon
The Business Gay
Building Businesses Through Relationships and the NGLCC
Building Businesses Through Relationships and the NGLCC with Justin Nelson

In this episode of The Business Gay Podcast, host Calan Breckon speaks with Co-Founder and President of the NGLCC, Justin Nelson.

Founded in 2002 by today’s guest and his co-founder, Chance Mitchell, The NGLCC is the National LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce in the United States, which is the business voice of the LGBTQ community and the largest LGBTQ economic advocacy and business development organization in the world. In addition to over 50 LGBTQ affiliate chambers in the United States representing America’s 1.4 million LGBTQ business owners, the NGLCC leads economic development opportunities in over 20 international affiliates.

Justin serves on U.S. Small Business Administration Administrator Isabella C. Guzman’s Council on Underserved Communities and he regularly advises senior leaders at the White House, in Congress, and corporations throughout the world to build business opportunities through commitments to LGBTQ-inclusive supplier diversity programs.

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Key Takeaways for quick navigation:

  • [03:46] The NGLCC conference brings LGBTQ+ business owners and allies together to foster authentic relationships and support each other.
  • [05:35] The NGLCC conference has grown from a small group of under 100 attendees in its early days to a global network with over 1500 attendees from 20+ countries.
  • [07:15] LGBTQ+ businesses thrive when they can bring their whole selves to work, and having a network like NGLCC provides a space for that authenticity.
  • [10:30] Authentic relationships are at the core of the NGLCC community, providing opportunities for meaningful connections beyond traditional business interactions.
  • [20:22] Mentorship is a vital aspect of NGLCC’s programs, emphasizing the reciprocal nature of learning and support among diverse participants.
  • [25:20] Building authentic relationships is crucial for weathering financial storms. NGLCC emphasizes low attrition rates through such relationships.
  • [26:13] Prioritizing authentic relationships over transactional ones is essential for business longevity and success.
  • [28:44] Certification programs focus on LGBTQ-owned businesses, promoting economic growth and countering misconceptions about charity.
  • [34:28] The National Business Inclusion Consortium (NBIC) unites diverse business organizations for cross-segment inclusion efforts.
  • [41:06] NGLCC’s annual conference will be in Palm Springs, California in 2024, focusing on fostering diversity and connections.

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00:02:06    Welcome to the Business Gay podcast, where we talk about all things business, marketing and entrepreneurship. I’m your host, Calan Breckon, and on today’s episode, I have co-founder and president of the NGLCC Justin Nelson, founded back in 2002 by today’s guest and his co-founder, Chance Mitchell. The NGLCC is the national LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce in the United States, which is the business voice of the LGBTQ+ community and the largest LGBTQ+ economic advocacy and business development organization in the world. In addition to over 50 LGBTQ+ affiliate chambers in the United States representing America’s 1.4 million LGBTQ+ business owners. The NGLCC leads economic development opportunities in over 20 international affiliates, one of which I’m a part of, which is the Canadian LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce, The CGLCC. Justin serves on the US small business administration administrator Isabella C. Guzman’s Council on underserved communities and he regularly advises senior leaders at the White House in Congress and corporations throughout the world to build business opportunities through the commitments to LGBTQ+ inclusive Supplier diversity programs. I’m so honored to have Justin joining me on today’s podcast, and I’m very excited to dive into the conversation. So with that, let’s jump in. 

Calan Breckon:     00:03:30    Well, welcome to the show, Justin. I am so excited to have you. 

Justin Nelson:     00:03:35    Well, I’m glad to be here. Excited to have this conversation today. 

Calan Breckon:     00:03:38    Yes. Um, we were both just in Denver, which was very, very excited. I’m excited to talk to everybody about what happened in Denver, but we both just met in Denver at the NGLCC conference, which was very exciting, um, where I got to connect with everybody and ask if you would be a guest on the show. 

Justin Nelson:     00:03:57    Yeah, I, I mean, it was a wonderful event. I, you know, it, it’s always interesting because it’s go, go go and I don’t get to necessarily have the participant experience, but there was just something different about this year. I mean, I always love the event every year, but this year it was just, you know, times 10 and, uh, I actually felt a little bit more connected to the day-to-day and not just getting from start to finish. So it was pretty exciting for me too. 

Calan Breckon:     00:04:23    Yeah. Was this the first one back since pandemic stuff, or did you do one last year? 

Justin Nelson:     00:04:29    We had one last year in Las Vegas, and actually we did a smaller summit in 21, believe it or not. Uh, about a third of the attendees. Uh, but that was sort of the first trip back. And then last year we were almost at full capacity. This year, I think was the largest we’ve done to date. 

Calan Breckon:     00:04:47    Okay. So how many, I’m actually curious how many were at the Denver conference this year? 

Justin Nelson:     00:04:53    Over 1500 at Denver this year. 

Calan Breckon:     00:04:56    That’s kind, that’s freaking amazing. And as somebody who was at the conference, I can say there was a magic in that room. I mean, there was multiple rooms, but in that room specifically, like the big room, there was a magic and an energy in that room. And like just being in a room full of all these other lgbtq plus business owners or suppliers or allies, it was just, it made me so excited for the future. Um, yeah, and I, 

Justin Nelson:     00:05:24    Well, sorry, I was just gonna say No, no, 

Calan Breckon:     00:05:25    No. I, and I was just gonna say from there, how many people did you start off with to thou bring it to where it is now? 

Justin Nelson:     00:05:34    I, I think the first conference was back in 2003. We were founded in 2002. I think the press release said 80, but I think we were probably closer to 40 to 50. You know, we had some transient people that were in and out, and so we counted anyone that stepped foot in the room that day. Uh, but it was, you know, definitely under a hundred people. And, uh, to now, you know, 21 years later from founding, 20 years later from the first conference to have 1500 people, not just from across the US but literally from around the world. There were people from over 20 countries in Denver this year, which is really exciting. 

Calan Breckon:     00:06:13    Oh, yeah. It was super, it was super diverse in everybody who was there. And I know that coming from Canada, we were a Canadian delegation that we came down there and like just props to the Canadians because we definitely won the, uh, the Chamber of the year, which is fantastic. Thank you so much, <laugh>. Um, but that, that growth has been exponential for you. What is that said about, you know, what that growth has meant for the LGBTQ+ community in businesses across the US and the world? Because like you said, there was, the world was there. 

Justin Nelson:     00:06:46    Well, you know, I think not withstanding, uh, politics happening in our own country right now, which are very, uh, I think discouraging and quite frankly, frightful for some people, for, for most of us it’s frightful and, and what’s happening. I think the reality is, is that people feel more comfortable than ever to be their whole selves. And, you know, uh, when you can not worry about any aspect or not feel like you’re holding something back, yes, that’s amazing in your personal life, but when it comes to business, it’s the same sort of thing. You can bring all of who you are to the work that you’re doing for your clients. And I think this is a testament to that, having an organization, having a network. You know, when we started, there were about six local business groups, some of them called themselves chambers or business organizations. We have over 50 in the US now. We were the only national, you know, only countrywide chamber in the world. There’s now 27 representing 40 countries on five continents. And so I think we’ve seen exponential growth, not necessarily that these businesses haven’t always been there, or that a good portion of them haven’t, but they didn’t have a network or a rallying cry or a place to feel who they are, be themselves and, and really focus on what they should be focusing on, and that’s building their business. 

Calan Breckon:     00:08:02    Yeah. And I can say that it, having that community is such a huge part of building that business to have that support. You know, it is out in the regular world, the heteronormative world, but it’s so different when you get to come in and feel very welcomed and very, um, just open to be yourself. Because there’s so many people in business say that they don’t talk about their sexuality. Maybe they aren’t quiet about it, but they’re just like, Ooh, this is something I’m not gonna elect to say. Whereas when we have that space for ourselves, it’s a promotional factor to say, yeah, I’m part of the community, and it opens those doors. Why, why do you think it’s so important to have the NGLCC leadership conference and to create that for people just expanding on this topic? 

Justin Nelson:     00:08:51    You know, it was said, um, I mentioned it in the closing remarks, and it was said by, uh, one of our corporate partners that she was so exhausted at the end of that week, yet her cup was so full. And I think that’s part of it. Just, you know, in our day-to-day work, doesn’t matter who you are or what your career is, you get run down and, you know, we all face setbacks and we all have amazing opportunities. But I think when you have a, a network that is there, and you know, you all have this in Canada, where our other, uh, national chambers do this around the world, when you have an organization that is dedicated towards uplifting and empowering and celebrating, uh, and then bringing together like-minded people from across the spectrum, whether they be corporate representatives, you know, NGOs, government entities, other entrepreneurs, to just create that space to, uh, you know, really support one another, to drive one another, to have a lot of fun. 

Justin Nelson:     00:09:51    I mean, think about the eighties theme party. We had a lot of fun, but we got a lot of business done. We had over a thousand, almost 1,250 matchmakers between business owners and corporations that are looking to do business with these companies. Not despite that they’re L G B T, but because they’re L G B T and you know, all things being equal, they still have to have a competitive price and a quality product. But without groups like the NGLCC, a lot of these businesses wouldn’t even get to the starting line. They wouldn’t even have the opportunity to run the race to bid on an R F P. So I think that’s really important in the ability of businesses to connect and scale and build relationships to have groups like NGLCC. 

Calan Breckon:     00:10:30    Yeah, and I can definitely attest to that because there’s people I’m talking with now that I never in a million years would’ve gotten my foot in the door with had it not been for just sitting and having dinner in the lobby and then talking to the person next to me, and they end up being a Pepsi co rep or somebody from Wells Fargo or from a number of other companies that were there. And they’re just like having a good time and everybody’s meeting and mixing and mingling. Uh, I love the energy of the event because people did come there for business is is an important factor. But from other conferences I’ve been to, it is more of a people and energy first. The business we know is gonna come later. And I think that’s a magical part of this community. Do you think that that spills over from just our community at large and who we are as a people? 

Justin Nelson:     00:11:19    I think so. I mean, I think we enjoy, um, having fun. We enjoy, you know, doing business and why not combine the two? Um, you know, I think when chance and I, my co-founder Chance Mitchell and I started this, we said, we’re gonna create an organization like no other. We’re gonna create one we wanna belong to or that we would want to belong to, and we’re gonna build this big sandbox. And if people want to complain it, great. And if you don’t, don’t, we don’t need your energy. We don’t need negativity. And the beautiful thing is, is we’ve continued to build a stronger and broader, yet deeper network over the years. I think that is at its utmost, uh, core. And a lot of people think when it comes to an event, well, don’t sweat the small stuff. I’m a firm believer that you have to sweat the small stuff. 

Justin Nelson:     00:12:07    It’s what differentiates you. And an attendee might not be able to pinpoint that one thing that makes the magic. And it, you know, it’s not just one, it’s multiple. But the reality is, it’s what differentiates you in the marketplace. What is it that you’re doing? And I, I, I’m probably involved to, to too far of a degree, but I really want to, again, an attend an event, curate an event, be a part of it, whether it’s a plenary session where we’re hearing from one of the foremost authorities on AI and how we better get with it, or we’re gonna be bankrupt in terms of business owners. Or it’s, you know, curating an eighties party that’s steamed and people are dressed up and going through the DJ list of what I wanna make sure is played that night, because I know those are songs that just sort of, people, people enjoy it. 

Justin Nelson:     00:12:51    So I think it definitely has to do with a, not to homogenize us, but with this idea of an LGBTQ+ culture and the idea of combining fun and business together. And it really does create that space because we’ll go to a number of these conferences and you’ll have many of the same stakeholders, many on the corporate side, you know, attend many of these. And it’s no disrespect to any of my other organizational partners in other segments, but it is a different feeling where it might be a handshake or a high five, it’s a hug and a, you know, a laugh at NGLCC. And that’s, that’s the difference. 

Calan Breckon:     00:13:23    It really is. And it’s, it’s, it has a lot to do with relationship building and how humans interact with each other. And I feel like that’s a big part of these events, is those relationship connect the dots kind of a thing. Um, just because our community is more lively. We do, we do the big hugs, we do all those things. And I think that that kind of fosters this instantaneous relationship connector that we have that maybe other communities don’t experience because they don’t have the same history we have. And we’re always celebrating. We’re like, you know, this is the only time we got, we gotta make the best out of it. And so can you talk a little bit more about the importance of fostering those relationships in regard to business? 

Justin Nelson:     00:14:06    Yeah, and I think you said it really well at the outset here about how you met people just sitting down having dinner. I mean, that’s the difference too, between today and go back when we were doing covid, and a lot of people said, well, why don’t we just stay virtual? We save this money, we do this. You miss that human connection. You miss the ability to actually build a relationship in person. And it happens, you know, at the morning, walk and talk, if you’re up that early to get up and go do a impromptu conversation. It happens at the pool, it happens at the bar, it happens in the restaurants. You know, it happens in places that aren’t just the four walls of the conference session or the plenary or the pre-scheduled matchmaker. And I think it’s so important to be able to have that time together, to build relationships, to have conversation, to actually get to talk more about the 30 minutes or 15 minutes you have scheduled in a Zoom call. 

Justin Nelson:     00:14:56    And you can’t replace that. I mean, you can do a lot of things virtually, but you can’t replace that ability to connect one-on-one and actually have an authentic conversation in any of those scenarios where here you’re able to do it, you know, one-to-one or one to multiple through the screen there, you just have an opportunity to bump into someone on the dance floor or in line getting coffee or whatever it is. And it’s just a, it’s a completely different feeling. And I think that’s how you really build authentic relationships, is by being able to have those in-person moments that are structured as a part of a session, but also those impromptu moments where it just by happenstance you run into someone and strike up a dialogue and you’re able to, you know, connect in that way as well. 

Calan Breckon:     00:15:39    De uh, definitely. And that’s, that is why it’s so fun attending that event, <laugh>. ’cause you can’t just bump into people and just be like, oh, hey. And then you have a great conversation and then before you know it, yeah, it gets to business and you’re like, oh, hey, I’m actually the rep for over here. And you’re like, oh, I was actually meaning to run into you. And it was such a nice organic way of doing that. Um, when was the first time that you really understood the power of this relationship building and what it meant for business and small business? 

Justin Nelson:     00:16:08    Oh, gosh. I, I think it’s been a, it was ingrained into me, you know, um, it’s sort of cliche to say it’s not what you know, it’s who you know, it’s actually both. It’s what you know, but it is who you know. And, um, I, I think I learned at a very young age that lesson. Um, you know, I worked up on Capitol Hill for many years for a congressman and then a senator and, uh, a political junkie here. Admittedly, even in these disgusting days that we’re in now, I’m still a political junkie. And that is about relationship building. It is about convincing people of an idea or, uh, a policy. And I think that’s so relevant to business. You know, you’re selling a product or a service, you’re also selling who you are. Uh, people don’t necessarily just want to buy the cheapest product. They want to buy a quality product, competitive price. And most of us, not always, some of us, there are just some things we gotta do what we gotta do, but you also want to be investing in the people that are providing that. And, um, you know, I think that goes back well beyond the chamber years. Well, even beyond my, uh, career as a healthcare lobbyist all the way back to campaigns and, and, uh, working on the hill that relationships matter and you, you get more bees with honey. 

Calan Breckon:     00:17:27    Is there, is there any relationship that sticks out to you in your mind, um, that you had that was a significant impact for you along the journey of your life to get to where you are now? 

Justin Nelson:     00:17:38    Uh, yeah, absolutely. I remember I was, um, uh, student body president at my college and, uh, uh, we had a special election. Uh, I don’t, our, our congressman was named to the cabinet, and so there was a special, special election. I grew up in Wyoming. Uh, so their special election, the new congressman was elected. I had him come speak. And, uh, this was in the first semester, first half, you know, the first half of the year I got an email and I got a call from his office. I don’t even know if we had email then. I think we did. We were on the blue or green screen, um, that, that airlines still use, apparently. But that’s a sidebar. Um, and it said, would you like to come out to Washington and do an internship? And my relationship that I built with the congressman, then we were elected to the Senate, really was the setup for my entire life. Had that relationship not happened, had I not met the congressman at that time, I wouldn’t have moved to Washington. I wouldn’t have stayed in Washington. I wouldn’t have, you know, met my co-founder and my group of friends. I’m not saying there wouldn’t be an NGLCC today, it wouldn’t be the NGLCC that we are today. So I see that as a really pivotal, uh, point in, in a relationship and, and a meeting point and meeting someone that really changed the course of my life. 

Calan Breckon:     00:19:01    Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, would you say that there was a lot of mentorship that also happened through that relationship? 

Justin Nelson:     00:19:07    Oh, absolutely. Through that and through many, I mean, you know, I I, I constantly look, uh, for mentors and I constantly look to mentor. I, I think the person that thinks that they know everything and can’t learn something from somebody else, or you’ve achieved a certain level in a company or in life, but you think you don’t need tutelage and input and sometimes course correction, then you’re, you know, you’re destined for failure. I think mentorship is huge, and it comes in many different ways. I mean, even on members of my team, you know, that maybe considerably younger than I am, I can be mentored by them. There are things I learn from them each and every day. And I think that’s just the broad definition of what mentorship is. People think that it needs to be this very structured, I’ve been in business for 40 years, you’re a newbie, therefore I know more than you and I’m your mentor. But it really is a reciprocal arrangement. And I, we wouldn’t be where we are. I wouldn’t be where I am without it. 

Calan Breckon:     00:20:04    Oh, it’s definitely a, a two-way street when it comes to mentorship. I have had multiple mentors in my life, and I have one specifically right now who is just one of the most wonderful people in the world, and she learns just as much from me as I learned from her. Uh, and I very much value that relationship. Um, it sounds like mentorship is a big thing in your world, is that translate over to the NGLCC? I know that there must be programs, or I know that there are programs of mentorship inside the NGLCC. Well, what are those programs and what do they look like? 

Justin Nelson:     00:20:35    Yeah, absolutely. We have a mentor program. Uh, in fact, we celebrated our mentor and mentee of the year at conference. Um, and these are structured year long relationships, uh, with, uh, scheduled meetings. They also, I think most of them meet a lot more than they’re supposed to, uh, or than they’re required to, to be a part of the program. Uh, and then we also look at other segment mentoring programs. So we have our Communities of Color initiative, which has a mentorship component to that where our, uh, LGBTQ+ people of color owned businesses are able to participate in that program. We have our trans and gender expansive mentorship program for T G X community, and then a number of just educational programs that come with elements of mentorship. Our Accelerate program, which is our executive capacity and scalability, uh, leadership program that we do for businesses that, um, have been certified at least one year, they’re eligible for that program. 

Justin Nelson:     00:21:32    We now have an ILEAD program, which is a, um, education, uh, program for any of our businesses around some real business fundamentals like, uh, pitch capability statements, just nuts and bolts things to help businesses be better at selling their product service, selling themselves. Uh, and then just, you know, I think we have a series of ad hoc conversations that happen where we just sort of open it up and it’s crowdsource conversation and learning from one another. There’s just a lot of different things that we do. Some are, some are structured and application based, some are, uh, you know, open to everybody and things, even like our SIP and pitch program that was born out of covid, you know, we couldn’t do our annual L G B T biz pitch where we give away cash and prizes. We were able to do it, we brought it back for the first time this year at conference, but we took that virtual and then we’re able to, you know, bring in a number of judges, if you will, or I would call them mentors, not judges, because they weren’t judging from corporations that would then provide real time feedback to, uh, six businesses that would pitch their product or service during a, a Friday afternoon event where we would have conversation cocktails and, and, uh, you know, pitch competitions. 

Calan Breckon:     00:22:47    That’s ama well, it just continues the relationship conversation. Like these are just continuing those relationships in connecting those dots, connecting this person to that person, making sure people are meeting the right people that they need to meet in order to foster these businesses and these lives. And that’s all, all of this really ever is at the end of the day, is building those relationships so that you can continue to have a really fulfilling life overall. And I think that that is a beautiful part of business that some people don’t necessarily understand or get, especially very business people who are just there for money or this, that and the other. If you don’t acknowledge the relationship part of it, you’re missing, I’d say most of the story of that. 

Justin Nelson:     00:23:32    Yeah, I agree. I mean, transactional relationships are just that they’re one and done. You may get another contract, you may not. I’ve never been in favor of them. Um, we all do them. I’m, I’m, I would be lying if I said I haven’t had a transactional, you know, we gotta get this done, or we need to get that done or, or this, okay, you got it. That’s what you need to make the partnership work. I would say 98% of the relationships we build are authentic relationship based relationships. They’re the ones that are gonna stand the test of time. It’s we, why we have near 0%. It’s not zero, but it’s near 0% attrition on our corporate partnership side. I mean, it’s about understanding what we both need from a relationship, right? And how do we meet in the middle so that we’re all getting something out of it. 

Justin Nelson:     00:24:17    And, you know, while we have 450 corporate partners, I would say it’s not 450 different relationships. There are some, you know, guardrails and structures in place that have to be a part of it. But we have a lot, I mean, some people, some companies might need this, some might need a little more of that. Some want to be really creative. And as long as we stay within our guardrails that we’re not having mission creep and going way outside, which we did early on, by the way, if you had a check, we had a program and all of a sudden we realized that we had an organization that was a mile wide and an inch deep. And so we took, uh, and scraped the barnacles off the boat and really got back to basics, and then we built around that. But it’s all things that pour into the mission that we’re doing. And a part of that is because we’ve been able to build those authentic relationships. And, and, uh, when people do that, I think they’re more fulfilled people that are so transactional. I just can’t even imagine what it’s like to go home and cook dinner and sit on the sofa. And I think you might just feel a little bit empty. Mm-hmm. 

Calan Breckon:     00:25:19    <affirmative>, I definitely agree with that. Um, I know that with kind of the world where it is right now, things financially are in a bit of a weird place. Everybody I feel is kind of holding their breath for like, what’s coming next. And I think that having these authentic relationships and building these authentic relationships are what’s gonna help people weather that storm. And especially like the NGLCC, you have a lot of these relationships built, and your attrition rate is so low. I think that by doing that, you will also weather a storm if a storm’s coming much better than more of those transactional types and those transactional people. So if somebody’s listening right now and you are a transactional type, or you don’t really put as much emphasis on relationship that you should just take that into consideration, 

Justin Nelson:     00:26:08    Uh, well, absolutely. You’re the first, you’re gonna be the first one cut period. That’s, that’s very, very simple. And, um, you know, I agree with that and, and it’s not always the most popular decision, but let’s, when we saw covid, we clamped down, we eliminated an entire department because we knew we would not be using it. Uh, which is not the easiest thing to do. We paid severance and did what we needed to do. But we also have made very smart business decisions when it comes to, uh, financial forecast. I think right now I’m very cautiously optimistic. I think most economists are saying now that we’re less likely, uh, significantly less likely to experience, um, uh, a financial downturn than we were maybe six or eight months ago. So, uh, I think people are starting to take a little bit of a deep breath, but we’ve also seen a lot of layoffs, especially in tech, which makes everyone a little bit nervous. 

Justin Nelson:     00:26:58    But, you know, you also have to think a lot of those have come from companies that really flourished, uh, under the covid scenario. And people are getting back to normal. And so there’s a little bit of, you know, give and take there. I don’t wanna read too much into it. Still wanna be cautiously optimistic. And of course, as always, as every business does, we run our organization like a business nonprofit doesn’t mean no profit. Uh, we’ve gotta be looking at worst case scenarios and making sure that we’re being responsive to any scenario that may come forward. 

Calan Breckon:     00:27:29    Yeah, exactly. Um, I want to ask about, you talked about all the entrepreneur programs that you had. How many of those have certification programs? And can you tell me more about any of those that you have and any benefits that come along with those? 

Justin Nelson:     00:27:44    Most all of our programs, um, are certification related because it is our backbone program. We also encourage our state and local affiliates to implement similar programs for their broader membership. But really, you know, what our organizational charter is to do is to certify scale and connect LGBTQ+ owned companies. So we really look at that 51% threshold, uh, owned, operated and controlled to be able to be certified by NGLCC. I know it’s similar in Canada. Other places around the world are looking at some different scenarios with, again, those guardrails in place. Here’s the, here’s what absolutely has to be a part of it, but it might not work in uk or it might not work in Columbia, or might not work in India to do just the exact US or Canadian way of certification. So I know they’re looking, um, at some other flexibilities there. 

Justin Nelson:     00:28:37    But, you know, it’s, it’s incredibly important. Back to my earlier point about running the race, you know, uh, I do believe truly, and if you go back to the outset of supplier diversity, it was designed, um, to counteract some really bad actors in federal government procurement. And it grew into a setaside program. Um, you know, most private sector companies have met their government mandate for years. It is not a setaside program, but that also let sort of this idea be that a diverse, owned, certified business was doing charity work. Somehow we’re doing charity by giving contract to a, a diverse certified business. The reality is that couldn’t be farther from the truth. And we started this, I guess we had the luxury by not being protected by the government or recognized by the government when we started our certification program that we had to coach to the, uh, more nimble, more responsive, more creative, more in some cases more cost effective to the, to the pieces that impact the bottom line. 

Justin Nelson:     00:29:44    And there’s still a lot of belief out there, and we have to change this collectively, especially in the light of, you know, decisions like the, the, uh, uh, recent case in the US that was decided against, uh, the Department of Agriculture and impacts our eight a certification program, minority certification program from the government. But I think that’s just what we’ve gotta continue to do, is work together to, to show that doing business with a diverse supplier is not charity work. It has real positive impact on the bottom line, which has positive impacts for the shareholder, which is what private sector corporations are in business to do. 

Calan Breckon:     00:30:20    Yeah. Which is a huge, huge thing in business. I know here in Canada, we just got, uh, I actually just spoke with Darrell Sherman, the C e o of C G L C C, which is the Canadian LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce, about the $25 million grant that the government just, uh, granted the organization in order to foster L GB or two S LGBTQ+ I A entrepreneurship over the next three years and then into the future. It’s really important because they recognized how much we actually do for the country. We employ almost half a million people here. We, you know, generate over $22 billion a year. So it’s like, oh, hey, there’s money to be made here. It’s not charity work. And it helps in so many more layers than just business. And I think that’s where a lot of the world is getting to. It’s, it’s not capitalism. Great, awesome make money, but it’s not just about that. There is layers that you can affect and do that at the same time. And I think organizations like the NGLCC and the C G L C C are helping people understand that there are layers to it. 

Justin Nelson:     00:31:26    Yeah. It’s the old adage of do well by doing good. I mean, you can, you can do the right thing and still make money doing it. Uh, they’re, they’re not polar opposites. In fact, they’re more intertwined than one would think. And to your point, I mean, I often talk from, from my side of the border about being a red-blooded tax paying American, and the reality that our 1.7 million owned businesses here have a combined economic impact of about 1.7 trillion on the US economy, which would make us, if we were our own country, the 10th largest economy in the world. And you, I don’t care what your political background is, what your party is, if you were not gonna be looking at doing business with the 10th largest economy in the world, you would be nuts. And so, you know, we are a vibrant part of that small business engine that makes our economy run. 

Justin Nelson:     00:32:15    Most jobs are created by small business, not big business. You know, most local revenue is generated by small business. So I talk a lot about our businesses helping, you know, build bridges, paved roads, and build schools. I mean, that’s just the reality of it. And last time I checked, there wasn’t a box that I could check on my state or local or federal income tax that said, you know, you get a tax exemption because we’re gonna deny you the rights that every other taxpayer gets. Which is really ridiculous when you consider the number of people that are employed. You know, for us, we don’t have a national healthcare system. So the healthcare that’s offered by small business and the true economic impact that’s keeping people out of poverty and, you know, positive influencers and positive impacts to our economy. 

Calan Breckon:     00:33:03    Yes, <laugh>, all of it. I could go on forever. I don’t wanna dive too much into politics, but I, I personally believe that the reason things are getting so loud is because, you know, it’s like when a, an animals cornered, they get really growly and they get really freaking crazy. I think that that’s where they’re seeing things going, and that’s just why things are happening the way they’re happening. They’re feeling cornered and they just need to be louder about it right now. But the large majority of populations are, I feel on the same page as us. They’re very open. They want to create diversity, they wanna, uh, recognize those layers to creating financial abundance for a lot of people. Um, and I think that eventually we will get there. 

Justin Nelson:     00:33:45    Yeah, I think, you know, I think you’re right. It it’s about being patient too, but sometimes patience wears thin. Um, 

Calan Breckon:     00:33:54    It’s the, it’s the balance of like push pull. Yeah. When do you push, when do you pull? And it’s always a continuing thing That’s to what it is to be human though. Um, I’m really excited. What new or exciting things do you have coming up in the future for the NGLCC? I know we were just in Denver. I got my little Denver mug from the NGLCC for those who aren’t watching on video. Um, I love it. It’s probably my favorite thing that I got from the event. Um, but what other cool things do you have coming up in the near future here? 

Justin Nelson:     00:34:23    So NGLCC, uh, gosh, what has it been over a decade ago, I think created the National Business Inclusion Consortium. And that is a group of other NGLCC and other national diverse business organizations, the US Hispanic Chamber, the US Black Chamber, uh, the, uh, uspa or US Pan-Asian American Chamber Women impacting Public Policy disability in the National Association of Veteran Business Owners of America, uh, and our partners at WEConnect internationally. We brought all of those groups together to focus on like-minded priorities. Uh, some of us do public and private sector advocacy. Some of us just do private sector work, but the idea was to bring these groups together so that those that have historically tried to pit us against one another, uh, no longer had that luxury. And to be able to, to move stuff forward, uh, together, maybe I should say upward together since that was the theme. 

Calan Breckon:     00:35:21    Yeah, that was the theme issue. Yeah. 

Justin Nelson:     00:35:23    Um, anyway, so we started doing this event called the Best of the Best, and that recognizes the top 50 corporations for their cross segment inclusion, uh, supplier efforts, D E I B E R G E R G, uh, and their, uh, recruitment and retention efforts. And that event has been going strong for several years now. During covid, we created Unity Week because we couldn’t do this event in person. And so we did this collaborative, uh, virtual programming that has now went from virtual into the real world. And this will be the third year that we do it, um, live. And so next month in, uh, November, we will be doing, uh, an event in Philadelphia. Uh, it’s two days, it’s called N B I C, unity Week. We’ll have joint programming across those diverse segments. We will have our best of the Best Matchmaker program, which means those top 50 and maybe a few more, we’ll see where we are on numbers. 

Justin Nelson:     00:36:22    But the top 50, best of the best companies will have a chance to match, make with, uh, those best of the best suppliers across each of those segments. So their opportunity to meet with women-owned business, minority-owned business, L G B T disability, veteran-owned companies, all in one setting in a much smaller setting than what we do at conference, which is wonderful. And then we’ll also name that Top 50 and we’re gonna be talking about some really important issues around, uh, E S G and around obviously advocacy as it relates to some of the, uh, Supreme Court decisions around affirmative action and other things. But again, an opportunity to get that empowerment, uh, and also do it across segments. So really looking forward to that. And that’s happening, uh, I believe it’s November 29th and 30th, uh, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

Calan Breckon:     00:37:11    Oh, nice. Awesome. Oh, that’s not too far from me. I’m up here in Toronto, so that’s closer than we were in Denver. 

Justin Nelson:     00:37:18    Yes. 

Calan Breckon:     00:37:19    Um, where can people find out more about that? Is it just on the NGLCC website? If they want to find out about that, and also the certification programs and all of that? 

Justin Nelson:     00:37:28    Absolutely. In Uh, and it has the inf it doesn’t have all the information up there because we’re still putting programming to bed, but uh, it has the dates and, and city location. You can find out about certification, you can find an affiliate, uh, in, if you’re a US based, there’s a page on there to find an affiliate in your community. If you’re somewhere, uh, not in the us there’s also a list of our global affiliates that will connect you right to, uh, those organizations like C G L C C and others around the world and a lot of other information that can just hopefully be helpful in, uh, answering questions for LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs. 

Calan Breckon:     00:38:04    Awesome. Nice. I’ll make sure to have that in the show notes for everybody. I have a cheeky question. So I’m a certified supplier in Canada. I’m a C G L C C certified diverse supplier. And I know that you have the NGLCC, the same kind of equivalent. Has there been any talks about how those can work more closely together? Because one of the things I did find is that, you know, Denver was amazing. Going to conferences is amazing, meeting all these people is amazing, but the cross borders with the different certifications gets a little, little bit murky for certain companies, and they’re not really sure. They’re like, oh, well maybe we have to just find an American version of this. Is there any talks to kind of bridge those gaps? 

Justin Nelson:     00:38:45    Yeah, I think most of it focuses around, um, say a foreign, uh, company owned by a foreign national that has another incorporated business in the us or if it was a US business that had an incorporated business in Canada, because they really do look at country spend. Not to get too down in the weeds on it, I would say the most likely thing that happens, and we we have pointed a task force to work on this exact issue, is that if you are a Canadian owned business that has an incorporated company, your your sister company in the us uh, you have a us you know, ID taxpayer id, um, but you’re not a citizen and you’re, you’re not a permanent resident. You’re not a citizen, but you may have a, you know, the, the corresponding visa that allows you to do business in the US that we should have a category there that would allow that to be US spin. 

Justin Nelson:     00:39:45    Now to your point, there is a great debate company to company, which is why we put this to a task force so that we could come up with a reasonable recommendation. Does it mean that there’s a third category of spin count possible? Does it mean that if you have a US incorporation and you’re a foreign owned company, that you’re able to be counted in country because of your US incorporation? That’s possible. Does it mean things stay the way they are and you’re not able to do it? That’s possible. I would say the likelihood is in the first two options that I gave. And that’s something that we’re pushing with and frankly something we’re working with C G L C on, uh, to see if we can’t make a dent in that. Okay. 

Calan Breckon:     00:40:27    It 

Justin Nelson:     00:40:27    Doesn’t make sense no matter where you live, if you have a corporation that is incorporated in a specific country that that shouldn’t be able to be counted as spend in your case. It may mean you have to, to create a company in the US that would be your L L C or SS Corp or whatever it would be. That’s US based. 

Calan Breckon:     00:40:47    Yeah, that’s what most of the people I was speaking to do, and they have that, it gets a little bit complicated. Um, but yeah, I was just curious. I wanted to ask the question for the people. Um, so I’m really excited. Denver was so much fun. Can you tell us where conferences gonna be in 2024? 

Justin Nelson:     00:41:05    We will be in beautiful Palm Springs, California. 

Calan Breckon:     00:41:10    I am so excited. The first thing that popped into my head when you all announced that was I want to go to the Trixie Motel <laugh>. 

Justin Nelson:     00:41:18    We, we we’re looking at potentially doing an event there. I think that would make sense. And then there’s also the Sinatra house. I mean, there’s just, Palm Springs is wonderful at the events at the convention center, which is this really cool, it’s not authentic mid-century. It wasn’t built in mid-century, but it’s built to fit into the mid-century vibe. It’s just spectacular. One of my favorite cities on earth. People are kind, the food is great. The vibe is wonderful. So we’re looking forward to that. I don’t have the exact dates in front of me, but it, I know it’s the, the very end of July and the first part of a, of August next year. 

Calan Breckon:     00:41:54    Yeah, I’m very excited. I’ve never been to Palm Springs, so this has given me a perfect reason to come and head down that way. Um, when we have our Canadian summit, are y’all gonna make the trip up here? ’cause I believe, I don’t know where we’re gonna have it. Last year was in, or this summer was in Kingston. I hope they move it back to Toronto, just selfishly. Um, but are you all gonna try and make an attempt to come up here? Because I think a lot of people, especially after we won the award, were like, how do we come up to your summit? 

Justin Nelson:     00:42:22    Yeah, absolutely. And we’ve done that in the past. We’ve brought businesses up. I think, you know, we do a series, you all do a great job of, uh, trade LGBTQ+ trade missions, um, with the government. We, you know, we just did one down in Mexico City right before conference that I attended. Um, but I think we’ve done one in Canada. It’s been years. I think it’s probably time to, to re-look at that. And a aside from that, NGLCC will be there. We’re there every year. And I think the ability to open it up, especially given the distance between the two conferences to other businesses that may want to participate in something, we’re absolutely going to do 

Calan Breckon:     00:42:58    Good. Yes. Come up, come visit us. We, we’d love to have you <laugh> 

Justin Nelson:     00:43:02    Have your 20 year gala in November. That as of right now is on my calendar. So, um, that’s, 

Calan Breckon:     00:43:08    Are you gonna come to that? 

Justin Nelson:     00:43:09    Yeah, I think it’s, uh, it’s, I think it’s yes, absolutely worth my time. It’s a great way to celebrate and certainly as, as the reigning global affiliate of the year, it makes sense. 

Calan Breckon:     00:43:21    Oh yeah, definitely. And the gala is so much fun. I went for the first time this past year and I will definitely be that there this year because I am one of the graduating mentees in the mentorship program. So I think, I think we kinda have to show up, but, uh, it’s a great, great night out. Everybody has a lot of fun. You’re gonna really enjoy it. For sure. And 

Justin Nelson:     00:43:40    The only issues every time I, I go, I come home with artwork. 

Calan Breckon:     00:43:44    Oh, but 

Justin Nelson:     00:43:45    You know what? That’s, I, I I, I, I can use some more, but that, that’s, that’s a good problem to have. 

Calan Breckon:     00:43:51    Yeah, exactly. Uh, it has been an absolute pleasure speaking with you. Thank you so much for your time today, Justin. I’ve loved to learning more about the NGLCC and all the great things coming up and all the great work that the NGLCC does. Uh, is there anything else you’d like to let folks know about or where they can find out all the information about today? 

Justin Nelson:     00:44:11    Uh, I, no, I just wanna say thanks to you, Callum, for doing this and, and continuing to be a voice for LGBTQ+ business and give, um, people like me the opportunity to talk to, to the community. And, um, I appreciate your kind words about conference and look forward to having you in, in, uh, Palm Springs. And I’m sure I’ll see you before then. 

Calan Breckon:     00:44:34    Definitely. Maybe we should set up a live recording in Palm Springs. I could have a little room somewhere. 

Justin Nelson:     00:44:39    Yeah, that’d be nice. We could absolutely do that. 

Calan Breckon:     00:44:41    Yeah. Figure out, figure out some superstar to come in and then we could do an interview. My goal with this podcast is to give representation on the podcasting charts. ’cause there is no LGBTQ+ representatives in the marketing or the business up in the top of the chart, so I wanna make sure that gay was written real big across the title <laugh>. 

Justin Nelson:     00:44:59    Awesome. 

Calan Breckon:     00:45:00    Awesome. Well, thank you so much for your time today. It has been magical. And for anybody looking for any more information, I’m definitely gonna have that all for you in the show notes. All right, Justin, have a good one. 

Justin Nelson:     00:45:10    Thank you very much. Have a good day. 

Calan Breckon:     00:45:13    I really do love being a part of these organizations. For so long, I suffered from Lone Wolf syndrome thinking that I had to do everything for myself and by myself, and that there was nobody out there to help me. But being a part of the CGLCC and these organizations has really taught me that there are people out there who wanna help me. They wanna support me, they wanna support my business, and that we’re all just here helping each other succeed. It can be really, really hard out there for solo entrepreneurs. So the more chances that you have to be around people, even if it’s just a little bit of a mix and mingle, take advantage of it. Business is built from relationships. As this conversation with Justin highlighted, I want to thank you so much for listening and supporting the show. If you’ve liked what you heard, please consider subscribing and give me a star rating. It really helps the show. You can also share it on your social media so that others can find out about it. That would be really magical. The Business Gay Podcast is written and produced by me, Calan Breckon. And if you’re looking to start your own podcast or maybe create an internal podcast for your corporate company to replace all those awful emails that nobody reads, then you can give me a shout over That’s it for today. Peace, love, rainbows.

Calan Breckon
Calan Breckon

Calan Breckon is an SEO Specialist and host of "The Business Gay" podcast. He has worked with companies such as Cohere and Canada Life and has been a guest on the "Online Marketing Made Easy" podcast with Amy Porterfield as well as featured in publications like Authority Magazine and CourseMethod.

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