Two men lean on the ledge of the window of a food truck. One man, wearing glasses and a coral sweater, has his army around the shoulders of the other man, who wears a plaid shirt and a fedora. In front of them on the window ledge are white coffee cups with black lids and an electronic tablet.
Receiving an LGBT certification for your small business can benefit both your business and the wider LGBTQ+ community. — Getty Images/kate_sept2004

Despite the growing social acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community in America, just 4.5% of U.S. adults openly identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Data shows that these individuals tend to be younger and more economically disadvantaged than the general population, which puts them in a challenging position if they aspire to start and grow a business.

To help LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs, the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) has created a certification program to give business owners from within the community a leg up. There are many benefits and opportunities that come with being a Certified LGBT Business Enterprise® (LGBTBE), and if your business is eligible, it's worth exploring the certification process.

What is a Certified LGBT Business Enterprise®?

The NGLCC created its business certification program as part of its LGBT Supplier Diversity Initiative. According to the NGLCC's certification guidelines, any business that meets the following criteria is eligible to become a certified LGBTBE:

  • The business is at least 51% owned, operated, managed and controlled by a person or persons who identify as part of the LGBT community (including transgender and non-binary/gender non-conforming individuals) and are either U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.
  • The business operates independently from any non-LGBT business enterprise.
  • The business is headquartered and has been formed as a legal, for-profit entity in the United States.

[Read more: LGBT-Inclusive Policies Benefit Employees and Companies Alike]

Why become an LGBT certified business?

As with other special business certifications such as women-owned and minority-owned businesses, becoming a certified LGBT-owned business comes with opportunities and access that you may not otherwise receive.

You'll have greater access to corporate contracting opportunities

Diversity and inclusion have become a top priority for American corporations and government organizations in recent years. Many of them are looking to make good on their commitment to diversity by working with certified women-owned, minority-owned and LGBT-owned businesses.

The NGLCC has built a network of corporate partners who are looking to partner with and support the LGBTQ+ business community through its internal, proprietary database. As a Certified LGBTBE, you'll have access to corporate representatives and supplier diversity professionals who may be able to help your business grow.

You can take advantage of the NGLCC's programs for certified businesses

The NGLCC offers certified businesses access to exclusive programs that are designed to support growth. These programs include:

  • Monthly webinars with expert advice, information and education from other Certified LGBTBEs.
  • Mentorship from other successful LGBTQ+ business owners.
  • Access to a scholarship opportunity for Tuck's School of Business Executive Education Program at Dartmouth.
  • Special business discounts from LGBT-owned and allied corporate partners.
  • Invitations to important national supplier events for networking opportunities.

By becoming certified and publicly joining this network of other LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs, you're setting a positive example for other individuals within the community who hope to start a business.

It's a powerful marketing tool to differentiate you from your competitors

If your business is specifically trying to reach the LGBTQ+ market or work with corporations that are actively seeking diverse business partners, certification by a nationally recognized organization can be an important selling point.

[Read more: Writing a Diversity and Inclusion Statement: How to Get It Right]

You'll serve as a role model for aspiring LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs

Visibility is important for any minority or disadvantaged demographic, including the LGBTQ+ community. By becoming certified and publicly joining this network of other LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs, you're setting a positive example for other individuals within the community who hope to start a business.

How to receive LGBTBE certification from the NGLCC

The NGLCC has a four-step application process for businesses that wish to become a Certified LGBTBE. Application fees are typically waived for businesses that are already a member of their local Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

Complete the online application

LGBTQ+ business owners may create a business profile on my.nglcc.org and submit supporting documentation to verify eligibility for certification. The required documentation must support the fact that each majority business owner is LGBTQ+ and that the business owner(s) controls, manages, operates and owns at least 51% of the company. You can learn more about the specific required documentation on the NGLCC's certification page.

Schedule a site visit

After you complete your online application, a regional representative from the NGLCC's certification committee will schedule a visit to your place of business to verify the information presented and better understand how certification as an LGBTBE will support your long-term business goals.

Wait for your application review

It can take up to 90 days for the National Certification Committee to review and approve your application.

Join an orientation webinar

When your application has been approved, the NGLCC will invite you to participate in a Certified LGBTBE orientation webinar to introduce you to the benefits of certification and how to leverage them.

For more information on the NGLCC and the benefits of becoming a certified LGBT-owned business, visit the organization's website.

[Read more: How to Get Certified as a Minority-Owned Business]

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Published November 11, 2020