LGBTBE Reflects on Importance of Federal Contracting Opportunities

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by Santana Moreno 
The National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce always looks for ways to present the LGBT business community with opportunities for advancing their brand. One such platform occurred last November at the third annual Washington Procurement Forum, held at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Washington, D.C.. This fair brought together business leaders and federal policy makers from across the nation to discuss ways that LGBT businesses can procure highly sought after contracts, as well as to discuss some of the most pressing issues facing the LGBT business community. LGBT business leaders were presented with two days of unique programming of educational sessions, roundtables, and Federal Matchmakers aimed at furthering their knowledge of federal government contracting, and how to navigate the field to produce results. 
Tasha Reid, certified LGBT Business Enterprise (LGBTBE®) owner, attended the forum and describes the value and benefits the forum offers to LGBT businesses.
"The main fact that they know I'm an LGBT business and they are looking for an opportunity to partner with me; that is something that has not been done."
Reid is the President of Visionary Services, a facility support services company based in Atlanta, Georgia. Coming from an upbringing rooted in proud independence, she always had the spirit to work for herself and create her own opportunities. After starting her business and receiving her  8(a) certification, Reid sought certification from the NGLCC. "I represent the LGBT community," says Reid. "I want to make a mark in being able to be open and honest about who I am and what my business is about." When speaking on the significance of events like the WPF, Reid feels the same way. "There's always strength in numbers,” Reid says about the supplier base of LGBTBEs at the forum. “In the federal market…you're dealing with a lot of traditional mindsets and backgrounds, and those are the things you have to overcome." 
NGLCC educational panel sessions were led by experts in the field on how to increase knowledge of federal procurement and how best to navigate the space to produce results. Reid recalled panelist Sonya Carrion from the Department of Labor, speaking in the Building Your Path to Success: The Fundamentals of Marketing to Federal Agencies session. "The great information that she had to provide on getting in contact with our local Small Business Development Center…on how to further our federal opportunities,” says Reid. “I met with mine in Atlanta when I got back home." By having experts who have navigated the federal space and know what tools to offer up to LGBT business owners on how to be successful, the NGLCC made it possible for business owners to walk away from the forum with useful knowledge they could implement in their own business practices.
"I would sum it up as a once in a lifetime opportunity."
The signature event of the forum was the first ever Federal Matchmakers, where LGBT suppliers were given the opportunity to have one-on-one meetings with over twenty federal agencies that best matched their businesses. "It's not like you can really go knock on [federal agency] doors and say 'Hey, let me sit down and talk to you,” Reid says on access. “This gave us the opportunity to be face-to-face and build a relationship with some of these agencies… The main fact that they know I'm an LGBT business and they are looking for an opportunity to partner with me, that is something that has not been done. I know we're on the verge of something great." Reid speaks to the central belief of the NGLCC and certainly to the core of this event. She touches on how LGBT advancement doesn't just stop at gay marriage and social equality. The LGBT community has to place itself in all possible spheres for advancement, and this includes not just the commercial sector but the federal space as well.
Reid wanted to impress the importance of having a federal presence interacting directly with LGBT owned businesses. "I would sum it up as a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Reid says with assurance. “To be an LGBT owned business and sit in a federal space… The insiders who made those decisions like 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' are still in there and you can feel it and sense it…So the opportunity to bridge that gap and say 'We are just like you. We can perform these contracts' …That's what separates us from being able to accomplish what we need to accomplish." By presenting these agencies with a supplier base comprised entirely of LGBT owned businesses, the NGLCC offers a space for these unlikely constituents to begin the discussion and start creating avenues for true practices of diversity and inclusion within the federal government.