If you own a business and identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, you can get certified by the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). Your status as an LGBT-certified business may provide you with new opportunities to compete for large contracts in corporate supply chains.
Many large companies set internal goals for sourcing products and services from diverse suppliers. The NGLCC’s certification program connects LGBT-owned businesses with around 140 large corporations that are committed to working with diverse suppliers, including Motorola, General Mills, Johnson & Johnson, Nordstrom and Target. However, being certified doesn’t guarantee that you will win contracts. (See how certification opened doors for one small business, and learn about the benefits of joining an LGBT chamber of commerce.)
The certification process is designed to confirm that your business is at least 51% owned, run and controlled by an LGBT person; it’s not meant to determine whether your business is strong, viable or financially sound. There are similar certification programs for businesses owned by women, minorities and disabled veterans.
Applying for LGBT certification
You can apply for LGBT Certification on the NGLCC website, by completing a business profile and attaching required documents. NerdWallet began the certification process so we could tell you exactly what to expect on the application.
1. Complete your business profile
Create an account at my.nglcc.org and begin building your business profile, which includes the following information:
- Basic identifying information: company name, address, website, etc.
- Legal structure
- Federal Tax ID
- Gross revenue reported last year
- Number of full-time employees
- Contact information for every LGBT owner and partner in the company
- Resume or bio of every LGBT owner and partner (uploaded as an attachment)
- Name and contact information of three references, such as past or current customers and clients.
- North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code
- United Nations Standard Products and Services (UNSPSC) code
- A written description of your business and the products or services you provide. Potential corporate clients will see this when they view your business profile
- A list of keywords related to your business. These will help potential corporate clients find your business when they search the LGBT Business Enterprise database
- If you’re a member of an NGLCC affiliate chamber of commerce, you can apply for free. If not, you’ll be asked to pay a $400 application fee.
- Other diversity certifications your business currently has, including certifications as woman-, disabled-veteran- or minority-owned.
2. Upload supporting documents
When your business profile is completed, you’ll be asked to upload supporting documents, including the following:
Section 1: Business information
- A brief history of your business or your business plan, if you’re starting a new business.
- Certain business documents. Depending on your business’s legal structure, these may include articles of incorporation, certificate of organization, partnership agreement, business license, minutes from first and most recent board meeting, minutes from most recent shareholder meeting, bylaws, Stock Certificates Transfer Ledgers, and tax forms.
Section 2: LGBT status
- Proof of LGBT status for all of the LGBT owners and partners in your business. This can be a marriage or domestic partnership certificate, a letter from a NGLCC affiliate chamber vouching for your LGBT status, three references from personal contacts, or a note from a doctor confirming a gender reassignment procedure, among other things.
- Proof of United States citizenship or permanent residency, including a copy of your birth certificate, passport or resident alien ID (“green card”).
Section 3: Affiliation & diversity
- If you’re a member of an NGLCC affiliate chamber, upload a copy of your membership receipt.
Section 4: Supplemental
- If you didn’t have some of the documents requested in the application, you can upload extra material in this section, including an operating agreement, employee roster, proof of assumed business name, business license, financial statements, payroll or equity interests.
3. Schedule a site visit.
Near the end of your online application, you’ll be asked to schedule a site visit with an NGLCC representative to confirm that your business is majority-owned, -operated, -managed and -controlled by an LGBT person. This step is mandatory, but you can request specific days and times that work best for you.
After you submit your application and have a site visit, an NGLCC committee will review your application. If you qualify for certification, you’ll get a letter and certificate in the mail. The certification lasts for two years, and you can get recertified after that.
If you’re successfully certified, you can attend an LGBT Business Enterprise Orientation to learn how to take advantage of your new certification through networking events, mentorship, corporate partnerships and scholarship opportunities.
You’ll also need to register your business with NGLCC corporate partners so those companies can find your business when they’re looking to hire a diverse supplier. Each corporation’s supplier diversity team will be able to see parts of the MyNGLCC business profile that you created during the application process.
Resources for LGBT-owned businesses
The National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) is the certifying organization for LGBT businesses. It has 52 affiliate chambers throughout the U.S. and worldwide.
San Francisco Bay Area
The Golden Gate Business Association (GGBA) is the NGLCC affiliate chamber in San Francisco. It was the first business organization founded by LGBT entrepreneurs.
The Rainbow Chamber of Commerce Silicon Valley is the NGLCC affiliate chamber in Sunnyvale, California.
The Castro Merchant Association represents businesses in San Francisco’s Castro District, a historically gay neighborhood.
The San Francisco LGBT Community Center offers business counseling and mentoring, a small business lending circles program and a free business incubator program.
For more information about how to start and run a business, visit NerdWallet’s Small Business Guide. For free, personalized answers to questions about starting and financing your business, visit the Small Business section of NerdWallet’s Ask an Advisor page.
Image via NGLCC.org