In less than three years, the Mid-America Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce has skyrocketed from the ground up to become an influential player in the Midwestern LGBT business community.
Founded by Dan Nilsen, CEO of Bishop-McCann, the Mid-America GLCC arose to fill “a big void in the Midwest for a gay and lesbian chamber of commerce,” said Michael Linctecum, executive director of the chamber.
Despite an overall urgency to fill this void, Nilsen took his time to meticulously craft a solid foundation around this affiliate of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, putting together a crackerjack group of community leaders to form a board that worked well over a year building a professional business organization.
“We opened up for business with a huge kick-off in May 2012 and so far, it’s been an exciting and rewarding two-and-a-half years,” Lintecum said.
At 225 members strong and growing, the Kansas City based chamber has a diverse membership, ranging from large corporations such as Hallmark, to many local small businesses, entrepreneurs and non-profits.
As one of 52 NGLCC affiliates, the Mid-America affiliate offers B2B networking and social events, as well as a host of special programs, with the goal of aiding their constituency base.
“Bottom line – we’re in the business to get LGBT-owned businesses and their allies the professional business help they need,” Lintecum said.
One of their successful programs has been a series called Master Minds, a monthly 90 minute brainstorming session with members of the chamber.
“Fifteen to 20 members come together each month and we have an owner or business present a business challenge they’re facing at that time, and then we brainstorm solutions on how to tackle that challenge,” explained Josh Strodtman, secretary of the chamber.
If would-be entrepreneurs or established business owners are looking for a master-class business training course, the chamber offers the Barnes Leadership Series led by Kay Barnes, former Kansas City mayor and professor at Park University.
The 10-session course meets every month and selects 15 individuals to train and coach on leadership skills like communication, collaboration and conflict management.
These programs are just the tip of the iceberg of what the chamber provides to its members, but they’re all designed with one end goal in mind.
“One of our programming missions is to make sure our programs reach across the spectrum, making sure connections are made to grow your business,” Strodtman said.
Particularly for small businesses, the chamber offers a business equality conference with a particular focus on them, as well as taking on the responsibility of assisting LGBT-owned businesses become certified under the NGLCC.
“If a small business were to join [us], they would certainly see the immediate benefits,” Lintecum said.
The next step for the chamber is growth, expanding further into the states of Missouri and Kansas, as well as targeting Iowa, Nebraska and Oklahoma with a main goal to cultivate a presence in all major Midwestern cities – a bit of a challenge for the still nascent organization.
“We don’t need to necessarily grow immediately, but grow with time in a very thoughtful way so members can receive the unique benefits they can’t get anywhere else,” Lintecum said.
Nevertheless, the strides and massive support the chamber has obtained in such a short span of time are never eclipsed by the work that lies ahead.
“In these three years, we couldn’t be more thrilled to have this many people and the reach of our membership.”