Ten Money Questions for Chance Mitchell & Justin Nelson
Chance Mitchell and Justin Nelson are co-founders of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. Since 2002, the NGLCC is the only national not-for-profit advocacy organization dedicated to expanding the economic opportunities and advancements of the LGBT business community. Chance and Justin provide a personal and professional perspective on the almighty dollar. Enjoy!
1. Why does the LGBT community need an economic identity?
Whether we like it or not, money moves the world. Economics help create social change, not just with corporate leaders, but with local, state and federal governments. The LGBT community is estimated to have had a combined buying power of $660 billion dollars in 2007 and that number will grow to $835 billion dollars by 2010. As a point of reference, these numbers closely follow the buying power of the African American and Hispanic American communities. By leveraging the economic identity of the LGBT community through pocketbook advocacy, we have the ability to create significant change.
2. What is your most significant memory about money?
Justin: I remember when I first came to Washington, DC to intern and toured the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Watching that money being printed sent chills up my spine – there was just so much of it. Thankfully, I get to work every day doing the two things I am most passionate about – equality and making money!
Chance: When I was a kid I would always watch movies about money. I would watch Brewster’s Millions and Trading Places at least once a week and think about what it would be like to have that kind of money. Today I realize that money and economic opportunity can really empower people and promote positive change. With the proper resources and determination we can really make a difference in our community.
3. What is your worst habit around finances?
Justin: I am terrible about filing my travel reimbursement. Good for the chamber. Not so good for me, but I am getting better!
Chance: I am obsessive about finances. In any business “cash is king” and I believe it is something that has to be managed and watched very carefully.
4. How has representing small business owners impacted your perspective on money?
If anything, it has deepened our belief that we can only create significant change if we include the topic of money and its influences in our conversations. As we travel around the country, we hear people talking about the things that are most important to them: meeting payroll, affordable healthcare, growing their business. It is an honor to work for such a quality group of people on issues that are so important to their day to day lives.
5. What did your parents do for a living? Did this influence your career path?
Justin: I grew up in Wyoming so it is only natural that my father has made his living in the oil and gas industry. My mother ran a small business focusing on party planning and events – great for a gay son. My father once told me that you spend at least eight hours a day at your job so find something you are passionate about and it won’t seem like work. That is exactly what I have done at the chamber.
Chance: I grew up in a small town in Texas and my father was in the oil business. My mother was a librarian but stayed at home during most of my childhood.
6. How can queer business owners leverage the economics of equality?
When legislators are looking at making decisions, the first people they look to are their constituents. Of their constituents, the first they look to are the business owners – how much revenue are these businesses bringing into the community; how many people are they employing; how many people receive their healthcare through these businesses. The LGBT community has always been very socially active and we have always owned businesses. What we haven’t done it leverage our positions as part of the small business engine that makes the American economy run. Only recently are people realizing that they can and should leverage their businesses to create change. Call your representatives – both state and federal. Make sure that they know what is important to you – not just on issues of importance to your business, but on issues of social concern.
7. Do companies really seek out LGBT suppliers to do business with?
To date, America’s top corporations have spent tens of millions of dollars with LGBT suppliers certified through the NGLCC. By working with the NGLCC to identify and utilize certified LGBT business enterprises, Corporate America is bringing parity to their diversity practices and creating huge opportunities for LGBT entrepreneurs. Companies must ensure that their supply chain looks like the customer and employee base they have or the one they are trying to attract – thus creating a direct link between corporate America and LGBT businesses.
8. As business partners, do the two of you see eye-to-eye on money?
When it comes to the finances at the NGLCC we definitely see eye-to-eye. Fiscal discipline is a central tenant of the organization. Strong, steady and manageable growth is key to the long term financial health of the organization.
9. Are there traits that make gays and lesbians better entrepreneurs than their straight counterparts?
Oftentimes, members of the LGBT community have had to overcome great adversity throughout our lives. The desire to be our own boss and not worry about what others think certainly must play a part in LGBT entrepreneurship. Those ideas, in addition to the fact that the LGBT community is often exceptionally creative, adds to the overall dive for business ownership found among members of the LGBT community.
10. What does the NGLCC do to make business networking not feel like speed dating?
While there are arguably some good reasons that business networking feels a little like dating, like the need to perfect a brief and impactful elevator pitch, we believe that any good, solid business relationship is a lot like a personal relationship. You have to get to know one another, you have to learn to trust each other and grow together.
To meet these challenges, The NGLCC provides real and virtual opportunities to do that. Whether it’s at the NGLCC annual conference, a regional or local Make-the-Connection event, a program of the NGLCC Women’s Business Initiative, or one of our upcoming virtual trade fairs, the NGLCC recognizes the need to connect in the real and virtual world. Good relationships, personal or business do not happen in a vacuum and we are so pleased that so many see the NGLCC as their national business advocate.
More about Chance Mitchell
Chance Mitchell has dedicated his efforts to fighting for equality for the LGBT community. Mitchell, along with co-founder Justin Nelson, launched the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) in November 2002. “It is a concept that is long overdue. Our community is at the forefront of economic growth and innovation and the time has come for us to leverage the economics of equality. Having a national group advocating for LGBT businesses, employees and benefits will give our community a united voice with the financial strength to support it,” noted Mr. Mitchell at a recent gathering of community leaders in Washington, DC.
Prior to launching the NGLCC, Mr. Mitchell provided information technology assistance and litigation management services to one of the nations top law firms. His former projects encompass some of the largest cases in the country.
Prior to his work in the legal arena, he served as an executive for a global business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce company where he coordinated e-business initiatives, managed client relationships and developed strategic marketing plans. In addition, Mr. Mitchell developed e-business strategies that targeted niche industries, while focusing on customer acquisition, retention, and branding in order to maintain a strong competitive advantage.
Mr. Mitchell holds a BBA in Finance from Texas Christian University and a Master of Science in Information and Telecommunications Systems for Business from the Johns Hopkins University.
More about Justin Nelson
Justin Nelson co-founded the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce with Chance Mitchell in November 2002. Justin has used his background in small business and issues advocacy to build a national organization that gives a much-needed economic identity to the LGBT community. Since its inception, the organization has grown to be the largest LGBT economic advocacy and business development organization in the world. Justin serves as the organization’s President. Justin believes in creating development opportunities for LGBT businesses and entrepreneurs that not only offer new business opportunities, but also showcase the contributions of the LGBT community to the health of the economy.
His work has led to a revolutionary program that matches NGLCC certified businesses with America’s top corporations in an effort to add LGBT businesses to corporate supplier diversity programs. The initiative means that many of America’s top corporations are not only saying that it’s ok to do business with LGBT firms, but that they want to do business with them because they are LGBT firms.
Prior to launching the NGLCC, Justin was the Director of Federal Affairs and External Relations for one of the top medical associations in Washington, DC. During his tenure, the organization was named one of the top 100 lobbying organizations in Washington by Forbes Magazine. Prior to lobbying Congress and the White House, Justin spent four years as an aide to United States Senator Craig Thomas. Justin holds a BA in political science from the University of Wyoming.
Read other Queercents interviews in the Ten Money Questions archive.