Audry deLucia works to increase the engagement and success of LGBT women in business. She speaks from experience, having co-founded the marketing media company ellaprint with her wife Fran Herman. DeLucia notes that GGBA has traditionally had a low percentage of female and trans representation, despite the fact that this important business organization is America’s first LGBT Chamber of Commerce. With her efforts and those of others, the tide is beginning to turn for the better.
SF Bay Times: What motivated you to join the Board of Directors for the GGBA?
Audry deLucia: As a small business owner, networking is an important part of building my business. Making personal connections with people and cultivating those relationships over time creates an environment of trust and credibility. When I began attending GGBA events, I experienced a deeper level of connection with the people engaged with the chamber. Having the common ground of a connection with the LGBT community among allies, lesbian, gay, bi and trans members adds a level of human understanding that I have found cultivates more rich and genuine business relationships than I typically find in other networking and chamber groups. I enjoy the depth and integrity of the conversations I have with GGBA members. From a bottom line perspective, the GGBA continues to generate closed sales leads and new partnerships for ellaprint. In fact, it is because of ellaprint’s involvement with the GGBA that we became aware of the NGLCC and subsequently became certified as an LGBTBE business. And then there’s the fact that it’s just plain fun—the members of the GGBA work hard in and on their businesses and know how to celebrate, and unwind together too.
SF Bay Times: Why did you become certified as an LGBTBE business?
Audry deLucia: When I first learned of the LGBT certification process offered by the NGLCC, I honestly didn’t see the value in having ellaprint become certified. It seemed to me that the LGBT business certification was only valuable if my business intends to go after the supplier diversity spend allocation on large corporate and government contracts. However a trusted colleague at the GGBA, Dawn Ackerman, assured me that there was significant value in certifying ellaprint, so I took the leap of faith and applied for certification on her word.
The application process was smooth and fast and, before I knew it, I was heading to Dallas for the NGLCC annual conference, still not understanding the value. That’s when it all changed for me. At the conference, I had the opportunity to meet fellow business owners and professionals both LGBT and allied from across the country and the world. The more than 600 attendees spanning all industries and sectors of business and ranging from corporate/government procurement and supplier diversity professionals to entrepreneurs, independent agents and small to medium business professionals and owners, provided a rich, yet intimate, environment in which to build partnerships, share information, make unprecedented connections and incubate all forms of business development and growth.
I’d been to many industry conferences up to that point, but never had I found such value before. And most dear to me, was the foundation of LGBT life. Who we are as LGBT business professionals and allies was naturally part of every setting, every seminar, lecture, luncheon, social engagement—not necessarily in an overtly politicized way, but simply by nature of this is who we are and inextricably informs our professional lives.
And it gets better. At the NGLCC conference, I realized how critical it is to the prosperity and economic equality of all LGBT business for us to stand up and be recognized as LGBT businesses. Certification is a quantifiable way to be counted and to collectively show our business clout, history, expertise and reach. Until now, the vibrant LGBT business community has been termed invisible by many, (yet) certified businesses are unmistakably visible. And as if that wasn’t enough, I began to understand the brand new business growth potential suddenly open to me through partnerships and collaborations.
As a small print shop in San Francisco, I’d never considered going after a multi-million dollar corporate or government contract before. Being a Tier 1 or Prime contractor didn’t even hit my business development radar. But as I began to meet the people who develop and solicit these contracts, and the businesses who respond and become the Tier 1 and Prime vendors, I began to see how even my small business fits into the big picture. Subcontracting to the larger vendors and creating multi-business coalitions to bid together on contracts suddenly put ellaprint in the running for exponential growth and economic prosperity. I began visualizing my business growing, and that is exactly what has been manifesting ever since.
SF Bay Times: Do you recommend that other LGBT businesses become certified as Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans Business Enterprises?
Audry deLucia: I recommend that any LGBT owned and operated business invested in growing their business apply for the LGBTBE certification, absolutely! This certification is an invaluable resource in developing your business and taking it to the next level. It’s hard work, but the certification is the first step in positioning your business as a serious player in your industry. The certification is also a choice to declare your businesses support and commitment to support the growing movement towards economic equality for LGBT businesses everywhere. The more of us who stand for LGBT business growth and prosperity, the stronger we all are.
SF Bay Times: What inspired you to lead the women’s initiative at the GGBA?
Audry deLucia: Quite frankly, I was disappointed to see so few women at GGBA events. As a woman in business, I enjoy the camaraderie, perspective and support of fellow female identified business professionals. The LGBT community is vibrant and diverse; I want to see the GGBA expand to showcase and champion all of us. When I show up at GGBA events, I want to see myself represented. Business professionals who identify as women make up a much larger percentage of the LGBT business community than I currently see represented at GGBA events. I believe that our business community will be stronger as we better represent all of its brilliant diversity. To this end, I put a challenge out to the LGBT business professionals of the SF Bay Area, come to a GGBA event, if you don’t see yourself represented there; bring out your people! Get involved and engage your network. The GGBA is the oldest LGBT chamber in the country. For four decades the GGBA has been an advocate for LGBT business. The next time I go to a senate committee hearing to testify on a groundbreaking bill like AB1678, I want the many faces of my beautiful rainbow community standing shoulder to shoulder with me. Come out so we can get to know each other and manifest economic equality together.
SF Bay Times: How has the women’s initiative impacted the GGBA to date and what are your expectations for the future?
Audry deLucia: In the short time I’ve been reaching out to female identified members of the GGBA and working to increase the number of new female identified members, I have been thrilled with the positive response to the initiative. Sometimes all you have to do is ask. The GGBA has seen a marked increase in the number of female identified members joining the chamber, as well as an increase in the number of female identified attendees at events. Already, the presence and engagement of more female identified business professionals in the GGBA is widening the perspectives and topics of conversation at all levels. The diversity of thought and topics of interest are sparking new dialogs and breathing new energy into the chamber. Events targeted to this demographic have been lively and provocative. Moving forward, I want to see more targeted programming as well as more female identified members spotlighted. Most particularly, I want to see more female identified members getting engaged in leveraging the chamber to help grow their businesses. I want to see this demographic taking on chamber responsibility and leadership roles and helping to drive the chamber forward and contribute to the growth and prosperity of our overall membership and the business communities we work in. I would welcome volunteers to step in, roll up their sleeves and help me grow this initiative.
SF Bay Times: What do you hope to see for LGBT business in the SF Bay Area and across the USA in the next 5-10 years?
Audry deLucia: Economic empowerment. California is a key player in a national wave of business growth, legislation and cultural change converging to make this a time of unprecedented opportunity for LGBT business professionals. The great work of many LGBT advocacy organizations is forming critical mass, and LGBT chambers across the country are working to activate their members and communities to ride and fuel this momentum. With our continued collective efforts, I see a time in the very near future when women, trans individuals and gay men make as much money as their straight male counterparts in business. I see a future where LGBT businesses are sought after for the diverse perspective we bring to the table. This future is already manifesting, as evidenced by the dramatic advances the LGBT community has made over the last decade through legislation and public opinion and perception. We have a long way to go yet for true economic empowerment and equality, but the social, legal and business conditions are primed for our success. It’s time for us to come out of our business closets, and pool our business influence together to fuel this exciting time in the history of the LGBT community. I am thrilled for the future and can’t wait to experience what we create together next.
To learn more Ellaprint, please visit http://ellaprint.com