Taking Care of Business

Chamber offers inclusive networking and growth opportunities

By Paul Whitman

The Connecticut Gay and Lesbian Chamber is the voice of the LGBTQ business community in Connecticut. It’s a place not only for LGBTQ business owners, but their allies as well – anyone who is supportive of LGBTQ causes, including diversity and inclusion, inside and outside of the workplace.

The chamber seeks to increase the economic strength of its members through business development, leadership, advocacy, and visibility. It does this with the help of some well-known corporate sponsors: Foxwoods Resort Casino, Travelers, the Hartford Yard Goats, and Comcast Corp., among a growing roster of others.

Making Connections

Since the group’s founding in 2007, when it launched under the name of Connecticut Alliance for Business Opportunities, the chamber has become an integral part of the Connecticut’s small-business engine.

An affiliate of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, the chamber is non-partisan but will always remain politically concerned, especially regarding health, equality, justice, fairness, and the many civil rights issues that impact the LGBTQ community. It’s also the exclusive certifying body for Certified LGBT Business Enterprise companies, which are majority owned by LGBTQ individuals.

Networking is a key component of the chamber, which helps promote member businesses within the LGBTQ community as well as more broadly statewide, says President Martin L. Heft. This network fosters a sharing of information, ideas, contacts, and products and services, which in turn strengthens and expands businesses, careers, and the LGBTQ community.

The chamber also focuses on events and educational programs. From monthly meetings to educational workshops and community involvement, the chamber strives to connect members of the LGBTQ community and unite them for success, both personally and professionally.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, all meetings and events have been available online. Additionally, members have been kept informed of COVID-19-related business matters through the chamber’s website, social media, and email blasts.

Happily, in recent times, membership has actually expanded since, no matter where people live in the state, they can fully participate in the group’s virtual happenings. Given their success, chamber leaders plan to continue offering a “hybrid” mix of events – both in-person and online – once the pandemic ends. In this way, the group can be the most accessible to the LGBTQ community and its allies.

As the chamber grows, leaders are working with partners to secure office space in the Hartford area to house operations and provide meeting space.

Committed to the Community, and Equality

The chamber’s contributions to the community remain a source of pride for its members. Among its initiatives, the CTGLC Foundation seeks to showcase and celebrate bright, successful LGBTQ students or allied leaders. These youths are seen as exemplary young citizens and role models for the up-and-coming generation. The foundation has awarded more than $12,000 in scholarships to Connecticut high school seniors, enabling them to continue their advocacy and community support in a college setting.

Advocacy is another important tenet of the organization. The chamber seeks parity in the marketplace. It is constantly striving to break down barriers that divide LGBTQ business professionals from the greater business community. To that end, the organization has advocated for LGBTQ minority inclusion in the state government. The Connecticut Parentage Act has once again been submitted for the 2021 legislative session, and the chamber is listed as a supporter.

Bolstering Businesses

Being a member of the chamber gets businesses’ names out there, creates networking opportunities, and establishes a sense of authority. It’s affordable, too. For LGBTQ entrepreneurs and their allies looking to build local business-to-business relationships or grow a local business, the chamber is a good place to begin.

The chamber offers memberships based on experience, a range of benefits, and leadership opportunities for professionals who want to grow their businesses and their networks. There are membership options for individuals, businesses, nonprofits, and corporate sponsorships.

A chamber affiliation can benefit businesses. A national survey of 2,000 adults conducted in 2012 by The Schapiro Group revealed 49 percent of consumers were more likely to think favorably of a local business if it was a member of the local chamber of commerce. Being part of a chamber also increases consumer awareness by 73 percent, local reputation by 68 percent, and likelihood of future patronage by 80 percent, according to the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives.

LGBTQ and ally business professionals are encouraged to join Connecticut’s most influential LGBTQ business organization. The chamber represents more than 165 businesses from all major industries. For more information, contact Executive Director John Pica-Sneeden at 860-612-8351 or john@ctglc.org. Visit ctglc.org for more information.


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