Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks, executive director of NBJC, with Kick's Executive Director Curtis Lipscomb at the Out on the Hill Black LGBT Leadership Summit in Washington D.C. Sept. 2012.

SBA And NBJC Team Up

By Jan Stevenson

DETROIT - A myriad of challenges face any business owner who starts up and operates a successful business - challenges that are further compounded if the business owner is LGBT, or a person of color, or both. That reality will be addressed head on at Many Faces, One Dream, a day-long conference July 22 produced by the National Black Justice Coalition and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The conference is the first in an LGBT economic development tour for communities of color. The tour will go on to 12 other major cities that have significant LGBT presence in communities of color, including Atlanta, Chicago, Ft. Lauderdale/Miami, Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York City, Newark, Oakland/San Francisco, Philadelphia and Washington D.C.

"Despite the challenges we face, gay and transgender people represent an untapped segment of aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners," said NBJC Executive Director Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks. "Rich with ideas and talent, LGBT men and women are creating and leading their own companies. It's time to expand the conversation from economic security to economic development. It's time for us to own our power."

Curtis Lipscomb, executive director of Detroit's Kick Agency for LGBT African Americans, leads the local group organizing the conference. He wants LGBT business people to seize this opportunity to build their individual and collective wealth.

"I want 100 to 150 people to receive all the tools and resources available to become successful business leaders in Detroit. I want people to come who want to build wealth," said Lipscomb. "What's great about this conference is that businesses won't have to go to two SBA offices. Both the national and the local SBA loan officers will come to us. That's why people should be there."

Eugene Cornelius, deputy associate administrator of the SBA in Washington, and Gerald Moore, the district SBA director, will start the day off with an opening panel discussion. Workshops throughout the day will focus on such issues as How to Start a For-Profit Business, Fiscal Fitness for Existing Businesses, Marketing, Franchise Opportunities and a Financing Roundtable for Existing Businesses. The day will wrap up with a speed mentoring session with representatives from local economic development agencies and investors including the Center for Empowerment and Economic Development (CEED), D-Hive, Invest Detroit, the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce, SCORE, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, BizdomU and ProsperUS.

"I especially want business people to attend who have been hit hard by the 2008 recession," said Lipscomb. "This is the place to get the tools to become a better hair stylist, a better mechanic, a better pet groomer, a better business person. There will be educational and financial resources, and most importantly - invaluable connections. That's why you should be there."

Charles Pugh, the Detroit City Council president, had been scheduled to present and was originally listed on the local host committee. Pugh had gained national prominence as one of the nation's highest ranking openly gay political leaders of color. However, he and his office will not be represented at the conference due to Pugh's recent departure from Detroit. Calls to his office were not returned.

Many Faces, One Dream is sponsored by the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

"NGLCC is honored to partner with NBJC and the U.S. SBA on this groundbreaking initiative for underserved communities," said Justin Nelson , NGLCC president and co-founder. "We look forward to meeting business owners and future business owners in the cities where they live and working with them to build strong and fully inclusive local economies."

For more information about Many Faces, One Dream visit http://www.manyfacesonedream.com


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