Justin Nelson, Co-founder and President, National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
Justin Nelson shares his perspective on Gallup's report on lending to diverse segments and how it relates to NGLCC members.
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At Wells Fargo, we believe that successful small businesses are the foundation of healthy, vibrant, American communities. That's why serving small business owners is one of the most important things we do.
Yet we also know that many small businesses across the country, including those in diverse communities, are still recovering from the great recession. Serving diverse and LGBT-owned businesses is a priority for us, and we know more needs to be done to help these businesses grow and prosper. It's also clear that we, as well as those who support small businesses in our country, need to better understand the challenges facing diverse and LGBT owners.
For this reason, we turned to Gallup to conduct a groundbreaking study. Gallup surveyed diverse women, veteran, and LGBT small business owners nationwide to better understand their motivations for starting a business, their funding needs, and their attitudes towards credit. We learned about how small business owners addressed funding needs and their perceptions of financial institutions. We heard about their desire for resources, education, and tools to help their business succeed.
In this video, Justin Nelson, Co-founder and President of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, shares his perspective about the study and how it relates to NGLCC members.
I think a couple of things in the study really resonated with me, one being that only about one-fourth of LGBT businesses understood or were ready to actually go and seek credit. That's incredibly frightening for me because when we look at our businesses, many of whom are startups or in their growth stage, if they don't adequately know how to go and talk about and find the products that they need to grow their company, they're not going to be able to scale up in the short amount of time they have to be very competitive in a very fierce market.
And so, what I found from the study is that we've got to do a better job of educating our businesses. We've got to work with our partners to break down the barriers — real or perceived — about what it means to be bank-ready, about what it means on day one to go in and talk about your needs as a business owner to take your company to the next level.
There are several challenges for LGBT business owners. I think some are unique to being LGBT, and I think some are just unique to being a business owner. By nature, the financial services industry is somewhat viewed conservative, and when you're talking about some of the very personal issues that happen in the process of applying for credit, it makes some LGBT people inherently uncomfortable. Or they feel as though, if they are their authentic selves, that they may be turned down for credit.
And so, it creates, you know, I think both real and perceived barriers when it comes to seeking credit. Some of the challenges that they face in obtaining loans, it really comes down to a lack of knowledge, you know, they're not 100% sure what they're supposed to be applying for. We have to find ways of letting business owners know that they need to be preparing themselves.
They need to be concerned about how they finance their business. They need to be concerned about their personal finances because all of these issues come to bear when you're seeking credit, and they're incredibly important for every business. I think LGBT business owners might look towards personal credit cards or personal loans to finance their business because it's a little less rigorous in terms of opening yourself up to all of the sorts of questions and answers that come with attaining business credit.
Today, NGLCC works with over one-third of the Fortune 500 to ensure that LGBT-owned companies are a part of their diverse supply chain — so alongside women, alongside ethnic minorities, alongside people with disabilities. NGLCC's certified companies now have the opportunity to bid on contracts with major corporations. This is huge. This is very important to any company's growth strategy to be able to expand their operation and really to refine their product and services.
You know, this is not a set-aside program. This is our job to make sure that we are getting our businesses to the starting line. It's their job to make sure that they have a quality product at a competitive price and that they can service the needs of our corporate partners.
I always hate to lump what the LGBT business community or LGBT entrepreneurs or LGBT people want, you know, what are their hopes and dreams? But I think there are a couple of very simple items that really cut across segments whether you're LGBT, ethnic minorities, women, people with disabilities, and that's just the opportunity to be authentic in the work that we do, to put forward a quality product, to be able to do what we want to do, love who we want to love, and be as successful as we possibly can.