Friday, December 18, 2020

Long Island Spotlight: Vishnick McGovern Milizio LLP

 Long Island nglccNY membership is growing. Prior to the pandemic, more and more individuals and business owners attended the Chamber’s special M3’s in the area to build connections and bolster economic opportunities.

One of those businesses is Vishnick McGovern Milizio LLP, a multi-practice law firm located in Nassau County, with additional offices in Manhattan and New Jersey. The firm has been in operation for 51 years.

nglccNY Media & Communications Chair Cindi Creager spoke with the firm’s managing partner Joseph Milizio to learn more about the business and its involvement with nglccNY. Read the Q & A below:

Cindi: Tell me about your firm.

Joseph: We are a full-service firm with a number of different departments. Our major area involves estate and trust work. That includes estate and trust planning, administration, and litigation.

We also have a commercial litigation and employment practice, which includes employment discrimination. We have a transactional business area, which I lead, and that includes business representation from startups through exit planning. We have a real estate area, both commercial and residential. We have a marital and family law area. We have a personal injury area.

Of course, we have a robust LGBTQ representation practice, which I also lead. We provide members of the community with various legal services, from matrimonial & family law to employment discrimination matters to estate planning documents like wills, powers of attorney, and health care proxies.

We’ve also recently launched a surrogacy, adoption, and assisted reproduction practice.

Cindi: Why do you think it's so important that nglccNY has a presence on Long Island?

Joseph: As we all know, Long Island is a suburb of New York City and New York City has a vibrant membership and participation in the Chamber. It's a little bit more difficult for Long Islanders to make it to meetings in Manhattan on a frequent basis. There is a large LGBTQ community involved in business in one aspect or another on Long Island. It gives people on the Island the ability to act as a group and work with each other and network without having to go into Manhattan for all meetings.

Cindi: How has this engagement been going, both pre-COVID when you could meet in person, and now?

Joseph: It was going very well when we were having in-person meetings.  People had a significant interest in participating and joining. We had a lot of people that were willing to volunteer, and that sort of fell by the wayside since COVID. We certainly anticipate that we will get back to that as soon as we possibly can. For now, we are working to stay involved virtually.

Cindi: Your firm has a very vibrant LGBTQ representation group. Tell me more about that.

Joseph: About 20 years ago my partners and I said, ‘there is no law firm on Long Island working with the LGBT community. We need representation for estate planning, litigation, business operations, real estate and employment discrimination, and most importantly, family law, including adoptions and agreements between partners,’ because it was pre-marriage equality.

Prior to that all these areas did not really serve the LGBTQ community and its needs. Now, not only are we doing the maximum that we can for the community, people also feel very comfortable knowing that we are an accepting firm. That's been a real accomplishment for me, to know that I started that. And that it's been a very vibrant part of our firm.

Cindi: It sounds very rewarding and it relates to my next question. When it comes to your work, what gets you up in the morning?

Joseph: Knowing that I'm going to have something to do throughout the day that is going to benefit a client in one way or another. I look forward to helping people and making their lives more positive every day. It gives me a very great sense of accomplishment to know that, as a firm, we act as a cohesive family and we respect each other as family members do. That's another reason why it's very good to get up in the morning and get to work.

Cindi: You're also very active in the community. You're on the HRC Board of Governors and you're obviously very involved with nglccNY. Why is it so important to you to be that involved in the community?

Joseph: When I first came out, there was a real dearth of people that I could communicate with on a professional basis. I really didn't know where to turn when I needed legal representation. It makes me feel very good knowing that I serve a particular purpose for the community and that they can feel comfortable and secure knowing that they can come to my firm.

Cindi: That's wonderful, Joseph. Is there anything else you'd like to share with me about your firm or your involvement in nglccNY?

Joseph: With respect to the Chamber, I would like to say that it gives all members and guests the opportunity to network with each other in a positive environment and to do good for the community. That's a very special thing.

Cindi: Thank you so much, Joseph.

nglccNY Non-Profit Spotlight: RFTCA - Research Foundation to Cure AIDS

 In 1981, a mysterious virus plagued the gay community. Hundreds of men were dying with little understanding of the cause, creating an intense fear and stigma, not only of the virus, but also of the people it inhabited (mostly gay men). The virus was first offensively called “Gay Cancer,” by the media and others but the language evolved into what we now know to be AIDS, the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. At the height of the epidemic, hundreds of thousands of people were dying. And thanks to the work of advocacy groups such as ACT UP and GMHC, treatments have since been developed. However, the AIDS epidemic is far from over. HIV is still the most common infectious killer in the world. Nearly 37 million people around the world are living with HIV. Almost 40 years later, and billions of dollars invested in research, there is still no developed cure. 

One non-profit organization that has dedicated its work to this cause is the Research Foundation to Cure AIDS (RFTCA), “an alliance of leaders from diverse fields who are developing a cure for AIDS that is accessible and affordable for those in need worldwide.”

To learn more, we spoke to RFTCA’s president and founder, Kambiz Shekdar, PhD. Shekdar, a biotechnology inventor, is a scientist by nature. He received his PhD at The Rockefeller University, where he invented Chromovert® Technology, “a novel technology that allows access to highly desired, exceedingly rare cells that had otherwise remained out of reach. This technology was the basis for the Chromocell Corporation, and it holds promise for the development of a cure for AIDS.”

The inspiration for RFTCA came in 2014, to provide this unique technology to develop a global cure, transferring the biotechnology from the private company to the non-profit organization. Shekdar donated the technology to RFTCA, working on a pro-bono basis, which is what sets RFTCA apart from other organizations. “We have our own biotechnology to cure AIDS,” Shekdar explains. “We wanted to move towards developing a global cure, done on a charitable basis, so that everyone could have access to a cure.”

RFTCA has already obtained several streams of preliminary proof-of-concept data in the laboratory, but much more can and must be done. In order to continue and expand this research for developing a cure, RFTCA is currently raising awareness to support the idea that a cure is possible, as well as raising funds needed to pay for the scientific team and the research. While there are several other HIV/AIDS advocacy organizations, many are funding people living with HIV/AIDS, but not necessarily funding research around finding a cure.

Fortunately, nglccNY has been a positive resource to RFTCA. Shekdar shared his positive experiences with the M3 Mixers, being able to expand his network, and learning more about different organizations in the community. “I’ve been really impressed by the skills at hosting some of these mixers on Zoom!” he said.

There are also several ways that we, as LGBTQ-owned businesses and organizations, can support RFTCA's work. If you have a service or skill that you’d like to contribute to the cause, “RFTCA can use all skills and all ideas.” You can also help to raise awareness by sharing RFTCA’s story on your social media pages. Their biggest source of funding is from birthday fundraisers on Facebook, so if you have a birthday coming up or want to start a Facebook fundraiser, RFTCA is a great cause to support. You can also like their Facebook page or follow them on Instagram to raise awareness and share with friends (#freefromaids #rftca). 

When thinking about the past 40 years in relation to HIV/AIDS, Shekdar was able to provide a hopeful glimpse into the future. “There’s a chance that we have today to move this cause forward.” To visit the one-stop shop for volunteering, donating, and signing up for the newsletter, you can find more on their website.

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Written by Michael Venturiello, the founder of Christopher Street Tours, an LGBTQ history organization. Michael is a proud member and Ambassador of nglccNY and sits on the Media and Communications Committee. 


Monday, November 16, 2020

Fourth Round Biz Pitch Winner! Braxton Fleming, Founder & CEO of Stealth Bros & Co.

 On October 22nd, Braxton Fleming received top honors in the fourth round of nglccNY’s Biz Pitch, sponsored by EY. Braxton is the owner of Stealth Bros & Co., a New Jersey based “luxury Dopp Kit supply company that provides travel and at home personal storage for hormone replacement therapy and other medical necessities.” The company was launched in 2017 from Braxton’s childhood home “to raise money for his own top surgery and to create a way to become an an active member of the transgender community.” Out of that drive he says “we created an Annual Stealth Bros Support Fund by aiding in financial support in our community's transitional journeys. Today, Stealth Bros. and Co. continues to grow and serve the transgender and allied communities, as well as IVF and diabetic communities, among others.”

Braxton reacted enthusiastically to winning this round of the Biz Pitch saying, “I was really excited because I've been putting so much into the business… trying to network more and get myself out there. Winning was a confirmation for me, that my hard work had paid off. I’m a real big believer in divine timing and things happening for the right reason. So hearing that I won, I was really, really excited because I knew that I was one step closer to reaching my end goal and it was exciting. It was overwhelming.” 


In addition to being an entrepreneur Braxton is also a licensed practical nurse. He works full time while also juggling the demands of his growing business. “It's really hard for right now, but I know that I have to keep grinding. Both of my parents are really big figures in my life. My father always told me, ‘if you grind hard in your prime for 10 years straight and you grind, grind, grind, on something you're truly passionate about that will be fruitful for you. And then you'll be able to live the life that you want to live.’”

Braxton says nglccNY has been instrumental in connecting him with a myriad of business opportunities. “One thing I always admire about nglccNY is that  “you're able to connect with so many people. Even if that one person can't help you, they may know someone who can help you. And I feel like that's the biggest blessing that the Chamber gives everybody… the opportunity to really push your business forward.”

His end goal for this competition “would be to win the final Biz Pitch. And not only that, but also to get closer to EY and be able to get into their other programs that I've applied for. Being seen by key people in that business, it puts me one step closer. I’m trying to get my foot in and prosper my business.”

The final round of Biz Pitch is set for Thursday, December 10th. The grand prize is a full scholarship to attend the “Building a High-Performing Business” program at Dartmouth College’s TuckSchool of Business. 


Register here to observe the event. 


November Ambassador of the Month — Michael Venturiello

We’re extremely happy to announce that Michael Venturiello has been named nglccNY’s Ambassador of the Month for November. Michael is a local historian, writer, educator, and New York City tour guide. He is the founder of Christopher Street Tours, an LGBTQ owned and operated walking tour company that focuses solely on LGBTQ history.

"When I first joined nglccNY, I was a brand new entrepreneur with lots of questions and little business experience,” he said. “At my very first M3, I immediately found a community of other entrepreneurs and other LGBTQ businesses. Since then, I refer to nglccNY as my LGBTQ business family. nglccNY has given me so much: a community, mentors, friends, and lots of advice on how to grow my business. I'm so grateful to the Chamber for everything it's provided for me!”

Michael says he became an Ambassador “to give back to the LGBTQ business community.” He added:  “I was so grateful for my own Ambassador and for other Chamber friends who connecting me with other members. I wanted to do that for other people. I see my role as an Ambassador as a connector. Seeing the spark between businesses and business leaders is incredibly rewarding for me. It's also great to welcome new members into the community and make them feel included."

Phyllis Mehalakes, Chair of The Ambassadors Committee praised Michael’s contributions to the chamber saying: “When I asked Michael to join the Ambassador Committee I knew he would be a great fit for our team.  Always engaging and generous with his time, Michael is unfailingly responsive to the needs of new members assigned to him.  He’s professional, dependable, and goes the extra mile for those who have questions or need assistance.  I’m delighted that Michael is a part of our Ambassador Committee and continues to make such positive contributions to nglccNY.”

Michael has been featured as one of FindSpark’s “Top LGBTQ+ Influencers & Thought Leaders Transforming the Workplace Through Innovation and Impact.” He was also included in Eventbrite’s “Five to Follow: LGBTQIA+ Event Organizers in NYC for Pride and Beyond.” He has been featured on PrideOut.Com, Metrosource magazine, and Attitude magazine. Michael is also a valued member of nglccNY’s Media & Communications Committee and regularly volunteers his time writing feature articles on our members. 


Congratulations, Michael! We are immensely grateful for your service! 



Wednesday, November 11, 2020

nglccNY Member Brian Gorman Set for TEDx Talk in December

 nglccNY is thrilled to share news that member Brian Gorman has been selected to deliver remarks at #Redefine 2020, “a unique interactive virtual program” set for December 6th and organized by TEDx Hartford. Brian is a revered and sought-after Certified Professional Coach who has helped numerous individuals and businesses navigate change and find success. He is also a member of the Forbes Coaches Council, among his many credentials. His TEDx talk will focus on “a universal path to navigating change on the individual level in times of transition and transformation.”



nglccNY’s Media & Communications Chair Cindi Creager had a chance to speak with Brian about his upcoming TEDx talk. Read the Q & A below.

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Cindi: How did your upcoming TEDx Talk come about?

Brian:  It was a somewhat random connection on LinkedIn over the holidays last year. The individual I connected with often coaches people on preparing for TED and TEDx talks and has done several TEDx talks himself. We just hit it off and I was telling him about my work and my entire career. The common thread has been change.

I mentioned to him that I had written a chapter in the “Handbook of Personal and Organizational Transformation” and offered to share it with him. Within a day he got back to me and he said, ‘You should be doing a TED talk. You should be doing a TEDx talk. You have to apply.’

And I did. I actually applied for several TEDx talks around the country. Of course, after COVD-19 many of them either went virtual immediately or in some cases they were canceled but I was selected as a prospective speaker, then interviewed and selected as speaker for TEDx Hartford.

They have been wonderful in terms of supplying me with a coach to help me prepare and she has really helped me turn what I believe was a strong presentation into a powerful story that I'll be sharing on December 6th.

Cindi:  That's exciting, to say the least. Can you give a little preview of your talk?

Brian: So my story, really, Cindi, begins with the fact that I was born on December 24th, 1949, and it takes us through to the present day and over the course of that lifetime, if you will, I share some of my own personal transformations from an introverted Eagle Scout when I went away to college, to the proud, out gay man that I am today. I will go more deeply into a few of the transformations, like when I took in a homeless gay teenager and subsequently adopted him and he became my son.

From my story and from the many change journeys that I have taken myself and taken others through, I draw on a number of lessons that I will offer to the TEDx audience in my talk.

Cindi: What do you think nglccNY members will learn from your remarks?  

Brian: One foundation that I address in my talk and that I think is important for everyone in the world, including nglccNY members, is that, and I'm paraphrasing Joseph Campbell here, in “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” he taught us that while we approach each change in our life like it is unique and unpredictable, it's not. Through our lifetimes and the lifetimes of all those who have gone before us, there is only one change journey that we repeat over and over and over again. So my talk is really about sharing how to successfully move through the disruptive changes we face in our lives.

Cindi:  Well that has never been more relevant than during COVID. Can you comment on that that?

Brian: Absolutely. I have been in touch with hundreds of business owners, since the lockdown, if you will, including many who have been going through NGLCC’s XLR8 program. Typically, there are two reactions. One is victim, and one is victor. And clearly those in the XLR8 program are working toward victory over the disruptions of the pandemic, and so are my clients.

Cindi, we can't determine the hand we're dealt, but it's always up to us how to play it. My talk and all of the transformation work that I do is about learning how, given the circumstances that we find ourselves in, we play a winning hand.

Cindi: Wow, that’s powerful. Is there anything else you’d like to add, Brian?

Brian: People can register to watch at TEDxHartford.com.

Cindi: Thank you so much, Brian. I look forward to watching and encourage all of our nglccNY members to tune in as well!



Monday, November 9, 2020

Supplier Spotlight: Michael Saterman, Saterman Connect

This year has been complex for many of us, personally and professionally. Amidst a global pandemic and social injustice, people and businesses alike are struggling. What does this cultural moment mean for organizations, teams, and leaders? What will companies do to embrace cultural transformation, support their people, and drive their businesses to meet today’s needs??

To answer those questions, we met with Michael Saterman of Saterman Connect, nglccNY’s newest Silver Member. Founded in 2019 by husbands Josh and Michael, Saterman Connect is “a team of natural, instinctive collaborators with a deep-rooted passion for culture change.” Along with their newest partner, Nettie Nitzberg, they believe that many organizations are on a cultural journey, and “Saterman Connect empowers organizations to recognize ongoing cultural transformations happening in their business, move beyond ‘the way we’ve always done it,’ and evolve on their own terms.” Saterman Connect knows that Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) in organizational cultures leads to better performance for those companies, especially when they include diversity in multiple forms. One particular example is when employees feel empowered and inspired to bring their true, authentic selves to the workplace. “When employees feel like they can show up authentically, they bring forth great ideas at the inception.” 

Saterman Connect accomplishes this in three areas. First, working with organizations and leaders to provide executive coaching. This helps to “create a path forward to explore and develop [leaders] and teams at large,” says Saterman. Second, learning and leadership, which includes creating exciting onboarding experiences, developing leaders and managers, and preparing employees for the future of their work. Third, communication strategies. “How companies react [to world events] really speaks volumes. Leaders have to be transparent in their communications.” 

Fortunately for leaders and organizations alike, Saterman Connect is led by a trio of experts. Michael, with his background in communications and brand strategy, is able to view this kind of consulting work through the internal communications and marketing lens. His husband, Josh, has two decades of experience working in the retail industry, which he transferred to Saterman Connect when they founded the business. And Michael and Josh’s best friend, Nettie, has years of professional consulting experience focused on learning and leadership development. Together, they make the Saterman Connect leadership team. “[We work] as an extension of your organization. We bring energy, vision, and a wealth of DEIB expertise.”

When thinking about 2020, Saterman Connect is reframing the conversation for businesses and their goals. “These times,” Saterman observes, “have really made companies reflect on their social goals. They are more purposeful, and there’s a lot of power in purpose.” Michael shared that employees, stakeholders, and consumers want authenticity and transparency. When organizations provide that, they are able to build trusted relationships with customers, and customers will return.

In speaking on the benefit of being authentic at work, Michael shared his gratitude for being his genuine self in his own work and being in business with his husband. Joining nglccNY has allowed Michael and his team to be part of a broader community of other LGBTQ+-led companies. It has allowed them to seek out thoughtful and socially aware potential business partners with the hope of growing together. nglccNY has also provided a seat at the LGBTQ business table. “The only way to make a change,” Saterman added, “is by being part of the conversation. We want to use our voice and showcase that we are proud of our diversity.”

To learn more about Saterman Connect, you can visit satermanconnect.com or check them out on LinkedIn.


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Michael Venturiello is the founder of Christopher Street Tours, an LGBTQ history walking tour company. He is a proud member and Ambassador of nglccNY and sits on the Media and Communications committee. 


Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Third Round Biz Pitch Winner! David Suk, CEO & Co-Founder of Saint Luna

David Suk, CEO and Co-founder of Saint Luna

On September 30th David Suk was crowned the winner in the third round of nglccNY’s Biz Pitch, sponsored by EY. David is the CEO and Co-founder of Saint Luna. 

“Saint Luna is a charcoal filtered moonshine that's made with molasses and rye. The flavor notes include a nice bit of subtle smokiness from the charred oak that we use,” he said. “I like to talk about the front of the palette being that molasses. And the caramel flavors that you get pair really well with the spicy pepperiness of the rye that tends to hit the back of the palette. Normally when I do these kinds of presentations, I usually know what people's favorite cocktails are so I can guide them through making their favorite cocktail with Saint Luna. I think it makes it a little bit more identifiable and a little bit more personal.” 

David says he enjoyed the Biz Pitch experience because “I always love new opportunities to pitch my brand. Everybody was super friendly and the feedback was great.” 

His advice for other businesses vying for a win in the Biz Pitch competition: 

“I just told my story. The story of the brand, how I thought of it and my experience in the industry. The pitch deck used is something I’ve adjusted over time, based on previous feedback from other business prospects. By the time I did the big pitch with EY, it was probably my 37th version of that pitch deck.” 

He says the Biz Pitch is important because “it gives people the ability to practice and refine their pitch. I received an impartial view that I might not get from pounding the pavement every day giving my pitch in a typical environment. I think the networking and the contacts are always great because I'm a huge believer in six degrees of separation and that one person on the phone that might go, ‘Hey, actually my cousin owns a bar. I'd love to introduce you,’ or my cousin or my friend or whomever that person might be; that stuff is always helpful in finding new clients.” 

David says he’s looking forward to competing in the finals as well as other prospects ahead. “I'm excited for what's to come. I'm excited for all the great opportunities that EY and nglccNY provide. I'm beyond excited that EY supports minority run businesses like ours.” 

The fourth round of the nglccNY and EY Biz Pitch is set for October 22nd. Register here.