Monday, May 4, 2015

The Other Black Card

Do you have a credit or debit card? Would you enjoy getting deals with your travel, entertainment, and dining experiences…on top of the ones you may already get from your credit or debit card? If you answered yes to the above questions, and you have two minutes to fill out an application, you could be the perfect candidate to be the next chosen member of SELECT.

“It transforms any preexisting credit or debit card into a black card, and it gives you access to exclusive events savings and perks at thousands of locations across the globe,” according to Carlo Cisco, Founder and CEO of SELECT. “It works as an extension of your existing card.” It looks pretty cool too.

Carlo Cisco, Founder & CEO

SELECT started this past July with 300 members at inception. There are now more than 5,000 members with access to insider pricing and perks on everything from travel and entertainment to dining and nightlife; plus, the “other black card” only costs users 150 dollars a year. Carlo describes SELECT’s members as emerging urban professionals: “There is a level of exclusivity, and we're consistently amazed by the quality of applicants we're seeing,” he said.

The inherently ambitious Carlo Cisco has a firm grasp on what is takes to create and run a successful business. SELECT is his second LGBT certified technology start up and third spearheaded business venture.

 “I take calculated risks and I’m ready to get aggressive, especially once I see potential,” he stated.  

The risks have been well worth the rewards. Carlo’s resume includes running a successful events planning and promotions business as a college freshman at the University of Miami; working at a New York City hedge fund after graduating; living in Japan and working for Groupon in it’s early years; and starting a company called Foodfan: the startup that inspired SELECT.  

SELECT became LGBT certified when the company launched last July. Carlo said he knew the benefits that would breed from the overall exposure as an NGLCCNY member: “When you are a start-up, especially when you are first rolling out, it’s great to have advocates, especially in a focused community.”

Appropriately so, Carlo co-chairs the Startup/Tech industry Council at the NGLCCNY: “We want to have more collaborative relationships that start to build stronger synergies between startups and larger organizations.” Carlo said whether that is through events or mentoring programs, the NGLCCNY has an excellent network of successful business people: “I am someone who can benefit from having a mentor, and mentor someone else, and there are other companies in the network like that.” He said the council is working to grow and generate added awareness in the community about available resources.

SELECT has a broad range of benefits that reflect Carlo’s personal passions and pastimes like travel and indulgence in the New York City restaurant scene. As for SELECT’s future: “I think it’s absolutely just the beginning. I think this could be something really big and something really special,” Carlo said.

To apply for SELECT membership, go to

Written by Ashley Bellman,
Corporate Journalist, Media Communications Committee.

If you'd like to be featured in one of our upcoming communications, please contact me at



In August of 2013, co- founders Jimmy Lyons and Jeff Tompkins created advisorCONNECT: a much needed sales intelligence tool that matches financial advisors and insurance representatives with qualified, compatible prospects.

“Advisors, especially new ones, spend most of their time prospecting for new clients” according to the company’s CEO, Jimmy Lyons.  “What we’ve done with advisorCONNECT is to provide advisors with a virtual marketing assistant to help take the grunt work out of prospecting so that they can spend more time doing what they love.”

Jimmy Lyons, CEO & Co-Founder

To do this, the company looks across dozens of data sources to create a 360-degree view of an individual to help advisors better understand a prospective client’s likely financial planning needs. In using advisorCONNECT, financial advisors are able to decrease the time they spend searching for prospective clients by 90 percent.

“It is truly that the sum is greater than the parts. What we found is that there is a whole universe of public information online, almost like a universal white pages, on each individual; and you can learn a lot more about a person by looking across what is known as a federated identity, Jeff stated. “We see ourselves not only helping financial advisors better understand their clients, but also providing a more cost efficient way to get new customers, and a more scalable way of serving individuals using digital media.”

Jeff Tompkins, CMO & Co-Founder

advisorCONNECT is working with three large enterprise clients who pay a monthly subscription fee based on their number of users; Jimmy and Jeff license their data sets; and the company is currently in talks with three of the top ten broker dealers in New York City. advisorCONNECT is also about to launch an application that will be accessible for individual reps who want to join.

“What has taken advisorCONNECT to the next level is really the tech talent that we have on the team,” Jimmy proudly stated in reference to Lauren Talbot, advisorCONNECT’s chief data officer, and James Johnson, their CTO. “It is a very difficult problem to solve when you are looking across massive data sets on the ever-changing public web. It’s hard to bring it all together, and we have the team now that’s doing it.”

So let’s pretend for a moment that you are a financial advisor and Jimmy and Jeff are both prospective clients. With the help of advisorCONNECT, you would easily learn the following information:

Jimmy graduated from University of Wisconsin Madison in 2008, where he and Jeff guest lectured a class on wealth management this past fall. Jimmy gained ample experience and knowledge about the culture of wealth while working on a yacht and sailing around the world for a year, before becoming a trust and estate planner for BNY Mellon in New York City. From there, Jimmy tried his hand at selling yachts to a global portfolio: “It was all about affinity’s and forming the right relationships,” he said. So to create those relationships, he would research his potential buyers and create profiles for them based on what he found online: his idea for advisorCONNECT was born.

Jeff paid his way through Cornell by building websites out of his dorm room. He won a scholarship to attend Oxford for graduate school, where he began an educational startup for schools in the United Kingdom. Jeff’s resume also includes helping build an online presence for Oxford Analytica; growing business analytics at The Advisory Board; and working in the White House on the first White House website. When Jeff met Jimmy, he was working for a social hiring startup called Choozer: “When I met Jimmy, it was like a match made in heaven. He was someone with a financial services background, understood the culture of wealth, who was also looking to take a stab at starting a company,” Jeff said

Jeff and Jimmy have shared interests in rowing, sailing, and Parma-Jéan: a Jack Russell/beagle mix who often frequents the advisorCONNECT offices.

Jeff and Jimmy joined NGLCCNY three months ago through an organization called StartOut, where Jeff has been actively involved for the past four years: “Its very dynamic, and I’m excited to be a part of it,” Jimmy stated.

Jimmy and Jeff say that since advisorCONNECT has become LGBTBE certified, there have been amazing networking and mentoring opportunities: “We are telling our clients and advisors to really get to know their clients, so I think we try and live that same culture in our company as well by being very open and by mentoring active members of the start up community in New York,” Jeff stated. Jeff and Jimmy recently participated in the roundtable with Nationwide Insurance and attended the April M3.

The two are also involved with an organization called High Water Women, a group of wealth and hedge fund managers who bring financial literacy to low-income students in the New York City and Tri-State area.

“There is a much bigger opportunity here than the way the wealth management industry is currently structured. There is a large segment of the population that is underserved, and I think the Internet and digital media can really bring a higher level of service, tools, and resources to that population.” Jeff said. “What we get very excited about is the larger opportunity: to bring financial literacy and financial planning to the average American. Not just those who can pay for high-level financial advice.”

Jeff and Jimmy are extremely proud of being a startup in New York City, and are committed to putting the city on the tech map more than it is today. Jimmy even organized a startup social club of sorts called the “Illumnaughatï.” Members include entrepreneurs, operators, and founders who get together bi-monthly in a relaxed environment, outside of the high stakes situations where they normally find each other: “We feel that we are part of a community that has to look out for each other,” Jimmy said.

To learn more about advisorCONNECT, head to their website:

Written by Ashley Bellman,
Corporate Journalist, Media Communications Committee.

If you'd like to be featured in one of our upcoming communications, please contact me at

Citywide Pride Event: Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP hosts "Marry Me a Little"

You are cordially invited to attend a presentation of "Marry Me a Little - A short history and exciting future of marriage equality" hosted by Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP.  The live CLE (continuing legal education) event will be hosted in-person in Chicago, New York and San Francisco and available nationwide via audio simulcast.  Speakers from the ACLU, Lambda Legal and NCLR will participate.  Here are the event details.

Thursday, May 14

San Francisco - 2:30pm (PT)
Chicago - 4:30pm (CT)
New York - 5:30pm (ET)

2:30pm PT / 3:30pm MT / 4:30pm CT / 5:30pm ET

The event is targeted and appropriate for LGBT professionals, their allies and those in the legal profession.

You may learn more about the event and locations and register by clicking here

[Note: 1.5 hours of CLE is pending for the states of California, Illinois, Indiana, New Jersey and New York.]

Monday, April 13, 2015

Singer/Songwriter Laura Lee Bishop Stands Up

Laura Lee Bishop is a talented singer/songwriter from East Texas with an NYU education and a passionately profound opinion she is not afraid to voice.

The strength of her voice is undeniable. Whether watching her perform live or listening to one of her empowering pop/rock songs like Real Man, (or my personal favorite, Those Girls) she sings with a conviction that is inspiring. But last week, her strength was voiced in a different way.

"What inspires me is truth. I know the truth. And when you know something, when it is written on your heart, flowing through your veins, when it is a part of you, it cannot be denied. I know my truth. Every human being on this planet deserves to be treated with respect. No one should ever have to be treated the way the members of the LGBT and black communities have been treated in this country. That is truth. Thats what inspires me," Laura Lee stated.

A local paper in Laura Lees hometown, The Gilmer Mirror, published a letter written by a man named Elliott Dean titled Must Get It Out. In the letter, Dean expresses his issues with homosexuals, his confusion about hate crimes, and his qualms with a progressive society: “Now look, I dont care if you want to sleep with your dog or mule,” Dean wrote, addressing a gay and lesbian audience. “I don’t care it’s none of my business; the trouble is you keep making my business,” he said. "When I read that letter, I was shocked, sickened, and enraged. I was angry at the paper that published it, mad at the people supporting it, and mad someone hadnt ripped him a new one already," Laura Lee said.

Laura Lee immediately posted a passionate reply on the The Gilmer Mirror,'s website that spread like wildfire and was applauded by Dallas Voice, a popular LGBT publication in Dallas.

This was just the beginning. Being the ally she is to the LGBT community, Laura Lee Bishop had much more to say: "Obviously his homophobic, racist delusions were enough for anyone to go off, but I think the thing that really got my blood pressure up was his insistence that all that hate came from a place of love. One thing I cant stand is a liar. He says he loves everyone, and in the same breath says, 'but get out of my face.' Its the perfect example of how he, and people like him, just lie, lie, lie. They act as though simply saying they love all Gods children makes it so. Im not buying it. They are manipulative, insidious, little liars, and they have hate in their hearts."

So Laura Lee published "Must Get It Out: The Sequel” on her personal blog. In The Sequel, a satirical piece, Laura Lee dissects and edits Elliotts letter, while interjecting her opinion with the visual aid of hilariously appropriate memes.

Ashley: "You are not afraid to voice your opinion and stick to your guns. How did you become the strong person you are today?"

Laura Lee: "Ive been in this fight my entire life. There was a time when Id come home, shut the door, and break down crying. People can be cruel, especially when you challenge them and the way they think. As a kid, I spent a lot of time confused. I was confused by some of the hateful things people would say or do, but I was even more confused by the people who watched it happen and did nothing.”

Ashley: "You mention in your blog that despite the initial backlash and bullying regarding your comments on Elliott Deans Letter, there was a positive reaction from people in your hometown and on social media. What has the overall reaction been like both since you posted Must Get Out: THE SEQUEL?

Laura Lee: The response has been overwhelmingly positive. People are sharing it and posting all over the place with enthusiasm and support. Ive received messages, texts, emails, and phone calls expressing how happy they are that finally someone said what needed to be said and stood up to Elliott Dean. People are asking how they can help. Its beautiful, exciting, and humbling.

However, there is a flip side to the coin. In my town, your last name determines your position on the food chain. The Dean family is somewhat wealthy, so they are towards the top. My last name carries a bit of weight too, and when you are in one of these families there is pressure to make sure you dont do anything to tarnish your good name. Its dead serious, 'You have brought shame to your family,' stuff. So, as I was getting ready to publish this response to Elliott Dean’s letter, I was getting phone calls urging me to bite my tongue. People began to distance themselves from me. Ive being unfriended on Facebook; there are passive aggressive likes of negative status updates about me; and posts saying things like, NOBODY speaks for my family! It gets to a point where you are no longer allowed to be an individual because you are tethered to this reputation, that if shattered will have serious repercussions. Granted, no one can ever articulate to me what exactly those repercussions are, but Im just to know they are ominous and scary. When faced with the choice of whether or not to publish my opinions, I got to thinking: If speaking my mind is all it takes for someone to turn their back on me, then so be it. I lost my father many years ago, but he gave me my last name, and he raised me to stand up for what is right. I have his reputation to uphold too, and that carries a hell of a lot more weight in my book.

This beef with Elliott Dean is between him and me, not anyone else in Gilmer, and not anyone in my family. My letter is for all the people who live in fear, who are treated like dirt, and who deserve so much better. That matters more than what people think of me or some superficial reputation.”

Ashley: I know you personally, and I know this isnt the first time you acted to stand up for or protect others; I know it probably wont be the last time. However, I also know you to be a sensitive person. How do you deal with the hurtful comments?

Laura Lee: "I put a lot of it into my music. I use it. I harness the anger, direct it onto the page, and let it take life. I try to turn that negativity into something productive.

In Elliott Deans drama-queen mess, I try to remember most people talking about me, most people who hate me, are people I never want to associate with anyway. They are the kind of people I dont want listening to my music or telling people they know me. The kind of people they are is not the kind of person I am. They have a tendency to make assumptions about my personal religious beliefs when they know nothing about me.

The most bizarre thing is that as ‘Christian’ as they are, not one of them, not one, has ever tried to convert me; they only condemn me. They assume I have no faith, but instead of trying to help me ‘see the light’ or treat me with kindness, they basically tell me to go to hell. Its the perfect example of their complete and utter hypocrisy. They have no interest in anyones salvation. They have no interest in helping anyone. Their only interest is in themselves. I deal with their hate by seeing them for what they really are: vultures, looking for someone to pick apart and devour.

The Gilmer Mirror has since posted a link to Laura's response with a publishers note stating: The newspaper doesn't agree or disagree with the viewpoints of letter writers. It just prints the letters. The Mirror, as always, wishes the talented Laura Lee Bishop much success in her career and life.

If you want to hear more from my friend Laura Lee Bishop, take a look at her website, follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and of course, check out her music...just like her, it rocks!

Written by Ashley Bellman,
Corporate Journalist, Media Communications Committee.

If you'd like to be featured in one of our upcoming communications, please contact me at

Friday, April 10, 2015

2015 Conference Matchmaker Registration is Open

Connecting certified LGBTBE and NGLCC Corporate Partners

The NGLCC is excited to announce the launch of the 2015 Conference Matchmakers portal. If you are a certified LGBTBE you can begin the process of scheduling your one-on-one meetings with representatives from over 150 corporations looking to do business with you! Not certified yet? Learn more about how NGLCC certification opens the doors to corporate contracting opportunities and educational offerings to help grow your business by visiting

The 2015 International Business & Leadership Conference promises to build on the success of last year's conference and again provide one of the most powerful business opportunities available to LGBTBEs. Last year over 400 matchmaker meetings occurred, and we are confident that 2015 will see the most effective matches for our LGBTBEs and corporate partners. 

Jennifer Brown, Founder and CEO of Jennifer Brown Consulting meeting with William Kapfer, Vice President of Supplier Diversity at JPMorgan Chase & Co. during the 2014 Matchmakers.

Conference Matchmaker sessions are prescheduled, 15-minute meetings between certified LGBTBEs and corporate procurement professionals. These meetings are a unique opportunity for LGBTBEs to get one-on-one advice on how their business can gain access to procurement opportunities with NGLCC Corporate Partners. Because these meetings are based on upcoming opportunities with participating buyers, LGBTBEs and corporate procurement professionals can delve into the specifics of each business and the individual programming our corporate partners have to help our LGBTBEs grow.

More information about Matchmakers can be found on, but in order to access the My Business Matches 2015 NGLCC Matchmakers portal, you must be registered for conference. Conference registration, along with agenda and hotel and travel information, can be found at

To see more about the conference and this original article, click here.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Journalist and Storyteller, Ashley Bellman

As many of us focus on doing our jobs, building our businesses, spreading the word on LGBT certification we have become accustomed to meeting and working with allies across the city. Allies are some of the most effective voices in helping others understand the importance of equality, fairness, acceptance and mutual respect.

We at the NGLCCNY are very lucky to have an ally joining the Media Communications Committee as a Corporate Journalist. Ashley Bellman’s role will be focused on interviewing featured Members, Corporate Partners, Non-Profits and covering the events and programming produced by the Chamber.

Ashley Bellman

I recently had the privilege of sitting down with Ashley and got to learn more about the latest addition to the NGLCCNY team.

Ashley Bellman is a poised young woman with a polite, unassuming air that is literally just the surface. Ashley hails from Newton, PA, a Philadelphia suburb.  She understands diversity coming from an Italian/Portuguese family. She is no stranger to entrepreneurship, as her dad owns a concrete contracting company. Growing up, Ashley’s parents encouraged her love of being on stage, as she performed in local theater and high school choir. She, her parents and younger siblings Alex and Gianna are as close a tight knit family can be. So much so that Ashley and her sister Gianna share a birthday twelve years apart. Being the creatives, Ashley and Gianna created a blog called Twelve Years To The Day where they share their points of view on fashion, style and living.

Ashley (L), Gianna (R)

Ashley lives life to the fullest. Nowhere is that more evident than in the choices she has made along the way. At the age of 17 she thoughtfully applied to NYU. She took full advantage of the city and all it had to offer her as she attended NYU where she earned a BA in Broadcast Journalism and Politics. She travelled throughout Europe while studying in Florence, Italy. When asked what her top 3 places to visit in her future she immediately replied Australia, Amalfi Coast and Iceland. Currently she is in training to run her first NYC Marathon in an effort to raise funds for Team for Kids - Team for Kids supports youth programs that combat childhood obesity with running and character-building programs in low-income schools and community centers in New York City and across the country. Support Ashley by visiting her page here.

Inspired by Gonzo Araya, Media Communications Chair, when he told her about his role within the chamber and everything the NGLCCNY does as an organization. She could not resist the opportunity to be an active ally when presented with the opportunity to join the Media Communications Committee. As Ashley put it “There are so many different people out there with great stories to tell. I want people to know I’m here to help tell their stories. I am honored to be able to contribute in any way that I can.”  She continued to say, “This opportunity not only allows the chamber voice to be elevated and heard with consistency, but it also allows me to embrace my journalistic roots by being able to cover unique and empowering stories that impact today's diverse business culture.” So whether the story is in print, radio or television Ashley is ready to bring it to life. She is looking forward to meeting and learning and sharing the stories of the membership.

When asked about her status as an active ally she replied, “I believe an ally is anyone who believes in equality and is helping those fighting in the challenge to achieve or maintain it both socially and professionally.”

On the realization of being an ally she statedI honestly did not ever consider myself an ally until recently. I have grown up with very close friends and family members in the LGBT community, and I have always considered them as much of an ally to me as I am to them. The people who I know and love who pave the way for a better, diverse, and fair atmosphere for our present and future, deserve equality. I am excited to help in that venture.”

Ashley is moved by the diversity the world offers and she has enjoyed the privilege of sharing stories while working as a reporter and/or writer for various media outlets. True to her fashion roots, she can currently be seen on QVC as an On Air Guest.

When not "on-the-air," capturing a story or directing a production, you can find her enjoying her life alongside her husband Ryan and their "daughter" Myla ("ruff!").


To learn more about Ashley’s accomplishments check out her website, the links below or chat her up at the next M3.

Written by Ingrid Galvez,
Diversity Inclusion & Outreach Chair