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.

Member Spotlight: Alexis McSween leads her firm Bottom Line Construction & Development, LLC with Grit & Grace

Alexis McSween, founder and CEO of Bottom Line Construction & Development, LLC 

Alexis McSween has under her belt eighteen years of practical and formal experience in construction and real estate development. As the founder and CEO of the New York-based Bottom Line Construction & Development, LLC (BLCD), she has worked on several permitted construction and development projects involving, design, renovations, structural work, carpentry, partitions, plumbing and electrical. BLCD is a fully licensed and insured firm, with offices in Harlem and Queens, and is also 100% woman-, LGBT- and minority-owned and operated. Alexis prides herself in being a community-oriented firm, promoting a company culture based on perseverance, teamwork, and successful collaborations in finding innovative ways to construct and develop properties throughout New York’s five boroughs. 

Among BLCD’s latest projects is Baldwin Park, a 10,000 square foot boutique condo in Harlem. The $7 million project is named after the acclaimed Harlem-born novelist James Baldwin, who happens to be Alexis’ favorite poet, author, and Black political activist. Another project BLCD currently is working on as tier one subcontractor is the redevelopment of Harlem's historical Victoria Theater into a 28 story, 300 feet building, making it the tallest building in Central Harlem. 

The $178 million two-winged project will house 211 rental apartments of which 50% will be affordable units, a 210-key Renaissance Marriott Hotel, 30,000 square feet of retail space, 25,000 square feet of art and cultural institution space, a 60-car garage, and two black box theaters of 199 and 99 seats that will be operated by the Apollo Theater Foundation. According to the New York Post, the tower will be the first hotel built in Harlem in nearly 85 years. BLCD was hired to handle several scopes of the interior finishes, a $6.5 million piece of the proverbial pie, which entails flooring, carpeting, tiling, leveling, cabinetry, granite countertops, and doors. “It's been a really exciting and challenging project,” which is 80% complete, says Alexis. 

Through a two-year entrepreneurship and leadership program by the Columbia-Harlem Small Business Development Center, Alexis was nominated and awarded New York State’s 2020 Female Entrepreneur of the Year. She was recognized for her decades-long crusade in community building and development. Since 1994, she has developed and renovated several projects ranging from $500,000 to $7 million. 

Alexis is driven in part by her own experienced bouts of homelessness as a teenager growing up in South Jamaica, Queens, New York. She had a difficult relationship with her mother, who struggled with substance abuse, which led to Alexis to leave home in pursuit of emancipation and a more stable environment. “I was on my own without a diploma and limited job opportunities,” she says. After taking her High School equivalency during her sophomore year, she immediately joined the NYC Fire Department’s EMT Cadet program and graduated 10 months later. “From there,” she adds, “I went on to dispatch and participated in the city’s forgivable loan program to become a Registered Nurse in 1994.” She worked as an RN at White Plains Medical Center during nights and traveled back to Queens to work as an EMT during the days. Eventually, she received an opportunity to work for North Shore University Hospital where she spent 12 years as a cardiothoracic nurse. 

Alexis' passion for real estate also began in 1994, following the complete gut and rehabilitation of a multi-family home in Springfield Gardens, Queens that she purchased at 24 years-old. Using the State of New York Mortgage Agency’s first-time homebuyer program, she was able to purchase her first house, however, she still faced costly renovations. So, she took advantage of Mayor Koch’s plan expanded by then-Mayor David Dinkins. Homeless families were relocated to privately owned apartments under the Emergency Assistance Rehousing Program (EARP), which paid landlords rent and gave them other substantial incentives to accept formerly displaced tenants. 

“I could definitely relate to being homeless,” says Alexis. “I interviewed dozens and picked two families. I renovated that entire building and made it ready for them to move in.” What’s more, she built a new basement apartment for herself with the expanded voucher funds. “The two families stayed with me for about 15 years. From there I went on to tackle other projects in the community while working as a nurse. I renovated properties, invested in both commercial and residential properties, purchased real estate, and satisfied my passion for providing housing in my community and other communities that looked like mine,” adds Alexis, who notes she still has the first commercial office/retail building she constructed from the ground up in 2002. 

Having gained plenty of hands-on experience, she decided it was time to get some formal training to make an even larger impact. She completed her bachelor’s degree at NYACK College in organizational management in 2007. When the recession of 2008 hit, it changed the trajectory of her work, leading her to formally establish BLCD as an enterprise in 2010. That same year she completed her Master of Science degree in Real Estate Development with a minor in Construction Management from NYU’s Shack Real Estate Institute. While earning her Masters, she also worked as a project manager for a NYC Women Business Enterprise (WBE) construction & management firm on public and private projects. 

“I realized between completing my own projects and working for a general contractor in Manhattan, that there was a tremendous opportunity to get certified and to actually provide a living wage for people in my community,” says Alexis. In 2011, BLCD achieved its Minority/Women Business Enterprise (M/WBE) certification and its New York State certification in 2012, which improved the company’s participation on city and government construction projects. “We're certified with the school construction authority and we're certified with the MTA,” she adds. “Being certified doesn’t guarantee you’ll get projects or even a seat at the table, but it gets your foot in the door. You're in a much better position than someone who's not certified.” 

BLCD also strives to work with other minority-owned businesses. “We have a really good utilization rate with our minority subcontractors,” Alexis says. “We're (roughly) at 60% utilization on MBEs.” Additionally, BLCD became a certified LGBT Business Enterprise this year but she notes that with COVID-19 pandemic BLCD has yet to tap into the treasure chest of corporate procurement opportunities through NGLCC. 

Alexis acknowledges she still faces challenges being an African American woman in a male-dominated industry. Whenever she walks into a room, shows up on a site, attends meetings or engages clients, people are going to test her. She has to prove herself. It is the age-old expression of having to be twice as smart, twice as good. 

Looking to pay it forward, this past July BLCD kicked off its Youth Construct program for minority, economically disadvantaged youth in New York. The goal is to create a community for 11th and 12th grade students where they can gain construction administration skills needed to succeed now and in the future. 

Alexis points out that currently there are certificates, undergraduate and graduate opportunities for adults, construction trade concentrations in the High Schools, but not enough access to the lucrative industry of construction administration. To the contrary, BLCD’s Youth Construct program will expose teens (through internships and externships) to the actual administration side of the industry and fields such as construction, office management, office engineering, project management, project associate, assistant project manager, and expediting. 

Local high school students can apply to Youth Construct through their career counselors. Outreach to LGBTQ+ youth will include going through such organizations as The Door, of which Alexis notes she is a product of the program. The Door provides a wide range of services to meet the needs of New York City youth ages 12-24. 

BLCD is running a crowdfunding campaign that will end in December 2020. Each student is costing about $5,500 and the program is about seven months. So far $12,000 has been pledged with a target goal of $50,000. To find out more about BLCD’s Youth Construct Program and support, click here. 

“I am just trying to put myself out there so that people know who we are and that they get involved,” Alexis says. 

Written by Carolyn M. Brown, a journalist, author, playwright, producer, and founder of True Colors Project, a social enterprise that produces LGBTQIAGNC+ themed content via theater, film, digital platforms, and events, which includes My True Colors Excel Pride Awards and My True Colors Festival: Fighting For Social Justice and Cultural Diversity Through The Arts, She is a member of the nglccNY Media and Communications Committee. @cmbrown_7

October Ambassador of the Month — Joanne Balady


nglccNY is elated to announce our October Ambassador of the Month, Joanne Balady. Joanne is the Founder/President of Balady Promotions. The company assists its clients in advertising their brands, products and services through the use of promotional product and decorated apparel programs, printed marketing materials, trade show exhibits, and more. Joanne founded Balady Promotions in 1989, having started in the Promotional Products Industry in 1982 as a Program Administrator responsible for the Pepsi Cola Account. She enjoys the creative aspects of the industry and has combined that with her entrepreneurial spirit to create an organization that is truly customer-focused, competitive and enduring. Joanne maintains lasting relationships with her clients and has a deep appreciation for the loyalty and commitment that has developed between Balady and its clientele. 

Joanne calls the nglccNY Ambassador team “energetic and hard-working” and says she is “thrilled to learn from and share with this dynamic group of professionals.” 

“I have been in business for over 30 years and have been involved in many networking groups and organizations. The nglccNY is the most friendly, helpful and supportive organization I have worked with. The Chamber provides a truly fun and exciting environment to network with influencers, share successes and failures, connect members to potentially expand their economic opportunities, practice and perfect our elevator pitches and so much more.” 

Phyllis Mehalakes, Chair of The Ambassadors Committee shares high praise for Joanne’s robust contributions to the Chamber: “Joanne has been a volunteer for nglccNY for a number of years as a member of our Supplier Diversity committee and, more recently, our Ambassador committee. I was absolutely delighted when she decided to come on board as an Ambassador. Her first-hand knowledge of supplier diversity and what it means to be a LGBT certified business has contributed greatly to our committee’s overall understanding of the benefits and importance of getting certified. Joanne is professional and responsive in every way. She has been a pleasure to work with, always assisting our members and her fellow Ambassadors without hesitation. She has been a tremendous asset to our committee and nglccNY.” 

Joanne continues to lead the growth at Balady Promotions through her strategic partnerships with vendors and clients who also understand and appreciate the incredible impact that promotional products and well executed programs have on the success of companies worldwide. Joanne has an MBA in Finance from Rutgers University. 

Congratulations, Joanne! Your Chamber family is extremely thankful for your service!