Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Making a Huge Difference in the Time of COVID-19: Antarctic Agency

LGBT-owned and operated, Antarctic is more than just a digital agency. Growth-focused on brand development, digital fundraising and web development, Antarctic works mainly with nonprofits and cause-based organizations that are mission-driven and that give back to the community. In their own words, “We’re a group of designers, technologists, and digital strategists focused on helping cause-based organizations and nonprofits innovate and grow. We embrace growth as a central theme as well as strategic planning, thoughtful design and a robust understanding of web technologies that help place our clients ahead of the competition.”

Antarctic often works closely with other LGBTQ community partners, including God’s Love We Deliver, the Ali Forney Center, and SAGE (Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders). Specifically, in the current COVID-19 pandemic, Antarctic’s work is more important than ever before. Using their skills and talents, Antarctic has helped SAGE create an immediate response fundraising campaign, called “Taking Care of Our Own,” which raised $12,000 for GLBT elder services. The Antarctic team also assisted God’s Love We Deliver, raising enough funds to provide 210,000 shelf-stable meals. They created the hashtag #WhoAreYouCookingFor which inspired dozens of celebrities (including Michael Kors and Gwyneth Paltrow) to cook and share their virtual meals and donations with the organization.

The entrepreneurial spirit comes from Michael Yuasa, the founder and executive creative director of Antarctic. Initially created as a record label, Michael began working with companies and corporations to integrate their brands into events. This led to a path of more formal advertising and brand activation, ultimately leading to the rebirth of Antarctic as a digital agency. Michael had an “aha moment” when he realized that he could use his talents and skills with nonprofit organizations. “Maybe there’s a place for me,” Michael reflected, “to help build nonprofits to build their brands, to make them great.”

Michael Yuasa, Founder and Executive Creative Director of Antarctic 

As an LGBT-owned business, Yuasa thought it was important to join nglccNY and become an officially Certified LGBT Business Enterprise ®. Yuasa was initially invited to the Chamber in 2016 and was impressed by the strong business network, but also, but the fun that everyone seemed to be having at the monthly M3 mixers. In his own words, “Everyone is always having a good time!” When asked why it was important to join nglccNY and to become a Certified LGBTBE ®, Yuasa responded, “We wanted to have deep ties in the organization, but also, because of the business potential.” Since joining the Chamber, Yuasa has had the opportunity to work with other Chamber members, including the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art and the National LGBT Bar Association. In fact, building a network and community is one of Yuasa’s main pieces of advice for other businesses: “Be involved. Show up. Meet people. Work on building those relationships.”

This connection to the community is a large part of what makes the work so meaningful. “As an agency, I think we’re one of the best,” Yuasa explains. “We take a lot of time, there’s a lot of education, there’s a lot of intensity that goes into the work. And we’re making the conscious choice to put that energy towards nonprofits and organizations that give back to the community.”

Yuasa and the Antarctic team are choosing to give back to the community in serving organizations that also give back to the community, creating an uplifting environment of goodwill.

To learn more about Antarctic and their work, you can visit or check them out on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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. 

Ambassador of the Month - May 2020

This month we begin a new feature… our nglccNY Ambassador of the Month Honor.

In May we are spotlighting Mary Blanchett. Mary is a beloved member of our chamber family and a Registered Representative/Licensed agent  through New York Life Insurance Company, and several other independent insurance companies. She always goes above and beyond to connect our members to new opportunities, to one another, and to the broader NGLCC/nglccNY mission.

Phyllis Mehalakes, Chair of The Ambassadors Committee offers high praise for Mary, saying:

“Mary is one of our most senior Ambassadors and we're lucky to have her on our team.  Recently voted 'Outstanding Ambassador' by our membership, she excels at connecting people, making meaningful introductions and bringing new members to our events.  She’s professional, approachable, and always willing to help. Working with Mary is a delight.”

Upon learning that she is our Ambassador of the Month, Mary said:

“Being an ambassador of nglccNY is about making it better for everyone. As an ambassador I do that by encouraging everyone to fully participate.  I encourage attending the M3s and losing inhibitions when surrounded by strangers at networking events. I enjoy introducing people who may have ability to refer each other or need each others services. Growing individual businesses means growing a better Chamber. I encourage LGBT certification, participation in the biz pitch competitions as well as talking to corporate partners about Request For Proposals (RFP). Being an ambassador also means I get to know many wonderful professionals which makes me better.”

As Phyllis noted above, last September at a special M3 aboard Spirit Cruises, we awarded Mary the Outstanding Ambassador Award after a vote by our membership. At the time she said:

"I am so grateful my efforts are a positive force. I have a talent for remembering people's professions and focus on introducing folks who may collaborate or fulfill an expressed business need. I try to make professional networking fun and fruitful. All the wonderful members make that easy.”

Congratulations, Mary! We’re all proud to have you on our team!

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Iconic Lesbian Bar Henrietta Hudson Seeks Community Support To Stay Afloat Amid COVID-19 Closure

Photo by Molly Adams

Henrietta Hudson is a beloved lesbian bar in New York City’s West Village and is among those small businesses that have been the lifeblood of the community for decades. Following its recent closure in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, the iconic bar is calling for community financial support after requests from government aid have gone unanswered.

Henrietta Hudson is fighting to stay afloat and keep from permanently shutting its doors. “Bars are recession proof not pandemic proof,” says Henrietta Hudson Co-Owner Lisa Cannistraci. She explains how over the years the bar has seen it all. “We’ve been through 911, the 2008 recession and Super Storm Sandy in 2012. In all of those instances, business increased because people needed a place to go commiserate and have a sense of community. We rose above those obstacles, but never could have anticipated or pre-pared for the onerous burden of a pandemic that threatens our very survival.”

Cannistraci closed down Henrietta Hudson not just because it was mandated by the governor, but also because it was the right thing to do. But compounding matters is that her applications for federal and local disaster and payment protection loans have been totally ignored. It has also been disheartening for Cannistraci to see news reports showing bigger businesses prioritized for financial assistance over small businesses.

Photo by Molly Adams

Henrietta Hudson is the longest operating lesbian bar nationwide and one of three that remain in New York. The other two are Cubbyhole in Manhattan and Ginger’s Bar in Brooklyn. In the late 80s there were an estimated 200 lesbian bars across the county, today there are just 16, according to recent studies, reports NBC News. 

Henrietta Hudson was established in 1991 to serve NYC’s lesbian community. In recent years, it has been less lesbian-centric, evolving into a safe space for vibrant diverse communities and embracing queer, trans, and gender-nonconforming patrons and staff.  

Beyond being an entertainment venue, it is also celebrated as a community hub, consistently utilizing its space as a platform for social change and the advancement of LGBTQ rights. This includes raising money and awareness for thousands of  LGBTQ non-profits. 

Photo by Molly Adams

“Way before it was fashionable to be politically active, we were politically active,” says Cannistraci, who was a part of ACT UP in the ‘80s and vice president of Marriage Equality USA when DOMA was struck down. “When I opened Henrietta’s with Minnie Rivera, it was a labor of love. We did it because we really liked to work with the community.”

Now in its 29th year, Henrietta Hudson remains an integral part of NYC's culture but must turn to the community for contributions to stay in business. The bar launched a GoFundMe campaign in April, having raised more than $23,000 thus far of a $40,000 initial goal. That amount is just enough to keep the bar going for two months. “We’re going to need to raise far more than that to keep the landlord satisfied until we reopen,” Cannistraci says. 

That might not happen until 2021 when Henrietta Hudson can reopen at 100% capacity. “You can't do social distancing on a dance floor or at a pool table or around a bar,” she explains. “We want to be there for our community when the pandemic is behind us and will only reopen when it is safe to do so.” With the current restrictive operations around capacity and social distancing, Henrietta Hudson could not yield enough revenue to sustain itself.

Cannistraci is asking people to help the bar stay in operation by giving whatever amount they can afford. LGBTQ people and allies may give via the GoFundMe site: ] Or via the following apps:; venmo @Henrietta-Hudson. Also Chase Quick Pay or Zelle using our email to donate. 

The bar is also currently hosting weekly ZOOM events from Wednesday through Sunday, showcasing talent and offering a sense of community to its loyal patrons. Visit  for details. 

Pre Covid-closure, the bar hosted live events with such groups as Queer Girls Shenanigans, female-identified comedians, and Trans in the Wild, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering TGNC individuals. This Tuesday, May 19th, Trans in the Wild is hosting a “Save the Bar” Quarantine Bingo fundraiser. The virtual event will feature an ensemble of trans and gender-expansive community leaders as bingo hosts and performers. Several queer and trans companies have donated prizes including NGLCC certified supply company, Stealth Bros & Co.

“Queer spaces are very, very important for our community. A place where we can go be ourselves, feel safe and we all have similar experiences. They're not the same, but they're similar. I will reopen, mark my words,” vows Cannistraci. “Whatever it takes, I'll make it happen, We can’t wait to be in full swing serving the people we love and admire so much.”  

Written by Carolyn M. Brown, a journalist, author, playwright, producer, and founder of True Colors Project, a social enterprise that produces two annual events: My True Colors Excel Pride Awards and My True ColorsFestival, a multidisciplinary arts festival for and by LGBTQIAGNC+ storytellers. She is a member of the nglccNY Media and Communications Committee. @cmbrown_7

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Webinar Takeaways: Capital, Law, and Taxes: What to Know During the COVID Crisis

Thank you all for attending our webinar, “Capital, Law and Taxes: What to Know During the COVID Crisis,” last week. We hope you walked away feeling more knowledgeable about some of the issues facing businesses owners during this time.

Special thanks to our presenters for providing the extensive overview on all of these topics. We encourage all nglccNY members to review the recorded session (password: s1&40x6f). We have timed out each topic for your convenience.

Capital (10:10): Thanks to our friends at TD Bank, we learned about access to capital and the CARES Act. As things change and the government works to re-fund those acts, it is important to reach out to specialists to help guide you through the process. These include our session presenters Evelyn Carrasco, Business Advisor at the Small Business Development Center of LaGuardia Community College, and Sandra Bojourque, Business Development Team Lead at Accion East.

Law (45:58): In this section, we learned about the nuances of employment law from our members at Martin, Clearwater & Bell LLC. We also discussed the importance of tracking employee hours for future tax incentives and relief and reviewing your employment insurance.

Our partners at Vishnick, McGovern & Milizio LLC focused on the laws around real estate, and reminded us to reach out to landlords directly to see what can be done if meeting rent becomes challenging.

Tax (01:49:01): Berdon LLP spoke about tax incentives and the necessity of keeping records of everything for the 2021 tax season.

The most significant thing to remember is that these incentives and relief efforts are constantly in flux and it is important to identify your “team” of professionals that will help you navigate the ever-changing system. We encourage all of you to remember that nglccNY is the place to assemble your team of professionals to help during this time. Please feel free to reach out to us or any of our presenters with any questions you may have. We are here for you!

Yours in Business,

TJ Chernick

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Supplier Spotlight: Moey Inc.

Moey Inc. empowers people to see the world in a different way. According to co-founder and principal Molly Lenore, the business can be described as an Ideation Design Technology Fabrication company. In layman’s terms, “Moey is where the digital universe and the physical world merge. Our team of technologists, designers, engineers, artists, educators and fabricators creates unforgettable interactive experiences, installations, and applications. We make anything possible.”

Moey specializes in nontraditional tech driven installations, interactive sculptures, robotics, mobile apps and immersive/interactive spaces.  Their specialty is technology/content-driven physical interactives and nontraditional interfaces.  They create world renown, high-tech media/interactive installations and social applications for science centers, children’s museums, corporate clients, point of sale, marketing, museums, architects, fine artists and public spaces.

Some of Moey’s most notable works include an Interactive Garden for Macy’s Flower Show, the Audi World Cup Scoreboard, and the Battle of Blackwater Bay Experience promoting HBO’s third season of Game of Thrones.

In addition to their interactive experiences and exhibits, Moey also creates a variety of interactive products, including a fully functional Kids Cash Register and a Kids ATM that museums and other institutions typically place in role-play settings. Both products are designed in a realistic way, helping kids to learn financial literacy, mathematics, life skills and social skills in fun, imaginative ways.

Co-founders Molly Lenore and Joey Stein first met at the American Museum of Natural History in the early 2000s, where they were both employed. Together, they created interactive spaces and sculptures, transforming the museum into an immersive environment. These experiences prompted them to start Moey Inc. in 2003.

Since then, their work has been featured in a range of environments, including museums, planetariums, science centers, corporate visitor centers and branded installations. In all Moey projects an educational context is part of the mission. “How do we inspire?” Lenore asks. “We are known for our narrative development. We’re able to help people understand difficult subjects in a much more manageable way. [Moey] can radically change the way people learn and how we can teach them.”

Moey has been involved with nglccNY since early 2010. For Moey, visibility is the main factor. “It’s important to be out and open,” Lenore reflected, sharing part of her reason why she decided to become certified as an LGBT Business Enterprise. In addition to the certification with nglccNY, Moey is also certified by WBENC as a Women’s Business Enterprise. As a transwoman, Lenore reiterated the importance of visibility. “If you’re open and honest with [the partners], then it’s reciprocated.”

Lenore also enjoys the mentorship component of nglccNY. “I think it’s really important to be able to give back,” she says. “To be able to informally mentor somebody, or listen to somebody, or to guide them a little bit...I think that’s really critical.”

On thinking about advice for other businesses, Lenore emphasizes the importance of being inspired by the work and by the people that you are working with.

“I’m a big believer that everybody has a story to tell. You just have to listen.”

You can find Moey Inc. on Facebook and twitter, and also at

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

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Connections: The nglccNY Ambassador Program

Connection, community, and commerce. All are good reasons to become a member of nglccNY, but the second and third of these grow out of the first. And connection begins with the nglccNY Ambassador program.

Phyllis Mehalakes, who has chaired the Ambassador Program as a volunteer for five years, didn’t know about nglccNY when she met James Howard, a financial advisor who was then an ambassador himself. He told her about the chamber and invited her to a mixer. Within a few months Phyllis had become a member and an ambassador; two years later she was chairing the program and has done so for five years now.

Anywhere from eight to fifteen people become new members of the chamber each month, and every new member is assigned an ambassador. As Phyllis describes it, “nglccNY is a big organization; we now have over 700 members, up from 300 when I joined. That is a large network to tap into, and through the ambassadors we offer guidance on the many ways to do so. Making the best out of your membership requires understanding what is available to you as a member, from the monthly mixers to programming to tools such as your own page in the membership directory. Who is eligible to get certified? How do you get certified? Is there something here for people who don’t qualify for certification? We help new members find their way through all of it.”

There are currently ten active ambassadors; Phyllis’ ideal is ten to twelve. She meets with each of the ambassadors one-on-one every January to find out what is working and what isn’t, and to solicit ideas on how to better serve the nglccNY membership. All the ambassadors also meet monthly to ensure that they are current on upcoming events and other information that is important to the membership of the chamber.

Phyllis, who is a residential realtor with Compass serving Manhattan and Brooklyn and a Certified LGBTE®, understands what it takes for people to feel at home so it is no surprise that she seeks to bring that feeling to nglccNY members and guests through the ambassador program. “The most important thing is that ambassadors are welcoming, inviting, and responsive. Our goal is for people to be comfortable and to feel at home, to make nglccNY their business home. If you are comfortable you can be yourself and build true, honest relationships.”

While the nglccNY ambassadors focus on new members, they serve the entire membership. At mixers they are constantly introducing people to one another and getting to know each of the members they meet. They also reach out to certified businesses and businesses that can be certified whenever there are program offerings, a Biz Pitch, or a Certified Superstar event for these members. Ambassadors often serve as the connection between members of the chamber and the nglccNY board and staff. As one example of this, the chamber is now supporting an expansion to Long Island based on the request of two members.

When asked about success stories of the Ambassador Program, Phyllis began talking about the success that various chamber members have found through their membership, successes that began with ambassadors and connections that brought them into the nglccNY community, leading to commercial success. “I have a great team of ambassadors,” Phyllis said. What we do best is that we connect people. If I have to look overall at our success story, it is watching new members get acclimated, thrive, build their own networks and then bring guests who become members. That is the greatest compliment of all.”

Written by Brian Gorman, an NGLCC member and an International Coach Federation (ICF) certified professional coach. He brings five decades of change experience and study into every coaching conversation. He has served clients as large as Merck Manufacturing, as well as startups and individual leaders. Brian taps into the core of the matter, helping each person maximize their professional and personal potential. Brian works both one-on-one and with teams. In addition to his writing for nglccNY, Brian is a frequent contributor to Forbes online ( ) and serves as Managing Editor of Change Management Review. Website: www.TransformingLives.Coach Brian@TransformingLives.Coach

Monday, December 16, 2019

Second Annual Biz Pitch Finals Competition

On Dec. 11, nglccNY hosted the final round of our second annual Biz Pitch Competition! 

Sponsored by EY, this event capped off a year of competition and allowed the winners of previous rounds to vie for top prizes including a ticket to the the 2020 NGLCC International Business & Leadership Conference in Las Vegas and a full scholarship to attend the Building a High-Performing Businessprogram at Dartmouth Colleges TuckSchool of Business. 

Congratulations to the winners of the final round:

First Place: Five North Chocolate

Second Place: PILOT Coaching

Third Place: Play Out Apparel

The top finishers reacted to the news of their awards, sharing their insights about the honor and the importance of this opportunity:

Ben Conard, Founder & CEO, Five North Chocolate

First Place Winner

On winning first place:

“I am honestly really shocked. To be with so many powerful companies making huge waves in the LGBT business community, I was sure it was going to be someone else, but I'm really stoked that it was me. This competition started in January of this year, so it's humbling for me to reflect back on how much has changed in almost a full year since advancing in the first round."

 On participating in the final round:

“It’s exciting for me to see how much I've grown, but also to see how much my fellow participants have grown. I’m so grateful to be a part of this community. Having something to show for it is just icing on the cake.”

On the importance of the BizPitch:

“The BizPitch gives small companies with big visions the opportunity to share that vision with people who can actually help you make a difference. We have big goals; we have big dreams to make big waves in our own community. And to have an entity like EY helping us do that and believing in us is really powerful.”

Ben Brooks, Founder and CEO, PILOT Coaching

Second Place Winner

On winning second place:

“It's great. I funded my business with my life savings. I think as entrepreneurs, we don’t always get a lot of validation. So this is wonderful encouragement from a community that I respect and value.”

On competing:

“I think it was always a little nerve wracking to put myself out there and our company. But this is the third time I've gotten to participate in an nglccNY event and each time it puts the pressure on me to make our pitch better, to get feedback and to learn in a supportive environment. And we took the feedback. What our pitch looked like in June was very different than what it looks like here in December. And it's a credit to the feedback we got.  We acted on it and that made a big difference.”

Liz Leifer, Co-Owner and Designer, Play Out Apparel

Abby Sugar Co-Owner and Designer, Play Out Apparel

Third Place Winner

Liz on winning third place:

“It feels amazing. I'm so excited and super proud. nglccNY is such an incredible organization. It's helped us really feel supported and we've started to come into our own in the larger business community. Having access to other companies, and other founders. It's really changed the game for us.”

Abby on participating:

“It was just an incredible thing to participate in and really, really wonderful that EY volunteered their time and feedback to help us improve our business and to foster diversity and inclusion.”

Kudos to all of these outstanding entrepreneurs! We cannot wait to continue Biz Pitch in the new year!

Written by Cindi Creager, the Media & Communications Chair of the nglccNY Executive Committee and co-owner of CreagerCole Communications LLC, a New York City-based public relations firm experienced in LGBTQI issues.