Wednesday, April 3, 2019

nglccNY Kicks Off the First of Its 2019 Three-Part Mini-Series: Building Connection, Community, and Camaraderie

Picture it. New York City. The offices of Kelley Drye. The date was March 27, 2019. A fearless storyteller empowered us with thoughtful tools to engage even the most uninterested of listeners.

No, that storyteller was not Sophia from the Golden Girls. It was our own Eduardo Placer, Founder and CEO of Fearless Communicators.

Eduardo led our first nglccNY roundtable of 2019, working with us to strengthen the power of our stories. Eduardo boldly captured our attention at the outset of the session by telling a story in an engaging and effective manner. During our brief but packed time together, he assisted us with developing each of our own stories -- whether the story of how we started our businesses or a powerful client story. 



After teaching us some of the basics of effective storytelling, Eduardo had us team up to practice telling our stories, and two participants later volunteered to share their stories with the entire group. Learning effective communication skills and practicing our narratives in the safe space of our own community will be invaluable to our future success. Likewise, hearing helpful, critical feedback from colleagues provided us with important information for each of us to reframe and elevate our stories. 

While the lessons learned from Eduardo’s workshop can certainly be used in just about any forum, they are particularly useful to those of us looking to amplify our brands and make a memorable impact on potential clients.

This was the first in our three-part series. Be on the lookout for our second, which will feature our own Jenn T. Grace, Founder and CEO of Publish Your Purpose Press. Jenn will work with us on developing our written stories to demonstrate our respective expertise to potential clients. She will also discuss ways we can add revenue to our businesses by becoming an author and launching a personal brand.   

Written by Robert F. Finkelstein, Esq., nglccNY Supplier Diversity Chair. Rob is a partner at Finkelstein Platt LLP, where he practices commercial litigation, construction law, general business law, and employment law.

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Supplier Spotlight: Play Out

In speaking with Abby Sugar and Liz Leifer, owners and designers of Play Out, it is clear that their underwear company is about so much more than that.  Creating gender equal and LGBTQ affirming underwear, Play Out is a queer-owned, company, striving to change the way we think about fashion. The business has six different styles of underwear that are currently available, in addition to tank tops and unisex accessories. All of their products use gender-neutral, or gender equal language, like flat-fronted and pouch-fronted. Styles include boxer briefs, trunks, bikinis, pouch-bikinis, thongs, and pouch-thongs.


In the past few years, the gender-neutral, or gender equal fashion area has expanded, but to the owners of Play Out, “this isn’t just a trend. This is who we are, this is how we express ourselves, this is how we live our lives every day.”

Play Out was initially launched in 2014, after an observation by Abby and her former business partner about the extremely gendered fashion and lingerie options, with “women's” options as pastel, floral, and laced, and “men's” as fun, bold, and colorful. They felt this aligned too closely with the current stereotype as men being active, and women being passive, and wanted to do something to allow people the permission to choose the lingerie that best aligned with their own expression. “There shouldn’t be gendered expectations about clothing,” Abby said. “You should feel good about what you’re wearing, and you should feel good about who you are.”

The designs that were chosen by the Play Out team were all created by queer artists and allies, including co-owner Liz. The current geometric designs, among others, feature artwork that was hand-painted by Liz, digitized, and then printed on fabric for the creation of the underwear. Another recent artistic collaboration features tattoo artist and lgbtq+ ally, Zoe Bean, who created five special limited edition designs.

A large part of the Play Out vision is creating a space for people to feel a freedom to be themselves. “That’s the driving force...to really create more of that authentic space,” said Liz. “We try to give the broadest representation that we can, within the queer community, but also, in humanity.”

Looking at their website, it is clear that authenticity is indeed a salient value of Play Out. Their newly launched Profiles in Pride campaign features people of various gender identities and expressions, modeling their products, while also highlighting each of their unique and individual stories. It’s a new, innovative, and creative approach to storytelling within the community. And with another #PlayOutWithPride campaign launching in the near future, the representation and stories will continue to broaden and grow.

Abby and Liz say their involvement in the nglccNY and their NGLCC LGBTBE certification are extremely helpful in the success of their business. They have both found value in “the connections we make and the support we receive from the Chamber and from other businesses. We also enjoy supporting fellow business owners. We can all help each other through the struggles and celebrate the triumphs,” she said.   “And all the opportunities that nglccNY has for small businesses… it’s just unparalleled.”

Play Out has been a proud member of nglccNY since the fall of 2018. They have also been featured in Lingerie Fashion Week (Spring Summer 2015 Collection), People.com, The Huffington Post, and The Daily Mail.

Their final piece of advice? “There’s a lot of success in helping other people succeed.”

To stay informed about Play Out, be sure to sign up for the mailing list on their website, follow them on Instagram (@playoutnyc), Facebook (@playout.underwear), and through their hashtag #PlayOutWithPride.


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

Supplier Spotlight: McCormack + Kristel

Michelle Kristel is a former nonprofit executive who understands the impact a great hire has on an organization. She believes placing the right leader in the right position builds stronger and more effective teams. Michelle has a keen eye for matching talent to opportunity and is driven by a fierce commitment to advance her client’s missions. Through her experience in both executive search and nonprofit leadership, she has seen firsthand the impact great hires have on programs, fundraising, governance, and fiscal health. Through McCormack+Kristel, she is proud to bring her clients the essential talent to meet their goals and realize their vision.


Michelle is the former executive director of In The Life Media (ITLM), a nonprofit organization producing social change media to raise awareness of issues related to gender, HIV/AIDS and LGBT rights. She joined ITLM in 2002 in the position of production manager and, in 2006, following a succession of promotions, was appointed the executive director. ITLM's signature series, IN THE LIFE, was broadcast nationally on PBS from 1992 through 2012.

Currently, Michelle serves on the Board of Directors of CenterLink, the national association of LGBT community centers. She is actively engaged with OUT Leadership’s Quorum and OutWOMEN initiatives and is a proud member of the Network of Nonprofit Search Consultants.

Michelle Kristel, Managing Parter of McCormack Kristel

How would you describe your firm?
McCormack+Kristel is a retained executive search firm providing consulting services to nonprofit and philanthropic organizations in the social justice, social services and community healthcare sectors.

What were you doing before you joined your business?
I was the Executive Director of In The Life Media, a nonprofit organization producing documentary programming for public television.

What makes your business stand out when compared to other businesses in your field?
As a former nonprofit executive and a nonprofit board member, I understand the skills necessary for success in nonprofit leadership roles.

What are your goals for your business? Where do you hope to see your business in one, five, ten years?
This year’s goals have been focused on strengthening our infrastructure, moving to cloud-based platforms and leveraging team collaboration tools to increase efficiencies and enhance effective communication. We have also begun a refresh of our marketing materials that will, in the coming months, include improvements to our website look and feel and functionality. We are continually focused on improving processes and increasing customer satisfaction. As the recently named, Managing Partner, I plan to continue to earn the trust of clients and candidates, and to build on the reputation for excellence and integrity established by the firm’s Founding Partner, Joe McCormack.

How did you find your way to NGLCC?
During my tenure with In The Life Media, NGLCCNY, notably Ingrid Galvez and Connie Thorp, were instrumental in building an advisory team of NY-based business leaders to support and guide ITLM in the development of strategic business planning. When I joined McCormack+Kristel (McCormack & Associates, when I started) I was pleased to learn the firm was a 20+ year member of the Chamber and was a certified diversity supplier for several years.

What do you hope to impress upon the membership about your industry/business? 
Our firm was the first retained search firm owned and operated by an out gay person. We were founded, in 1993, to recruit talent to HIV/AIDS service and policy organizations. Today, our practice serves a broad spectrum of progressive mission-driven organizations.

How can the membership support you/your business?
If you are a nonprofit board leader navigating an executive transition, please consider us. If you know a nonprofit executive seeking a new position tell them to visit our website and or follow us on social media.

What advice would you give to an LGBT person starting a business?
Success is found at the intersection of passion and expertise. 

What inspiring message do you have for the community?

We are stronger together. Building networks like the Chamber and growing diversity pipelines creates more productive and more profitable businesses.

Written by Ingrid GalvezChair, Diversity & Inclusion, nglccNY

Organizational Development Consultant at THORP, a certified LGBTBE