Thursday, August 8, 2019

Insights on NGLCC’s International Conference From Last Year’s Biz Pitch Winner

The 2019 NGLCC Conference is almost upon us, and this year, we will be meeting in sunny Tampa Bay, Florida at the beautiful Tampa Convention Center! Known as the “largest LGBT business event on the planet,” the annual conference is a globally recognized professional development event that delivers innovative leadership programming, networking, and engagement opportunities for more than 1,400 LGBT and allied business leaders. This week, we spoke with Kevin Schiesz, CEO and Co-Founder of eParel, L.L.C., and winner of last year’s National Biz Pitch competition.

Kevin and his business partner, Matthew Wilson, have been members of nglccNY for two years.

Invented at Columbia University, an Ivy League-member university, eParel administers a web-first SaaS platform where service businesses outfit their staff for free. Their fashion brand Bib & Tucker provides a curated selection of shirts, pants, shoes, and accessories. Business managers and owners assemble the pieces into outfits, then share those outfits with their employees (e.g. the uniform wearers). Employees declare their gender, choose their size, and mix and match styles—customizing their look. The team at eParel then ships direct to the employees at home, off-the-clock. This makes uniform outfitting especially easy and seamless for everyone involved.

Current customers include Moxy Hotels, Marriott International’s newest, “disruptive” hotel brand.

The message behind eParel, in addition to convenience for vendors and employees, is one of support and acceptance. “I wanted to start a company where I felt comfortable being,” Schiesz explained, after recapping his experience working his way up in the service industry. “I know what it’s like to be in that position [of having to wear a uniform],” Schiesz said. “As a gay man, [the eParel model] cuts to the core of who I am. It’s about identity, creativity, and self-expression.”

22.5 million people in the U.S. wear uniforms every day. “We spend most of our waking time at work,” Kevin points out. “This platform liberates the tens of millions of people who wear uniforms.”

The scalability of eParel’s business model eventually led Kevin to participate in local and regional business pitch competitions, including those within nglccNY. In 2018, eParel won the esteemed nglccNY Biz Pitch competition after several preliminary rounds. Winning came with a free ticket to the 2018 NGLCC National Conference, where Kevin and Matthew were finally able to pitch in front of a national audience.

Since winning the national competition last year, eParel has seen exponentially positive results. “Sales have more than doubled,” Kevin shared. “We’ve gone from local to national, and now attract global brands.”

A new partner and co-founder has joined eParel’s team: Jeff Bryson, as COO. 2019 will be Jeff’s first year at the NGLCC Conference.

For those that are planning to attend this year’s NGLCC Conference, Kevin suggests a plan. “Be strategic, but also try to relax and enjoy it,” he says. With an extensive list of programs, workshops, socials, and networking events, the Conference can be a boundless source of personal and professional growth. “There’s a lot on offer” Kevin concludes, reflecting on his own experience.

The NGLCC National Conference will be held in Tampa Bay, Florida, August 13 to August 16, 2019. You can find more information and register here.

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


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