Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Supplier Spotlight: Cinnamon Shtick

Not everyone has the courage to follow their dream. Rob Finkelstein did. The attorney and former nglccNY Chair of Supplier Diversity and former NGLCC Co-Chair of the Legal Industry Council recently launched Cinnamon Shtick, a recipe blog that offers his scrumptious dessert, bread and pastry recipes, including, but definitely not limited to, cinnamon infused delectables.  

Photo credit: Cinnamon Shtick

nglccNY Chair of Media & Communications Cindi Creager recently had a chance to check in with Rob about this inspiring pursuit. Read the Q & A below. 


Cindi: How does it feel to have this labor of love up and running? 

Rob:  It's fabulous. To be able to take a hobby that you are passionate about and turn it into a side-business … it's been super fun. 

Cindi: How did your blog come about? 

Rob: I always wanted to go to culinary school, specifically for pastry arts. In 2017, I decided it was time, so I just went for it! The program was 9 months long, 3 nights per week, and each class was 5 hours long. Even though I was also working full-time, running my law firm, I loved every second of it. After I graduated in early 2018, I spent the next year and a half baking and baking while considering how I could put my culinary education to use. 

In an ideal world, I probably would have gone to culinary school instead of law school and ultimately opened a bakery of some sort. (That said, I have no regrets.) However, at this stage in my life, I am not looking to start a new career. So, thinking outside the box about what I could do with my culinary education, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to spend time creating recipes. I've always been baking other people's recipes. While I had a few of my own, I wanted to start developing more and more of them.

So that's when I decided to create a recipe blog, figuring I’d just see where it goes. Of course, I had no idea what I was doing or that a recipe blog could actually be a full-blown business. I knew people were making money from their blogs, but I didn't really understand how it all worked. Fortunately, I was in a position where I could invest a little money to hire people to help me and teach me. I would never have been able to do this on my own because I have no website experience and, before I started, had no idea how to work a camera. 

Photo credit: Amy Mayes Photography

Cindi: How do you decide what recipes to post and when? 

Rob: Once I got my site up and running, I just kept baking. I still need to get more organized on what I want to publish, when and what recipes I plan to work on. Running this as a side-gig, I haven't had time to even make a list of all the kinks I need to work out.

It's been more like, "Oh, what am I craving now?" So, I will work on a recipe that will satisfy that craving. If it comes out amazingly delish, then I post it. 

Cindi: Who photographs your food for your blog? 

Rob: Actually, I do, although there are a few photos on my blog that the amazingly fabulous Amy Mayes took for me. 

The first recipe I posted was a Cinnamon Toasted Pecan Babka, which was truly a labor of love. I just took pictures from my iPhone and used those in the post. That's all I knew how to do, and at that point I didn't want to invest in anything else. I intentionally have not updated the photos in that post so I can use them as a comparison as my photography continues to grow.

Within a few weeks, I realized that, if I want my recipes to be found on the internet, my photographic content had to be much better. I saw a ton of food content from other recipe bloggers on Instagram and Pinterest. I was amazed that they all took such gorgeous photos of their food. I thought, I’m no photographer, and I will never be able to take such stunning photos. Then I quickly realized from their posts that they all took the same online food photography course. 

Cindi: Tell me about that course and how it brought you to the next level?

Rob: Another recipe blogger, who was a photographer before anything else, quickly realized that food photography is very different from other kinds of photography and began an online Foodtography School.

Since I started my blog only three weeks before the pandemic hit, I suddenly found myself with more downtime (not running around the City or going to the gym), so I decided to buy a real camera and a couple lenses and dive into her course. Her food photography course taught me so much, from how to use my camera, to proper lighting for food, to editing and styling photos. She throws in so much more to her lessons, like how to pitch to brands. Since it’s online, I watch it over and over and continue to learn. I still have much to learn! 

Then, in November -- just nine months into this -- a protein powder company, Isopure, reached out to me and ultimately hired me to develop a Hanukkah inspired cookie that uses their protein powder. (I have a non-protein powder version of the cookie on my blog.) It was a super fun project, and the best part is that they paid me to develop a recipe with a photo that they used on Instagram and their website. That’s when it really clicked for me that this is more than a hobby and truly a business. As I said before, I'm not looking to make this a full-time career, but it’s great to have some income to offset the expenses I have incurred to pursue this hobby-turned side-business. 

Cindi: Very inspiring, Rob! And as you have been working on your food photography skills, you also recently got Cinnamon Shtick certified. What led you to apply for certification from NGLCC?

Rob: Since partnering with Isopure, I hope to partner with more brands to develop recipes and photograph the end results for them. Most recipe bloggers out there are women, which is wonderful, but I suspect none of them are certified. So, I thought that, assuming I can get my photography skills up to their level, one of the ways I could set myself apart is by being certified. And, even though I stepped down in 2019 from a five year run as Supplier Diversity Chair for nglccNY, I hope to use my certification as a means to help educate social media marketing people representing big brands about the importance of supplier diversity.

Cindi: Do you have any favorites of your recipes so far?

Rob: Like any papa, I’m proud of all my babies. That said, anyone who knows me knows that I have no shame in playing favorites! 

I am super into breads and bread related treats and mildly obsessed with babka. Being Jewish, babka was a staple in our house. I have been having lots of fun developing innovative babka flavors. My favorite so far is my Blueberry Lemon Crumb Babka, and I am currently working on a fig babka. Two of my other favorite things to make are Cinnamon Raisin Bagels and Kichel, which are traditional Jewish bow-tie cookies. And, lately, I have made way too many batches of M&M Cookies. I can’t get enough of those!

Photo credit: Amy Mayes Photography

: Any advice for other nglccNY members about pursuing their dream entrepreneurial endeavors?

Rob: The typical response to this question is “follow your passion”. I never liked that response because it takes much more than passion to pursue a dream. So, building on that generic response, I will say this: follow your passion in a smart, strategic way that works for you. 

Cindi: Congratulations, Rob! We wish you much success as you continue down this recipe blog path! Keep us posted on your progress!

To keep up with Rob’s latest recipes, follow him on Instagram @cinnamonshtick and sign up directly at www.cinnamonshtick.com for his email alerts. 

nglccNY Spotlight: Carolyn M. Brown, Founder, True Colors Project & My True Colors Festival

This month we are thrilled to amplify nglccNY member, Carolyn M. Brown, who is an award-winning journalist, author, playwright, producer and founder of True Colors Project LLC, a social enterprise that produces and presents BIPOC and LGBTQIAGNC+ themed content through theater, digital, film and live events. She is also the Co-Founder/Executive Director of My True Colors Festival, a multidisciplinary arts event (including theater, film, dance, original web series, etc.) dedicated to bringing together multicultural, multinational LGBTQIAGNC+ artists and allies to showcase their works. 

Carolyn is also a cherished member of nglccNY’s communications committee. In that role she regularly volunteers her time to write feature stories about other Chamber members that are showcased on this very blog and in our monthly newsletter.

nglccNY’s Chair of Media & Communications Cindi Creager interviewed Carolyn about her impactful work. Read the Q & A below.


Cindi: Tell me a little bit about the True Colors Project and My True Colors Festival.

Carolyn:  True Colors Project came about in 2012. It is a social enterprise that is dedicated to bringing together innovative storytellers. It is really about helping artists to create and present work that represents underserved communities and resonates with marginalized groups. My True Colors Festival was launched in 2015, and that was through a collective of artists, filmmakers, playwrights, and event planners. Our mission is fighting for social justice and cultural diversity through the arts.

My True Colors Festival is a multi-disciplinary arts event that originally took place every June in conjunction with national Pride Month and as an Official NYC Pride Event Partner. Since that time, we've showcased more than 200 documentaries, film shorts, stage plays, musicals, original web series, dancers, singers, spoken word artists, and other artistic works, in addition to talkbacks, fireside chats and panel discussions. 

Then in 2020, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to shift gears, so we weren't able to host the festival in the summer as we usually do. We ended up doing a very streamlined version in October in conjunction with national LGBTQ+ history month. We actually did a virtual event where we presented a play called “The Man with the Floppy Ears,” a gay love story set in the 1930’s that also speaks of a pandemic, police brutality, the Depression and authoritarianism. We also presented the film “Spencer” about a young bisexual man and his relationships. That story was brought to us by a producer out of Australia who co-wrote and stars in this film which also is based on his personal experiences.

In 2017, True Colors Project also co-founded “My True Colors Excel Pride Awards,” which is an annual awards ceremony that pays homage to community, civic and business leaders, as well as artists who champion social justice. 

Past award winners have been Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Destination Tomorrow founder Sean Coleman, and spoken-word performing artist Staceyann Chin. Eric Adams has been very supportive of My True Colors Festival since its inception. Also, we've received a grant and support from the Brooklyn Arts Council in the past.

My True Colors Festival is fiscally sponsored through Fractured Atlas, a 501C3 nonprofit that empowers artists and arts organizations through various resources. This allows us to receive grants, sponsorships, and tax-deductible donations. 

My True Colors Festival

: Why are these two entities so important to our world? 

Carolyn:  I've always been supportive of the arts and artists. My background is as a journalist, author, playwright, and a producer. That's been my experience for decades and also in connection to my activism. Also, artists are often truth-tellers and recorders of history, elevating their voice to reflect the world around us. They're also healers, often bringing solace to the weary and strength to the downtrodden. There's always been an interconnection between arts and activism; we have artists who have always given rise to social awareness and community activism. My True Colors Festival has always been about providing a safe and affirming space for BIPOC and LGBTQIAGNC+ people as well as giving voice to marginalized communities through the power of the arts.

The goal is to create a more inclusive arts scene for artists of all disciplines by eliminating barriers to participation related to age, race, gender, social class, sexual orientation, identity, disability, nationality, and religion.

For the 2022 season we're going to be launching the “Rise Up” series of social justice films, plays and other artistic works, exploring history from a lens of oppression. That will include then and now stories of the oppression of marginalized communities, the intersection of oppressed groups, and the social movements that arose from marginalized groups in the fight against oppression and discrimination. 

I'm actually working on two plays, one dedicated to Stormé DeLarverie and another about Bayard Rustin and his relationship with Martin Luther King, Jr. Bayard is an unsung hero of the Civil Rights Movement. He was really the chief architect of the iconic March on Washington in 1963, but because he was an openly gay man, Bayard was kept in the shadows by other civil rights leaders and pushed to the margins of Black History. He preached his entire life that “we need, in every community, a group of angelic troublemakers.” I try to live by that mantra. True Colors Project will dedicate its efforts going forward to highlight the intersection between the Civil Rights Movement, LGBT+ Rights Movement, Women's Rights Movement, Black Power Movement, and Black Lives Matter Movement.

MTCF Festabill and Excel Pride Awards Programs

: May I ask you to reflect on the importance Black History Month?

Carolyn: It’s important to be aware of the contributions of African Americans to our nation. We must do our part to ensure that those who fight for our rights to thrive—and be alive— in America receive the recognition they so justly deserve. Like I said with Bayard, his contribution to the Civil Rights Movement; with Stormé, her contribution to Stonewall; and with Marsha P. Johnson, her contribution to transgender activism. And even with respect to artists and their contributions to our communities, our nation, and the world around us. Just think of the social impact of a play—and film adaptation—like “A Raisin In The Sun” by Loraine Hansberry. 

Cindi: Recognizing these icons and their contributions is not only important during Black History Month. Their legacies should be remembered and revered every single day of the year.

Carolyn: Right. Then hopefully we'll get to a point where everybody's culture and history is celebrated and appreciated.

Cindi: Indeed. I’d like to shift topics for a moment to ask how you got involved with NGLCC and nglccNY and how has that evolved over time?

Carolyn: I first became involved on a national level when I met NGLCC Co-Founder and President Justin Nelson in 2012 during the early formation of the Many Faces One Dream LGBT Economic Empowerment Tour hosted by the National Black Justice Coalition in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration, NGLCC and other organizations. I served as an ambassador and that came about from the cover story I wrote for Black Enterprise. It was called "Black and Gay in Corporate America," and it actually ended up winning the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Magazine Article in 2012. Justin was very nice, very welcoming, and very supportive of that article. And then I was present in 2013 when the Chamber invited the National Business Inclusion Consortium to ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange as a precursor to the Financial Services Diversity Leadership Awards dinner.

I attended other Chamber events, but I really didn't become a member or get involved with the local chapter until 2018. I did so to network and to ensure representation, because I thought that it was important for people of color who are business owners to be visible in the local chapter. Being African-American, a woman, and a lesbian, I felt that representation was very important, so I wanted to create that awareness. I met some really great people like Nathan Manske of “I’m From Driftwood.”  I've been following his organization since then. I also had the pleasure of writing about him for the newsletter

Cindi: That’s wonderful. Nathan is amazing. Is there anything else you’d like to add about the benefits of nglccNY membership?

Carolyn: Writing for the newsletter has been a really great experience for me because it's provided the opportunity for me to connect with and interview a lot of the members to find out more about their businesses and  to share their stories with the other members. I think it's great for us to be aware of each others' journeys and to support each other in any way that we can, because it's important to uplift one another as entrepreneurs and individuals.

That’s even more vital now in an environment where marginalized people are under vicious attack. It's important for us to stick together and stand up for each other.

Cindi: Absolutely. We truly appreciate the volunteer work you've done and the beautiful articles that you've written. We've all been lucky to have that as a part of our newsletters and our social media.

May I ask you to share a bit more about how your organization addresses the issues we're all still grappling with in this nation, racial justice, LGBTQ + social justice, etc.?

Carolyn: We've always had a focus on social justice so a lot of the artists, filmmakers, and playwrights whose works we showcased have dealt with social, political, and human issues as well as mental health issues. One of our Excel Pride Award recipients, documentary filmmaker Yoruba Richen, recently had a PBS special called "How it Feels to be Free," where she profiled six Back women entertainers: Diahann Carol, Abbey Lincoln, Cicely Tyson, Lena Horne, Pam Grier, and Nina Simone. She talked about them as artists and also as activists. 

We’re very excited that one of the films we screened in 2019, “Ripples of Water,” directed by A.J. Ciccotelli, was recently picked up by Amazon, AppleTV and iTunes. It deals with ageism and mental health disability. 

MTCF Co-Founder Tai Chunn, Hollywood Director Nathan Hales Williams and Actress Jennifer Lewis, Dirty Laundry anniversary film screening

We care about supporting artists and giving them a platform for self-expression and to be their authentic selves. One of the things that came out of our 2019 season, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, was bringing attention to how whitewashed the narrative had become. A lot of people of color, particularly Black and Latina trans women, were historically left out of the annals of the Stonewall Uprising. Media outlets and advocacy organizations are starting to do a better job now in telling a truer story of Stonewall. 

That's one of the reasons why we’re starting to show the correlation between history and present day in regards to police brutality. That's something that’s often overlooked. That's really what Stonewall was birthed out of—it was five days of civil rights disobedience and rebellion against police harassment, brutality, and discrimination by the New York State York Liquor Authority and NYPD. And the PRIDE parades that were to follow were born out of protest marches.

When you think about what happened with George Floyd, and we see that horrific event take place of him dying at the hands of a police officer having his knee on his neck, unfortunately this is not something new. It's an issue that a lot of marginalized communities have been dealing with for decades, centuries. Last summer was a watershed moment with worldwide uprising and protest in support of Black Lives Matter, Justice for George Floyd and Police Reform. It also speaks to the intersectionality of movements and historical moments.  

That's why I think it's important for us to know each other's history and to recognize the intersections of our stories and our experiences, so that we can have a better world where we all feel respected and appreciated. It's about awareness, understanding, and empathy so that we can start to heal the wounds between us.

This year, one thing we're focusing on that came out of our 2020 production of "The Man With the Floppy Ears,” is using it as a springboard to create an Education Series that will serve as a teaching tool on the impact of oppression and marginalization; the consequences of forcing particular social groups to live on the fringes rather than in the mainstream.

We're writing a curriculum for high school and college students. We have put together a team of advisors in the arts, academia, and activism to help develop that curriculum. We'll be using video footage of “The Man With The Floppy Ears” in conjunction with the curriculum so that educators can use that as a platform to teach about LGBTQIAGNC+ history and the intersection of the different social movements. Education on oppression and marginalization is essential for everyone, but especially for the next-generation of young people.

Cindi: Thank you for sharing that historical perspective and explaining how you’re using it to teach us important lessons about the correlations to our present day circumstances.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our nglccNY audience?

Carolyn: I’d like to touch briefly on mental health. That’s a topic we’d like to bring awareness to this year. May is Mental Health Awareness month, so we'll be doing some virtual programming including a panel discussion.

People of color have been hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic physically, especially in terms of being frontline workers, and also mentally pertaining to the isolation, social distancing, and all the different measures that you have to take to make sure that you and your loved ones are safe and healthy.

It's really important to take care of one another, to look out for each other, and to protect our mental health. There’s also been a rise in substance abuse, so it's really important to take care of ourselves as it relates to our emotional and physical wellbeing.

Cindi: Absolutely. It’s crucial. Thank you, Carolyn! We appreciate you taking the time to share your incredible work! The Chamber is very lucky to have your contributions!

MTCF Co-Founder Tai Chunn, Filmmaker Yoruba Richen, and MTCF Co-Founder Carolyn M. Brown, Excel Pride Awards

Friday, December 18, 2020

Long Island Spotlight: Vishnick McGovern Milizio LLP

 Long Island nglccNY membership is growing. Prior to the pandemic, more and more individuals and business owners attended the Chamber’s special M3’s in the area to build connections and bolster economic opportunities.

One of those businesses is Vishnick McGovern Milizio LLP, a multi-practice law firm located in Nassau County, with additional offices in Manhattan and New Jersey. The firm has been in operation for 51 years.

nglccNY Media & Communications Chair Cindi Creager spoke with the firm’s managing partner Joseph Milizio to learn more about the business and its involvement with nglccNY. Read the Q & A below:

Cindi: Tell me about your firm.

Joseph: We are a full-service firm with a number of different departments. Our major area involves estate and trust work. That includes estate and trust planning, administration, and litigation.

We also have a commercial litigation and employment practice, which includes employment discrimination. We have a transactional business area, which I lead, and that includes business representation from startups through exit planning. We have a real estate area, both commercial and residential. We have a marital and family law area. We have a personal injury area.

Of course, we have a robust LGBTQ representation practice, which I also lead. We provide members of the community with various legal services, from matrimonial & family law to employment discrimination matters to estate planning documents like wills, powers of attorney, and health care proxies.

We’ve also recently launched a surrogacy, adoption, and assisted reproduction practice.

Cindi: Why do you think it's so important that nglccNY has a presence on Long Island?

Joseph: As we all know, Long Island is a suburb of New York City and New York City has a vibrant membership and participation in the Chamber. It's a little bit more difficult for Long Islanders to make it to meetings in Manhattan on a frequent basis. There is a large LGBTQ community involved in business in one aspect or another on Long Island. It gives people on the Island the ability to act as a group and work with each other and network without having to go into Manhattan for all meetings.

Cindi: How has this engagement been going, both pre-COVID when you could meet in person, and now?

Joseph: It was going very well when we were having in-person meetings.  People had a significant interest in participating and joining. We had a lot of people that were willing to volunteer, and that sort of fell by the wayside since COVID. We certainly anticipate that we will get back to that as soon as we possibly can. For now, we are working to stay involved virtually.

Cindi: Your firm has a very vibrant LGBTQ representation group. Tell me more about that.

Joseph: About 20 years ago my partners and I said, ‘there is no law firm on Long Island working with the LGBT community. We need representation for estate planning, litigation, business operations, real estate and employment discrimination, and most importantly, family law, including adoptions and agreements between partners,’ because it was pre-marriage equality.

Prior to that all these areas did not really serve the LGBTQ community and its needs. Now, not only are we doing the maximum that we can for the community, people also feel very comfortable knowing that we are an accepting firm. That's been a real accomplishment for me, to know that I started that. And that it's been a very vibrant part of our firm.

Cindi: It sounds very rewarding and it relates to my next question. When it comes to your work, what gets you up in the morning?

Joseph: Knowing that I'm going to have something to do throughout the day that is going to benefit a client in one way or another. I look forward to helping people and making their lives more positive every day. It gives me a very great sense of accomplishment to know that, as a firm, we act as a cohesive family and we respect each other as family members do. That's another reason why it's very good to get up in the morning and get to work.

Cindi: You're also very active in the community. You're on the HRC Board of Governors and you're obviously very involved with nglccNY. Why is it so important to you to be that involved in the community?

Joseph: When I first came out, there was a real dearth of people that I could communicate with on a professional basis. I really didn't know where to turn when I needed legal representation. It makes me feel very good knowing that I serve a particular purpose for the community and that they can feel comfortable and secure knowing that they can come to my firm.

Cindi: That's wonderful, Joseph. Is there anything else you'd like to share with me about your firm or your involvement in nglccNY?

Joseph: With respect to the Chamber, I would like to say that it gives all members and guests the opportunity to network with each other in a positive environment and to do good for the community. That's a very special thing.

Cindi: Thank you so much, Joseph.

nglccNY Non-Profit Spotlight: RFTCA - Research Foundation to Cure AIDS

 In 1981, a mysterious virus plagued the gay community. Hundreds of men were dying with little understanding of the cause, creating an intense fear and stigma, not only of the virus, but also of the people it inhabited (mostly gay men). The virus was first offensively called “Gay Cancer,” by the media and others but the language evolved into what we now know to be AIDS, the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. At the height of the epidemic, hundreds of thousands of people were dying. And thanks to the work of advocacy groups such as ACT UP and GMHC, treatments have since been developed. However, the AIDS epidemic is far from over. HIV is still the most common infectious killer in the world. Nearly 37 million people around the world are living with HIV. Almost 40 years later, and billions of dollars invested in research, there is still no developed cure. 

One non-profit organization that has dedicated its work to this cause is the Research Foundation to Cure AIDS (RFTCA), “an alliance of leaders from diverse fields who are developing a cure for AIDS that is accessible and affordable for those in need worldwide.”

To learn more, we spoke to RFTCA’s president and founder, Kambiz Shekdar, PhD. Shekdar, a biotechnology inventor, is a scientist by nature. He received his PhD at The Rockefeller University, where he invented Chromovert® Technology, “a novel technology that allows access to highly desired, exceedingly rare cells that had otherwise remained out of reach. This technology was the basis for the Chromocell Corporation, and it holds promise for the development of a cure for AIDS.”

The inspiration for RFTCA came in 2014, to provide this unique technology to develop a global cure, transferring the biotechnology from the private company to the non-profit organization. Shekdar donated the technology to RFTCA, working on a pro-bono basis, which is what sets RFTCA apart from other organizations. “We have our own biotechnology to cure AIDS,” Shekdar explains. “We wanted to move towards developing a global cure, done on a charitable basis, so that everyone could have access to a cure.”

RFTCA has already obtained several streams of preliminary proof-of-concept data in the laboratory, but much more can and must be done. In order to continue and expand this research for developing a cure, RFTCA is currently raising awareness to support the idea that a cure is possible, as well as raising funds needed to pay for the scientific team and the research. While there are several other HIV/AIDS advocacy organizations, many are funding people living with HIV/AIDS, but not necessarily funding research around finding a cure.

Fortunately, nglccNY has been a positive resource to RFTCA. Shekdar shared his positive experiences with the M3 Mixers, being able to expand his network, and learning more about different organizations in the community. “I’ve been really impressed by the skills at hosting some of these mixers on Zoom!” he said.

There are also several ways that we, as LGBTQ-owned businesses and organizations, can support RFTCA's work. If you have a service or skill that you’d like to contribute to the cause, “RFTCA can use all skills and all ideas.” You can also help to raise awareness by sharing RFTCA’s story on your social media pages. Their biggest source of funding is from birthday fundraisers on Facebook, so if you have a birthday coming up or want to start a Facebook fundraiser, RFTCA is a great cause to support. You can also like their Facebook page or follow them on Instagram to raise awareness and share with friends (#freefromaids #rftca). 

When thinking about the past 40 years in relation to HIV/AIDS, Shekdar was able to provide a hopeful glimpse into the future. “There’s a chance that we have today to move this cause forward.” To visit the one-stop shop for volunteering, donating, and signing up for the newsletter, you can find more on their website.


Written by Michael Venturiello, the founder of Christopher Street Tours, an LGBTQ history organization. Michael is a proud member and Ambassador of nglccNY and sits on the Media and Communications Committee. 

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.


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!