Wednesday, August 7, 2019

A Look Ahead to NGLCC’s International Business & Leadership Conference; Expanding Business Opportunities For Newcomers And Longtime Attendees

NGLCC’s biggest event of the year is right around the corner and two business owners are approaching it with excitement and varying perspectives.

David Landgraf, Founder and Chief Experience Officer of Make It Happen Management, a full service events management and production firm, who thrives on the challenges of orchestrating exceptional events around the globe from inception to execution. His New York City-based full-service event planning firm has orchestrated high-level conferences, social events, fundraisers, executive summit meetings, webcasts, team building activities, summer outings, picnics, and one-of-a-kind destination retreats. Among the list of who's who at these well-crafted events are George W. Bush, Barack Obama and the men's No. 1 Tennis Champion Novak Djokovic, who is the celebrity sponsor of the watchmaker Seiko. (Follow the company on Instagram and Facebook @makeithappenmgmt). 

Landgraf has under his belt 20-plus years of experience in the corporate world working for such financial services brands as Blackstone, Goldman Sachs, Arthur Andersen, and Barclays Capital. Over a year ago, he decided to launch Make It Happen Management that would focus on full service events, conferences and client engagement events for corporations, associations, nonprofits and select private clients. In December 2018, Make Happen Management became an NGLCC certified LGBT Business Enterprise.

David Landgraf, Founder and CEO

Landgraf is among some 1,400 LGBT and allied business leaders expected to attend the  2019 NGLCC International Business & Leadership Conference in sunny Tampa Bay, Florida at the Tampa Convention Center. The globally recognized conference is the largest LGBTQ+ business event worldwide, delivering innovative leadership programming as well as networking and engagement opportunities. 

As a first time attendee, Landgraf is hoping to expand his brand recognition and build national and international business relationships for Make it Happen Management and its global capabilities. “Also, to get people to realize that events are more than just logistics, they’re creative, they're tactile, they’re experiential, they’re engaging,” he says. “I want to create experiences that people can walk away from and say, ‘that made a difference to me”

Landgraf adds that he is looking forward to the one-to-one matchmaking networking opportunities the most, where he looks to give testimonials as to how he can Make It Happen for them and his future clients. He understands building one’s professional network means expanding opportunities for mutual success.

NGLCC offers several matchmaking sessions to meet with corporations and fellow suppliers to help entrepreneurs make meaningful connections in the business world. Having endless peers to connect with is a great reason to attend this year’s conference says President and Co-Founder Justin Nelson. “Take advantage of everything you can, from pre-conference day to networking throughout the conference,” he encourages newcomers and past attendees alike.

Landgraf takes great pride in his work with NGLCC’s  Co-Founder and CEO Chance E. Mitchell and Jonathan D. Lovitz, Senior Vice President, making sure supply chain and procurement play an impactful role with his corporate clients, the LGBTQ+ community and the City of New York. He’s serious about impacting change. Landgraf calls his approach to events “Our four Es—Empower, Excite, Educate and Entertain”.

As a change agent, Landgraf sits on the advisory board of Transfernation, the first on-demand food rescue service which provides a unique opportunity where unused food from events can be picked up and delivered to the underserved at local shelters, pantries and food kitchens. It is a business close to his heart, because “I saw a lot of food going to waste at large events and buffets, and as well as decor. I would have the decor donated to local children's hospitals, Ronald McDonald House and the like. Giving Back and Doing Good, became a huge passion of mine,” he says.

Make It Happen Management is embarking on an expansion services program over the next year. The NGLCC International Business & Leadership Conference affords entrepreneurs like Landgraf the opportunity to develop their careers alongside other skilled LGBTQ+ business owners and affiliates who are paving the way for LGBTQ+ economic empowerment.

In addition to one-on-one Matchmaker meetings between suppliers and Fortune 500 companies, there are more than 40 sessions, workshops, and programs offered at the conference. Cutting-edge educational programs include inspiring keynote speakers, the annual B2B Boot Camp for certified LGBT Business Enterprises (LGBTBEs), a local chamber development track, and Marketplace Expo.

Joanne Balady, President
This is the sixth year that Joanne Balady, founder of Balady Promotions, has attended the national conference. She is looking forward to spending a great deal of time in the Expo hall, visiting with corporate partners and sponsors. “I really could spend hours in there meeting supplier diversity and  procurement professionals, reviewing my capabilities,” says Balady, who targets five companies that she wants to do business with. “I think meeting them year after year has helped my business. I've built visibility and credibility and now I believe we are reaping the benefits from all that investment. When our prospects see us year after year, relationships are built just like any type of networking. You have to be consistent in who you're connecting with.”

For over 25 years, Parsippany, New Jersey based Balady Promotions has been helping businesses elevate their brands by providing exceptional quality promotional products used as giveaways at events, booth displays for trade shows, and branded apparel. The most consistent products have been wearables. “Approximately 30% of our business has consistently come from our decorated apparel programs.  Our clients are consistently looking for walking billboards to advertise their brands—some examples include, T-shirts, jackets, and sweatshirts,” says Balady. What’s hot these days? “Anything related to technology—your computer or iPhone—is what sells.”

Balady began her career in promotions working for Pepsi-Cola Company and then working for one of Pepsi's largest promotional suppliers on such programs as the Pepsi Challenge, Pepsi Free, and the Michael Jackson Bad tour. After seven years at this promotional company, she spun off into her own business in 1989.

What started out as a one-woman show is now a team of eight. “We're still a small business, but we are a great creative team that has lots of promo experience,” Balady says. Initially, Balady Promotions began servicing liquor companies and beverage companies but then slowly moved into other industries, focusing on the education sector. “We love to work with schools, universities, and also now with the government.”

Balady concedes she was more of a spectator when she first joined NGLCC but since then she has attended lots of events. “I think the more I got involved, the more it helped me grow personally and professionally,” she says, noting that having a certified LGBT Business Enterprise opened a number of doors. To that end, she also participated in chamber’s Certified Superstar business pitch program.

The NGLCC conference veteran adds among those sessions she has an interest in is The Intersection of Personal Brand + Role and Importance of LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Groups. “At Balady, we are working with ERGs in many corporations - helping them with their promotional requests to increase awareness of their groups within their organizations, so it's important for me to meet new contacts in our community that are participating in LGBTQ ERGs to develop new business connections as well as get a better understanding of their goals to help them with their missions.” Adds Balady, another appealing session is Capturing the Rising Buying Power of Millennial and Gen Z Audiences. “It's so important to learn about the trends affecting the buying habits of the Next Gen and tips on how to reach them...we need to stand out!”

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


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