The GGBA to Host the 2018 Western Business Alliance

The 2018 Western Business Alliance LGBT Economic Summit and Conference

San Francisco, California  |  March, 2018



In the Spring of 1974 a small group of LGBT business owners, including Harvey Milk, owner of the venerable Castro Camera Shop, met in the heart of the Castro District of San Francisco to lay the groundwork for what would become the world’s first LGBT Chamber of Commerce and named it the Golden Gate Business Association. From that spark of innovation, courage, and determination a global movement for economic equality was launched.

The movement spread first across the Western United States with LGBT chambers of commerce emerging just a few short years later in Seattle and San Diego. Following them organizations arose in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Albuquerque, Denver, Las Vegas, Sacramento, Portland, San Jose, Spokane, Palm Springs, Vancouver and Honolulu following. Our quest for economic vitality also headed East to include Atlanta, Milwaukee, Chicago, Dallas, Austin, Washington D.C., New York, Ft. Lauderdale, Philadelphia, and beyond.

Aside from the challenges of running our growing businesses there were devastating losses and horrendous challenges to overcome during the formative years of this business movement. Our leaders faced assassination and the scourge of AIDS. In some cases the AIDS epidemic threatened the very existence of our organizations. Yet, the entrepreneurial spirit and tenacity of the LGBT business movement in the West soldiered on by creating new and sustainable jobs and donating millions of dollars of support for thousands of community based organizations, all of which provided critical healthcare and non-profit community support services.

In the midst of this chaos we were building philanthropic foundations that forever changed and empowered our communities, cities, states, and nation. We formed collaborations with our brother and sister organizations from the minority, women, and disabled veteran business communities. We learned the value and power of passing legislation that would lead to economic vitality while fighting against the legislative initiatives that would shackle us to a status of second class citizens.

The Western Business Alliance (WBA) was founded in 1992 by forward-thinking business leaders and association executives who knew that it was critically important to collaborate in order to build networks, assess best-practices, and guide the growing movement.

The LGBT business movement, now in its fourth decade, has seen unprecedented growth. The movement that started in the Western states has propelled itself across the globe to include Argentina, Australia, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Peru, Central & Eastern Europe, Sweden, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Uruguay

However, there is much work to be done.

There are far too many homeless LGBT youth who need more than just our support – they need the jobs we are creating. There are tens of thousands of LGBT seniors who need to engage with our movement to provide their unparalleled mentorship, skills, and institutional knowledge. There are LGBT millennials who need scholarships to attend quality educational institutions focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) so that after they graduate they can launch the next wave of startups that will address our local, regional, and global challenges.

The 2018 WBA LGBT Economic Summit and Conference will bring the movement home to San Francisco, where it started and where together we will find the inspiration, the innovation, and focus to move toward our fifth decade of growth and community service.

We invite you to join us in this celebration of ‘all things entrepreneurial’ and ‘all things possible!’ It will be a powerful, and unforgettable, experience.

Stay tuned for details!

New Member Spotlight – January 2017


An important part of the GGBA’s mission is to foster community within San Francisco’s LGBT business community. Each month we will spotlight our most recent members.

As you can see, our LGBT businesses are very diverse! Our membership includes tech firms, financial services, coaches, design firms, and more.

Please click on the names of new individual and company members below. Start getting to know your community today!

GGBA’s Fabulous January Members

Look forward to getting to know our latest members in next month’s new member spotlight.
Not a member? Click HERE to join.

New Member Spotlight – December 2016


An important part of the GGBA’s mission is to foster community within San Francisco’s LGBT business community. Each month we will spotlight our most recent members.

As you can see, our LGBT businesses are very diverse! Our membership includes tech firms, financial services, coaches, design firms, and more.

Please click on the names of new individual and company members below. Start getting to know your community today!

GGBA’s Fabulous New Members

Look forward to getting to know our latest members in next month’s new member spotlight.

Not a member? Click here to join.


Celebrating 2016! for the GGBA, It Was a Great Year


2016 was an incredible year for the GGBA. We said goodbye to some very cherished and loved members and we said hello to growth, opportunity and significant breakthroughs in economic equality.

Here is a quick snapshot of some of our key successes as we welcome 2017:

GGBA received the honor of being named the San Francisco Advocacy Organization of the Year by the San Francisco Council of District Merchants Association.

Advocated for, and won, first-ever LGBT certified business in the history of the United States, GGBA Member Equator Coffees and Teas, to be named “Small Business of the Year” as designated by the United States Small Business Administration.

Advocated for, and provided technical assistance to, GGBA Member Laner Electric to receive the largest construction contract awarded through a competitive bidding process to an LGBT certified firm in the United States on a Public Works project (San Francisco Central Subway and Transbay Transit Center Projects) with an overall value in access for $14 Million.

Advocated for, and won, inclusion of LGBT Businesses in the NFL/Super Bowl 50’s Procurement Program marking the first time in the history of the United States for this level of participation to take place. Nearly 20 GGBA members received meaningful contracts in the competitive bidding process of this historic event.

Advocated, with our colleagues at the Castro Merchants, to secure a $50,000 pro-bono advertising campaign from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to promote shopping/dining in the Upper Market Area during Super Bowl 50.

Developed, in concert with the San Francisco Business Times, the first-ever “Top 50 LGBT Owned Businesses Roster” to be published in the world.

Advocated for, and won, the opportunity for LGBT-owned businesses to self-identify as such in the San Francisco Local Business Enterprise Certification process.

Worked in concert with our colleagues at the Silicon Valley Rainbow Chamber of Commerce and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority to have the VTA be the first public transportation agency in the United States to codify, through the full legislative process, the inclusion of LGBT-certified firms to their competitive bidding process.

Achieved the highest local, statewide, national media visibility in the GGBA’s 43 year history.

We’re thrilled to make 2017 even better, and we want you to join us as we continue to make history.

Join the GGBA. Click here to become a member of our nation’s first LGBT chamber of commerce.

Buy a Home in San Francisco: New Residential Lending Options for Self Employed Borrowers

By Jackie Cuneo

This guest post from long-time member and GGBA board member Jackie Cuneo of Summit Funding provides advice and insider tips on finding alternatives to standard home loans that can turn even small business owners into home owners.


If you are self-employed and have tried to buy or refinance a home in the last few years, you know how difficult it can be to show the income needed to qualify for a home loan.

Your CPA asks you to keep meticulous records so you can take as many deductions as possible. When your company income does get stronger, you’re encouraged to make additional investments in your business to grow. Perhaps you have hired additional help, made capital equipment investments, or incurred other expenses that help propel your business forward, but which reduce your net taxable income, sometimes even producing an on-paper loss. While this may lighten your tax bill, the amount on your tax returns that’s available to qualify for residential financing is often far lower than is needed. So what can you do?

Most residential loans qualify self-employed borrowers using net business income after deductions.  If your business is incorporated, K1 distributions are used. If a borrower owns more than 25% of a corporation, corporate returns are also considered, and any company losses must be assigned to the borrower regardless of whether corporate debt is personally guaranteed by the borrower, or if there is significant cash value to the business from investors. If the company is running at a loss, the borrower’s salary may also be removed from qualifying income calculations.

However, there is hope in a new class of residential loans, known as “Non QM” which allow as low as 5% down, higher DTI ratios, and can use different methods to calculate income for self-employed borrowers:

Qualify with personal cash flow, as shown by 24+ months of bank deposits.

Qualify with rental income from the property, if the property is fully or partially rented

Qualify with personal assets, amortized over time to generate a “virtual income” formula.

To use one of these loans, we look for the following:

Operating as self-employed for 2+ years, and has filed taxes as self-employed for 2+ tax years, evidenced by a letter from the borrower’s tax preparer. Tax returns are NOT required.

Business existence must be verifiable by a 3rd party source, such as Business License, Corporate Entity public records, and any other necessary operating licenses for that business type.

6-18 months reserves for each property owned (varies per program)

In some cases, business assets may be even used for downpayment and/or reserves.

If you’ve been turned away for financing by a retail lender, even the bank where you have your business accounts, there still may be a way for you to purchase or refinance a 1-4 unit residential property.  Look for a residential lender who offers Non-QM loans or special loans for self-employed borrowers, in addition to a full suite of “regular” home loans. Purchasing a new property, or refinancing your home to pull cash out, lower rate, or change loan types, may be possible after all.

Jackie Cuneo is a Licensed Residential Mortgage Lender, former SF Realtor, and proud member of the GGBA. She can be reached at or

An Interview with Sandra Escalante

By Paul Pendergast

This interview, an ongoing series, is part of the GGBA’s commitment to build relationships and share our members’ successes. If you’d like to be highlighted, don’t hesitate to reach out to and we’ll get your business’s story heard.


It was in November 2015 when Sandra Escalante, owner of Laner Electric, became a member of the GGBA attended her first GGBA event. It was at a GGBA Business ‘Pop Up’ when she and several of her team members made their way into the Kabuki Hotel where she had multiple rooms of LGBT and Allied businesses, entrepreneurs and employees to meet. From that point forward — it has been a great ride!  Some key facts about Sandra and Laner Electric:

  • Offices in San Francisco (Treasure Island) and Richmond, CA
  • Made the Top 50 LGBT List for 2016
  • Made the Top 50 Minority-Owned Business List for 2016
  • Made the Top 100 Women-Owned Business List for 2016
  • Certified as an LGBT Business Enterprise with the NGLCC
  • Certified as an SBE with the State of California
  • Certified as a MBE with the Minority Supplier Diversity Council

Here are segments of a recent conversation with Sandra:

Before you purchased Laner Electric in 2014 — were you already working in the electrical supplies/materials industry?

Oh yes!  I’ve been in the electrical business for over 20 years where I held executive positions with a number of incredibly successful companies that were generating hundreds of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of revenue.  It’s a great industry full of some very smart people. It was exciting. It was full of challenges and I learned a lot from people I worked with.

What made you decide to Purchase Laner Electric.

Well, I had a life-altering situation occur when I was 38 that made me stop and take stock of my life. Here I was at the top of my game as an executive where I spent as much time developing relationships with clients after 5:00pm as I did during the traditional work day.  As a Filipina, family is incredibly important to me and following ‘the event’ I decided it was time for a change.  I needed to step back. Take some time off and recharge my batteries. Well, you can imagine how long that lasted before I had to jump back into business — but I did it differently.  I bought Laner Electric and decided to be the master of my own domain!

So, as soon as you bought Laner Electric it was smooth sailing, right?

Oh my gosh.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  We’re a small business and that comes with millions of challenges and hundreds of decisions that need to be made daily. I bought Laner as an existing business so there are always pluses and minuses with that. It takes tenacity, focus, and discipline every day to make a business grow.  We’ve got ten employees — that means we’ve got payroll to make, benefits to fund, taxes to pay, and an ever-changing industry that has razor thin margins.

When you joined the GGBA in 2015 was it an instant success?

Let’s be realistic here. To me GGBA gives me the opportunity to build meaningful relationships that are built on integrity and trust. One of my mantras from the beginning of my career has always been to be more interested in the person I’m talking to than I am about promoting my business.  The GGBA has tons of interesting, dynamic, and authentic people.  The people I have met through the GGBA have literally transformed my business. Instead of thinking about what the GGBA could do for me and my business — my approach was more like:  who should I invest my time/energy in getting to know where we can benefit mutually benefit each other’s business.

So no overnight success?

This isn’t the lottery.  Building relationships is a lot like construction.  You build a great foundation and you can build anything on top of it. But yes — the GGBA to me means success. I will say that in my experience having been in the GGBA for just over a year — the key relationships which have led to my success have taken shape very rapidly. They are a very warm and welcoming group of business people.

So you were just given the $14 Million in contracts on the Transbay Transit Center and Central Subway Projects because you joined the GGBA?

Absolutely not. Once I met the people in the GGBA who had access to these projects it was about developing another layer of relationships with the people who actually had the contract opportunities. From there it was about building trust, demonstrating our business acumen, and about being the solution to their challenges. I don’t think I’ve worked harder than I have creating the environment where I would be asked to compete in the competitive bidding process. Then, and only then, when Laner was the lowest bidder, were we successful.

So the keys to using the GGBA as a tool to win new contracts were what, exactly?

This is an easy one. First, I identified the people within the GGBA who understood the value my business could bring and then I got to know them well.  And I mean really well, so that they could become a champion of our business.  Second, we didn’t have an effective tool to showcase our business so we took the GGBA up on their offer to create our company line card.  We use that line card everywhere now and everyone should have one!! Third, when I was introduced to the key people who have the actual contract opportunities I continued to work with the GGBA to identify new banks that we could work with to increase our financial strength and gain access to business mentors and different resources fast-growth companies need.

So joining the GGBA has been worth it for you . . . .

$14 million and growing worth it! Let me say this again — without the GGBA these contracts would not have happened. We never would have been able to navigate our way through these enormous public works projects. It has been ‘life-changing’ for my business. If there is one thing I’ve learned in life — it is about seizing the opportunity. The second thing I think I’ve learned by this point is that the GGBA makes me feel a part of a real and authentic community.  My wife adores the people she has met through the GGBA. I enjoy being a lesbian owning a construction company which is typically male-dominated and for the most part straight. I feel that I’m an advocate for the LGBT business community. It’s a quadruple win!

Any advice for others?

Yes! Join and jump In. This is not a spectator sport. Use the GGBA as a leveraging tool and be sure you’re always ‘giving back’ to the organization by participating. I love the GGBA and the people who are moving forward this movement of economic equality. The best money I have ever invested!  Ever!!

Impact Builder: Cyber Security for Small Businesses & Supplier Diversity Do’s and Don’t’s

On September 14, 2016, the GGBA launched its first in a series of Impact Builders. These educational and networking opportunities teach our businesses how to take advantage of their status as certified LGBTBEs, increase their business acumen, and get face to face with key supplier diversity professionals.

Focusing on how to create a positive and memorable impression on supplier diversity and how to prepare for coming changes in cyber security requirements, this workshop provided a ton of valuable information. For a summary of tips provided by supplier diversity professionals from AT&T and McKesson, read this post about how to be memorable — in a good way.

Our  next Impact Builder, themed around subcontracting strategies and opportunities, will be held September 28, 2016, from noon to 4 pm at the Small Business Association at 455 Market Street, 6th floor. This event, sponsored by Southern California Edison, is a must-attend for LGBT businesses that want to get in the door and begin to  leverage supplier diversity opportunities. Lunch will be served.



‘Shared Retirement Confidence’ – Six steps every same-sex couple should consider taking

By Sarah Heegaard Rush, CFP®, ADPA SM, Senior Financial Advisor, Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC

Published: Friday, September 4, 2015

Sarah Heegaard Rush, CFP®, ADPA SM, Senior Financial Advisor, Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC

Sarah Heegaard Rush, CFP®, ADPA SM, Senior Financial Advisor, Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC

Creating a ‘Shared Retirement Confidence’

Six steps every same-sex couple should consider taking

If you’re worried about having enough money to someday retire with your loved one to a comfortable lifestyle, you’re not alone. According to a recent study, retirement is the number-one financial concern for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans.* That concern may only grow as laws pertaining to same-sex marriages continue to evolve and couples plan for a shared retirement.

The good news is that there are steps same-sex couples can take right now to create a unified understanding — and a shared confidence — of how and when you’ll both be able to retire.

Step 1: Review your current financial statuses and goals

The first step is to start the conversation about where you are today. Together, review how much you have in checking and savings accounts, certificates of deposit (CDs), retirement accounts, stocks and bonds, and other investment accounts. Then discuss your current financial goals. For instance, do you foresee buying a new home in the future? Are there upcoming educational funding needs? Do you want to be debt-free by a certain date? Coming to an agreement on your right-now goals is necessary before you can begin to plan for retirement.

Step 2: Discuss your lifestyle expectations for retirement

Take the time now to discuss your expectations and hopes for retirement. Together, answer questions such as: Is downsizing after retirement a good idea? Is travel a priority? Where do you want to live? Is continuing to give to charity important? Once you’ve established your joint vision, it’s easier to work together to ensure your financial retirement strategy is on track.

Step 3: Do the preliminary math

The next step is to figure out, given your collective vision, what types of monthly expenses you’ll have after retirement and how much monthly income you’ll eventually need to afford the retirement lifestyle you’ve agreed on. With this information, you’ll gain a better understanding of what your retirement financial goals should be. Plus, you’ll have a better idea of when it might make sense for each of you to retire, given how much you need to save.

Step 4: Make beneficiary naming a priority

Part of developing a shared confidence in the long-term future is knowing you’ll each have surviving-partner access to your combined assets. That’s why it’s essential for all same-sex couples to have written wills and to clearly name their partners as a beneficiary on banking, investment, and retirement accounts. You’ll also want to check to see whether or not your surviving partner will be able to roll any inherited retirement benefits directly into their own retirement account. This will depend on your marital status and specific employer rules.

Step 5: Know the current rules on Social Security benefits

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 Windsor decision and the the 2015 Obergefell decision reinforces how important it is to develop a strategy for claiming your Social Security benefits as a couple. According to the Social Security website, “more same-sex couples will be recognized as married for purposes of determining entitlement to Social Security benefits…” The site also encourages anyone to apply if you believe you are eligible for benefits. You may want to periodically revisit the site for updates.

Step 6: Schedule a meeting with a Financial Advisor who understands your unique needs

Retirement planning is complicated, perhaps even more so for same-sex couples today. So even if you think you have a handle on your joint plans, it’s a good idea to meet with a Financial Advisor who is aware of the nuances of retirement planning for same-sex couples and who can help you navigate your way, together, with certainty.

An excellent resource is our company’s team of Financial Advisors. They were the first in the industry to be trained and certified through the Accredited Domestic Partnership AdvisorSM (ADPA) program. Visit for more information.

Wells Fargo Advisors does not offer legal or tax advice.

*The LGBT Financial Experience, 2012-2013 Prudential Research Study

©2015 Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC. All rights reserved.

2015 Top Six San Francisco Bay Area Wedding Planners and Event Planners – Sullivan and Botello

Published: Friday, April 1, 2015

Fred and Jaime are two of the sweetest wedding planners I have ever met. But more importantly as team these two are unstoppable. They are married and are able to live and breathe their dream of creating a couple’s dream day every day!!

Question: Describe Sullivan Botello

Answer: Our business was born out of passion and creativity. Collectively we have 31 years of experience working in hotels, restaurants, casinos, and events from big to small. We started our business because we wanted to help couples having the best experience and plan out the best day possible.

Fred has a background as an executive chef and Jaime has a background as a graphic designer and does a great deal of the marketing. They are both certified Wedding and Event Planners.

Question: What would be a dream wedding to plan for?

Answer: A Hello Kitty themed wedding. It would be so much fun!!

Question: What inspires you?

Answer: Good people. We like to be able to mentor ourselves after those that we respect and find that has positive effects on our lives and the lives of our clients. We really love planning for weddings of different cultures and find it inspiring to be a part of it.

Question: What do you do better than anyone else?

Answer: We care. We personally connect with each and every client, listen to their needs and wants and over deliver. They get exactly what they’ve asked for and always a little something extra. Because we are great at reading people we can anticipate the couple’s needs. Because we are a gay owned and operated husband and husband couple we bring a great twist to the industry. We provide a service for the need that is out there and really can connect with our clients.

Thanks Fred and Jaime for the great interview!!!! Have a great wedding season. If you want to contact them for your wedding or event, check below for they’re info.

Sullivan Botello Contact info

1. Website
2. Facebook         Facebook2         Twitter               Pinterest              Google+
4. Email                Company            Fred                  Jaime
5. Phone               Office: 415 334 7394 – Fax 844 269 9308

Booking with Liz is easy. Check out how to book your Candid Documentary San Francisco Wedding and Engagement Photographer session here. Or just contact Liz here.

NGLCC Business Enterprise Certification is Good For Business; Interview with Dawn Ackerman

Published: Feb. 24, 2015

 Dawn at work





Photo of Dawn Ackerman by Paul Chinn, San Francisco Chronicle

Becoming part of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce’s (NGLCC) Supplier Diversity Initiative is about more than supporting the national movement for LGBT equality. It’s about helping small businesses become recognized and make money, thereby bolstering the economic base of the entire LGBT community. The GGBA sat down with Dawn Ackerman to find out why it’s important for GGBA’s small business members to get certified to become part of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) Supplier Diversity Initiative in advance of the free LGBT Business Builder event taking place on March 2, 2015.

Dawn is vice president of the GGBA Board of Directors and President, CFO, and co-founder of OutSmart Office Solutions, a full-service office interior design and space planning company. In 2012, OutSmart Office Solutions was recognized as the NGLCC’s 2012 LGBT Supplier of the Year.

GGBA: You’re very involved with the NGLCC. Will you tell us why you’re so involved?

Dawn: When I was living in Los Angeles in 2004, I heard from a fellow business owner that there was a new, National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, and they were having their conference in San Francisco to talk about LGBT Business Enterprise certification. I decided to buy a ticket and come to San Francisco to check out this conference. While I was at that conference, I learned about certification, and I learned that there were LGBT Chambers all over the country. I joined the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Chamber and started understanding how important certification could be for LGBT businesses—if they knew about it. We’ve been promoting it now for almost 10 years.

I also met my business partner at that San Francisco conference. Over the next few years we decided we would form a new company, get certified, and work together. We formed Outsmart Office Solutions in 2007. In 2009, we went to the NGLCC conference and that’s where we met Office Depot. In 2010 we became their first LGBT partner and in 2013 we became their first and only LGBT vendor with our own line of product.

[Read more…]

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