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…]

New California Law Aims To Help Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender-Owned Businesses

Published: Friday, Jan. 2, 2015

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – A first-of-its-kind law in California is aimed at helping certified businesses owned by those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

The law requires big public utilities in the state to report how much work they do with LGBT business owners. Utilities like Pacific Gas & Electric already have to report how many businesses they contract with who are owned by ethnic minorities, women and disabled veterans. Now, LGBT-certified businesses are on that list as well.

“Having the certification is a great way to get your foot in the door so that you can look at some of those opportunities and bid to win some of those contracts,” said Sam McClure, Vice President of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, which issues the certifications. “Every business owner should have a seat at the economic table. That includes women-owned businesses, minority-owned businesses, disabled veterans and LGBT.”

Big companies, the federal government, and organizations such as the National Football League have already begun making explicit efforts to contract with these certified companies.

McClure said the hope is that the new law will give some of these smaller businesses a chance.

“The biggest opportunities are going to be in construction or very specific things that are specific to utilities like laying cable,” he said. “I think we’re going to see prime contractors that are currently doing business with the companies that are in the California Public Utilities Commission reaching out to try to find tier 2 and 3 suppliers who are diverse as well.”

The law doesn’t mandate any contracting, but it does give the public a chance to see who is being chosen.

It covers every electrical, gas, water, wireless telecommunications service provider and telephone corporations with annual revenues exceeding $25 million. The law defines an LGBT business enterprise as one that is at least 51 percent owned by a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person or persons.

LGBT-owned businesses get diversity boost

By Lisa Leff, Associated Press

Published: Friday, Jan. 2, 2015

SAN FRANCISCO — As a Mexican-American woman who started her own consulting firm in Los Angeles, accountant Sonia Luna has taken advantage of programs aimed at helping minority- and women-owned businesses compete for government and corporate contracts. But increasingly, the fact that Luna also is a lesbian entrepreneur hasn’t hurt either.

Federal agencies, organizations such as the National Football League and more than one-third of Fortune 500 companies are now trying to expand their vendor pools by explicitly encouraging bids from gay, lesbian and transgender contractors.

The little-known outreach efforts mirror long-standing “supplier diversity” initiatives aimed at creating economic opportunities for businesses owned by racial minorities, women and disabled veterans.

“It allows me to be even prouder of who I am,” said Luna, who hopes her firm, Aviva Spectrum, will benefit from a new California law requiring large utility companies to report how much they spend with LGBT contractors. “And it allows the marketplace to acknowledge a class that has been denied recognition as a minority group.”

The trend has not been without controversy.

[Read more…]

NFL Inroad – Gay Businesses Offered Opportunities for 2016 Super Bowl

By  , Washington Blade

Published: Thursday,  Dec, 4, 2014

Over the past few years, several professional, college and Olympic athletes have come out of the closet. And the sports communities from which they come have launched diversity training programs and guidelines to educate their athletes, coaches and staff.

It is safe to say that the sports world is paying attention to the LGBT community.

Earlier this summer, it was announced that the United States Tennis Association had become a corporate partner with the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and would be opening their supply chain to LGBT-certified businesses.

And now, the National Football League has announced that the San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee will include Bay Area LGBT-certified businesses in its Business Connect program for contracting opportunities related to the Super Bowl championship game to be held at Levi’s Stadium on Feb. 7, 2016.

[Read more…]

The Outfield on SiriusXM: SF Bay Area leaders on the kinds of LGBT businesses needed for Super Bowl 50

By Eddie Robinson, The Outfield, SirusXM Entertainment

Published: Monday, Nov. 17, 2014

Listen to GGBA Public Policy Chair Paul Pendergast and San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee CEO Tony Bruce discuss the Committees inclusion of LGBT-owned businesses in the biggest sporting event in the country.

Clip: SF Bay city leaders describe new NFL partnership w/LGBT businesses

Clip: The Outfield: SF city leaders talk about value of Super Bowl 2016 contracts for LGBT stores

Clip: The Outfield: SF Bay Area leaders on the kinds of LGBT businesses needed for Super Bowl 50

The Outfield, an LGBT radio show, is a live call-in show hosted by sports broadcaster Eddie Robinson and features interviews with LGBT athletes and LGBT allies as they discuss sports, fitness, and the advancement of openly gay athletes competing in sports at all levels.

Super Bowl 50 Is Working Hard to Be LGBT-Friendly

By Pete Kane, SF Weekly

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014

Apart from certain religious hierarchies, professional sports remains perhaps the biggest pocket of institutional homophobia left in American society.

But that, too, might be changing.

The Chronicle reported last week that in preparation for Super Bowl 50 (which will be played in 2016 at Levi’s Stadium), the National Football League is adding LGBT-owned small businesses to its outreach efforts. Business Connect, which is intended to “increase opportunities for minority, women, disabled veteran” and LGBT-owned businesses, is a joint project between the NFL and the Bay Area’s host committee. Apart from being the right thing to do, it’s also a shrewd business move in such an LGBT-heavy region.

[Read more…]

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