#55: Storytelling is critical to the success of lgbt businesses everywhere! Are you telling yours? [Podcast] - Jenn T. Grace—Book Publisher, Speaker, and Author Skip to the content

#55: Storytelling is critical to the success of lgbt businesses everywhere! Are you telling yours? [Podcast]

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AUDIO TITLE:  Episode #55 – Paul Collanton

Jenn T Grace:

You are listening to the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy, Episode 55.

Intro:

Welcome to the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast where you’ll learn how to do business with and market to the LGBT community in an authentic and transparent way. We’re talking about the $790 billion lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender community. We’ll help you grow your business, gain market share and impact your bottom line. And now your host – she’s an entrepreneur, a marketing maven and an advocate for the LGBT business community. Jenn, with two N’s, T. Grace.

Jenn T Grace:

Hello! Welcome to episode #55 of the podcast. Today’s episode is a rerun of a podcast episode I aired back in August 2013. I am doing this because I am currently in Miami speaking at the New Mainstream Business Summit! Since I have so many new listeners each day, giving you a throwback to episode #15 when we are on episode #55 seemed like it could be a cool thing to do. This episode covers a lot of ground about LGBT business, marketing and communications. It is co-hosted with Paul Collanton of the Gay Ambitions Podcast while sitting together at the NGLCC Conference. Overall, it’s a great episode and I hope you enjoy. I promise episode #56 will be a new episode! Thanks for being a listener – you are awesome!

Paul Collanton:

I’m so excited to be sitting here with Jenn T. Grace at the conclusion of the NGLCC 2013 conference. This was my first conference and I’m so excited to be here, met incredible people, attended a ton of workshops and just learned a lot all around. And it’s so great to be sitting here with you.

Jenn T Grace:

I’m excited for us to be sitting together. I don’t even know how we actually found each other. How that happened.

Paul Collanton:

It’s the online world. I think it was Twitter.

Jenn T Grace:

It is, we’re a very well connected world. Was it?

Paul Collanton:

No, LinkedIn. LinkedIn back in January we connected through the LGBT Professional Group.

Jenn T Grace:

Yes, yes. And since there’s few media podcasters or bloggers or whatnot in our space, voila. We have to team up; we have to do something together.

Paul Collanton:

We have to. And yeah we were on similar courses, and then one of the things that came out of that that I learned of, was your 30 Days, 30 Voices special Pride Month project; which was incredible and ground-breaking, and I think it was awesome and educational for everyone. Can you share a little bit with the listeners and the viewers about what was the inspiration behind that project?

Jenn T Grace:

.

Yeah, so I started my podcast- the actual podcast, not the 30 Days, 30 Voices project, but just my podcast in general back in January. And it’s a biweekly podcast, so I’ve always been trying to find one guest per month. And what happens is that I know so many people who are amazing and have amazing stories. And I had two separate conversations and one of the folks is from within the NGLCC family. And I was talking to him and I was thinking, ‘Damn he has such a brilliance about him.’ And it’s a gentleman named Stan Kimer who’s part of the 30 Days, 30 Voices project. And he’s just a genius, but like totally unsuspecting. So I was like, ‘How can I get him in my lineup of shows, and how can I get this other person, and this other person?’ I’m like, ‘There’s only one a month I can do.’ So I said- I had an epiphany, and it was in the shower because I feel like that’s just where I have thoughts.

Paul Collanton:

Singing along?

Jenn T Grace:

Seriously. And I come like flying out of the shower and I was staying at a hotel in the area. And my wife is like- you can just tell when something crazy is going to strike. I’m like, ‘I have it.’ I’m like, ‘I’m going to interview thirty people all thirty days of June and it’s going to be all around LGBT business owners and business leaders.’ And she was like, ‘How are you going to pull that off,’ because it was February. I was like, ‘I don’t know yet, but I’m going to do it.’ And that’s kind of what it was. And it was really- it’s not about me, it’s about me sharing the stories of other people which is so exciting. Because you never know what past people have until you start asking questions.

Paul Collanton:

That’s awesome. And what my mind immediately goes to is, ‘How did she do it? That’s such an ambitious project.’ How did you get it done? So can you maybe take us a little bit through the process of idea to execution, right? Because that’s always the hard part.

Jenn T Grace:

It is. So I started in February, and I immediately was like, ‘If I’m going to get this done, I’m really going to have to step it up.’ So what I did was I put together a list of thirty people that I wanted to interview and almost everybody that you heard in that series, I’ve had a connection with at some point or another. I think there was only two people that I didn’t really know prior to interviewing them. So it was like February 22nd. I looked at my calendar, I was like, ‘Alright. Every Wednesday and Friday from now through June I’m dedicating to getting recordings done.’ So then I put together this master calendar and I had post-it notes, because I wanted to make sure I had LGBT, men, women, business owners, corporation, non-profits. So I had to get it all mapped out in this giant matrix. So I had like post-it notes everywhere to figure out who I was going to interview on which days and whatnot. And then I had to coordinate with people’s schedules. So I spent about four or five hours every Wednesday, and four or five hours every Friday, and I didn’t stop until June 28th when I was recording one of the last ones. So I had almost all of them done by June 1st. And then I had to edit them, I had to post them online, I had to create the blog post, I had to have interns actually listen to the interview to get all the links out of it. So it was- it took a lot of hours. If I actually look at how many hours it took me I would probably cry. But, I’m so proud of the outcome that I’m okay with it. They would be tears of joy.

Paul Collanton:

I loved it. It’s such a good service to community, so thanks for doing it. And I feel honored and privileged to be a part of it.

Jenn T Grace:

It was great to have you on there, because again I wanted to have a diversity of businesses and diversity of professions. And there’s so few people out there that are focused on telling other people’s stories which is what we both do. So it was great to have you on and hear your story and how you ended up where you were which is always interesting.

Paul Collanton:

And it was a lot of fun, and now I’m here.

Jenn T Grace:

Yes, and I lured you to the conference.

Paul Collanton:

You did.

Jenn T Grace:

Which was like my number one success for this week, is that I got somebody who did not know about the NGLCC to come to this conference?

Paul Collanton:

Yes.

Jenn T Grace:

Which is a life changer.

Paul Collanton:

Oh I’m sure when we look back on this, like five, ten years from now, I’m going to be like, ‘Wow, this was a turning point for both of us. This is the connection that happened.’ And so I am going to turn the tables now onto you.

Jenn T Grace:

Please, let’s try.

Paul Collanton:

And as you a question that you asked me. I’d like to know more about your story. We hear bits and pieces of it on your podcast and through your blog posts, but I want to know how did you get started, how did you get to where you are today, what was your ‘ah-ha’ moment?

Jenn T Grace:

You asked me all of them. And do you know what’s funny is that every time I ask somebody that question, I start thinking about it for myself but then I never actually follow through with the thought. So when you said that you were going to turn the tables, I was like, ‘Alright I’ve got to figure out how to articulate this.’ But, so I circa ten years ago was working in retail management, which for somebody who’s out, retail management versus like a corporation are totally different. There’s just a different environment, a different atmosphere. So I was totally out at work, no qualms or nothing, and it was like an outdoor sporting store and I was the apparel manager. So it’s not like- I was meeting tons of LGBT people all the time, so it was never an issue. Then I got offered a position, because I had my undergrad. So I’m like, ‘You know what, I’m getting out of retail. I’m just going to go, try to find a corporate job.’ And I’m in the Connecticut area, Hartford, insurance capital of the world. So it’s like a rite of passage almost, to have to go into insurance at some point. So I was applying for like just some random customer service job, and the CEO of the company looked at my resume and was like, ‘Oh, I see you have this marketing experience. We need somebody in marketing, do you want to do that?’ I’m like, ‘Sure, anything at this point is better than retail.’ It was just one of those things. So I didn’t realize how quickly I would have to just like go back in the closet, and it had been like years. Like I have just never really been in the closet, it’s just not how I evolved. So I had to go back in the closet and it was a company of only like 90 employees- yeah it was under 100 employees. But it was such a terrible environment because I didn’t know anyone else who was LGBT because if we look at the percentages it’s only like 3% of the total population, so that’s slim pickin’s for a company of 90 people.

Paul Collanton:

One or two, right?

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah. And I’m like the token one. So it was just awkward and it was uncomfortable and on like the second week in- and I was in a long term relationship at the time, and I was with somebody that had a gender neutral name. So I could get away with saying her name but it turns into the pronoun game, right? So if you say, ‘Oh what did you do this weekend?’ And I say, ‘Well-‘ (and I don’t want to use her real name, so I’ll say Jaime because that’s also gender neutral). ‘Jaime and I hung out at the beach,’ and I can’t say ‘she’ and I did this, I have to say ‘Jaime and I did this, or Jaime and I did that and Jaime cooks great dinners.’ And then it’s like I sound like dumb. It’s like I sound like I’m trying to do a third grader workbook. So it’s like I’m teaching a third grader how to do English is how everything I was saying sounded. So I developed this really great relationship with a colleague, and she asked me some question, and it was like that moment like do I out myself or do I not out myself? And of course I didn’t. But I didn’t know how close we were going to become and even today we’re really still close and that was ten years ago. And so it was like two or three weeks later I’m like, ‘I can’t do this.’ So I’m like, ‘Nikki, I’ve got tell you something.’ And I literally showed her the picture that I had on my desk of myself, my girlfriend at the time, and a bunch of our friends because that was the only way I could put myself on the desk with my family at the time. So it was like a group picture, because clearly it wasn’t just me and her like, ‘hey,’ glamour shots just chilling on our desks as if that’d be okay. So I told her and she was like, ‘Oh.’ Like she could care less and I knew she wasn’t going to care, that was never my concern, it was the fact that I was lying to her for like two months prior to that. And I felt guilty about it and she’s like, ‘I don’t give a shit.’ But then the problem was is that now she knew, and then some of the younger sales managers that we used to go out drinking with, they also knew and it was never and issue. But everyone else would say like really derogatory comments, and talking about how so-and-so looks like a dyke in like the lunch room. And it was just totally because no one had any idea that I could possibly be gay. So I had to deal with that crap, so I’m like, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ So it was like five years of dealing with this kind of stuff. But prior to that I said, ‘I quit.’ So I went to the CEO, I’m like, ‘Listen I enjoy my job but I don’t enjoy the way I’m being treated.’ And he’s like, ‘Well what’s the problem?’ And then so I outed myself to him and he didn’t even seem to bat an eyelash about it, he was totally fine. And then he’s like, ‘Well what can we do to keep you?’ I was like, ‘Well I don’t really know.’ He’s like, ‘Come back to me in a couple of days with what you think I can do to keep you as an employee.’ I’m like, ‘Okay.’ So I came back like three days later, I was like, ‘I’ve got it. I want us to market to the LGBT community.’ So that’s when I like literally outed myself to the entire company. Because now here’s Jenn, working on this specific LGBT marketing outreach project. And he gave me the full backing, the full support, but what happened is that the derogatory comments just continued even though people knew I was working on this. So I would be out at a trade show at like the IGLTA which is the Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, and saying, ‘You need to do business with us, we’re so great for the community, it’s so supportive,’ and meanwhile I was getting hit with all this discrimination and crap behind the scenes. So I felt terrible because I’m trying to convince consumers to come use our products because we’re so gay friendly, and we were the furthest from it. So then it was like conflicting with my own belief system so I was like, ‘You know what? I’m done.’ I tried it for from 2007 to 2009 I tried to make it work. And this whole time- in 2007 the Connecticut LGBT Chamber of Commerce started. And right before it launched which was in October, the president of the chamber said to me- she found me in the directory because of the NGLCC. Because I had the company that I was working for at the time join the NGLCC as a member. So you just look in Connecticut and there’s like three people who were members so of course she was like, ‘There’s my board of directors,’ essentially is what she was looking at. So she’s like, ‘I see that you’re a marketing manager, do you want to help do marketing for the chamber?’ I was like, ‘Well what the hell is a chamber of commerce?’ I had no idea- no clue what I was getting into. So then she came into the office one day, her also along with the title of my book ‘Doesn’t Look Gay,’ according to stereotypes and whatnot. So there was a lot of like weird looks when she was in the office and everyone’s like, ‘What the hell are they talking about?’ And it was her recruiting me in to be on the board for the chamber. And that just really kind of evolved. So I did the marketing, I was the marketing chair for a while because I had to prove myself because I was only 25. And if you’re 25 you can’t be on a board of directors, to some people. It was a really strange experience. But then I ended up being just on the board, and then I was the secretary of the board. So I just slowly inched my way through the chamber board. And then so I’m having this shitty time at work, and I’m enjoying everything in my life about working with the chamber because I’m meeting business owners, we’re throwing events, we’re connecting people, we’re exploring opportunities for people. So the chamber was at a pivotal point of, we kind of need to hire somebody to take it to the next level. And my job just sucked. So I was like, ‘I’m going to take a leap of faith,’ and of course my wife was like, ‘I can’t believe this is happening but I will support you.’ So I was like, ‘I’m quitting my job!’ And she’s like, ‘Okay. I see how shitty and how much you hate your job, so I support you,’ which is a longstanding thing of her supporting me. So but I didn’t even have a guarantee that the chamber was going to hire me, it was just kind of like a ‘maybe.’ Like maybe we can afford to hire you. So I literally was like, ‘I’m done.’ It was November 4th, I remember specifically because I was like skipping out of the building. I was like, ‘I’m done.’ And I literally felt like the weight of the world was gone and I skipped literally out of the building. I was like, ‘I am a new person.’ And then I started a contract with the chamber on December 1st. So it was like less than a month. Which then- the whole chamber, I did that since December 1st of 2009 until March 31st of this past year. And so the NGLCC- so it’s basically a chamber- a local chamber of this national organization. So my goal was to get us as many awards as I could. So this year at the conference, you probably saw that the central Pennsylvania Chamber won the 2013 award, so I did that for our organization in 2011 and then prior to that, the Rising Star award in 2009. So I was on a mission.

Paul Collanton:

That’s awesome, that’s quite the path.

Jenn T Grace:

It’s a long story that I don’t think I’ve articulated in a long time.

Paul Collanton:

Yeah, I did not know any of that. I love that you saw a problem within your company, you tried to solve it. Didn’t totally work so you moved on to the next thing. I feel like it was all tied back to your identity as LGBT and wanting to move things forward for that cause.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, and like with the chamber- so I left in March of this past year because I felt like I did everything. I brought the organization to the pinnacle. I led us to where we needed to be, we won the Chamber of the Year which I was so incredibly proud of, I’m still so proud of. And it’s like, now what. That’s my nature. It’s like I get to a point and then I’m bored. And when I start to feel bored and restless I know it’s time to move on. And the whole time when I was running the chamber I had my business at the same time. So the chamber was a client of mine, technically. So I was doing web design projects, graphic design projects, marketing plans; all sorts of stuff for other people in addition to the chamber. So it’s never like that was my only source of income or time drain for that matter. So then in March of this year I was like, ‘I just can’t do it anymore. I’m burnt out.’ I’m still really involved in the chamber, just not in that capacity anymore. So that’s when I was like, ‘I just need to re-look at how I’m doing things.’ And the opportunity I saw is that chamber members, they’re fantastic people. Like the NGLCC has amazing people around, the local chambers have amazing people. But a lot of times there’s a lot of allies that don’t know how to communicate with the community. So there’s that piece, and then there’s a lot of LGBT business owners, such as ourselves, who may or may not know how to market themselves. So I kind of blended the both of those together to form what is now my new company.

Paul Collanton:

Right. And I wanted to ask you about that. One of the things that I love is that you carved out this very unique niche market for yourself and I think there’s huge potential to grow exponentially. People need to be educated about this stuff, and when you throw the business angle at it, I hear a gold mine coming.

Jenn T Grace:

I think there is, and I wish- and I don’t know what exercise I did. So I have a business coach and she makes me do these random things. Or at the time they seem really random, but then when I actually go back I’m like, ‘Oh my God this is genius.’ But one of them was trying to figure out what actually motivates you in life. And we deemed very early on that money is not what motivates me. It’s making impact and making a difference on people’s lives. And in the case of like working with allies, it’s helping them not kind of fall into the trap of saying inappropriate things, which is the first half of what my book covers, which is- if I’m talking about my kids, please do not have the first thing out of your mouth ask me who gave birth to them, because it’s a little invasive of my privacy. And like if I know somebody I’m more than happy to share. But an ally doesn’t know that, so someone has to teach them that. And then by them knowing that, then it’s kind of expanding out to the greater community. Because now everyone that they touch, is now not having to feel any type of weirdness or awkwardness that maybe they would have had if this person were out there spewing things that you’re like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe she said that.’

Paul Collanton:

Yeah. So tell me more about your book. I’m such a fan and so excited to have this book here. It was on the Kindle and now you have the hard copy here at the conference.

Jenn T Grace:

I do, yes.

Paul Collanton:

Tell me more about why you decided to write it.

Jenn T Grace:

So it’s a good question. I started a blog in November. And it is based purely out of my own everyday interactions. So I am like the go-to LGBT person for everybody around me. And I kind of became that when I was leading the chamber because I was the professional lesbian. Like that’s really- in Connecticut you’re looking to do business, like you have to find the LGBT chambers the conduit, and then it’s like, ‘Well who’s at the top?’ So anybody who’s on the board is kind of the like professional gay or lesbian, or bi or transperson of the community. So everybody comes to me with their problems, their gripes, they’re confused about something, they’re like, ‘Well what does this mean or what does that mean?’ And it’s like I’m sick of having the same conversation over and over again. Especially around things like the difference between like what’s transgender versus transsexual versus transvestite. That’s a long conversation to have. And I was having a lot of it because it’s people asking because they just don’t want to be offensive, they just want to know what the right term is. So I could spew out immediately transgender is the term you need to use, and it’s not transgendered- with the ‘-ed.’ So that was one of my first blog posts was I’m not going to say, ‘Hi my name is Jenn, and I’m lesbianed.’

Paul Collanton:

Exactly.

Jenn T Grace:

It’s just grammatically incorrect. But people say transgendered still, all the time. So that was like one of my first blog posts. So it just kind of spiraled out from there of just writing about random things people say to me. Or, ‘But you don’t look gay,’ which is the title of it and I get people saying that to me all the time and it’s like- I understand that you don’t mean any ill intent behind what you’re saying. But, if I’m comfortable enough to come out to you, you have now just squashed that down to nothing because you’ve marginalized it, because you’re like, ‘But you don’t look gay.’ Which is implying and assuming a whole set of stereotypes that I must fall into to be someone who’s gay. So the book came about by compiling a lot of the stuff that I’d already been writing. And just kind of making it more cohesive so that way somebody could pick it up and have no knowledge of the LGBT community, and by the end, not only know about the community, know the market opportunity, the potential and all that stuff; but they know how to communicate properly and they know how to market their business so they can actually capitalize on their newfound understanding of the community. So it’s kind of like all of that wrapped into a nice little book.

Paul Collanton:

I love it. It’s your business card.

Jenn T Grace:

It is, it totally is. Yeah, it’s pretty exciting.

Paul Collanton:

Can you take us through kind of your process for writing a book? I know that I’ve talked to a lot of authors now and I’m always fascinated by people who write books. What was that experience like for you?

Jenn T Grace:

It’s an interesting experience. Because when you’re writing a blog, like I write specifically just in first person. So if you read one of my blogs, you can actually visualize me actually saying it to you. So I write it exactly like I speak. Because if I try to do it any other way, it would take too long. So it’s like just me throwing out my thoughts on paper, and it’s very conversational, it’s non-threatening, it’s you coming to me with a problem and me saying like, ‘Alright. I know what you just said offended 25 people. You’re not a horrible person because you accidentally made that mistake. This is how you need to correct it, this is the right way to communicate around it.’ Instead of somebody being like, ‘I can’t believe what a horrible person you are. How dare you say something.’ It’s like, well you have to give people the benefit of the doubt and no one’s doing that. So being able to write in that style, and being able to compile the book in that style, I think was a saving grace to be honest. But I had an amazing editor, which kind of-

Paul Collanton:

You interviewed her, right? I think I listened to that one.

Jenn T Grace:

I did. So she’s part of the 30 Days, 30 Voices as well. And the power of the NGLCC comes into play enormously. Because there’s a business woman in New York- Jen Brown, who I’ve interviewed twice on the podcast. And she was like, ‘Oh let’s transcribe our interview, I know this woman Sarah.’ So I’m just assuming that Sara’s probably in the New York area; but that’s not true, she’s actually in Portland, Oregon. So it’s because of knowing people through the NGLCC that I’m able to have this network of people across the land. Because I don’t want somebody editing my book who doesn’t understand the community. Because they’re going to change something and it’s going to totally change the meaning of what my intention was. So I called Sarah up and I was like, ‘I need help. I need some serious help.’ And so I compiled the book by- I spent- I started it in January. Well maybe like the last week of December. And I literally just blocked out two hours of my day, every day for like two months. And I went to a coffee shop that just had like a nice ambiance to it, and had like nice background music, and I had the WiFi turned off, I didn’t have any files with me, I didn’t have my email open, nothing. It was just a blank piece of paper. And I literally just went to town on it and just kept writing and writing and writing, and trying to meld together some of the stuff that I had already written and figure out how it all comes together and I handed it to Sarah and she just kind of saw the vision and was able to kind of rearrange things and change titles, and edit out and make things sound a little bit better and get rid of the stuff that I’m repeating myself over and over again. She’s like, ‘I know you’re trying to make a point, but you could do it this way instead of saying it ten times.’

Paul Collanton:

That’s awesome.

Jenn T Grace:

‘Alright, you’re the editor, you tell me.

Paul Collanton:

That’s commitment, that’s organization. How awesome is it that we can connect with people from around the country, around the world, for these projects and they’re LGBT; they share our vision, they see what we’re trying to accomplish and they can help us. It’s like unprecedented what we can accomplish nowadays.

Jenn T Grace:

It’s seriously amazing when I think about it. Because even if I think to when I first started trying to get the insurance company to market to the community, that was only like 2006-ish, so it wasn’t that long ago. But the connectedness that we have now, was nothing compared- like now it’s just way better than it was then. So it’s like I started writing this with the intention of knowing that all of my friends and family and colleagues in Connecticut would be listening and reading and checking out what I’m doing and be a resource to the people I already know. But I got a phone call from somebody from Bali last week.

Paul Collanton:

Wow.

Jenn T Grace:

I’m like, ‘How in the heck-? How did you find me?’ And it was just Google searching because I have so much content on my site now it’s starting to actually show up pretty high. But I’m like Bali? Really? And I got an email from somebody in Spain like the week before. I got an invitation to speak in Argentina earlier this year, and it’s like this is just- this is like a global reach that I was not expecting.

Paul Collanton:

That’s fantastic.

Jenn T Grace:

Which is exciting, it totally is.

Paul Collanton:

Fantastic. Leads to my next question. So you have this book, you have this great platform, your podcast, your blog, your speaking engagements. What is the next step for you? Where do you see yourself taking this in the next couple of years?

Jenn T Grace:

I wish I had a clear answer to that. So I know that I want to write more books, and I have said in my podcast in the past, it was my business coach’s idea that my sequel should be called, ‘No Wait, You Do Look Gay.’ Which I think would be hilarious, and I think I might end up doing that. I’m just trying to figure out what the content is going to be of that book. Because it’s fun to write and it’s just a great resource to be able to hand to people. I think the next step- and it’s something that I’m working on actually right now, and when, I’m not sure when we’re actually going to air this, but this could be actually already done or about to happen as it airs. But I’m working on training programs in like an online environment. So I already do workshops, you know I have a lot of connections in a lot of places that say, ‘Hey, I read your book. Is there a way that you can make a workshop?’ So I actually have a workshop prepared around the book. That it’s just kind of plug and play. You just tell me where to be, I will show up, and I will execute your workshop. And it’s just around the whole communications thing. Like getting a feel for how well people are with their communicating, or how not so well they are. And then that whole marketing plan thing. You know, ‘Do you have a marketing plan?’ Nine out of ten times, people say, ‘no.’ I’m like, ‘How can you not have one?’ But that’s beside the point. A marketing person would only say that. So it’s like- it’s having a book that I turn into a workshop. But it’s like, well how can I reach more people? Because I only have a certain amount of hours in the day. And my hours are very valuable to me. So I’ve created an online program that has modules. And you go to my website, which all of this will be available hopefully in the next couple of weeks. And you can sit down wherever you are- someone in Denver, you can just sit down and go through the entire module series. So in the first part we talk about what’s your ‘why?’ So that’s the way I like weed out potential clients. Like if you come to me and you say, ‘I really want to work with you, I want to reach out to the LGBT community.’ I say, ‘Well, why?’ And if you look at me with a blank face, which happens, but you can eventually get to whatever your ‘why’ is. So maybe your sister is a lesbian, or you yourself are gay, or you had somebody in the past that you just saw some sort of injustice and you’re like, ‘Well I don’t want my business to be like that. I don’t want people to have to be in the closet in my job or my company.’ That’s amazing, that’s a good ‘why.’ And even if it’s not even a good ‘why,’ as long as it’s sincere and authentic and transparent.

Then you have people, which I had a meeting in June sometime, and I don’t want to be mean, but it was these two old white guys, straight white guys that were like in their seventies. And they wanted to market to the community, and I say, ‘Why?’ And one of them gives me some line, and his bio actually says something about his love and desire to work with the homosexual community. It’s like, are you for real? Are you for real right now? So then- and then come to find out so it was a financial- they were part of a larger financial institution.

Paul Collanton:

Okay.

Jenn T Grace:

So I say, ‘Do you know what the HRC is?’ They have no idea. I’m like, ‘Do you know where your local chamber is?’ No idea. So I pull out the HRC guide out of my bag, because I have them all over the place, and I look and their company has like a 30. I was like, ‘No, we’re not going down this road.’

Paul Collanton:

30 out of 100?

Jenn T Grace:

Yes, 30 out of 100. So the HRC guide basically ranks large corporations, it’s like the Fortune 1000 I think in the American’s Lawyers 200. And then any other publicly traded company, I believe, can request to be rated. And it’s like, not that being old, white and straight, and a man, is a bad thing. Like it happens, there’s nothing wrong with you wanting to market to the community. But telling me your desire to work with the homosexual community, and when I ask you why, you only think that’s coming out to the surface is because there’s a lot of money to be had. It’s like that is not somebody I am working with, because that’s putting my name and reputation on the line. And then the HRC thing was just kind of icing on the cake. And not only that, there are hundreds of other financial institutions that are doing amazing things for LGBT folks, and you are working with one of the worst. It’s like- that’s not doing anything to try to make itself better. So I just turned it down. It’s just not worth my integrity. But it’s like that type of person could easily buy my training course, because I wouldn’t know because I’m not going to police it. So anyone can buy the training course. But me spending my time and hours with somebody like that, that’s not where I want to be focusing. I want to be helping more people. So by putting it into an only training product, then I can reach a lot more people in a lot easier capacity. And that’s just going to be the first one is kind of- the book is essentially like an outline to what that training course is. So everything you read in the book goes much, much deeper, and it has workshops and it provides exercises, it’s audio, it’s video, it’s reading, it’s a whole bunch of stuff. And that’s just kind of like the first of many, many, many training products to come. So I think that’s the directing.

Paul Collanton:

Exciting! That’s awesome. So who is a good client for you? Who benefits from this material the most?

Jenn T Grace:

I have two. So I have two very different target markets. I have the LGBT business owner who just needs help with their marketing, who wants to do things but they can’t seem to hold themselves accountable. So it’s almost like a business coach for marketing. So I have a lot of clients that I do that with. So you might come to me and say, ‘Listen, I need a strategy, I don’t know what I’m doing.’ And I’ll sit down with you and it’s just me being a business coach with a very specific marketing angle to it to say, ‘Alright so what are we going to do in the next thirty days that’s going to get you to your larger goal?’ And then I’m going to call you on day thirty and say, ‘What did you actually do that got you closer to that goal?’ And then if you say, ‘Well I did X, Y and Z,’ it’s like, ‘Alright we’re moving the needle forward.’ But if I didn’t call you, does that mean that you wouldn’t have gotten it done? So it’s that holding people accountable piece that’s absolutely enormous. So it’s like a half an hour phone call once a month saying, ‘I’m just checking in to make sure you’re actually going towards your goal.’ Because what I find people do is they spend thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars on marketing plans, and they don’t do anything with them. They sit on a shelf, and it’s like but why is it sitting on a shelf? And it’s because they don’t have somebody there to hold their hand to get them to actually execute.

So I have that focus. And then the other one is the allies; so the people who are genuinely interested in working with the community because they have a real passion or a desire or a service that just makes sense. They just don’t know how to communicate. I think there’s so many instances where people just say inappropriate things that they don’t mean. Like even this morning at one of the sessions, there was an inappropriate lesbian U-Haul joke that- I feel like we shouldn’t be too specific with the detail of that. But it’s like in front of 300 people you just made a comment about lesbians and U-Haul’s. And it’s like, well I personally don’t take offense to it because I see where they’re coming from and I saw that there wasn’t any ill intention behind it. But I was sitting at a table full of lesbians who were pissed. And it’s like, the person who made that comment- somebody needs to be the one there saying, ‘I know it’s kind of like the running joke that lesbians are U-Haul and together moved in in two months. But it’s not really appropriate in the business setting.

Paul Collanton:

I wouldn’t think so.

Jenn T Grace:

No. No. But it happens, and it happens all the time.

Paul Collanton:

And this is at the NGLCC Conference. Imagine where else it’s happening.

Jenn T Grace:

Exactly. So if it happens here, clearly it’s happening in other places. So I just want to be the one that’s kind of stopping it before it starts.

Paul Collanton:

That’s awesome. And I love the coaching part of it, and the courses. I’m so excited to see what comes. I think everybody needs a coach in like every aspect of your life. So I’m really excited to see.

Jenn T Grace:

I have a business coach and if I had to cut out every expense possible, she would be the last thing on the list because it’s that valuable. Because you need somebody to keep you sane. Like your spouse can only do so much, and I already feel bad for her as it is. So like the other one takes more of the burden.

Paul Collanton:

Awesome. So let’s bring the conversation back to the NGLCC. You talked a little bit earlier about your involvement with the NGLCC, how you initially got started and the impact that it’s had on your business, as well as the doors that it’s opened for you.

Jenn T Grace:

Absolutely.

Paul Collanton:

And I’m really excited to be sitting here at the Omni Hotel in Dallas, at the Tenth Annual NGLCC Conference. It’s grown from when Justin Nelson and Chance Mitchell started it almost ten years ago, to now where we have almost 700 people at this conference sharing the stage with Mary Kay. But 700 people.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s a whole other story.

Paul Collanton:

700 people here. So I’m wondering, what was your takeaway from this conference? What is the headline in your mind?

Jenn T Grace:

Headline, wow. So this conference- like it’s really truly the one time of year that I look forward to all year round. Like it really has that much of an impact on my life, because it’s like a family reunion. And if you ask a lot of people they’ll probably say something similar to that, that it’s like a family reunion. Like you’re just walking down the hallway, and you have access to people that you feel that you should not have access to. So yesterday for example, with Mark Bertolini who is the chairman and CEO of Aetna, which is a very, very large global company, is just wandering down the hallway in jeans. Like there is no other place that you’re going to have access to people like that. So to me, being so involved with the NGLCC- so I have like my own actual official role I have within the organization other than being like an ambassador. Just because I believe in the core- like I just believe in the people, I believe in the core mission. And I am still involved heavily with the chamber, so I oversee the mid-Atlantic and the northeast. So the chambers that fall from Virginia through Maine, I help the NGLCC oversee. So when they have problems and kind of troubleshooting and that kind of stuff. And I help filter that up to the NGLCC so that way- and it’s a volunteer role. It’s certainly nothing that I get paid for- I mean they don’t pay me to endorse them, it’s just I truly believe in what they do. But I would say if anybody’s listening to this or watching this, and they want to find a way to volunteer, get involved with this organization in some way, shape or form. Because it seriously opens doors that I would never have had opened before. So I was at some exclusive VIP-ish party the other night, and it’s like I have access to these people who are very high up people, and Mark was there as well again, it’s like I wouldn’t have that type of access if I weren’t so committed to the organization and been volunteering for so many years at this point. So I would say the access that I have to people is definitely like a large takeaway. But then Les McKeown, I don’t know if you saw his session.

Paul Collanton:

I did, the business cycle.

Jenn T Grace:

That was like a life-changing thing and I got his book and he signed it for me. He was great, I had an awesome conversation with him. But it was like he set the tone for the conference in such a great way because I’m able to sit down with you and not really know your business well, like we know each other, we know about what our products are, but I don’t know the deep down way that you operate. But he put the framework around it with the whole visionaries and operators and processors, and it’s like now I can go talk to a stranger on an elevator and be talking about the V’s, the O’s and the P’s, and everybody knows. So he was talking about like the big rut, and like the death rattle. So I was talking to somebody and I was like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s totally in the big rut.’ But it’s like, yeah everybody knows what you’re talking about because he set the tone. And I don’t know that somebody with that type of business acumen has ever set the tone so strongly for this conference before. And I think to me that was the hands down takeaway.

Paul Collanton:

I can’t believe that we got Mark and Les- I feel like there’s just so much power in one small conference. And also everybody’s just so nice. I’m like, ‘Is this a real thing? Is this the real world? People are just so nice here and welcoming and want to help you.’ And it’s just an awesome atmosphere to be in.

Jenn T Grace:

It’s an environment of help, of wanting each other to succeed which you don’t see everywhere. And you and I were talking offline before we even hit record about how just even us having this joint interview together could easily like, ‘Why are they doing this together because they could be competition.’ It’s like, because that’s not how I operate, that’s not how you operate. It’s there are so few of us in this space, we need to work together as a team to move the broader movement forward. And that’s the message across the board around here. So you see companies that clearly compete with one another on a global level. Large, Fortune 100’s; but they’re all here for the common good of making it better for LGBT people, and that alone, how can you go wrong with that? It’s amazing.

Paul Collanton:

Absolutely. And now we have a million dollars from Wells Fargo donated on stage- did you see their faces?

Jenn T Grace:

I did. I did, which was amazing. And I don’t know if you have been to DC, but if you get yourself certified as an LGBT business owner, which will be the future subject matter of another book or a training program because it’s so powerful. There’s a supplier innovation center that they have in Washington DC, so anyone who is a certified supplier, you can kind of just go in the city and just plug in and just work like you’re working remotely from an office; and that money, from what I understand, is going to somehow go into that product and programming for suppliers which just helps people like you and I who are small business owners, who just happen to be LGBT.

Paul Collanton:

Huge moment for us.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, it’s good stuff.

Paul Collanton:

Huge. So you did bring this back and talk a little bit about how it can help people get involved with the NGLCC. So if I’m brand new to the NGLCC, I don’t know what it is, I’m either an employee or a business owner, what is the first step to get involved with the NGLCC and how can it help me?

Jenn T Grace:

So it depends on if you’re a small business owner, your first step is to get yourself certified. So supplier diversity I could talk for about an hour and a half on, so I will give you the succinct version that I can, and then just direct you to other podcasts I’ve done about supplier diversity. But essentially Fortune 100s, 500s, 1000s and even a lot of smaller companies now have supplier diversity programs. And by their own internal mandate, if you will, they say that out of our 100% supply chain, we’re going to allocate 10% to diverse-owned businesses; or 3%, or 5%- it varies across the board. So a company like Aetna for example has however- I can only imagine the amount of money they have in terms of what they spend. But they say- it’s 12% for example (and I don’t know the actual number, it’s just me making things up). And so at 12% of their overall budget, they have to spend that money with diverse-owned businesses. So that’s traditionally women-owned businesses, a person of color, a person who has a disability, a veteran and LGBT. So LGBT and veterans are still kind- still really new in relative to the broader diversity community. And it really came about when it’s like white straight men who are running the world, and running business, and women wanting to come to the table and African American men wanting to come to the table and say, ‘Hey we deserve a chance to bid on this project.’ So supplier diversity kind of came out of that of now companies are actively seeking to do business with more diverse-owned suppliers. Which is good for a million different reasons, but I think the best one is the fact that it creates competitiveness which is going to make the businesses themselves stronger, more competitive, more able to- I don’t want to say compete but more versatile and more well-rounded. But then it’s also better for the corporation that’s trying to get that contractor because it’s like, yeah you want to have that healthy competition because they’re going to be better for you and they’re probably going to lower cut their prices on each other and all that kind of stuff. So being a certified business gives you access to tons of opportunities. So at this conference there’s matchmakers. So you as a small business owner can be match-made with any one of the 140 corporate partners. So like Kellogg’s or CVS or Accenture, or Aetna, General Mills; there have been tons of companies. And they’re specifically looking to do business with you. They want to do business with you, the LGBT business owner.

Paul Collanton:

Incredible.

Jenn T Grace:

It’s amazing. And there are some success stories around here that are unimaginable. They’re just insane.

Paul Collanton:

I’m surprised that there’s not thousands of people at this conference. Maybe next year there will be because-

Jenn T Grace:

They amp it up every year. In twenty years we will look at this when it’s like 10,000 people like the Mary Kay ladies. I don’t know if you know how many there are, but so to give context for anyone listening, we are sharing hotel space with the Mary Kay Convention that has 50,000 women over six weeks coming into the city of Dallas right now.

Paul Collanton:

And they’re loud.

Jenn T Grace:

They are loud, and they have proms at night, and they’re older ladies for the most part in prom dresses just wandering around the city. And it’s the craziest thing to see because you’re like, ‘Where am I right now?’

Paul Collanton:

It makes for great stories.

Jenn T Grace:

It does. And there’s like glitter and they’re on the elevator and they’re just noisy. But I think something that’s really interesting that’s happened is you can see how far we have to go as an LGBT community. Because I’ve been in the elevator so many times just trying to get up to my room, which is where we’re recording this. It’s been troublesome to just get in the elevator to get away from these ladies. But you have somebody who their gender identity is not what a Mary Kay woman would be expecting. And you see- like I’ve had a couple incidences with friends of mine who were on the elevator and you see the woman like look at the nametag and it says NGLCC, but it actually says National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce on it. And then they like take a step back. And it’s like, what the hell is that about? Like that’s not cool. So it’s like you can see the fact that discrimination is still very, very rampant in our society, in the United States and global of course. And it’s like the fact that we have to deal with that, is unfortunate. But it’s happening right now, present day, probably in the elevator right now that someone is being- and you can’t say discriminated against, but just getting in the elevator and being looked up and down and somebody taking a step back from you. It’s like disheartening to see that happening. So the fact that it’s happening at such a great and amazing conference, it’s like yeah that shows how much more work there is to be done.

Paul Collanton:

Absolutely. And I love too, that the workshops here really focus on different topics that are relevant to our everyday lives, such as having a picture with your partner on your desk at work. Such as having executive presence, there’s a really good workshop on that and about how work issues and the way people see LGBT people, how that comes into play. And I just think that the workshops alone are fantastic. One of the ones sponsored by Wells Fargo and it was about how DOMA and Prop 8 going down, how that affects people’s finances and workforce and all those types of things. So it’s just so much great education that I think needs to be shared.

Jenn T Grace:

People need to know. And I had a really interesting encounter last night, which you know you’re at a conference, you’re with friends, drinks are flowing, it can get kind of crazy. And we’re out last night at some place that even now no one really knows where we were, which is I think hilarious and not that because we were so drunk we didn’t know, but we genuinely have no idea where in Dallas we were and no one can identify it which I think is a fun story. But while we were there, it was Lesbian Night at some bar or some restaurant, and again I don’t even know. But one of us in our group of five went over to a table full of lesbians because we saw that they were trying to take a self picture and it just wasn’t looking good. And of course all being like Type A business owners that we are, we’re like, ‘Somebody go take a picture of these girls. Like, they need some help.’ And while they were over there, one of them was like, ‘Oh so who are you with?’ So she’s saying like we’re here on a conference, this, that and the other thing. And one of the girls was like, ‘Oh I work for-‘ (and I will not name the company). And it’s like- oh wow. That is a significant contributor to this conference. And the girl had no idea that the conference existed, and she’s in the closet at work. And I think it has to do with the fact that we’re in Dallas and it’s definitely a different story depending on what part of the country you’re in.

Paul Collanton:

Yes.

Jenn T Grace:

But it was really interesting for her to be talking about- and of course none of us can just let her make a statement like that without diving in and asking her a million questions. So without revealing her identity, and her street address at this point, we were able to get to the bottom of the fact that she doesn’t feel comfortable enough where she falls on the food chain within that organization. And the fact that she’s in Dallas. So even though this large company has an amazing employee resource base for their LGBT employees, people who are kind of- they’re not in the headquarters, they’re kind of off in those remote sites, they don’t necessarily get the value of being able to really feel open to be out at work. So it was such an interesting experience to be talking to this- and she was like really young, too. And it’s like yeah, there’s a lot of work. Again going back to that point again. There’s so much more work that has to be done.

Paul Collanton:

Yes and I think it starts with role models, which is why I love that I’m sitting across from you and you’re doing the work that you are, because that’s really what inspires people to come out as their authentic selves and live their best life.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, you have to.

Paul Collanton:/h5>

I think that pretty much- what do you say.

Jenn T Grace:

What more is there to say?

Paul Collanton:

Yeah I think that’s a good closing.

Jenn T Grace:

I think it is. Well thank you, it’s been awesome, awesome doing this and I know that we will meet again in January at New Media Expo.

Paul Collanton:

We will. We will gay it up there.

Jenn T Grace:

We will take over the world there is what we’re going to do. So there will be a sequel to this, so we’ll figure out how that might play out after.

Paul Collanton:

Absolutely. Great having you.

Jenn T Grace:

Thank you.

So that wraps up episode number fifteen of the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast. I hope you enjoyed the interview with Paul. And maybe you learned a thing or two, something new about yours truly, your host, Jenn Grace here. And before I let you go, I do want to give a shoutout to the Human Performance Academy which is a sponsor of this podcast. So if you don’t mind, please stay tuned for just a quick minute, and listen to the great information that the Human Performance Academy has for you. So I will be right back.

Okay I am back. I thrilled that you stuck around to hear Mike’s message from the Human Performance Academy; I absolutely appreciate it. And one final quick call to action to you, is if you liked what you heard here on this particular podcast, or on any of the podcasts for that matter, I would love for you to go to www.JennTGrace.com/love. And what that will do is that will pre-populate a tweet in Twitter for you to send out to all your Twitter followers, that just declares your love for this podcast. Because I’m providing as much information as I can that I’m hoping that you as a business owner, or you as an entrepreneur, or an ally, or somebody in a corporate environment; I’m just really hoping that you are learning something new around how to do business with or market yourself to the LGBT community. So the more people that know that this podcast exists, the better I think it will be for everyone. So if you head over to www.JennTGrace.com/love – send me some love, I love hearing it.

So thank you again for listening to this show, I totally appreciate it. I appreciate your listenership, your interactiveness, and everything about you. So if you have something that you want to share with me, feel free to send an email, send a tweet, send a carrier pigeon; however you need to send it to me, just let me know, I’m more than happy to engage and answer any questions that you might have.

Thank you again, I will talk to you next week.

 

 

 

About Jenn T. Grace

Jenn T. Grace (she/her/hers) is an award-winning author and founder and CEO of Publish Your Purpose (PYP), the acclaimed hybrid publisher of non-fiction books. Jenn has published 100+ books written by thought leaders, visionaries, and entrepreneurs who are striving to make a difference. Jenn T. Grace’s work elevates and amplifies the voices of others—especially marginalized groups who are regularly excluded from traditional publishing.

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