New director joins
gay business chamber
by Seth Hemmelgarn
The country's first gay chamber of commerce has selected a new managing director.
Jason Holstein, 31, recently started in the top post at the San Francisco-based Golden Gate Business Association and will manage day-to-day business including membership development, programming, and marketing.
Holstein, who's gay, said he looks forward to growing the budget, which is currently about $125,000, and membership.
"I'm going to be working with our board members to establish a strategy to figure out how we'll do that moving forward," he said. Approximately 350 businesses belong to GGBA.
The association's mission is to grow, promote, and increase the visibility of LGBT businesses and businesses in the community that support them.
Among other posts, Holstein was previously the corporate development director for the Metropolitan Business Association of Orlando, central Florida's LGBT Chamber of Commerce. His work there resulted in MBA Orlando receiving the 2012 Rising Star Chamber Award by the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
Also in 2012, the White House Office of Public Engagement recognized Holstein as an emerging LGBT leader for his work with the LGBT business community.
Holstein said he wanted the GGBA job because "this is America's first LGBT chamber of commerce, and they've inspired nearly 40 years of work to create more inclusive business opportunities and more inclusive workplaces for LGBT business owners and professionals."
Asked about specific areas he wants to address, Holstein said, "I think the opportunity to certify LGBT-owned businesses as such to be included in the supply chain of major corporations as well as government agencies is an incredible opportunity now that we've secured marriage equality in the state."
Over the last several decades, major corporations have been working to diversify the supply chain and provide more procurement opportunities to minority- and women-owned businesses, Holstein said.
During the last 10 years, with the certification program that the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce launched, businesses can certify that they're 51 percent LGBT-owned, "and be recognized in the supply chain in major corporations and certain government agencies," he said. GGBA is an affiliate chamber of the national group.
The Bay Area Reporter was certified as an LGBT business enterprise in March. Such certifications allow gay businesses to take advantage of diversity procurement practices offered by other companies, usually large corporations.
Holstein's first day in his new post was July 1. Asked in an interview just a few days later about what major challenges he sees, Holstein said, "I'm looking forward to figuring out what those challenges are, and collaborating with our board and our members to overcome them, but it's a little early in my time with GGBA to be able to specifically state what has to be done, and what obstacles exist."
The association had been without a managing director since Pat Mayfield left about a year ago, according to Dawn Ackerman, vice president of GGBA's board.
"We weren't necessarily just running out to find someone," Ackerman said. "We wanted to find someone that really could understand immediately what this organization was about, and what the organization needs to be doing to grow for its members and to prepare for next year's 40th anniversary of the organization." She also pointed to the desire to grow the supplier diversity initiative with the national chamber.
Holstein is "the perfect person" to take on the job, said Ackerman, who's an out lesbian and president of OutSmart Office Solutions.
As for why GGBA needs a managing director when its gone for approximately a year without someone in that job, Ackerman said, "The organization suffers when you don't have one. All the work of running the organization falls completely on the shoulders of the all-volunteer board."
As of early July, Holstein was living in the South Bay city of Mountain View, waiting for his partner to relocate with his job. His partner, whose name Holstein didn't share, will likely be working in Sunnyvale, "so we're looking to split the commuting distances between our two offices," and they'd probably move a little more north to San Mateo County, he said.
Holstein declined to share his salary.
"I would need to check with our board of directors before disclosing that information," he said.
Full disclosure: Bay Area Reporter advertising manager Scott Wazlowski is a GGBA board member.