LGBT-owned businesses tackle Super Bowl contracts
by Matthew S. Bajko
San Francisco photographer Christopher Dydyk readily admits he is not a sports person.
Yet he has been on hand to shoot half a dozen events tied to the lead up for Super Bowl 50, which will be played at the San Francisco 49ers's new stadium in Santa Clara Sunday, February 7.
Now Dydyk, a gay man, is eagerly awaiting word on if his bid will be accepted to shoot multiple events that the San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee will be holding prior to and during Super Bowl Week, which officially begins Sunday, January 30.
"They said they have tons of photo needs," said Dydyk, who is one of at least six local LGBT business owners who have already won contracts through the Super Bowl 50 Business Connect Program.
For the first time in the history of the Super Bowl, its minority-contracting program has been opened up to LGBT-owned companies. Close to 50 businesses with at least 51 percent LGBT ownership, as certified by the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and the Golden Gate Business Association, the local LGBT chamber of commerce, are eligible to bid on various contracts connected to the sporting event.
LGBT businesses that qualify for the program are listed in the Business Connect Program's directory, which is used by the local planning committee and the National Football League's major event vendors to source businesses to be a part of the compete bidding process, explained Paul Pendergast, a local gay consultant who serves on GGBA's board.
"No businesses are just given contracts – they are provided with an RFP from the entity which has the contract opportunity and then the businesses actively compete to win the contract," Pendergast explained in an email to the Bay Area Reporter.
Dydyk was one of the first LGBT-owned businesses to secure a contract. Last November he was hired to photograph the launch of the official Super Bowl 50 Twitter feed.
"I have never worked with an organization so organized, professional, and fun-loving all wrapped up together. Every time they ask me for a bid, I am excited because I love working with them," Dydyk told the B.A.R. this week. "I am going to be sad they are disbanding but I am sure we will stay connected."
His comments were in sharp contrast to the views of business leaders in the Castro, who are voicing concerns that the neighborhood will not see any boost in business from the sporting event due to the shutdown during Super Bowl Week of the historic F-Line streetcars that run along upper Market Street. (See related story.)
Nathan Ballard, a spokesman for the Super Bowl 50 host committee, told the B.A.R. this week that the group has undertaken "significant outreach" to the city's LGBT business community to alert it to the contracting possibilities associated with the NFL's championship game.
"It certainly is the best in Super Bowl history. We hope to set a trend for every Super Bowl from now on," said Ballard.
As of October about $90,000 has flowed into the coffers of LGBT businesses, said Ballard, "and we are just getting warmed up. A lot of services are needed in January and early February."
Dawn Ackerman, a lesbian who is a co-owner of Outsmart Office Solutions with George Pieper, who is gay, early on landed a contract to supply office products to the local host committee, which is the private organizing arm for the sporting event.
"They are buying all of their office products from us," said Ackerman. "It is an open-ended contract. They started purchasing from us several months ago, and will continue to do so until the Super Bowl is over."
Ackerman said she was unsure how much money the contract would bring in to her eight-year-old company, which also does furniture installation and office design for companies. But she estimated it would be "thousands of dollars worth of products."
Landing the contract with the Super Bowl has brought with it other advantages for her company, added Ackerman, such as enrolling in a training course the committee held for small business owners and meeting other potential customers through vendor events.
"Definitely, we will be generating business leads for after the Super Bowl wraps up," she said. "I have had a lot of opportunity for publicity."
This fall the Super Bowl 50 host committee had approached Leftwich Events Specialists about the requests for proposals it was putting out to bid. But Sam Leftwich, a gay man who founded the company, told the B.A.R. that unfortunately the timing was off and he opted not to submit a bid.
"We appreciated the face-to-face with the host committee. But by the time the RFP came to us, the turn around was just too tight for us to do it justice," said Leftwich. "It wasn't anybody's fault."
This time of year is his company's busiest, jammed packed with nonprofit fundraisers, fashion shows, galas, and various corporate events for the holidays.
"The fourth quarter of the year is totally insane for us," said Leftwich, who nonetheless appreciated being approached by the Super Bowl organizers. "We felt like we were treated like royalty by them. We just couldn't make it happen."
One company that has been able to take advantage of the Super Bowl-related business opportunities is Got Light, named in June to the San Francisco Business Times' first-ever Top 25 LGBT-owned Business List. Founded by gay co-owners Jon Retsky and Russell Holt, the company supplies lighting as well as audiovisual services, staging and other needs at special events.
"We are proud to be a supplier of Super Bowl 50 through the Business Connect Program. It has been a very exiting project for all of us," said Retsky, whose company worked on the Super Bowl 50 host committee's kick-off event held November 10, 2014 at the San Francisco Ferry Building.
In a phone interview this week, Retsky told the B.A.R. that it took some time before his company started to field calls about additional Super Bowl-related business.
"To be honest, when we were first connected to the program we were not flooded with calls. I said at the time, 'What's going on here? Where are all the calls?' Slowly but surely the calls started coming in," he said. "Today, we get on average one phone call a day it feels like."
Not only is he fielding requests to bid on events the NFL and the local host committee are putting on, but also from Super Bowl sponsors such as Visa and major news media organizations like CNN and ESPN that will be setting up camp in town for nearly three weeks in order to cover the Super Bowl.
Got Light is also the exclusive provider to the Ferry Building, and due to its proximity to the Super Bowl fan village and views of the bay, many companies want to hold their events inside the historic bayside structure.
"That is becoming a hot spot. Lots of people are asking about doing events there because it is so central to everything," said Retsky.
All of the LGBT-owned businesses expect their relationships they are building through working on the Super Bowl will generate future opportunities once the festivities wrap up.
"I think it is going to be a phenomenal boost," said Dydyk, who owns the eponymously named Christopher Dydyk Photography.
Although the host committee will be disbanded once the Super Bowl is over, he noted that the members would still be involved locally because they reside in the Bay Area.
"They are all going to move on to other projects," he said. "I have made some great friends and contacts there. And through those connections to people, I am sure there will be further photo shoots down the line."