SF LGBT Center Economic Development Department

Guardian Small Business Award winner helps its community members become entrepreneurs

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Staff at the LGBT Center partner with their community.
Guardian photo by Keeney + Law Photography

The first initiative in the nation to "comprehensively address the economic barriers faced by low- and moderate-income LGBT individuals and families," the 10-year-old San Francisco LGBT Center's Economic Development Department (EDD) takes on a huge task.

More than a third of SF's homeless people are LGBT. Transgender individuals often face huge amounts of discrimination in the workplace, and suffer from some of the highest unemployment rates as a result. Prejudice and, often, a lack of a structured environment due to homophobia, can discourage LGBT people from starting their own business or cause them to fear coming out at work.

The LGBT Center EDD energetically addresses these issues with a vast array of programs, events, collaborative workshops, and innovative actions. The center's Small Business Services arm helps guide LGBT entrepreneurs all the way from pre-startup to expansion: free, one-on-one technical assistance, collaborative workshops, a credit-building micro-loan program, loan packaging, small business mentorship, and referrals to its huge small business development network.

Soon to launch: a "fun, intuitive, and user-friendly" business plan development app; B-Lab, a free drop-in incubator to share ideas, receive mentoring, and engage in mini-workshops; a "Capital Within Reach: How to Empower Your Small Business With Alternative Funding" seminar, including crowdsourcing tips, May 21 at 6:30pm; and, in October, the 2014 Bicoastal Economic Empowerment Week, with a chance to schmooze and learn from New York start-ups. The center's Small Business Services' keystone event, its Fall LGBT Career Fair, attracts thousands of attendees and hundreds of employers looking to make connection with LGBTs.

"Eighty-three percent of employers who participated in one of our recent career fairs said they plan to follow up with the candidates they met there," Kevin Fu, the center's public relations coordinator, says. "And during the 2012-2013 fiscal year, our Small Business Services Program provided technical assistance to 89 businesses, worked with 50 entrepreneurs to develop business plans, connected seven businesses to mentors and helped 12 small businesses secure $140,000 in growth capital."

When grouped with the Economic Development Department's other initiatives — including the LGBTQ Employment Services Program (which features the nation's first specifically transgender-oriented employment program, TEEI), and the Financial Services Program, which supports asset-building and helps with credit repair and homebuying assistance —the LGBT Center is working overtime to keep the LGBT community on its financial feet.

1800 Market, SF

(415) 865-5664 (front desk); (415) 865-5555 (main line)

www.sfcenter.org

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