David Kilmnick, right, announces the launch of the LGBT Chamber...

David Kilmnick, right, announces the launch of the LGBT Chamber of Commerce during a press conference at the headquarters of the LGBT Network in Hauppauge. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Local businesses that are owned by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals now have a chamber of commerce to call their own and greater access to advice and programs to increase revenue.

The Long Island LGBT Chamber of Commerce was unveiled on Tuesday by business and nonprofit leaders and entrepreneurs at the Hauppauge headquarters of the LGBT Network.

Chamber founder David Kilmnick, who also leads the LGBT Network, said, “LGBT-owned small businesses on Long Island lack a way to connect, lack support to grow their businesses and lack a way to promote their products and services to the broader community.”

He continued, “Anti-LGBT discrimination still exists, and it impacts the ability of LGBT people to start, grow and sustain businesses.”

Chamber membership is open to LGBT-owned firms and supporters of the LGBT community in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Membership dues are organized into six levels based on the size of a business’ workforce, ranging from $250 per year for the self-employed and $400 for businesses with 10 or fewer employees to $1,500 for more than 250 employees.

Membership includes a listing on the LGBT Business Directory at https://lgbtnetwork.org/resources/; networking events; workshops on business financing, marketing, human resources and other topics; a monthly newsletter, and discounted rates on space rentals at the network’s Hauppauge office.

Kenneth Letavish-Brigandi, founder of Rejuvenna Spa in Sayville, said the chamber will raise the profile of LGBT-owned firms, such as his, and lead to more orders from the LGBT community and elsewhere.

“I’ll also have access to information about human resources and ways to grow my business,” which opened 10 years ago, he said in an interview.

The LGBT Network received a $5,000 grant from National Grid to develop the chamber.

“LGBT business owners should have the same resources and opportunities available to them as any other business owner,” said Kathy Wisnewski, the utility's Long Island director of customer and community engagement.

The chamber also has the support of two longstanding business groups: the Long Island Association and HIA-LI.

LIA CEO Matt Cohen said it hopes to assist LGBT-owned firms through a Small Business Support Program, launched last month. The program features quarterly meetings of LIA, Long Island African American Chamber of Commerce and Long Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce members, resources for entrepreneurs and a new LIA membership level.

Terri Alessi-Miceli, CEO of the HIA-LI, praised the LGBT Network’s decision to offer co-working space, conference rooms and onsite photocopy services to LGBT-owned firms and others at the Hauppauge headquarters.

Also, on Tuesday, the network launched a certification program “to recognize companies and organizations for their LGBT diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging efforts, and community involvement,” Kilmnick said. There are four levels of certification that can be achieved, he said.

More information may be found at https://lgbtnetwork.org/lgbt-chamber/

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