April 20, 2021 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

Mark Morales energizes LA’s LGBT business social network

mark morales, president of the los angeles gay and lesbian chamber of commerce, photo courtesy LAGLCCBY T. S. LEONARD & DAVID EHRENSTEIN  |  Mark Morales, recently appointed President of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, wears a lot of hats. It’s a good look for the leader of the Chamber he’s steering, because members of the LAGLCC—minority business owners—are, by nature, varied hat wearers themselves. To be an entrepreneur of any stripe requires a near-athletic degree of versatility; to do it as an unsupported minority can present an even greater, and often lonelier, challenge.

But using identity and diversity to a financial advantage is Mark Morales’ specialty. As the Vice President of the SBA division of HomeStreet Bank, he has spent nearly 20 years consulting financing with small businesses. He is an appointed member of the California Department of Insurance diversity task force. He pitches in to help husband Michael Mirch run their Asian antique importer, Charles Jacobsen.

His many varied professional capacities provide plenty of a-ha moments for Morales about best business practices, informing the seasoned and assertive leadership he brings to the Chamber. “We have very specific goals,” Morales says. “We plan on growing the Chamber by 20 percent. We are trying to certify everyone within our membership that would benefit from it.”

That certification process is key. The LA Chamber is one local contingent that works within the much-larger National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. The nationwide organization has its own certification status. Morales has a vision of working deliberately to interconnect businesses within the LA area that will ultimately draw lines across a national playing field.

“Part of our mission is connecting large companies to the LGBT suppliers,” he explains. “It’s all about relationships, and those relationships are created on the local level with [us].”

The usefulness of linking large corporations to LGBT suppliers was another one of Morales’ a-ha moments, from his experiences attending big business events as a representative of the Diversity Task Force. His work with the California Department of Insurance has been a continuing inspiration for rallying action amongst the Chamber.

“The first year I attended the [California Department of Insurance’s] Diversity Summit, there were three LGBT businesses represented there,” Morales explains, excitedly. “The following year in Sacramento, there were 22. Fully a quarter of the audience were LGBT businesses, and most of them were from Southern California, trained by me to be in those seats in front of those insurance companies. A 700 percent increase. All it took was one person talking about it for a year.”

Meeting Mark Morales, it’s no surprise he could drum up such support by simple word-of-mouth. Morales is a talker, but a quick one, an efficient one. It’s no surprise, given his busy professional calendar, that the word “hyperactive” comes to mind. He networks with seamless agility, able to caption one businesses’ operation to another in seconds, and determine how the two could help one another in just a few more.

This social character has seeped down through the ranks of the LAGLCC. At a recent networking event on the Sunset Strip, there were suited attorneys dishing furniture trends with interior designers. Publicists were talking politics with small non-profit leaders. Like any networking event, there were plenty of handshakes and elevator pitches floating around the bar. But the LAGLCC feels unique for its internally plural character.

The directory of registered businesses boasts a wide array of diversity within the community. There are recognizable names that run the gamut from Fresh Brothers to Morgan Stanley. And in between pizza and finance, there are delegates from real estate to restaurants to major media outlets. Brought together by their common minority identity, this rag-tag roundup of businesses big and small builds a collective community of support.   

“As much as I’d like to say it’s what you know,” Morales explains, “it’s who you know—connecting—and the relationships you create.”

The ever-multiplying membership of the Chamber is remarkable. When the organization began in 1979, as the Valley Business Association, it was only a handful of entrepreneurs, rallying together in reaction to the just-defeated Proposition 6—the proposed statewide ban on gays and lesbians working in California public schools. Long gone are the days that business owned by and catering to the LGBT community feel the need to present their allegiances carefully. For the Chamber today, the point is visibility.

“Acknowledging that the LGBT community is a viable consumer base is just good business sense,” Morales says. And in his professional opinion, considering that identity internally is just good business practice.

“It’s like this: here’s a list of 300 large corporations,” Morales explains. “Do you do business with any of these companies? Good! Then it benefits you to get certified, because that opens the doors to do business with the others.”

In its almost 40-year history, the LAGLCC has helped open many doors in the Southern California business world. Going forward, Morales is palpably giddy to see how that effect can be multiplied as it is applied across LGBT businesses and suppliers. His energy has been infectious, and the future of the Chamber seems assured to be a proactive, and possibly, hyperactive, one.

Related Posts

Dogdrop A Queer Owned Local Doggy Daycare

April 18, 2021

April 18, 2021

Dogdrop a local queer owned doggy daycare prioritizes pet wellness.  Shaina and Greer are two queer women who founded Dogdrop...

Los Angeles LGBTQ Center Receives 80K Grant

April 18, 2021

April 18, 2021

The Los Angeles LGBT Center received an $80,000 grant to help Californians enroll in Medi-Cal and other programs.  The grant...

SaMo Pride Announces Art Walk

April 15, 2021

April 15, 2021

In honor of Pride Month SaMo Pride has announced it’s art walk throughout June which will feature family friendly programming. ...

LGBTQ Center Long Beach Looking For Volunteers

April 15, 2021

April 15, 2021

In the spirit of National Volunteer Month held in the month of April the LGBTQ Center Long Beach is seeking...

National AIDS Memorial Mary Bowman Arts in Activism Award Given to Westside Local

April 11, 2021

April 11, 2021

Poet, Activist, Artist, and Westside local Ima Diawara uses her art and activism to raise greater awareness about bigotry, stigma...

Edify TV: Helping Local Cultural, Religious and LGBTQ+ Centers

April 11, 2021

April 11, 2021

Westside cultural, religious and LGBTQ+ centers stand to benefit from a new fund the City of Los Angeles has created...

West Hollywood Celebrates National Poetry Month

April 9, 2021

April 9, 2021

The City of West Hollywood will celebrate National Poetry Month in April with a variety of events and exhibitions honoring...

L.A. Stage Alliance To Cease Operations After Several Companies Exit

April 9, 2021

April 9, 2021

The Los Angeles Stage Alliance (LASA) announced that it would “cease all operations” following the departure of more than 25...

Gender Neutral Potato Head- E.P.I.C Pride Show, April 7th, 2021

April 6, 2021

April 6, 2021

E.P.I.C Pride, Highlighting the latest LGBTQ news in Entertainment, Politics, International affairs, and Culture.  – Gender Neutral Potato Head  –...

James Charles Admits Messaging 16 Year Old Boys

April 4, 2021

April 4, 2021

YouTube star, makeup artist and Los Angeles resident James Charles issued an apology video entitled “Holding Myself Accountable” admitting to...

Trans Los Angeles A Film Full Of Queer Latinx Talent

April 4, 2021

April 4, 2021

Trans Los Angeles is an anthology composed of four short films directed and written by transgender director Kase Peña. Each...

Venice Pride Flag Lifeguard Tower Gets Facelift

April 1, 2021

April 1, 2021

The Venice Pride Flag Lifeguard tower gets a fresh coat of paint and a bit of a facelift just in...

Pride Poets’ Corner: Double Dutch Nymph By Féi Hernandez

March 28, 2021

March 28, 2021

The Pride LA and West Hollywood Poet Laureate Brian Sonia-Wallace would like to introduce Féi Hernandez featuring their latest work...

Los Angeles Becomes First No-Kill City For Animal Shelters

March 28, 2021

March 28, 2021

The City of Los Angeles has become a no-kill city for animal shelters for the first time, thanks to the...

Long Beach Rainbow Lifeguard Tower Burned Down

March 25, 2021

March 25, 2021

Long Beach’s rainbow lifeguard tower, painted by lifeguards in June in honor of Pride month, was destroyed in a fire...