Q&A: Jason Rae Explains How Fairness is Good Business
As executive director of the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce, Jason Rae helps connect and nurture businesses across the state
For those who aren’t familiar with your organization, what is your mission?
Our mission is divided into three different areas. The first is to help LGBT-owned and -allied businesses grow and succeed. We want to connect them to resources, information and potential customers so they can continue to be successful. The second is to help recruit and retain diverse talent in our state. Particularly, this is working with our corporate members who want to show their commitment to diversity and inclusion. Finally, we want to help consumers do business with those who share their values. People call on a regular basis asking, “Where can I find an LGBT-owned or -allied X, Y or Z?” People care about where they spend their money.
Why is this chamber of commerce statewide?
To help LGBT-owned and -allied businesses grow and be successful. Working together, we can create new opportunities and ensure a thriving economy all around Wisconsin. In addition, it’s important that people understand that you can be both pro-fairness and pro-business at the same time. Sometimes people believe the two are mutually exclusive, but that isn’t the case. People want to do business with those who share their values.
What events has the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce sponsored?
We’ve already held networking happy hours in Madison, including one featuring Congressman Mark Pocan. In addition, we’ve held regular conference calls with the White House and Small Business Administration for our members to hear firsthand how current federal issues would impact their small business. We’ve also done a number of educational events talking about what the Affordable Care Act implementation means for a Wisconsin business and how to increase your presence on the web. All of these are in an attempt to help provide businesses with the information and connections they need to be successful.
What is the best aspect of the chamber?
One of our favorite parts of the chamber is seeing the connections that different businesses make and how they are now working together as a united business community.
The focus of this chamber is not on politics. Why is this, considering many chambers are known for their political involvement?
It’s not our goal to be out there lobbying on legislation, but rather we are focused on finding ways to help businesses succeed. Now certainly, if there is legislation that will directly impact these businesses, we’ll take a stand, but we really feel our role is meant to connect and grow businesses. There are other chambers out there that are just political front groups, and that isn’t our hope and plan.
Why would you encourage others to get involved with the chamber?
It’s important to be a part of a like-minded business community. We have the chance to showcase the real role of the LGBT community in business. In just one year, we’ve already nearly exceeded one hundred business members, and we expect even more soon. This is a great organization to network, engage and learn from to help grow your business.
What goals do you have for the chamber in the immediate future?
We hope to continue growing and expanding membership. We’ve been thrilled with the support we’ve seen in our first year and are excited about the opportunities that lie ahead. We are working on doing even more networking events for business owners, but also doing a business expo to help provide even more tools and resources to help businesses succeed. And finally, we want to continue to show people all over the state that you can be both pro-fairness and pro-business at the same time.