When Martin D. Sellers co-founded a health-care consulting firm 15 years ago in Philadelphia, he didn’t give much thought to being a gay-owned business.
“We said, ‘We are who we are and let’s go with it,’” Sellers recalled recently.
He said in some places it was great to be a gay CEO and in others it received some raised eyebrows.
“We got a call from one of our strategic partners in Texas who said, ‘You folks are on the news,’” Sellers said. “Now it’s up in the blogosphere that you all are helping gay people sign up for this Obamacare thing.”
Again, Sellers said he and his co-founder Brian Dorsey held to the philosophy that they would operate openly.
“If people want to do business with us, fine,” Sellers said. “If they don’t, fine. Things will work out. And things have worked out in a really great way.”
About 100 people applauded as Sellers Dorsey and Associates received the first Business Integrity Award June 27. The Independence Business Alliance and Integrity Staffing Solutions partnered to present the award, which came with two paid registrations to the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce conference in Palm Springs, Calif., in August.
Sellers told PGN it’s important to have thriving LGBT chambers of commerce.
“All communities need to stick together and help each other grow,” he said. “I hope what we’ve done can be an example for other LGBT people who want to start a business, to show them a path forward.”
Sean Montgomery, COO of Integrity Staffing, said the review committee picked Sellers Dorsey for the award because it “represents the true spirit of the Business Integrity Award based on their hiring practices, their management policies, their community involvement and their philanthropic activities.
"This firm also provides a multitude of pro bono consulting services to many LGBT organizations and nonprofits,” Montgomery added, noting the Sellers Dorsey Foundation that works to improve health outcomes in the LGBT community with education and grants.
Rich Horrow, president of the IBA board, commended the partnership between the local LGBT chamber of commerce and Integrity Staffing, a member business. He noted the 19-year-old staffing company started with three employees in Delaware. It now has more than 500 fulltime staffers working in over 100 locations in 25 states. In 2015, Integrity staffed over 140,000 positions at places like Amazon, JP Morgan Chase, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Target. Revenues exceeded $550 million.
“They are, by far, the largest LGBT-certified business in this nation,” Horrow said.
He also confirmed seven board members who are returning for two-year terms and inducted seven new board members who will start their terms July 1.
“Each of you brings great energy and expertise,” Horrow said. “We can’t wait to tap into that and work with you to continue taking the IBA into what is promising to be a very exciting year for us.”
The IBA will celebrate its 10th anniversary next year. In the past year, the board hired its first full-time staffers: Zach Wilcha as executive director and Jess Gregan as administrative assistant. The chamber also moved to its own office at 230 S. Broad St. from a shared space at 13th and Walnut streets.