LGBT chamber is recognized for its networking program, RED

By : Billy Manes
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Lu Mueller-Kaul isn’t one to sound overexcited. As board president of Orlando’s LGBT chamber of commerce, she’s got some ghosts to address. Though the Metropolitan Business Association has broken so much ground in the Central Florida region, it’s also broken a heel or two.

“Advocacy is something we really need to work with,” Mueller-Kall says. “I know it’s not all rosy. There are still people who are suspicious.”

The story of the MBA runs deeper than platitudes, of course, and that’s something Mueller-Kaul is well aware of. A series of unfortunate events – unplanned exits, bounced checks – have left the organization with a fight-or-flight sensibility. The fight, though, appears to be paying off. On Aug. 25, the association received the prestigious award of “Excellence in Programming” for its Referral Exchange Networking Development Program (RED), an award that comes with a $2,500 grant. It’s not much, Mueller-Kaul says, but enough to show that things are on the upswing. The grant comes from LGBT-friendly bankers Wells Fargo.

“Getting this award definitely does mean something, and getting the grant, too,” she says. “Especially in the weeks after Pulse, when people stopped working their day jobs. Then we still had to run the chamber. … Wells Fargo doesn’t put its name on anything it hasn’t researched.”

The Aug. 25 ceremony at the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce International Business and Leadership Conference in Palm Springs could prove a turning point for the organization. Publicly marred by accusations of impropriety under former leadership, the group has been trying to keep its brave face on and stick to its purpose: networking.
“MBA Orlando has developed an innovative approach to networking and lead generating groups,” NGLCC Senior Vice President Sam McClure said in a statement. “They have engaged their community and NGLCC is impressed with their program’s success. We are proud to honor the hard work that went into the RED program.”

The award comes at a time when the MBA is rising. Last month’s Pride in Business Gala was the first to be profitable, Mueller-Kall says. The splashy event raised about $15,000.

And for a group that prides itself of face-to-face coffee meetings and greasing the stiff wheels of business, Mueller-Kall is seemingly up to the task. Yes, you need volunteers, but you also need access to the city and county, something the MBA certainly does have. This award only makes that drive stronger.

“Getting this award, it really is a big deal,” she says. “I’m particularly proud of this one.”

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