LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce and PNC Bank provide award for local businesses

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Photo: YIKES, Inc., the 2018 recipient of the PNC LGBT Business Award, with Zach Wilcha and Joe Meterchick

The Independence Business Alliance (IBA), Greater Philadelphia’s LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce, is still accepting applications for its 2020 PNC LGBT Business Award. Sponsored by PNC, the award provides $10,000 to an IBA-member business that exhibits a strong plan for growth that incorporates “innovation, sustainability and ongoing contribution to the community.”

IBA is accepting applications for the award until the close of business on May 1 — an extended deadline. Eligible candidates must be an IBA-member business in good standing, a registered business headquartered in designated Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware counties, in business before Jan. 1, 2019, a privately held company, compliant with all relevant laws and regulations, a legal U.S. resident and at least 18 years old. 

“We wanted to extend the deadline for folks who may have been adversely impacted by any COVID-related [issues,]” said Zach Wilcha, IBA’s executive director. “We worked pretty hard with PNC to make sure that we’re still able to give out the award.” The award is usually presented during the IBA’s annual Business Leaders Luncheon, which has been canceled this year due to the COVID-19 crisis. 

“We thought that it was more important, now than ever, to be getting that money into the hands of one of our LGBT businesses,” Wilcha said. 

A diverse panel consisting of IBA and PNC community members will determine who wins this year’s award. Previous panels have included past award winners and representatives from LGBTQ+-owned businesses that are IBA members, Wilcha said.  

The PNC LGBT Business Award is in its 10th year and originated with PNC bank staff members who wanted to work with IBA founders and board members, Wilcha told PGN. PNC Regional President Joe Meterchick has been involved in the award since 2017. 

“I think small business is the lifeline,” Meterchick said. “You have folks that come up with an idea, or a way to do things — something that’s new because society has changed, because technology has changed. It’s just a reaffirmation that that process of starting your own business and bringing it forward is something that’s valued across the board. Having awards like this, part of it’s just a little bit of fun. But the other thing is the recognition that you brought something out of nothing, and made something out of it for the betterment of society, for work and for sustainability.” 

Although this year’s Business Leaders Luncheon will not take place, the IBA team is discussing how a virtual iteration of the event might manifest. And the organization’s leadership will hand out the award by May 12, the day the lunch event would have been scheduled. 

“I always have fun at that lunch,” Meterchick said. “The group works together very well — they encourage each other, they cheer each other on. The entrepreneurial spirit there is very evident. Every year, the winners are often emotional when they get it because of the hard work and sweat that they put into getting to that point and being honored for it. To be able to present to people like that, it’s worth it.”

IBA has been launching initiatives to connect its member businesses with resources that can help them stay afloat during this financially unstable time. 

Some of those resources include the city of Philadelphia’s micro-grant program, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s Main Street Lending Program. “Hopefully both [of those programs] will have a second round in the future,” Wilcha said. 

Along with its monthly networking series ConnX, now held on Zoom, the organization hosts a virtual Thursday morning coffee chat where its members can express their needs as well as how they might be able to help other community businesses, Wilcha said. 

“Another thing we’ve been doing is working closely with the Asian American, African American and Hispanic American chambers and lobbying elected officials and state government folks around what small businesses need right now,” Wilcha added. “We sent a joint letter to them a couple weeks ago.” 

Those interested in applying for the 2020 PNC LGBT Business Award can do so here: https://mcusercontent.com/6f69b7e7745e0dab0d3c14a9d/files/07cd281a-8bb2-499f-af8b-54af6cf19fe8/PNC_Award_Application_2020_1_.pdf.  More information about award eligibility can be found at https://www.thinkiba.com/programs/pnc-bank-lgbt-business-award/