Tell us about Laner Electric Supply.
Laner Electric Supply was established in 1984. We are a wholesale distributor of electrical construction materials, lighting products and tools. We distribute to electrical and general contractors, property developers and managers, and industrial, institutional and government entities. We have a 16,000-square-foot warehouse and storefront in Richmond. On April 1, 2015, I became the President and CEO. This year, we were honored as the 2018 Small Business of the Year for California, District 9.
How has the partnership with Chevron been?
Chevron is really invested in seeing local businesses succeed. A few years ago, they advised me to become a certified small business and a certified LGBTE-owned business through the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). These certifications are what led us to be named one of the top 50 LGBT-owned businesses in Northern California three years in a row by the San Francisco Business Times. In addition, NGLCC’s local chamber, the Golden Gate Business Association (GGBA), introduced me to the electrical contractor for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority Central Subway Project. That introduction enabled me to receive a $10M procurement project.
Why is diversity in business important?
We believe deeply in diversity and fairness in hiring and employment, including those who have been previously incarcerated. We are proud to be the first and only electrical distributor to become a NGLCC LGBTE-certified business in the electrical services industry. The diversity of our business reflects the diversity of our community which makes us better positioned to serve the unique needs of everyone.
Have you been involved with diversity initiatives at Chevron?
I am one of Chevron’s diverse suppliers and was invited to be a guest speaker for the Richmond Refinery’s Pride Day Celebration. Chevron has shown time and again that they care for and invest in the success of their suppliers by highlighting and exposing small and local businesses such as ours. I am hopeful that this relationship will continue to grow in the coming years.
Tell us more about the diversity program with Chevron.
The only way that a small business like ours can survive is with the help of diversity programs like Chevron’s. The City of Richmond and our local community also offer their assistance with opportunities for local businesses. Purchases from companies like Chevron enable us to sustain our employees and their families.
Do you have any advice for other small, minority- or woman-owned businesses?
Getting your business certified is one of the best things you can do. However, these certifications only invite you to enter the door. Once you are given the opportunity to sit at the table and be included in the conversation, it is important that you are able to show your competence, business acumen and demonstrate why choosing you would add value to their needs.
What do you do in the community to give back?
I am passionate about using the power of my small business to make the community a better place. Recently, we donated the lighting for a beautification project to revamp a blighted alleyway near 23rd Street. In 2015, I joined the Richmond Workforce Development Board to help embolden local workers and our community under the leadership of Sal Vaca. I am also a Board Member of the GGBA (the world’s first LGBT Chamber of Commerce), BART’s Business Advisory Board and the University of California Small Business Advisory Council. I volunteer my time to ensure that “diverse, small businesses” have a voice. I serve as a reminder that we may be small, but together, we are the backbone of our economy and our existence matters.