Lisa Howe was named the first full time Executive Director of the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce in February 2012. You may remember Howe was the former women's soccer coach at Belmont University whose separation from the school after coming out got national media attention and sparked a movement in Nashville. The dialogue about workplace equality continues today.
Since February 2012, the LGBT Chamber's membership has grown from less than 60 members to over 200 members. The number of monthly events has doubled. Use of the Chamber's online business directory, Facebook page, and other social media are at an all time high. The Chamber has launched a new website, developed new relationships, and made a strong commitment to its members. The value of a membership continues to increase. This positive momentum shows no sign of stopping anytime soon.
2013 was a milestone year as the Chamber reinvigorated its Excellence in Business Awards by holding the awards luncheon on a weekday at Schermerhorn Symphony Center. The Chamber has also solidified TASTE as another signature event for the LGBT and allied community. The LGBT Chamber set new marks for membership, revenue, and media exposure.
Membership, revenue, and partnerships continued to grow in 2014, as the leadership concentrated on offering new and consistent programs and benefits to members. The LGBT Chamber finished the year with its most successful fundraising effort to date.
In 2015, Lisa and the LGBT Chamber set their sights on building external partnerships and adding additional revenue streams. The results were a signed Strategic Alliance Memorandum with the Small Business Administration, leading the Pride in Business group made up of leaders of local LGBT Employee Resource Groups, receiving the Community Impact Award from the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, co-hosting a Mayoral Forum for the LGBT and Ally community, co-hosting the Out in TransForce Job Fair for transgender people, starting the LGBT Chamber Foundation, and being rewarded a micro grant from Wells Fargo and the NGLCC.
The highlight of 2016 was being honored with the Rising Star Award from the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. The Rising Star Award is given to the chamber that exhibits vitality and relevance in its community, brings a unified voice to the LGBT business community it serves, and proves its commitment to being part of the broader national movement. Six LGBT-owned businesses were certified in Tennessee. Lisa helped start Tennessee Thrives, the state-wide business coalition that is made up of small and large businesses who have signed a pledge declaring that discrimination is bad for the economy. With the help of local and national partners, the LGBT Chamber is working on an economic impact study to help with the advocacy work of the Chamber.
So far, in 2017, the LGBT Chamber has reached the milestone of 300 members, which allowed Lisa to hire a full-time Membership and Events Coordinator, the Chamber's second full-time employee.
Directing the LGBT Chamber is a second career for this working mom. Howe had a successful 17 year career as a head collegiate coach. After coaching Berry College in the 1994 NAIA National Tournament, she started a Division I women's soccer program from scratch at Jacksonville State University, at the age of 25. After 6 Conference Tournament appearances in 10 years, Coach Howe moved to Belmont University where she turned a fledgling program into back-to-back Conference Champions in four years. Other highlights in her coaching career include 3 time Conference Coach of the Year, 2008 NCAA Tournament appearance, and 2010 National recognition by the NCAA for having an Academic Progress Rate in the Top 10%.
The separation from Belmont, in December 2010, and the public relations blunder that ensued launched Lisa Howe into the media spotlight. Besides local news and LGBT blogs, the story was covered by the New York Times, LA Times, Glamour Magazine, and ESPN.
Hope Janice Howe was born in April 2011, and 3 weeks later, she accompanied her mothers to San Francisco, where Lisa received the Justice Award from the National Center for Lesbian Rights. On June 26, 2015, the day marriage equality became the law of the land, Lisa and Wendy were married by, then mayoral candidate, Megan Barry. Howe has been honored by OutCentral, Vanderbilt University Divinity School and recently completed the Nashville Emerging Leaders Program. She speaks to groups and companies about workplace equality and employee engagement. Lisa has done some consulting with the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the LGBT Sports Coalition.