Out of a small rented office space in Fairfax, Michael Bellavia runs HelpGood, a communications and marketing agency focused on social impact.

What You Need To Know

  • LA County has introduced new LGBTQQ+ certification for small businesses seeking county contracts

  • It creates a new pathway for majority-owned LGBTQQ+ businesses to engage with the county for contract opportunities

  • To be eligible, the businesses must also have an active certification with the National LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce or through the Supplier Clearinghouse associated with the California Public Utilities Commission

  • Program leaders say it's crucial for county dollars to be reinvested in a diverse business community most impacted by the pandemic

His company works mainly with nonprofits, foundations and government agencies.

"We worked in particular with the CEO office on the homeless initiative," Bellavia said.

His organization is now a certified Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning (LGBTQQ) business — one of the first in Los Angeles County.

"It kind of levels the playing field a little bit more just because of some of the past systemic issues that have kind of boxed out companies and small businesses like us," Bellavia said. "I was just surprised that this didn’t exist yet."

The certification is the latest addition to the county’s Community Business Enterprise Program or CBE for short. Previously, it has helped ensure that women and other minority-owned businesses have had the chance to compete for contracts with the county.

"They buy everything from helicopters to pencils. They contract every type of service from technical to landscaping to janitorial and even administrative," said Ernesto Bobadilla, Acting Chief of LA County Office of Small Business.

Many of those contracts are lucrative and could help business owners, especially as they try to recover economically from the pandemic. It could be as much as millions of dollars over multiple years.

"So, this isn’t chump change," Bellavia said.

"We, unfortunately, are sometimes the best kept secret of the resources that are out there," Bobadilla said.

To be eligible for the certification, an LGBTQQ individual must have majority ownership of the business and an active certification with either the National LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce or with the Supplier Clearinghouse through the California Public Utilities Commission.

"Once they get certified through one of these two entities, they come to LA County, provide the certification, and then we will go ahead and approve them," Bobadilla said.

The CBE program ensures at least a quarter of county contracts goes to diverse small businesses. 

"I think the onus is on businesses like us to kind of push our way to the table at points and actually make sure that we’re there, we’re available and we can offer these same kinds of services," Bellavia said.

He already has other certifications with the county but none as personal as this.

"It was kind of important to me as a gay business owner that I wanted to have that representation out there," Bellavia said.

Moreover, he is glad to see the county make the effort.

"I think it helps kind of communicate that that matters to LA County and that it also matters in general," he said.