Transforming LGBT Purchasing
BY Neal Broverman
December 18 2012 9:43 AM ET
A new business initiative called OSL Holdings has grand ambitions to change spending habits among African-Americans, Latinos, women, and gays. OSL wants to connect the dots between minority shoppers and the companies that support them; their hope is to also communicate to major companies that marketing to these groups is profitable, and to provide tools to corporations to see if they're reaching such people. They also want to direct business owners to minority-owned suppliers, so if an ally wanted to support a lesbian-run pet store, for example, they would easily know where to find one. Though the company is for-profit, they also have a built-in philanthropic angle, with a planned rewards program that allows people to direct some of their purchases to equality organizations like GLAAD or the Human Rights Campaign. OSL's first endeavor is to take on the LGBT market, which the company's directors see as full of potential. Company founder Eric Kotch, president Robert Rothenberg, and Steve Gormley, the president of Data Now, an OSL division, sat down recently to talk about their plans.
The Advocate: Can you explain what OSL wants to do?
Rothenberg: Basically, we’re a data technology company and our main goal is to expose data from untracked markets and connect buyers and sellers for a transaction within the diversity space. So, we're really creating tools, data, and technology that bridges a gap in the market. Both data that’s not exposed today and connecting consumers and corporations or businesses and businesses together.
Our data business is taking data not accessible today in off-grid retailers and exposing that to major brands and getting that data in front of them so they can know what’s happening at the consumer level with their products and services. The diversity division — it’s creating the tools to expend the marketplace in identifying the LGBT community, identify LGBT-owned businesses with major corporations so they can contract with them and do some business.
Gormley: OSL is a publicly-traded company. We want the public to know that there are small-cap public companies that are LGBT-friendly. We have a suite of these transaction-oriented software platforms and we call it the Think platform. It’s essentially a transaction-centric social network. It interactively identifies, incentivizes, and connects this community of retailers, suppliers, and consumers all while generating data and valuable analytics. And our diversity platform was really developed from the philosophical standpoint of wanting to help minority-owned businesses increase transaction and revenues. And help the major corporations better identify LGBT-run, women-run, African-American-run, veteran-run businesses so they could come out and better support these verticals. Part of the reason we’re really pushing for the LGBT vertical to be our first is because of the inflection point with where the community is politically right now. Look at the Hispanic community, the African-American community, and women-run; these verticals have had institutionalized support between 30 and 50 years. When you look at LGBT verticals, which is still fighting for its civil rights, we really felt that we wanted to create or leverage our tool-set to enable major corporations to take a pro-active stance to support LGBT businesses, suppliers, and consumers and those businesses, suppliers, and consumers who support LGBT causes.
We really believe strongly in the supplier diversity initiative that’s been created and launched by the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. Theur program is looking for business tools that opens doors with major corporations and LGBT-certified business enterprises. So, we’re another tool set in that campaign, if you will, to put LGBT businesses, suppliers, and consumers on the map and make support for these businesses visible.