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    Cracks in the Cement Ceiling and More from GGBA

    By Paul Pendergast–

    On Friday, May 12, Equality California is going to be honoring Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and LaVerda Allen for the historic inclusion of LGBT-certified businesses in BART’s competitive bidding processes. Of course, everyone knows about BART, but few people in the LGBTQ community know LaVerda. She has been a champion of economic equality for minority and women businesses for over five decades. When the GGBA and BART Directors Bevan Dufty and Rebecca Saltzman set out to change the way BART does business so that it includes LGBT-owned businesses, the first person to voice her support for this initiative was LaVerda.

    Having known her for over 25 years, I have always been struck by her ability to cut to the very heart of an issue. I watched her stand her ground against large, international contractors who saw little value to including small, minority and women contractors in their projects. Truth be told—they wanted to self-perform all of the work and to take the local dollars back with them to their home offices in places like Texas, Nevada and Arizona.

    It was LaVerda’s knowledge of the construction industry and her respect from within the ranks of elected officials and government agencies that started to turn things around in San Francisco, the Bay Area and California. With special thanks to LaVerda, public contracting is changing to better reflect the faces, and families, of those who are the ones paying for these key and much-needed public infrastructure projects.

    It is LaVerda’s heart-felt belief that all minority businesses deserve a place at the table. If you can perform the tasks, you deserve to be able to competitively bid on the work. As LaVerda holds, we must all work together to fight discrimination of any kind.  The GGBA is proud to stand with her, and BART, in their commitment to inclusion and economic equality.

    The pipeline of opportunities for LGBTQ-owned and certified businesses in construction is expanding. In the professional service sectors like Communications, Marketing, Architecture, Engineering, and Environmental Services—while it hasn’t always been easy for LGBTQ entrepreneurs to step forward without the fear of losing clients because of unacceptance—we’ve seen some great firms winning work on public works projects. The same cannot be said of the construction industry.

    We need to support those in the LGBTQ business community who are contractors, construction managers, material suppliers, heavy equipment operators and laborers in the construction industry. The opportunities are there for those who are qualified and can navigate the competitive bidding process. We need to support these businesses in their efforts to create sustainable jobs that will, in turn, empower our community from the ground up.

    The GGBA invites LGBTQ individuals to join us in our efforts to build the economic vitality of businesses in the entire ecosystem of the construction industry. The GGBA’s Public Policy Committee is actively seeking those in the Architectural, Engineering, Construction Management, Construction and Transportation industries to meet on Thursday, May 10, from 8:30 am to 10 am to discuss effective strategies for building this key segment of our community. RSVP to me ( for additional details.

    Thank you, BART, and thank you, LaVerda Allen, for your important contributions to putting some substantial “cracks” in the “cement ceiling.”

    Paul Pendergast is the current Vice President, Public Policy, and former President of GGBA. He is also the Project Director and Owner/Founder of Pendergast Consulting Group (


    GGBA Member Spotlight

    A Conversation with Perform for Life’s Founders, Bryant and Justine Sharifi

    By Magdalena Rodriguez and Rosario Monteverdi–

    Perform for Life is a boutique personal training studio in San Francisco conveniently located in the Mission/Castro and most recently in Hayes Valley. Perform for Life’s mission is forged upon principles of building trust and creating a community where clients feel appreciated and valued, and an environment for personal trainers to establish careers in which they are supported and encouraged in their professional endeavors. Founders Bryant and Justine Sharifi are passionate about helping others to perform better in sports, recreation, and most importantly: life.

    We interviewed Bryant and Justine, who spoke about their business, their advice for new entrepreneurs, and how businesses like theirs can make the most out of membership in the GGBA.

    Why did you decide to create your business?

    Justine Sharifi: Bryant was in the big box corporate industry. As someone with a background in exercise science, he was passionate about continuing his education and the philosophy that you should never stop learning. He saw that a lot of the culture of the industry was based on really heavy sales and that a lot of talented technicians were unable to thrive in the training industry because of that pressure. It wears a lot of wonderful practitioners out, and they end up leaving the fitness industry. He wanted a place that could push education and service over sales for the trainers to excel in that way and to create a place with stricter requirements for trainers. At Perform for Life, all trainers have exercise science degrees to create consistency and security for our clients. It was more important to have a valuable professional who exemplified good customer service over the pressure of being a salesman on the gym floor.

    Do you have any specific policies in place regarding workplace equality?

    Bryant Sharifi: We’re an equal opportunity employer. As stated on our careers page, “Perform for Life provides equal employment opportunity to all individuals regardless of their race, color, creed, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, veteran status, or any other characteristics protected by state, federal or local law. Further, the company takes affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and employees are treated during employment without regard to any of these characteristics. Discrimination of any type will not be tolerated.”

    Why did you decide to join the GGBA?

    Bryant Sharifi: For one, we have a large LGBTQ+ community at our Mission/Castro location. Without their love and support over the years, we wouldn’t be where we are today. In addition, we also wanted to be more aware of the issues they are facing as a community and how we can be a better advocate for them. For us, the GGBA has been a constant source of inspiration, connections, and clients.

    How has the GGBA helped your business so far?

    Bryant Sharifi: We appreciate the community, and we wanted to find a community of other business owners. We’ve met so many people that we’ve been able to collaborate with and refer our clients to. In addition, we also met our chiropractor Dr. Krystal Drwencke through the GGBA and partnered with her to help with Ascent Sports Chiro’s debut at our Hayes Valley location.

    What has been your biggest reward/satisfaction during your journey as an entrepreneur? And your biggest disappointment/nerve-wracking situation?

    Bryant Sharifi: One of the biggest rewards and satisfaction we get is being out in the industry or going to events and being recognized as educated, fun, and community-focused. The second accomplishment is being able to employ and take care of our employees. We’re able to offer 401k match and health insurance after being in business for only 3 years. As for disappointments, we don’t have the attitude of having disappointments. Everything is a lesson, and we strive to be resilient. Nothing is the worst thing. We always must adapt. I think the reality is as beautiful as San Francisco is; it’s tough for small businesses to make it. You want to be able to provide a life for your staff.

    What’s the most important lesson that you’ve learned being an entrepreneur? 

    Justine Sharifi: The most important thing that I’ve learned is to adapt. I think one reason people quit in business is because they need a growth mindset. When something fails, it’s easy to want to give up and be discouraged. You must be flexible, adapt, and reinvent yourself. You can’t dwell on it. You always have to problem solve. At that point, there’s nothing you can do about it, so what can you do about it? Resilience is important. People often fail because they get discouraged, they don’t adapt, and they don’t problem solve. The things that make us different from other people is that others dwell on it and they can’t move forward with it. They don’t reinvent themselves or adapt. 

    What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of starting their own business?

    Justine Sharifi: You should always operate with integrity and the big picture in mind. You can’t just think of the quick buck right now. You must really value your clients, because they are choosing you. You must be transparent with people. We always try to put things in writing and try to make it well-known, because trust is so important to us. You must take people’s trust seriously. You really have to say what you do and do what you say.

    Magdalena Rodriguez and Rosario Monteverdi are the founders of the LGBT social network GPSGAY (


    GGBA Business Tips

    Current Legislation That Could Impact Your Business

    The Golden Gate Business Association works with our partners in Sacramento (Small Business California and California Small Business Association) to monitor and track legislation that could impact our member businesses and those of our community and allied partners. Below is a roster of current legislation before the California Assembly and Senate that might be of interest to you. 

    Assembly Bill: 2131 – Minimum Franchise Tax

    Author: Melendez (R)

    Current law, generally, imposes a minimum franchise tax of $800, except as provided, on every corporation incorporated in this state, qualified to transact intrastate business in this state, or doing business in this state. This bill would reduce the minimum franchise tax to $400 for taxable years beginning on or after January 1, 2019.

    Assembly Bill: 2182 – Privacy

    Author: Levine (D)

    Current law requires a business that owns, licenses, or maintains personal information about a California resident to implement and maintain reasonable security procedures and practices appropriate to the nature of the information, and to protect the personal information from unauthorized access, destruction, use, modification or disclosure. This bill would require the Department of Consumer Affairs to establish the California Data Protection Authority to regulate Californians’ personal data on the internet.

    Assembly Bill: 2211 – California Green Business Program

    Author: Limón (D)

    This bill would establish the California Green Business Program within the California Environmental Protection Agency to provide support and assistance to green business certification programs operated by local governments that certify small- and medium-sized businesses that voluntarily adopt environmentally preferable business practices, including, but not limited to, increased energy efficiency, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, water conservation, and waste reduction, as specified. The bill would repeal an existing authorization for the Department of Toxic Substances Control to create a similar program.

    Assembly Bill: 2758 – Income taxes: credits; qualified small businesses

    Author: Burke (D)

    The Personal Income Tax Law and the Corporation Tax Law allow various credits against the taxes imposed by those laws. This bill would allow a credit against those taxes for each taxable year beginning on or after January 1, 2020, and before January 1, 2030, in an amount equal to 5% of the amount paid or incurred by an angel investor, as defined, for investing in a qualified small business, as defined, for the taxable year in which the Franchise Tax Board issues a credit certificate.

    Senate Bill: 1343 – Employers: Sexual Harassment Training Requirements

    Author: Mitchell (D)

    The bill would require an employer with 5 or more employees to provide each with at least 2 hours of sexual harassment training by January 1, 2020, and once every 2 years after that, as specified. The bill would require the Department of Fair Employment and Housing to develop a 2-hour video training course on the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace and to post it on the department’s website. The bill would also require the department to provide existing informational posters and information regarding sexual harassment prevention, available to employers, in alternate languages.

    For more information on each of the above referenced bills, please go to:


    GGBA Calendar

    City Hall PopUp Shop
    Tuesday, May 8
    11 am to 6 pm
    San Francisco City Hall Rotunda
    1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
    Shop and support over 40 local vendors as San Francisco celebrates SFMade Week.
    Admission is free!

    Equality California – Equality Awards
    Friday, May 12
    6 pm to 11 pm
    Westin St. Francis Hotel
    335 Powell Street, San Francisco
    Honoring BART and LaVerda Allen of The Allen Group for their historic inclusion of LGBT certified businesses
    For more details:

    San Francisco Small Business Week – InspireSF
    Kickoff to the largest Small Business Week in the U.S.
    Monday, May 14
    5 pm to 8 pm
    $35 per ticket
    City View at Metreon
    135 4th Street, Fourth Floor, San Francisco
    To purchase tickets, go to:

    MEGA Make Contact
    Tuesday, May 15
    5:30 pm to 8 pm
    BMW of San Francisco
    1675 Howard Street (at South Van Ness)
    Join the GGBA, Castro Merchants, StartOUT and Rainbow Chamber Silicon Valley
    Special appearance: SF’s gay rugby team, the San Francisco Fog, and reps from the World Rugby Cup

    Stand Up & Speak OUT
    Bi-weekly workshop on how to be a more effective speaker and communicator
    Featuring national award-winning speaker, Gina Grahame
    Wednesday, May 16
    8 am to 9:30 am
    Offices of the U.S. Small Business Administration
    455 Market Street, 6th Floor, San Francisco