March 24, 2022
Zachary Wilcha (pronouns: he/him/his) became the first ever executive director of the IBA in 2015 and has worked with IBA’s volunteer board members to grow the scope and scale of the organization over the years. Under his leadership, the IBA has experienced growth in membership, an increase in board and member diversity, and innovative, award-winning programming.
As an attorney, activist, and fundraiser, Zach has served as a speaker, panelist, and writer on LGBTQ+ affairs, fundraising and development, relationship building, supplier diversity, program development, diversity, inclusion, and equity. Zach has received many accolades for his work, including the Everyday Genius leadership award from the DaVinci Art Alliance and the Philadelphia 76ers Game Changer Award for community service. He was recognized in Philadelphia Business Journal’s 2022 Power 100 list and chosen as 2019 Person of the Year by Philadelphia Gay News. Zach was appointed to the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce National Affiliate Chamber Council Leadership. He’s also a founding member of Philadelphia’s Community Leadership Pipeline, an initiative which trains and places people from marginalized LGBTQ+ communities onto Philadelphia-area nonprofit boards.
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PIDC interviewed Zach on IBA’s initiatives, unique challenges LGBTQ+ business owners face, and the newly formed Diverse Chambers Coalition. Here’s what he had to say.
Q: What resources does IBA provide to help business owners and how can they take advantage of these resources?
A: At the IBA, our aim is to advocate, educate, and connect. We do that through educational programs, supplier diversity initiatives, and networking events. We connect our businesses to each other and to opportunities for growth. We’re excited to launch new initiatives during our own recovery that will involve more subject matter experts. We would love to see more people – allies included – at our events now that we’re able to start gathering in person again. You can find out more about us and all of our events at www.thinkiba.com.
Q: You’re a part of the newly-formed Diverse Chambers Coalition, which also includes the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, African American Chamber of Commerce of PA, NJ, & DE, and Asian American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia. How are you all working collectively to further each other’s mission?
A: We’re so excited to be a founding partner of the Diverse Chambers of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia. We formalized a partnership during the pandemic to advocate for our businesses and one another and to speak with a unified voice around the issues that affect the businesses we represent. We’ve already been impactful on local policy issues and plan to develop collaborative programming for diverse businesses.
Q: What are some of IBA’s biggest accomplishments that you’re proud of so far?
A: I’m really proud that our organization has pushed the limits of what a chamber of commerce can do, leveraging the power of business to advocate for equality and uplift as many parts of our community as possible. We’ve won awards from many publications and organizations for our programming that includes the Intersections Program, an initiative around DEI for the way our community does business which helped widely diversify our board and membership, and the TransWork program, which is an entrepreneurship and employment initiative for trans and gender nonconforming people.
Q: Could you explain some of the current challenges affecting LGBTQ+-owned businesses?
A: It’s worth noting that many of the businesses with a disproportionately high number of LGBTQ+ owners and employees were in industries that were highly adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as in the hospitality and personal services arenas. Because our community relies heavily on self-identification to gather data, it’s often difficult to fully understand how widespread the challenges are. But we do know that right now many of our businesses are in the process of rebuilding after a difficult two years.
Q: How can PIDC and other local organizations further support IBA and the LGBTQ+ business community?
A: The LGBTQ+ community is a vertical that runs through every other demographic – race, class, gender expression, industry, and more. You name it, we’re a part of it. We’re also a community that lacks comprehensive protections at the state and federal level for housing, public accommodations, and employment. Our community often finds itself marginalized out of positions without recourse. For these reasons, among others, entrepreneurship is prevalent in our community. We’re grateful that PIDC provides an incredible amount of business-building resources that our innovative business owners can take advantage of.
Q: Any advice for the LGBTQ+ business community during this time?
A: I would encourage our community to take advantage of the resources available to them and become involved with groups like ours to meet other fellow business owners and eager consumers, and to understand what’s available to them through PIDC and the City of Philadelphia. I’d also recommend becoming certified to take advantage of being a diverse supplier.
Q: Lastly, is there anything else you’d like to share about IBA?
A: Our networking events are celebrations of being visible. Our community is innovative, philanthropic, and collaborative, and we’re eager to tackle this recovery period together with the help of partners like PIDC.
If you would like to get involved with IBA and/or stay informed on their endeavors, click here to learn more.