A Video Conversation with Betsy Cerulo, CEO of AdNet/AccountNet, Inc and President of the Maryland LGBT Chamber of Commerce – On Getting Started

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Advocating for Maryland’s diverse LGBT community

Betsy Cerulo is the CEO of AdNet AccountNet, Inc, as well as the president of the newly launched Maryland LGBT Chamber of Commerce. Based in Baltimore, AdNet is an 8(a) management consulting firm that advocates for workplace equality and helps connect candidates and contractors to opportunities at regional organizations. Throughout her career, Betsy has served on numerous regional and national inclusion-focused organizations, including the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, and the Women’s Presidents’ Educational Organization Certification Committee, the NGLCC Federal Procurement Group, the Development Committee for Chase Brexton Health Services, and the LGBT Health Resource Center Advisory Board. Earlier this year, she teamed up with Dave Imre, CEO of Imre, to create Maryland’s first LGBT Chamber of Commerce.

 

OFFIT KURMAN: Tell us about your background and how you got started in this field.

 

BETSY CERULO: I worked for a national recruiting firm for five years. When I came out of college, I was in the finance and financial services industry. I went to work for a recruiting firm, so I became a “head hunter” at an early age. I loved the company, loved what I did, loved the owner, loved everything about it—and then they sold. And in the sale, in the transition, the culture changed, and it wasn’t a fun place anymore, so a lot of us started to leave. I just couldn’t imagine working for somewhere else that I would love that much. I was young enough, didn’t have enough to lose if you will, and so I started AdNet at 28.

 

As far as my background, I actually do have a lot of entrepreneurship in my family. Both sides of my family were immigrants from Italy, and they had the taverns, general store; we were in garbage—no, I am not related to the Sopranos—so it was in my blood for entrepreneurship, interestingly enough. Really hard working small business owners.

 

How has the business changed since you founded it?

In 27 years, I’ve had to make a lot of changes and a lot of pivots to be able to evolve with the changes in the world. I’ve been through three economic downturns. I’m happy to say—I’m proud to say—we’re still here and we’re actually stronger. Each time I’ve come out, even though I thought it was awful, each time we came out we came out stronger.

 

I really started out as a traditional employment agency back in 1990. We were doing administrative and clerical work, because I had a non-compete so I couldn’t do accounting and finance. When the non-compete ended, I started to slowly weave in the accounting, and then just through being in the business for so many years. we started to evolve into doing accounting and finance; human resources; and then, over the past 10 years, legal placement. We do a lot of management consulting. We don’t do clerical and administrative placement much anymore—we do some administrative—but for the most part we are finding subject matter experts in those particular labor categories, in the federal space and in the corporate space.

 

I became a federal contractor because of the recession in 2008. Nobody else was hiring, and I lost half my business. It was a matter of “Okay… Is the universe really saying it’s time to go do something else, or should I re-look at the business model?” I threw everything out the door that I knew, went into the federal space, and became a federal contractor.

 

Today—actually, 2016—we won our 8(a) certification with the SBA, which is really big because I won it as a result of being an LGBT female. And from what I’ve been told, I believe I’m the first LGBT women to win under that criteria, so it means a lot.

 

 

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