Rodney Gullatte Jr. is a powerhouse, a pillar of the community, a force for diversity and inclusion — and he landed in Colorado right as the infamous Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case was unfolding.
“One of the first news stories that was on television, there was a gay couple, two gentlemen who wanted to get a cake made for their wedding — and the cake place wouldn’t make the cake for them,” Gullatte recalls. “And I was like, ‘Man, really? That’s what ya’ll dealing with here? I just came from Key West where if you even think about doing something like that, you’re gonna get run out of town.
“When I see things like that, I want to champion for everybody to have an equal part of the pie — an equal part of the American dream. So make them a cake, man. It sucks when you’re trying to get married, and you’re vilified for who you love. That’s stupid. Love is the most powerful force in the universe.”
An Air Force veteran, a certified ethical hacker and an entrepreneur (he’s founder and CEO of cybersecurity company Firma IT Solutions), Gullatte has the mind of a problem solver. And discrimination makes no sense to him: It’s morally wrong and it’s economically unviable.
“I know what it’s like when somebody has treated me unfairly just because of who I am,” he says, “and I want to destroy any presence of that anywhere I go, because I’m not with it. It keeps us from making money. It’s a barrier to economic development. Women getting paid 75 cents on the dollar [compared with men] — that’s dumb. Pay the extra money. The fact that doesn’t happen is maddening to me.”
He constantly asks himself: “Where can I insert myself to help be an agent of change?”
“People say to me, ‘Rodney, What if they’re not ready for that?’ I don’t care if they’re not ready. This is the future. The Colorado Springs that we’re building right now is not for me. I’m trying to build it for my kids, for your kids.
“Any of that old mindset that’s rigid and bigoted, there’s no room here in the future for that. We’re moving in another direction. This new generation just wants to love people and they want to make some money and they want to be happy. Can we give that to them here? Diversity and equity and inclusion are at the heart of people being able to enjoy the pursuit of happiness and engage in it without barriers. If we don’t focus on diversity and inclusion, we lose the city of the future. People are going to leave.”
Gullatte puts his time and endless energy behind practical steps toward change. He’s president of the Colorado Springs Black Business Network, past president of Rotary Club of Colorado Springs, on the board of directors for Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado, Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC, Colorado Springs Conservatory, and a cyber consultant for Pikes Peak SBDC. He’s a Business Journal 2018 Rising Star and 2017 Best in Business award winner, 2020 Mayors Young Leaders Award winner and 2021 Colorado Governor’s Fellow.
Through all his work, he’s got an eye to the future; on making the circle bigger, and closing gaps.
“Being a Black man, I always notice any lack of diversity in the rooms that I go into,” Gullatte said. “Am I the only one represented in a room? And for a lot of my career, I have been — so then what’s my job after that point? I have to be a bridge between everybody else who’s not like me, and then I have to try to get other people to come in so I’m not the only one in there. They’re both tricky. I can’t be angry all the time; I have to be able to effectively communicate what’s real and what’s not. And then getting other people to get over their fears to come into the room with me — it’s daunting ... There’s a lot of weight to it.”
Empathy is important in that work, along with a passion for fairness. But Gullatte will tell you: Every effort he makes toward diversity and equity is about love.
“As long as you lead with love, you can’t go wrong,” he said. “Lead with love.”