Whether through their company The Changists or Stacey’s new position with Family Equality, Stacey and Cheralyn Stevensons want to make the world better
DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
Things were changing for The Changists on the morning we spoke. Stacey Stevenson had big news: She had just been named the CEO of the national group Family Equality, which she’ll run from Dallas.
Family Equality supports LGBTQ families by offering a state-by-state resource guide on everything from creating a family to holding LGBTQ family weeks in Provincetown to supporting pro-family legislation and litigation.
The organization recently shortened its name from Family Equality Council.
Just over a year ago, Stacey and Cheralyn Stevenson opened a new consulting firm in Dallas that they called The Changists. Targeting small to midsized law firms, the couple brought together Stacey’s 20 years in business with Cheralyn’s 20 years at a law firm.
Opening their new venture just before the start of the pandemic, the couple saw the lockdown as a challenge and an opportunity rather than as a deal breaker. Many attorneys, they found, took the pandemic-created slow down as a reason to stop and take a look at their businesses.
And that, Cheralyn said, “gave us an opportunity to test out our solutions.”
Zoom gave the couple an opportunity to reach more clients, although they recommend Teams as a better platform for their work. And just as they relied on technology more than ever before, they were there to help their clients evolve and supply some of the business knowledge and techniques not taught in law school.
The Changists often begin their work with clients by offering vendor recommendations. “We provide and help implement solutions,” Cheralyn said. “We want to be part of their growth.”
While accounting is not part of a law degree, Stacey said it’s becoming more common for attorneys to graduate with multiple degrees. For those without that billing and bookkeeping experience, Cheralyn said, she actually saves her clients money by matching a law firm with the right accounting service.
“We save you money with billable hours to have professional help doing those things,” Cheralyn said. “You can save time and money and know it’s done accurately.”
Scheduling and creating Powerpoint presentations for marketing are other administrative duties that the Stevensons help law firms master.
Cheralyn said the number one reason attorneys are disbarred is not understanding or providing proper accounting for money held in trust. Another is scheduling. Attorneys get in trouble when a judge is looking for them for failing to appear in court.
Cheralyn said they tell potential clients, “You went to law school; we went to business school.”
But it’s more than the combination of their law experience and business experience that have gotten the couple to where they are with their business and with Stacey’s new position with Family Equality.
A few years ago they created Lez Talk, a women’s empowerment conference held at Resource Center in 2018 and 2019. Several hundred women attended the first sold-out conferences where “singles and couples to learn and talk about topics from loving yourself to loving others and everything in between while protecting your dignity.”
“As married couples, where do we learn to have relationships?” Stacey asked. “Where do we learn how to parent?” Those are the questions Lez Talk was created to answer. Because although same-sex couples have been around a long time, legal marriage is still new in the community. And while LGBTQ people have always raised children parenting as out same-sex married couples is also new.
The Lez Talk conferences also focused on empowering women and addressing medical issues as well as holding couples workshops. “We never had anything like that [helping us in] navigating the heteronormative world,” Stacey said.
They didn’t hold the conference in 2020, but not because of the pandemic: “We wanted to focus on family and [how we could] affect the election,” Stacey explained.
Both women grew up in Southern Baptist families, and they met at Sue Ellen’s.
“Stacey thought I was straight,” Cheralyn said of their first meeting, probably because Cheralyn was wearing a skort — something that looked like a skirt in the front and shorts in the back. But after a couple of weeks of friendship — weeks during which Stacey found out Cheralyn was NOT straight — they began dating.
When they decided to marry, Stacey wanted the big wedding she had always dreamed about. Cheralyn, though, didn’t want that because she knew her family wouldn’t attend. So in 2007 the two eloped to British Columbia, eight years before marriage equality became law here in the U.S.
When they decided to start their own families, they first tried fertility treatments, but that didn’t work. So they decided to adopt, but the local adoption agency they first approached told them that women giving up their babies weren’t looking for a same-sex couple to adopt those children. They were told, Stacey said, that “People wouldn’t pick us.”
But the Stevensons knew that was just the agency’s way of trying to cover up its bigotry. So they found a referral to an agency out-of-state that promptly placed twins with them, and they’ve since adopted the two boys.
The couple’s history of organizing events in the Dallas LGBTQ community combined with their business experience and their experience in building a family make Stacey a perfect fit for Family Equality. Although she just started her new position this week, she is already jumping in with both feet. On the organization’s calendar are virtual family-building conferences, political issues and how to get involved on a state level, LGBTQ training sessions for employers and family building professionals and more.
The couple is taking all these changes in stride. As CEO of Family Equality, “I want to create systemic change for LGBTQ families,” Stacey said, and Cheralyn will continue building The Changists into a transformative force in the business world of law firms.
After all, change is what they’re all about.