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Community in Action

Advocating for LGBT and ally businesses in Detroit

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By Melissa Lowery

Kevin Heard, president board of directors of the Detroit Regional LGBT Chamber of Commerce, wants women entrepreneurs and professionals to know that the organization is eager to help them achieve their business goals as the city recovers from economic disaster resulting from the 2008 recession.

“Diverse businesses are playing a big role in Detroit’s resurgence, and women are a big part of those diverse businesses,” Heard says. “The majority of our member businesses are women-owned, and we have a large women’s professional membership. The intersectionality of identity is very important, so we encourage our women members to achieve multiple certifications [as LGBT-owned and women-owned businesses]. It opens so many doors across the nation and, increasingly, globally.”

The Chamber’s mission is to empower all LGBT and ally businesses, moving to engage and educate the world about what they have to offer.

“Our purpose is to show the world that LGBT folks are diverse, that we come in all shapes and sizes, all genders and spectrums, and that our businesses are as diverse as we are,” Heard says. “We are more than flower shops and coffee shops, and our demographics reflect that.”

Members and corporate partners like Henry Ford Health Systems, Quicken Loans and Mercedes-Benz Financial Services connect at monthly mixers. Heard encourages members to use these events to make connections with corporations and with other LGBT-owned businesses. He also encourages taking advantage of the business-building resources the Chamber offers.

“We want to take a more consulting approach,” he says. “We are the resource for everything LGBT and business. The Chamber keeps up with the latest LGBT marketing research. We take that data and use it locally to benefit LGBT business owners and other organizations who support our community. We can audit processes in the front of store and the back office, provide guidance on how to expand offerings, help our members connect with potential corporate partners and learn best practices.”

To help members scale and market their businesses to the masses, the Chamber partnered with Google in Ann Arbor, Mich., for Pride My Business. Pride My Business is a day-long event, designed to educate small and medium-sized LGBTQ owned and/or friendly businesses on how to use the power of the web. Topics covered include Google My Business, Google Analytics, Google Trends & Think With Google, Primer, AdWord and Google’s Small Business Supplier Diversity program.

“This is a great way for businesses to learn how to use Google’s small business tools,” Heard says. “We at the Chamber also gain knowledge about how to build our nonprofit and better seek out opportunities for our members.”

Heard sees many opportunities on the horizon for LGBT-owned businesses and allies as the city rebuilds.

“We want our businesses, especially the mature ones, to be able to seek out new opportunities and grow,” he says. “Hopefully one of the small businesses that are part of the Chamber will become one of these large corporations that are looking to invest in our community. That’s our goal – to help them grow and become a force to be reckoned with. From being one of the worst cities in America to resurging as an economic force, it’s truly inspiring to be part of rebuilding Detroit.”

Learn more about the Detroit Regional LGBT Chamber of Commerce at www.detroitlgbtchamber.com.

Business Equality Pride (BEQPride) is the first publication from the BEQ family of national print and digital magazines exclusively addressing the needs of LGBTQ small-to-medium sized businesses, entrepreneurs and professionals.