Made In Gaymerica: Keeping Our Money In Our Pockets
Written by Miguel J. Delgado
When it comes to the issue of gay pride and equality, consumers have no better way to vote than with their wallets. It’s been said before, but it bears repeating: Every dollar you spend is a vote for the type of world you want to live in.
And if you want to live in a gay-friendly world, there’s no better place to start than by supporting gay businesses. Maybe it’s stopping by the gay-owned coffee shop a bit more, supporting the independent gay bookstore (if your neighborhood is lucky enough to still have one) or using the gay florist for those special occasions. Regardless of how you do it, there are great benefits to be gained from keeping money in the community—and it ain’t hard to do.
Nick Vivion had the GLBT market in mind when he co-founded his company in 2009. UnicornBooty.com is a site that he says looks to “give small-to-midsize businesses a platform to the $825 billion gay market.” Each day, a different company sponsors the site and gains access to its followers on Twitter and Facebook. Consumers benefit from special deals and chances to win free swag each day.
“Consumers also get educated on gay-friendly companies and cool businesses they may not otherwise have known about,” says Vivion. Recently, for example, the site featured Manpacks.com, a site that offers socks and underwear by mail on a once-every-three-months subscription service. Even better than new underwear, the company donates 10 percent of its net profits to GLBT-centered nonprofits. A win-win.
Working with gay professionals can also prove beneficial for developing rapport. Holly Ladd, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker in Scottsdale, Arizona, realized the benefits of working with a gay agent when she and her partner relocated to the region from Colorado. “The dialogue is much more open, and the comfort and trust levels are much higher,” she says. “Buying a home is stressful enough. Working with someone you trust with your lifestyle eliminates another layer of stress from the whole experience.”
But more than just providing the comfort that comes with working with “family,” choosing to spend your hard-earned cash in the community can also help make huge strides in the larger social progress of the community. So says Joe Kapp, a Maryland financial planner who specializes in serving the complex financial needs of high-net-worth gays and lesbians.
“Buying from a gay and lesbian business is not just about supporting the business itself,” he says. “It’s ultimately that gay and lesbian business owners have a strong sense of community and a strong need and willingness to give back to that community, whether it’s supporting festivals or providing free services for important events.
“I’ve always believed that the best way for a community to advance itself is to make sure that they are not beholden to anyone or anything for their job,” Kapp adds. An employee who is living paycheck to paycheck is less likely to take a stand against harassment or a hostile work environment. A worker who is financially independent and has an adequate emergency fund, on the other hand, can more easily be a catalyst for change.
As the gay pride movement has entered the mainstream in recent years, many entrepreneurs have found that the community can be quick to embrace small-business owners who take a stand for gay issues. On the third season of Bravo’s hit show Million Dollar Listing, which aired in 2009, Malibu-based Coldwell Banker real estate agent Madison Hildebrand came out publicly in an episode where he participated in a photo shoot for Adam Bouska’s NOH8 campaign. And since the episode aired, Hildebrand says he has increased the number of gay clients he serves and hopes to attract more in the future. “It has only helped my career,” he says of coming out. “I was a little skeptical at first, but I have not felt any negativity from anyone, really, which assures me I made the right decision.”
Now that you know why you should be shopping gay, tune your gaydar and locate the establishments. To find local companies that specialize in serving the gay community in your area, Kapp recommends looking for the local GLBT Chamber of Commerce. The member directory for the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (nglcc.org) can also be a valuable resource. Some simple Internet searching can also help find gay professionals, like GayRainbowPages.com or more specialized sites like GayRealEstate.com and GayLawNet.com.
Another important “vote with your wallet” strategy is to support larger companies that have a track record of supporting the gay community. Each year, the Human Rights Campaign rates America’s largest companies based on their gay-friendliness (including extension of benefits to same-sex couples, anti-discrimination policies and protections offered to transgender workers). The Corporate Equality Index is available online at hrc.org/issues/cei.htm. And of course, a quick flip through your favorite gay magazine (like the fine piece of journalism you hold before you) can turn up plenty of GLBT-supportive companies.
June is Gay Pride month—and circuit parties, marches and drunken revelry are fantastic ways to celebrate. But to make a difference year-round, try to support local gay-owned small businesses and the larger corps that are supporting us.