In 2005, at the behest of community members trying to reach the gay market in South Florida, Compass investigated the possibility of creating a gay chamber of commerce in Palm Beach County. The chamber in Miami had become very successful as a focal point for LGBT and LGBT-friendly businesses to the south.
“Why not do that up here?” asked several Compass supporters.
Compass staff researched the project and discovered that the tax structure of a chamber is complex and not complementary to a non-profit status. “It was a mess that we didn’t need to step into,” said Julie Seaver, the current Director of Development who was not with Compass at the time. “But staff came up with another idea and that was the Pride Business Alliance (PBA) which, for tax purposes, could be just another community outreach program of Compass, Inc.”
Seaver mentioned that she’d joined Compass in 2007 in large part due to the fact that PBA connections had helped her find a therapist and an attorney when she needed help ending a traditional marriage complicated by a business partnership and a young daughter. “I was really desperate to find someone who understood the issues gay people face at these times and Compass PBA helped. That’s when I knew I wanted to work here.”
Another story Seaver shared from PBA archives involved a lesbian couple who called Compass for a referral for a plumber before the PBA was launched. The volunteer on the phone that day gave the caller the contact information for a plumber he had used in the past. What he didn’t know was the plumber was a homophobe and when he realized he was working for a lesbian couple he stopped working, packed his tools and left a completely disassembled kitchen sink and a frightened client who didn’t know what might happen next.
“That’s why we need a source for gay and gay-friendly services,” said Seaver. “You just don’t know who you might be letting into your home.”
PBA was launched in 2006, thanks in part to a grant from then sponsor Wachovia (now Wells Fargo Bank). The first mixer was held at Grandview Gardens Bed & Breakfast hosted by owners Rick Rose and Peter Emmerich. Over 50 people showed up for that event and many charter members signed up that evening.
Today, monthly mixers are held generally on the third Wednesday of the month from 6:30 to 8:30 hosted by a different business every month. “We can move the date for the mixers if they conflict with other events going on in the community,” said Seaver. “We also try to support member organizations events with raffles, gifts and announcements.”
Host companies provide food and beverages and people socialize and get to know one another. Around 7 pm, a Compass staff member becomes an MC and welcomes attendees. New members are announced and introduced to the group and attendees are invited to make announcements of general interest. The host company gets the floor to do a presentation on its products and services and the evening ends with more socializing.
Meetings have been held in an automobile dealership, a body shop, a glass art studio, a church, a nightclub, a restaurant, a designer furnishings store, an accountant’s office and more. “Some spaces are easier to work than others,” said Seaver. “But the people really like getting to know one another and sharing information about their businesses and themselves.”
In addition to the monthly mixers, PBA membership entitles members to a listing on the website, www.gaypalmbeaches.com as well as inclusion in the annual Pride Guide that reaches over 15,000 people each year. Members may display brochures and posters on “Main Street” in the Center (outside the Youth Room) and have announcements included in Compass’ weekly e-newsletter.
Membership is $125 per year for individuals and non-profits and $250 for corporations. To learn more or to sign up visit www.gaypalmbeaches.com.
The next Pride Business Alliance mixer will take place at:
When - Wed, Sept. 28, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Where - Theatrics, 705 Lake Avenue, Lake Worth FL 33460
Description: Light Refreshments will be served...Come on out and mingle with gay and gay-friendly business people and their friends at the monthly Pride Business Alliance mixer! There is no cost to attend.
More Info: www.theatricslakeworth.com