In December of 2006, former Hampton Roads LGBT activist Christianna Flynn saw a need to give Hampton Roads LGBT business owners, consumers and professionals resources and support in a professional business setting. She contacted a handful of the LGBT owned, operated and allied business owners and invited them to a meeting at Norfolk’s Pretlow Library.
“We weren’t quite sure what we were doing,” recalled attorney and founding member Sherrise Powers, “but we knew we were on to something important.”
From that inauspicious beginning, Hampton Roads Business OutReach (HRBOR) was born. After taking care of the legal formalities, HRBOR immediately established monthly networking events at a member business. Membership grew rapidly, and in 2010 the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Chambers of Commerce (NGLCC) awarded HRBOR its Rising Star Chamber of the Year award.
Today, the region’s oldest and largest LGBT Chamber of Commerce is in its 10th year with 124 active and allied business members from across Hampton Roads. The milestone will be celebrated with a Gala event on May 20 at the Norfolk THE MAIN.
“The exponential growth of HRBOR over the last decade has been impressive, and it continues to grow and diversify with our community,” said President Geneva Perry. “We have members from all sectors of industry, from multinational corporations to sole proprietors. And we offer each of those businesses customized levels of benefits.”
One of those benefits is HRBOR’s “Safe Commerce” designation. HRBOR provides members businesses with a window sticker indicating that they are LGBT friendly.
“In this time of religious freedom legislation, the Safe Commerce designation helps LGBT consumers easily identity those businesses that welcome them,” said Perry.
HRBOR also issues an annual legislative agenda. The 2017 agenda includes items as diverse as redistricting reform, Federal Equality Act support, and energy independence. In February, HRBOR members traveled to Richmond to pursue that agenda with state legislators as part of Equality Virginia’s annual Day of Action.
This year, HRBOR rolled out a new member benefit: LGBT Business Enterprise (LGBTBE) certification from the NGLCC. Certification connects LGBT-owned businesses with corporate partners and LGBTBE businesses and government agencies looking to increase their LGBT spend. For HRBOR members who meet certification qualifications, the $400 registration fee is waived.
“This certification opens up all new avenues between HRBOR’s business members and fellow LGBT business owners across the country and the world,” said Perry. “It’s an exciting chance to help our members be competitive into HRBOR’s next decade.”
To help HRBOR promote the certification program, NGLCC Senior Vice President Sam McClure will be the keynote speaker at the 10th anniversary Gala. She’s one of many exciting people and events scheduled for the evening.
“The Gala is not solely a networking event,” said Perry. “It’s a celebration of what we have accomplished and the launching pad for where we are going.”
HRBOR’s 10th Anniversary Gala tickets are on sale now for $150 each and available to the general public. Contact Kyle Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www. HRBOR.org.