Detroit’s LGBTQ+ chamber of commerce is helping create a business renaissance

Author: Greg Owen

Since he moved from Atlanta in 2012, Detroit native Kevin Heard has been devoted to one ambitious goal: creating opportunity for LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs to succeed in the challenging business environment of Motor City.

So Heard founded the Detroit LGBT Regional Chamber of Commerce, which has distributed thousands of dollars to up-and-coming small businesses and entrepreneurs to pay for leases, buy equipment, and scale their dreams. Recent contracts for members include a Ford Motor Co. agreement and a pending contract with the NFL Draft when it comes to Detroit in April.

One chamber member is coffee house Eastside Roasterz, a passion project from Tiffany and Riss Dezort, who moved from Washington, D.C., where the LGBTQ+ population is three times higher than in Detroit.

It was a culture shock.

“When it comes to building a business with all of that in mind, that’s really what we went to Kevin for. ‘Hey, would you have a better understanding of queerness and business crossover and how to navigate that here in Michigan?” Riss Dezort said.

The Dezorts have earned over $35,000 in business grants from Michigan organizations, but the biggest boost came from the LGBT Chamber, which provided a 12-week accelerator program and mentorship in navigating the business environment in Detroit.

Members of the LGBT Chamber include Corktown Health, La Feria + Cata Vino, Welcome Home Yoga and Wellness, and the Dezort’s Eastside Roasterz, which supplies coffee for BasBlue, Sister Pie, and Next Chapter Books. The coffee spot also offers wholesale coffee purchases online and operates pop-up shops.

Heard offered, “I’m looking at this as an opportunity to bring more great, innovative young people who would like to stay and live in the state of Michigan. To be inclusive of that, to know that this is a space that people can start their families regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity expression.”

“Discrimination is bad for business… we know this to be true,” out Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said recently at a town hall for the LGBT Chamber. “This is not wishful thinking… the more inclusive we are, the more we do to reach out to all communities, the better it is for business in our state.”

People want to live in a place “that will treat them equally and fairly, where they know that they won’t be discriminated against in all different areas of their life,” Nessel said.

But obstacles remain, Heard says.

“The barriers in which LGBT people get when it comes to businesses are the gatekeepers at traditional banks that are maybe homophobic, may have their unconscious biases in when looking at or actually meeting the candidate. They look great on paper, but they don’t like their lifestyle, and that has been honestly one of the biggest barriers.”

Part of the Chamber’s mission, Heard said, is showing LGBTQ+ people in spaces “other than just the typical bar-hopping, Pride parades.”

“We are in every industry, every level of an organization,” Heard said, “and we own more than bakery shops and bars.”

Don’t forget to share:

Actual Story on LGBTQ Nation
Author: Greg Owen

You may also like...