In previous years, June’s Pride celebrations culminated in large-scale community gatherings like parades and festivals across the country. But social distancing mandates to further prevent the spread of COVID-19 — even amid a tepid reopening — have reshaped how small businesses can support and bond with the LGBTQ+ community, with many turning to virtual celebrations.
If you’re looking for inspiration for how to celebrate Pride during extended lockdown or how to fortify your alliances for the future, check out how these small businesses are turning to digital campaigns to lend meaningful support to the LGBTQ+ community.
Creating Virtual Programming
Located in Newark, New Jersey, =SPACE is known as a safe coworking and incubator space for multicultural and LGTBQ+ founders. When the COVID-19 crisis hit and forced =SPACE founder Medina to close its doors, community members created a digital space to make up for its lost physical presence in less than three days.
Before the rise of COVID-19, =SPACE had been a hands-on business, actively participating in live Pride events in the Newark community. With new social distancing needs, however, Medina and the =SPACE team needed a new approach — one that would continue their commitment to the LGBTQ+ community and keep people safe.
This year =SPACE is partnering with the Newark Museum of Art and in talks to create a multi-channel approach to virtual programming that supports queer advocacy. “What we’re doing for PRIDE in the age of social distancing enhances the =SPACE mission of creating safe spaces and granting access,” says Medina.
Their virtual events may include a multigenerational panel discussing the history of Pride through the lens of past participants and today’s social climate and a series of live-streamed drag queen-hosted day-to-night makeup tutorials. There are conversations in the works for a signature cocktail that supporters can pick up at a local restaurant with proceeds benefiting a nonprofit partner.
Every initiative they create for Pride has a long game in their company’s mission for LGBTQ+ advocacy, Medina says.
“We always ask ‘where are we in this work?’ which helps us see how what we’re doing now will contribute to what we do next,” he explains.
Sending Free Pride Swag
You don’t have to have a brick-and-mortar store to make waves during the year of virtual Pride celebrations.
Transforming Oklahoma City’s Pride week, an event attended by over 120,000 last year, to a virtual event has us optimistic that we can reach a wider audience and spread love and positivity on a greater scale.
—Chris Cox, founder, The House OKC and The House Helps.
HumanKind Swimwear was founded on the principles of serving members of the queer community who felt left out of the swimwear conversation. For June, they include free Pride Swag with the purchase of every Essentials Set, which lets shippers choose swimwear tops and bottoms to “suit” their style, including a bonus t-shirt.
As a virtual retailer, they’re literally shipping Pride to their customers’ doors so that they can have a private Pride celebration at a safe distance.
Supporting Local LGBTQ+ Organizations
Founded on a principle of merging purpose with profit, 195essential, a clothing company out of Boston, wanted to create a meaningful way to impact the LGBTQ+ community in their local area. A partnership with a nonprofit seemed to make sense, but 195essentials founders Jason and Lena Harris wanted guidance on choosing the ideal nonprofit. The Harrises reached out to their PR agency, DPA Communications, for some input.
As it turned out, DPA Communications had a longstanding relationship in place with BAGLY, Inc., a youth-led Boston-area social support organization that funds essential support services for the LBGTQ+ youth community. The two organizations teamed up to create the Pride Essentials line. For every T-shirt from their limited-edition line Pride t-shirt, 195essentials is donating 30 percent of the proceeds to BAGLY.
“The PRIDE month collaboration allows us to help spread BAGLY’s message and raise funds for things like housing, employment, food insecurity and mental health, all of which BAGLY has been committed to for a long time,” says The Harris Family.
Making Charitable Donations
In a city walloped by the COVID-19 crisis, Sweetcatch Poke is doing its part to support Pride celebrations in New York City this year through their limited-time Pride Bowl. They’re donating 100 percent of proceeds from the $16 bowl to a combination of nonprofit LGBTQ+ initiatives.
Fifty percent of proceeds will benefit The Trevor Project, a leading nonprofit providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ+ people under 25. The other 50 percent of proceeds will benefit NYC Health + Hospitals LGBTQ Health Center, which empowers access to supportive and affirming healthcare for the LGBTQ+ community.
Producing Virtual Events
Determined not to let COVID-19 get in their way of a history of participating in Oklahoma City’s annual Pride celebrations, digital marketing agency The House OKC launched The House Helps initiative to produce virtual events. Among those they’re working to bring online is OKC’s Virtual Pride Week for 2020.
“Transforming Oklahoma City’s Pride week, an event attended by over 120,000 last year, to a virtual event has us optimistic that we can reach a wider audience and spread love and positivity on a greater scale,” says Chris Cox, founder of The House OKC and The House Helps.
Their efforts include collaborating with OKC Pride organizations and local officials like Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt and LGBTQIA+ artists and performers for live-streamed events. They’re also inviting the greater OKC LGBTQ+ community to participate by putting together a “virtual parade,” a compilation of videos submitted by community businesses and organizations that will be live-streamed during the OKC Virtual Pride celebration.
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