“One of the most important organizations that currently doesn’t exist in Salt Lake City’s gay and lesbian community is a business alliance,” said QSaltLake editor and publisher Michael Aaron. “Several people have stepped up and attempted to create one, but none [of those leaders] had the staying power to keep it going.”
The Q Business Alliance held its first monthly social Sept. 17 at A New Day Spa, drawing about 30 attendees. Its next social is Oct. 1 at Underground Ink.
The alliance will host First Friday Socials each month on … well … the first Friday of the month. Business owners, entrepreneurs, professionals and agents are targeted to mingle, spread the word about their businesses, and just wind down from a long week … and wind up for the weekend.
“At our first social, it was great to see how much actual business connecting was going on,” Aaron said. “People were very responsive to what they also see as a void in our community.”
The socials are open to all QSaltLake readers. Aaron said that people looking for jobs might be another group who may want to make an effort to attend.
The gay and lesbian newspaper is spearheading the effort and offering up display advertising to encourage businesses to sign on.
“I think previous attempts [at a business alliance] lacked actual buy-in from members and lacked any real benefits for participating,” Aaron said.
This will be the first business alliance to charge a fee for becoming a member — from $500 for large corporations down to $125 for individuals and $25 for non-profits. With that, QSaltLake will be offering display ads or listings each week in its pages.
“People, especially small-business owners, immediately did the math and found that they were getting vital advertising exposure for less than $5 per issue,” Aaron said. “But they also want to be part of an organization that gives back to the community.”
The group founders, Aaron, QSaltLake sales manager Brad Di Iorio, and Goldman Sachs LGBT Network organizers Ken Allen and Timothy Webb, hope that the organization can do community service projects and raise funds for non-profit organizations.
“What better way to show the community why they should seek out gay and gay-friendly businesses than doing something in a real and meaningful way to give right back to the community,” Aaron said.
“We are developing a board of directors and creating special committees that will address specific issues of gay businesses in the community,” said Di Iorio. “We hope people will bring up issues that are important to them.”
The group will also host monthly breakfast meetings at restaurants throughout the valley with special guest speakers. At both the breakfasts and the socials, members will be allowed to speak on special events or projects that their businesses are holding or simply introduce their business to attendees.
“At our first breakfast we hope to address what the new health insurance options and responsibilities are for small businesses,” Aaron said. “We’ll also go into further detail of what benefits the alliance can give them, and solicit ideas for the group.”
The group will also create window decals so that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender shoppers will be made aware that they are shopping at a friendly business.
“We are open to people of all sexual orientations and gender identities,” Aaron said. “In fact, one of our founders is an ally. We truly hope to reach out to all businesses and professionals who see Utah’s gay and lesbian people as important pieces of the fabric of our community.”
The group is a project of the Q Cares Foundation, a non-profit organization recognized as a 501(c)(3) charity. Five percent of membership dues will be donated to the People With AIDS Coalition of Utah.
The organization has created a website at QBusinessAlliance.com which spells out many more benefits of joining and has an online application for joining. It will also show each month’s events, their locations and special guest speakers.
For more information, go to QBusinessAlliance.com or call 801-649-6663, extension 111. The next social event is at Underground Ink, 249 W. 4500 South, Oct. 1, from 5;30 to 8 p.m.