Bridging the Gap

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“IT’S NOT JUST GOOD FOR THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY, BUT REALLY OUR ENTIRE COMMUNITY.”
—Callhan Soldavini
"It's not just good for the LGBTQ community, but really our entire community."

“It’s not just good for the LGBTQ community, but really our entire community.” —Callhan Soldavini

There’s a profitable demographic businesses may be missing in their marketing. LGBTQ consumers hold some $917 billion in buying power in the U.S., according to a 2015 study from Witeck Communications. Survey results from Ipsos and Google in 2019 show that they are also 71% more likely to trust brands with advertising that authentically represents various sexual orientations. Plus, the percentage of people rejecting binary identities grows with every generation, as 90% of surveyed centennials identify as sexually fluid, compared to 84% of millennials and 71% of Generation Xers, according to a 2017 report from Kantar Consulting.

The numbers don’t lie: Society is shifting, and businesses can benefit from getting behind the cultural change.

Naples Pride’s new Business Alliance makes it easier for Southwest Florida companies to appeal to the LGBTQ community. The 501(c)(3) nonprofit introduced the partnership in October 2020, the same month it opened the Naples Pride Center, 2248 Airport-Pulling Road South. Funded predominantly by Naples Pride festivals’ success since 2017, the 2,400-square-foot recreation center is a hub for entertainment, events, support and resources—including LGBTQ-friendly companies.

“We get requests for every business you can think of,” says Naples Pride Board Member Callhan Soldavini. “So, the more diverse we can get in the business community, the more resources we will be able to provide anyone asking.”

Businesses can choose from three annual membership categories—$125 nonprofit member, $200 business standard member and $350 business sponsor member—and benefit from multiple marketing avenues.

“We’re able to promote these businesses on our website, social media accounts and in the center,” Soldavini says. Members are included in a business directory, free networking mixers, a monthly newsletter and more.

 

Prejudice Prevention

The frustrating truth is that discriminatory business practices are very real in the community. “Unfortunately, it does happen,” Soldavini says. “Things like that can really affect your heart and home, and the simplest thing we can do is recommend businesses where they don’t occur.” In fact, 36% percent of LGBTQ community members who have experienced harassment say it has occurred in the workplace, according to a 2020 Center for American Progress study. Businesses connected to the Naples Pride Center can look forward to progressive education in the future, Soldavini said.

“We would like to expand health resources and o er business training on any LGBTQ issues,” she says. “We want to be a space to be able to ask questions and get honest answers.” Soldavini also said that the more businesses that commit to LGBTQ inclusivity, the better it is for the economy as a whole.

“It’s not just good for the LGBTQ community, but really our entire community,” she says. “It’s great for the county and for our small businesses to say, ‘Hey, this is a welcoming community, and when you shop on Fifth Avenue, when you go to the mall, when you go to our restaurants, you’re going to be welcome. Come spend your money with us.”

 

INSIDE THE NAPLES PRIDE CENTER

The Naples Pride Center opened in October 2020 after an overwhelming survey response to the organization requesting a gathering center.

The rainbow flag waves prominently in front of the leased 2,400-square-foot, single-family-home-style building, located across from the Collier County courthouse in East Naples.

The center opens to a reception area stocked with helpful resources and a communal space bordered by cozy seating. It’s easy to grab a book from the large library or pop on the TV and stay awhile. The big patio out back is used for BBQs, games and other gatherings.

“It’s so much cuter than we could have imagined,” Soldavini says. “It really has a homey feel.”

The Naples Pride Center provides a space for entertainment and organized gatherings such as book clubs and support groups, as well as educational and networking events. It’s also a place to give back; early in the pandemic, the Naples Pride Center partnered with Collier County Emergency Services to feed hundreds of families in need.

“The point of our center and nonprofit is just being present and a positive impact on the community,” Soldavini says. “LGBT people and allies are here to help the community, just like any other nonprofit organization.”

Naples Pride Center 2248 Airport-Pulling Road S., Naples 239.304.9407 NaplesPride.org

Photo Courtesy Florida Community Development Legal Project, Getty

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