"All my life, I felt like I was living in this bubble. No one heard me. Finally, for once in my life, someone has seen me." So speaks Precious Ebony, a lauded commentator in the ballroom dance community, as she flips her hair and twirls effortlessly on a treadmill, in the opening montage for a recent Blink Fitness advertisement.
The New York City-based chain of fitness centers, which now counts more than 2,000 employees and roughly 70 locations nationwide, is one of many private businesses that are paying homage to those who identify as LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) this month. Gay Pride month, which is designated as such each June, commemorates the Stonewall riots of 1969--and the ensuing gay liberation movement. Companies big and small have seized the moment in various ways--from diverting revenue to heralding dozens of ad campaigns and initiatives this year meant to demonstrate support for this historically marginalized, and yet economically significant, community base.
It's Good Business
Blink has gone above and beyond, even in an era where Millennials increasingly demonstrate that they value working for (and giving business to) companies that are socially conscious. In addition to producing the above video, the fitness empire is partnering with the non-profit Gay Men's Health Crisis and offering free, one-year memberships to the five category winners at the organization's annual Latex Ball later this month in New York City. The Ball serves as a form of ballroom dance forum, where voguers and other LGBT community members gather to compete for prizes.
"We saw this as an incredibly smart business decision," says Todd Magazine, Blink's CEO, in a phone call with Inc. this week, noting that memberships typically range from $15 to $26 per month. "A lot of brands out there are hopping on the Pride bandwagon because they want to take advantage of the opportunity to leverage the power of that idea, but for us, it's consistent with who we are as a brand," he adds. "Our whole philosophy is that fitness should be for everybody, and that the focus should be on how fitness makes you feel, not how you look."
Other startups are diverting revenues this month in support of LGBTQ consumers. For instance Loulette Bride, a Brooklyn-based maker of wedding gowns, is running a month-long promotion for LGBTQ brides-to-be, offering two dresses for the price of one, where garments range from $2,500 to $4,000. And Scott Petinga, a serial entrepreneur and CEO at New York City-based Rouse condoms, plans to donate 75 percent of his company's profits to various men's health initiatives. The business, which only began generating revenue earlier this year after receiving FDA approval, designs condoms intended to be more discrete in nature.
"I truly believe that I can generate enough revenue to cover my bottom line, but also have a huge impact on the world," Petinga says, noting that he financed Rouse with profits from a previous venture, investing around $150,000. The company will also be passing out as many as 13,000 free condoms at the Toronto Pride parade this weekend.
Big Is Beautiful
Naturally, bigger businesses are also tipping their hats to this vast community. Trulia, the San Francisco-based real estate website owned by Zillow, has launched a product to help the LGBT community understand local non-discrimination laws that exist across the jurisdictions of any prospective home. Because LGBTQ are not a federally protected class--and their protections are inconsistent across state and local levels--Trulia hopes that the database will empower gay couples to understand their rights and push back where appropriate. "This feature underscores Trulia's culture of diversity, inclusion, and innovation," noted Tim Correia, a senior vice president at the company, in a recent blog post. He added that the feature was "conceived and built by the members of our internal Pride Network."
Ben and Jerry's--a company long known for its civic activism--helped to build a rainbow monument in Warsaw, Poland this month, a country where it is not currently legal for same-sex couples to marry. The Unilever-owned ice cream behemoth is replacing an earlier version of the rainbow monument, which was burned down by Polish nationalists in 2015. "Our hope was that by creating a rainbow in the form of an unbreakable light projection, we could shine a light on the need for action in support of LGBT rights and champion marriage equality in Poland," a spokesperson for the company tells Inc. via email.
Similar to Blink, Ikea also took to the airwaves. The Swedish furniture maker partnered with several Toronto-based drag queens, who appear in a new international ad spot wearing various household products including shower curtains, umbrellas and laundry bags. (June is also LGBTQ Pride month in Canada.) "It's already quite common for drag queens to make outfits out of unconventional brands, with Ikea being a go-to," the company said in a statement. "[This] continues our commitment to spotlighting diversity and inclusion."