WBENC Celebrates 2023 Pride, featuring a conversation with Elise Lindborg, CEO of Brand|Pride on How to Support LGBTQ Businesses

June is widely recognized in the United States as Pride Month, commemorating the spark of the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement via the 1969 Stonewall Uprising against police brutality. Throughout the month of June and year round, Women & Pride is proud to strengthen our vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem by elevating queer voices within the WBENC network. We encourage readers to also visit the Women & Pride Resource Library for additional information and resources on becoming a more inclusive leader.

Brand|Pride is a lesbian owned, WBENC and NGLCC-Certified branding solutions company whose core philosophy is to help clients manage, protect, and enhance their brand equity through the use of promotional merchandise. Founded by Elise Lindborg and Kelli Henderson, Brand|Pride is the only certified LGBTQ business to be named the National Gay Lesbian Chamber of Commerce’s prestigious Supplier of the Year twice, in 2013 and 2021. Click Here to learn more and view Brand|Pride’s Capability Statement.

Could you share a little bit about your company and the inspiration for founding Brand|Pride?

Brand|Pride was founded in 2000 and has offices in Las Vegas, NV, and Seattle, WA. We originally started out in 2000 as Zippy Dogs, Your Brand Companion. At the time, we did not want to be known as the LGBTQ branding merchandise company, and were worried people may be hesitant to work with us because we were gay. We were encouraged to explore certification as both a women-owned and LGBTQ-owned company, and it wasn’t until we attended our first NGLCC National Conference that we realized the power of being in a room filled with people like us, with corporations who wanted to spend money with diverse-owned businesses.

In 2019, we exhibited at the Out & Equal Summit in Seattle with a giant, blow-up unicorn for our booth and a few high-quality giveaways. It was at this Summit we realized how few Fortune 500 companies were using LGBTQ+ vendors for their Pride t-shirts, giveaways, and banners – less than 6% according to a survey conducted of over 1500 individuals.

This encounter sparked us to change our entire business model, as well as our name from Zippy Dogs to Brand|Pride. After 19 years in business, we discovered “why” we were running an LGBTQ+ business and wanted to combat *Rainbow Washing. Initially we assisted 2 companies in Seattle with their Pride activations (Microsoft and T-Mobile) and this year we are closing in on over 80 companies.

How can individuals and corporations support LGBTQ+ vendors in June and throughout the year?

We’ve made it our mission to encourage Fortune 500 Corporations to walk their talk in their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives by using LGBTQ+ vendors for Pride – we love that companies show up for Pride, but what truly lifts our community is economic inclusion.

Individual employees and Pride Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) can help influence decision-makers: you are more powerful than you think, and we need you to continue having these transparent conversations with decision-makers within your company. We have gotten our foot into the door of many corporations because of one person, one internal employee who advocated for us and other LGBTQ+ vendors.

As the CEO of Brand Pride, how do you create an inclusive workplace that supports LGBTQ+ employees?

We’ve created a culture of inclusivity at every step of the hiring process including the usage of pronouns, as well as vocalizing our desire to seek out individuals from within the LGBTQ+ community – both as direct employees as well as potential partners and contractors. As LGBTQ+ business owners, we understand the needs of our community, which is why we are proactive in ensuring our employees are aware of local and national LGBTQ+ resources that are available to them.

*Rainbow Washing – the act of using or adding rainbow Pride colors and/or imagery in order to indicate support for the LGBTQ community to earn consumer credibility, but with minimum effort in producing tangible outcomes for queer folk.

Staff Spotlight – Pride Edition

“At WBENC I feel safe to be my most authentic self as a non-binary person who identifies on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, a feeling I have not always felt in previous roles.

When allies use pronouns in virtual or in-person meetings, or when the Chief Operating Officer makes a statement addressing an audience of 4,000+ in a shirt that reads ‘Kindness, Peace, Equality, Love, Inclusion, Hope, Diversity’ – it means a lot to folks like me.

Working for an organization where our differences are celebrated and respected by colleagues and our leadership team is refreshing and has opened the door for meaningful conversations. We are experts on creating opportunities for women-owned businesses, and our staff comes with vast knowledge and shared life experiences.

We are encouraged to speak up if we see an opportunity for change or improvement. The WBENC Women & Pride program has been so important, as it has provided a path forward for allyship and promotes conversation among corporations and WBEs who might not know where to start. On the flip side, it connects LGBTQIA+ business owners and opens the door for collaboration and discussion, thus creating progress.”

Em lives in Wake Forest, NC, with their spouse, Ashley, her two amazing kiddos, and their pets. Em is a huge fan of the Carolina Hurricanes and can often be seen attempting to get onto Jumbo-Trons at most live sporting events.

Opportunity: Join WBENC Women & Pride in Los Angeles for the WBEC West event, “Conversation with LGBTQ Business Community: Breaking Bias.”

Learn more and Register Now

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Questions about WBENC Women & Pride? Please reach out to Avery Trump at atrump@wbenc.org.