Hotspots Exclusive Interview with Nayte Carrick
Photos by Chris Stephenson
MBA Orlando, the LGBT chamber of commerce in Central Florida, has gone through a number of changes over the last couple of months. They have appointed a new president, moved their offices into a new location (11 N. Summerlin Avenue, Suite 210, Orlando), and taken the popular Come Out with Pride event and placed it under the MBA Orlando umbrella. A lot of these happenings were necessary in order for the chamber of commerce to flourish not just in this coming year, but for years to come.
So as MBA Orlando looks to the future, it continues to offer services to small businesses who would like to learn how to grow their clientele, and to large corporations who place diversity and inclusion at a high priority.
I talked to MBA Orlando’s new president, Nayte Carrick, about the organization and how it benefits businesses in Central Florida.
How would you describe 2014 in terms of MBA Orlando’s growth?
We saw strong growth in all of our membership groups throughout 2014. We have quite a few new corporate members, and we’ve strengthened the programs that benefit those corporate members. We’ve also increased our outreach to small businesses and helped them connect with others via our networking events.
2014 was a really great year for us and it’s positioned us to have a great 2015. I’m really looking forward to our Pride in Business Awards, which recognizes outstanding local businesses and corporate partners, and that’s going to happen this year on April 24.
What are MBA Orlando’s plans for Come Out with Pride this year?
For Pride, we’ve already mapped out our direction and revised our budget. We’re going to be cutting back some things and focusing more on our local supporters. We’ll be continuing with the multi-day events, but we’re going to cut two of the days. So we will be having opening ceremonies on Thursday, events with our community partners on Friday, and then there are going to be all-day events on Saturday. We’re going to be focusing more on attracting local and regional entertainment too, and that’s for a couple of reasons. We want to profile what makes Central Florida special, and we also want to keep our hard-earned dollars in the area.
I remember the first Pride I was ever aware of. I moved to Orlando 11 years ago from a small town in Kentucky. Nine years ago, I had left my house in Thornton Park and I was driving down the road and I saw all these pride flags flying from the lightposts — and the City of Orlando had put them up. It was the first time I ever felt true love and pride out in the community and it made me feel like I could be who I was. When it comes down to it, Pride isn’t really about how big of an act you can get to perform, it’s about how welcome can you make people in the community feel. Pride is about who we are and how we can help people in the Central Florida community.
Many of MBA Orlando’s members are small businesses. Can you tell me how they benefit from your Small Business Initiative?
We have a number of ways for all businesses, small, medium and large, to participate. One thing we’ve found is that there really is no “one size fits all” program. We’ve grown from five years ago, when we just had a directory and a few networking opportunities.
We have quite a few networking groups that can help grow businesses, one of which is called RED, which stands for Referral Exchange and Development. It allows people in the LGBT community who have their own businesses to network with…I guess you would say other “Type A” personalities on a one-on-one basis. In the first years RED was around, the members generated over $1 million in sales just inside the group. We’re considering adding other groups as well so more businesses can benefit.
What kinds of major corporations are members of MBA Orlando and what do they learn being a part of the Diversity and Inclusion Initiative?
We have many corporate allies, such as Disney, Charles Schwab, Universal, Darden Restaurants, Siemens, OUC, Orlando Health, and that’s just a few of them. For example, Orlando Health came to us and asked for our help so they could raise their score with HRC’s Corporate Equality Index. With our help and our resources, teaching them the value of diversity and inclusion, they’ve successfully placed those values as a priority and they are working towards having an even more diverse workforce.
When these companies place a priority on inclusion, it helps workers. For example, we made a lot of progress on the marriage equality front, and people can get married now in Florida. But what still threatens LGBT people today is uncertainty at work. Is my business inclusive? You can still be fired from your job for your sexual orientation or gender identity. We’ve made a lot of remarkable progress but we still have work that’s left to be done.
How important do you think it should be for an LGBT-owned or LGBT-friendly business to join an inclusive chamber of commerce like MBA Orlando?
It’s very important. We have the resources which allow local businesses to grow and thrive. It can be very difficult to run your own business, not to mention being a minority business owner. It’s nice to know that with our organization and with our members, there are people to turn to for advice, or people who will give you a helping hand when you need it.