Pride Month is around the corner; is your small business ready with a plan to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community? Also: Do you know what rainbow washing is, and how not to do it with your merchandise?
Pride started out as a riot. On June 28, 1969, police raided the popular New York gay bar the Stonewall Inn, sparking a six-day clash that ignited the gay rights movement. The inaugural Pride marches took place in 1970 in cities including New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising.
Decades later, Pride has become an international celebration marked by parades, marches, parties, and endless piles of swag items. The commercialization of Pride Month remains a hot discussion in the community, but there are plenty of ways that small businesses can participate without inappropriately capitalizing on the occasion. Here are seven simple steps to help you get started.
1. Walk the walk before you talk the talk
Before you stock up on rainbow flags, shirts, and mugs, it’s worth considering how your company supports the LGBTQ+ community year-round.
Each June, countless brands transform their logos into rainbows and begin stocking specialized, colorful merchandise. As communication specialist Ed Watson told Forbes in an article about “rainbow washing,” it’s encouraging that so many firms “are literally showing their pride in pride, and it’s great that there is so much visibility.”
At the same time, Watson added, “I rather cynically question whether many are tokenistically searching for the ‘pot of gold’ at the end of the rainbow.”
Make sure your organization meaningfully supports LGBTQ+ equality and safety on an ongoing basis—not just in June, when “pink money” is most readily up for grabs. At the very least, it’s crucial to make sure that you’ve created an inclusive workplace in your small business, and that allyship is part of your culture.
It’s also worth exploring what financial steps your small business could take to support the cause—whether that be through donations to organizations like The Trevor Project, or through a product or service that sends a portion of its profits to such organizations.
2. Tie your swag to your business
Now that you’ve made sure your company’s Pride efforts reflect your small business’s culture, it’s time to start shopping. But what should you buy?
Favorites around Pride Month include tote bags, shirts, mugs, water bottles, stickers and pins. As with any merchandise, it helps to consider which products feel most closely related to your small business. A bakery might go with mugs or specialty menu items, while an accounting firm might opt for custom stress balls or other office supplies.
Whatever product you choose to feature, just make sure you don’t get too cute. As charming as, say, an “LGBT” sandwich that includes lettuce, guacamole, bacon, and tomato might sound, the product did not go over well with everyone when tested by one UK retailer in real life. Well-intentioned as some creative ideas might be, at times it can be best to keep things simple.