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Detroit Regional LGBT Chamber Awards Grants to Two Detroit LGBTQ-Owned Businesses

Welcome Home Yoga and Wellness and Let Fri, LLC received $5,000 grants

Jason A. Michael

Two local LGBTQ-owned businesses will benefit from grants issued by the Detroit Regional LGBT Chamber of Commerce. For the first time in its six-year history, the Chamber has awarded grants through its Chamber Fund. Two Detroit businesses, Welcome Home Yoga and Wellness Center and Let Fri LLC, a plant-based meat producer, received $5,000 each from the Chamber at a ceremony at Welcome Home Yoga and Wellness.

Kevin Heard, the Chamber’s executive director, said the grants are important because many new businesses and start-ups need immediate assistance to help scale or fill in gaps in funding.

“These grants are for them to be able to make an investment to help pay for items or services that will fill those gaps and not jeopardize making payroll or stopping the progression,” he said. “Marketing services can be expensive and time-consuming but, ultimately, very valuable for any business to get its name and services out there.”

Heard, who founded the Chamber in 2016, went on to say that he is “filled with joy” to be able to give out these grants.

“After running this Chamber for so long, we can now give back to the community monetarily,” he said. “We are the organization best positioned to know how to infuse dollars into the LGBTQ business community and prop up businesses to ensure sustainable growth for years to come.”

Looking ahead, Heard promised that the Chamber would continue to give out grants, and hopefully bigger ones. “Though this year was a small amount, we hope to only grow that year after year, if the businesses, corporate partners, and the community continue to support us.”

The best way to support the Chamber is to attend its events and programming, including their annual gala, said Heard. And new business owners need more support now than ever after recent years filled with a pandemic, supply chain delays and a locked-down China.

“When a business is able to open, they become a job creator,” Heard said. “In my opinion, that's the biggest asset to a community. This is somewhere for members of the community to start their journey of building wealth and contributing to society. As LGBTQ+ or minority-owned business owners, we hire and reflect the communities we serve.”

Robin Childers, owner and founder of Welcome Home Yoga and Wellness, said it was an “absolute honor” to receive the impact grant from the Chamber.  “It is humbling to be recognized as a community leader and hardworking small business owner,” she said. “This grant will help Welcome Home Yoga and Wellness continue to grow roots in support of our mission to make yoga and wellness an inclusive experience, accessible to all, especially, historically underserved community members (BIPOC, LGBTQ+, etc.).”

“We are proud to be the first 100 percent LGBTQ+ owned and operated yoga studio and wellness center in Detroit,” Childers went on. “And we look forward to welcoming a growing, vibrant LGBTQ+ presence. Representation matters.”

Located in the Avenue of Fashion Corridor, the yoga center’s location was chosen, said Childers, out of her deep love and devotion for the city.

“Like the Chamber, we very much want to support the revitalization of businesses through collaborating and building strong relationships. Welcome Home Yoga and Wellness became a member of the Chamber because our missions of uplifting community through deep connections are very much aligned.”

Childers also said that fledgling LGBTQ+ businesses need to support one another.

“Queer businesses play a vital role within their communities,” she said. “They provide products and services, create jobs and support the local economy. More importantly, queer businesses help break down barriers, challenge negative stereotypes and help educate people about misconceptions about the LBGTQ+ community.”

But, she said, it’s often difficult work.

“Queer business owners also have unique challenges they face unlike their straight counter parts. Some of the challenges we face include disclosing our sexuality and gender to investors, employees, and customers, and being the victim of harassments, discrimination, verbal and/or physical violence.”

These and other challenges unique to the queer community, said Childers, “highlight the importance and necessity for queer business owners to join together and support one another.”

And that’s just what the Chamber is about.

“It's coming together, but much more work needs to be done,” Heard said. “We will be collecting data on our members to understand their gaps and needs, more partnerships will be forged, more business owners need to come out and join, and more LGBTQ+ professionals and allies need to join and get involved.”

Heard said the Chamber’s success depends in large part on simply getting their name out there.

“There are so many people that still don't know we exist, and that is just the truth,” he said. “Nothing to sugarcoat.”

To fix that, the Chamber will be investing in marketing this upcoming year and attempting to be more visible. The Chamber also hopes to hire staff soon.

“It would be a big accomplishment for us,” Heard said. “So, if you know anyone who wants to underwrite a program coordinator position, holla at me!”

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