The Charlotte Business Guild has always been a network for LGBT businesses owners and supporters since its start more than 20 years ago. Now, the group is looking to become affiliated with the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. The move signifies a shift in strategy for the organization.
Charlotte Business Guild president Chad Sevearance says the city's business climate has changed drastically in the last two decades.
"We went from an organization that was a place where LGBT business owners could come together safely and network to a place that actually can produce a list of LGBT-owned businesses without any fear of retaliation or fear of losing any type of clientele."
In February, the group expects to be approved to join the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, although it will still be called the Charlotte Business Guild.
The group has approximately 140 members in the Charlotte area – from small design agencies to big banks like Wells Fargo.
And he says the group, like the LGBT community, is becoming mainstream.
"Growing up here, I've noticed an extreme change," Sevearance says. "Before you could not walk down the street of uptown and hold your partner's hand or sit at a restaurant and be on an actual date with your partner. But now, no one gives it a second look."
Sevearance says the group wants to be more than a safe place to network. The guild intends offer more formal training for its members.
Most members of the Charlotte Business Guild are also members of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, but the guild addresses business challenges specific to the LGBT community.
Like when other businesses don’t want to work with you. Sevearance says that when he put in a large t-shirt order with the guild's purple logo for Charlotte's Thanksgiving Day Parade, one company refused to fill the order. He says it was the first time an LGBT group was invited to be part of the parade, so he didn't want to make a big deal of it. But when it happens to other members, the guild will step in to teach members how to best diffuse the situation or provide legal support.