Hampton Roads’ LGBTQ chamber relaunches
After a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, Hampton Roads Business Outreach (HRBOR) is reviving its mission to empower and support LGBTQ businesses and their allies.
HRBOR was established in 2006 and promotes LGBTQ influence through business ownership, workforce equality and diversity and inclusion.
“We’re in a regrowth process,” says Eric Hause, HRBOR’s membership director and a member of its board. “Like most nonprofit organizations, we struggled to get through COVID and canceled membership dues for two years.”
HRBOR had as many as 150 members pre-pandemic but took a break during it, deciding not to charge dues, Hause says. During that time, a subcommittee of HRBOR’s volunteer board looked at what LGBTQ chambers in similar markets, including Richmond, Baltimore and Raleigh, North Carolina, were doing. Based on what they learned, HRBOR reset memberships, adding an individual category for self-employed entrepreneurs and lowering dues for nonprofits and small businesses. The chamber also added sponsorship levels that come with several exclusive benefits.
“It can be any organization that wants to pay to help support our mission and get much more visibility,” Hause says.
During the winter, HRBOR resumed monthly in-person networking events for the first time since the pandemic began. And on March 30, HRBOR co-presented an LGBTQ+ career expo at Old Dominion University in collaboration with ODU and Hause’s magazine, Outwire757. The event featured recruiters from 40 companies, including Sentara Healthcare, Dominion Energy Inc. and Dollar Tree Inc.
By April, HRBOR was back up to 72 members. Jarrod Hunt, a local mortgage loan officer for Charlotte, North Carolina-based Dolfin Home Loans, joined after attending a networking event at an art gallery in January. “I just wanted Dolfin’s name to be out there,” he says. “We’re newer to Virginia Beach.”
HRBOR also is partnering with Busch Gardens Williamsburg to sponsor the theme park’s first Pride Day on July 10. The event grew out of a member picnic HRBOR hosted at the park last fall. “It was well attended and led to further discussion with Busch Gardens about offering Pride events,” Hause says.
Hause says HRBOR also gains visibility through established allies including the Virginia Arts Festival, Freedom Boat Club and Samaritan House. “We’re casting a wider net to the community at large and saying this is how to reach the LGBT community. Our members look for strength in numbers.”