What started as a small-business networking group almost 10 years ago has evolved into Southern Nevada's Chamber of Commerce for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
The Lambda Business & Professional Association, 953 E. Sahara Ave., is a nonprofit organization that provides resources and networking opportunities for queer-friendly businesses and owners. The organization formed in 1992 with 10 members who met monthly for breakfast to network with business owners involved in the LGBT community. Lambda has since grown to more than 200 members who are not only involved with networking among other business owners but with events throughout the LGBT community.
Board member Terry Wilsey said he has seen exponential growth with the organization in the past year.
"The past 12 months have had some of the most growth I've ever seen," Wilsey said. "I think it's because people in the LGBT community always have a minority sense. They work harder, see ways to make things better, and they know they can do that (in this organization)."
Lambda is involved with LGBT-friendly functions throughout the Las Vegas Valley, with members representing the organization at National Coming Out Day, gay pride events, AIDS walks and business expos throughout the year.
Though many Lambda-hosted events are free and open to the public, those who want to join the organization must pay yearly membership dues. The regular membership, in which individuals pay $125, includes advertising in Lambda's annual directory and online, a three-line listing in the Las Vegas Gay Yellow Pages, voting privileges and the chance to serve on the organization's board of directors.
One of the organization's most prominent events is its monthly luncheon, which is open to the public and features notable speakers. Lambda and community members have the chance to network and share their upcoming events at the luncheons.
Victor Rodriguez, owner of graphic services firm Eurie Creative, 1001 S. Third St., attended the monthly luncheons for about a year before finally becoming a member of the organization. Rodriguez said he decided to join after seeing how many people Lambda reached at the luncheons.
"I'm glad I made the jump because I now see there's a group in town interested in helping our own gay community be successful in business," Rodriguez said. "It's made me want to be part of the community as a whole and to bridge the gap between gay and straight communities, especially with businesses."
Wilsey believes that Lambda members are starting to bridge this gap, noting that he has seen more members who identify themselves as "straight" join the organization in the past year. He said the increase in membership helps in accomplishing some of the association's goals.
"The key short-term goal is to provide a revitalized technical education program for our members," Wilsey said. "We're looking at programs like ocean regulation, business development and marketing seminars. Another is to sponsor additional fundraising events to enhance the culture of the LGBT community and have fun with it."
Wilsey, who has lived in Las Vegas for more than 30 years, said the acceptance and support of the LGBT community from others has moved forward in the past couple of years. However, he said the organization still faces challenges.
"People fear what they don't know," Wilsey said. "People who say they don't know any lesbians, gays, bisexuals or transgenders do. They're just not aware of it. This is why we open our events to members and nonmembers."
For more information about the Lambda Business & Professional Association, call 733-9800 or visit lambdalv.com.
Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter Lisa Carter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 383-0492.