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Proud of Wichita seeks to uplift LGBTQ-owned businesses by increasing their visibility

Carla Eckels
Chris Pumpelly, left, speaks with Derek Davenport, owner of Urban Routine, about the Proud of Wichita kickoff drive.

A newly formed business organization wants to provide support for LGBTQ businesses.

A new business organization aimed to promote LGBTQ businesses in Wichita will host a membership kickoff drive on Friday, Nov. 18. For this installment of In The Mix, Carla Eckels sat down with Chris Pumpelly, founder & chief executive of Proud of Wichita.

Interview Highlights

What was your motivation to start an LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce in Wichita?

I'm a proud member of the LGBTQ community. And growing up, I felt that sometimes there wasn't always, the kind of ... mentorship opportunities that I would like to have had. There are not always the kind of networking opportunities. Sure, there are traditional groups, but when you don't necessarily feel like your story resonates with everybody in the room; you're not as likely to share it, and maybe you don't feel quite as comfortable and quite as empowered to tell that story. So that's an issue that I think can be resolved, very simply by just convening this organization.

You mentioned convening the organization, so it's going to kick off soon?

That's right. This month I'm very excited that we are partnering with an example, in my mind, of excellence. Derek Davenport, who owns Urban Routine, graciously offered the use of his space next week at his facility out in east Wichita to have a membership kickoff drive. We are really hoping to let everybody know that they are welcome to check this out.

What should businesses expect when they join?

The attitude from day one is that inclusion is smart business, and we are opening new markets. We're gonna be approaching the city of Wichita and its people with a dynamism that reflects the strengths of our members. What businesses can expect is a celebration of the folks who work for them. They can expect that they're gonna have a community that is already excited to support their members and their employees. You're going to find an engaged community that really wants to grow in prosper in Wichita.

What sets you apart from other chambers in the Wichita area?

Well I'm excited to say that our first partner was the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce. Ricki Ellison is serving on our board of directors, and Ricki has been a tremendous asset, and I cannot thank her enough for the guidance and the connections that she's made in this community.

What sets us apart is that we are built by and for the LGBTQ community in Wichita. We are every day working to celebrate excellence and to create new markets in Wichita and create new opportunities to create spaces for visibility for member businesses. We're hoping to create spaces for economic growth by saying, "These are products and services that are new to the market, that are specific to this community."

Do you plan to be associated with national chambers?

Absolutely. I'm very pleased to say that the national LGBT Chamber of Commerce has been an early contact for us. Very excited to hear the work that's being done. The real perspective that they take, which I completely understand, is that for them to partner with us, it has to be successful.

Chris Pumpelly, how do you go about reaching businesses?

It's gonna be very important that I show up to talk with folks and answer their questions. It's going to be very important that folks reach out to us. It's going to be a very important thing that our members are our biggest advocates because we exist for them. Because when we are strong, it's because they are strong and they are telling other folks about us saying, "This is something I believe that's important."

I believe that having this kind of institution in Wichita — it not only says something about Wichita — it says something about our values and it says something about what kind of businesses that we are going to be.

Why did you name the chamber "Proud of Wichita?"

I think it's incredibly important that when you are trying to do excellence in your work, you first have to be excellent to yourself. You have to love yourself and be proud of yourself. Be proud of what you do and who you are because that is the first step in excellence. And it's right there in the name that if you are a member of this organization, the only requirement is that you love and accept yourself and you commit to excellence in what you are every day. And that is Proud of Wichita.

The Proud of Wichita membership kickoff drive is on Friday, Nov. 18 at Wichita's Urban Routine East, located at 21st & Rock, from 5 - 7 p.m.

Carla Eckels is Director of Organizational Culture at KMUW. She produces and hosts the R&B and gospel show Soulsations and brings stories of race and culture to The Range with the monthly segment In the Mix. Carla was inducted into The Kansas African American Museum's Trailblazers Hall of Fame in 2020 for her work in broadcast/journalism.