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  • Writer's pictureMaurice Rubio-McMillon

How Pride Festivals Are OUT Pricing LGBTQ+ Non-Profits & Indie Businesses


Typographic image with title, "How PRIDE FESTIVALS are out pricing LGBTQ+ non-profits and indie businesses"

When I left full-time employment at Indian River State College in 2021 to pursue a new career as an art teacher, I founded a company called The Thought Society, under which I operate as Nolli The Creator - Graphic Designer and Illustrator. The business allowed me to produce work and earn an income until I transitioned, however, my experience in the classroom was soured by loss, grief, politics, and a disconnect between education system expectations and reality. So I left teaching and continued to work as Nolli The Creator.


Two books laying stacked on a grey background; featuring the title "Damn Boy George & Thanks for the Heartbreak!"

Within the last year, I've been busy designing and developing logos and websites for non-profits and small businesses, creating new art and a new art toy, joining an LGBTQ+ non-profit organization's board, volunteering at a local middle school to conquer my PTSD, and writing, self-publishing, and marketing a 300-page novel (see Damn Boy George & Thanks for the Heartbreak!).


Within that time, I've learned that many of my clients can barely afford graphic design services, and so they struggle to compete in today's marketplace. Other designers I've talked to have said that if a client can't afford them, then they aren't the clients that they want. Maybe that's good business sense, but that feels like arrogance to me.


So you know what I did? I reduced my prices to meet more of them where they could afford; they're the market I want to serve and that is how I can best serve them.


Getting Involved To Learn More



Being an indie LGBTQ+ business owner, and now an author, I needed to find and connect to my clients and audience. I sought opportunities to meet and learn more about people with common interests by joining online communities, like LGBTQ Professionals, Queer Writers and Authors, and helping to create a local LGBTQ+ directory with The Sanctuary of the Treasure Coast.


My involvement in those opportunities paid off in experience as I learned more about various industry needs, challenges, and previously attempted solutions. One of the most surprising revelations shared by many LGBTQ+ business owners was how undersupported they felt by the LGBTQ+ community, and by extension how few LGBTQ+ business owners, artists, authors, and entrepreneurs participate in their local pride or LGBTQ+ events that are supposed to unite our community and showcase our solidarity.


Are You Going To Pride?

I surveyed a group of LGBTQ+ business owners about attending PRIDE festivals and this is what some of them had to share:

"...There really isn't an ROI for my company to participate... Between the entrance fee, time, and swag/giveaways it costs between $1,000 - $3,000. Doing multiples of those throughout the year just isn't worth it." – George, Insurance Agent
"I'm trying to do more to support pride but it is tough as a small, independent business. When discussing ways to contribute other than monetarily some pride events are not interested." – Vegan Nutritionist & Personal Trainer
"I owned a couple of flower shops years ago... unfortunately, there has never been much 'support LGBTQ+ owned businesses' from our community. I remember... I got tons of requests for free flowers for charity events; it felt very 'one way'." – John, Travel Agent

It was a small sample, but one that echoes the truth. In 2022, I wrote a blog that discussed how PRIDE festivals lost their purpose to be more focused on packing as many vendors as possible into the festival space over activities and entertainment that helped unite the community. Now, I see that the vendors they're packing in there are barely LGBTQ+ related, and certainly fewer of them are owned, operated, or directly benefit our community.


Could You Afford Pride?


A young man with a rainbow on his cheek removes his glasses to look at the camera and pose in front of a crowd attending a pride festival event.

To help illustrate the expense of being a vendor at a Pride Festival, here are some vendor fees pulled from Pride Festival websites in Florida. Some festivals offer tiered spaces from general to premium locations at their festival, while others are a flat fee and first-come, first-serve for locations. Most festivals offer a reduced rate for non-profits and government agencies and generally charge more for food vendors (not featured).


Key West Pride

  • $75 Non-Profit Vendor Space

  • $150 - $300 General Vendor Space

Kissimmee PrideFest

  • $45 Non-Profit Vendor Space

  • $60 - $125 General Vendor Space

Miami Beach Pride

  • $675 - $1675+ Exhibitor Space

Orlando Pride - Gay Biz Expo

  • $875+ General Vendor Space

Palm Beach Pride

  • $450 Non-Profit Vendor Space

  • $550 Retail Vendor Space

Polk Pride (additional fees for electricity)

  • $50 - $75 Non-Profit Vendor Space

  • $75 - $100 Business Vendor Space

Tampa Pride

  • $350 - $600 General Vendor Space

Space Coast Pride (offers price breaks dependent on the date of registration)

  • $120 - $240 Non-Profit Vendor Space

  • $175 - $300 General Vendor Space

Wilton Manors Stonewall Pride Festival, Fort Lauderdale

  • $1,300 - $2,650 General Vendor Space


How Many Copies Does It Take?

I hate math, but it's necessary to give some perspective on the return on investment (ROI), I'll use my novel as an example. Keep in mind that this practice isn't accounting for variances in payment options, special pricing, or sales made online after the event as those are conducted through Amazon and other online retailers.


To physically produce my novel costs $4 - $10 per unit depending on the vendor I use; for the recent event I attended, each unit cost me $10 after shipping and handling fees were added to the production cost.


$10 x Number of Novels = 10n


I order 50 copies for an event. A $500 investment; each unit retails for $16.99.

10(50) = $500


I profit $5-6.19 for each copy sold; when customers pay with a card, I pay a processing fee of 3% + 30¢ per transaction, so I offer an 11% discount, or $1,99 discount to those who pay with cash, though most still choose to pay with a card. To find how many books I must sell to make back my $500 investment, we can use this formula:


10n ÷ g (Gross Profit Per Unit) = Number of Units To Earn Back Investment;

10(50) ÷ 16.19 = 30.88


I would need to sell roughly 30 books to earn back my $500 investment. That leaves 20 units that will earn a profit. How much profit?


20 x $16.19 = $323.80


Any amount that I pay to attend an event will be paid from my profit, however, I will need to sell a certain number of units at the event first to pay for being at the event, after which all sales up to 30 units are paying back my investment.


So, if I chose to go to Space Coast Pride and got space for $120, how many units would I need to sell to break even?


(Cost of Event Space) ÷ g (Gross Profit Per Unit) = Number of Units To Earn Back Cost

$120 ÷ $16.19 = 7.41 units, or roughly 7 units.


I need to sell a minimum of 7 units to afford being at the event. Ideally, 37+ units will sell to earn back my investment of attendance at the event and the units I purchased.


The remaining 13 copies are profit unless I don't sell through the 37 units and decide to attend another event which will continue to dwindle my units and profit.


I think you can see from this example how quickly this becomes a problem for small businesses. Roughly 74% of my stock is required to pay for this one event at a $120 entry cost. For events more than that, the potential profit I could make off of 50 books (what I can afford to purchase out of my pocket) is less than the cost to simply attend and be a part of an event that supposedly exists for me and people like me.


Meanwhile...


LGBTQ+ business owners and non-profits aren't the only ones being priced out of pride.

Shahamat Uddin wrote an article published on June 23, 2023, How Did Pride Get So Damn Expensive? In it, he discussed the crippling costs of participation in Pride activities and events for many LGBTQ+ individuals, as well as the negative behaviors that are growing between those that can afford such opportunities and those that can't.


Comments from the Fans of Sawmill Camping Resort Facebook Group

Recently, I witnessed such behavior in a Facebook Group (that I have since left) dedicated to the Top Voted America's Favorite LGBT Camp Ground, Sawmill Camping Resort.


One user posted about the rising prices for day trips and was personally attacked in the comments of the post by several other members for not being able to afford it and complaining. As other users began to assert the outpricing of individuals, others defended that those individuals were a different "class" and even referred to some as "trash".


My partner and I stopped going to Sawmill because the cost of camping in a tent was beginning to mirror the cost of staying at an exclusive, clothing-optional resort in Key West. That's unreasonable. Add to it that you're with individuals who speak to members of our community like this, and its downright deplorable – I cannot and will not support this type of behavior and criticism.





The LGBTQ+ Premium Plan


A meme featuring Kermit the Frog sitting in contemplation in the dark, "IS LGBT+ Just The Premium Version Of Gay"

More memes are popping up daily relating LGBTQ+ to being premium gay. Although I doubt it was intended to be a joke about the expense of gay social life and support, it does double as a matter of truth. If pride and LGBTQ+ experiences are becoming too expensive for LGBTQ+ individuals to attend and too expensive for LGBTQ+ business owners and non-profits to be a part of, then who is it for? Just the wealthy, elite gays?


And beyond that. LGBTQ+ destinations are raising prices to what many in our community can't afford. Are businesses undersupported because our community doesn't work together or are they undersupported because they, too, have outpriced LGBTQ+ customers?


What do you think?

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