Biz Briefs: Blue Ridge Pride debuts LGBTQ+ business alliance

SAFE SPACES: David Perry, director of development for Blue Ridge Pride, is proud of the nonprofit's new online directory for LGBTQ-owned and inclusive businesses. Photo courtesy of David Perry

Blue Ridge Pride, a nonprofit supporting the LGBTQ community in Western North Carolina, launched an online business directory for LGBTQ-owned and inclusive businesses called the Blue Ridge Pride Business Alliance on June 25.

The directory, available at, includes retail, food and drink, leisure and services and other categories. Businesses listed in the BRPBA directory can also choose to identify as woman- or minority-owned.

The BRPBA launched in tandem with a new Blue Ridge chapter of the Carolinas LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce. The CLGBTCC, which serves WNC and South Carolina, is a professional membership organization that provides business development and networking opportunities.

Blue Ridge Pride began discussing the creation of an LGBTQ chamber of commerce for the area last summer, says David Perry, the nonprofit’s director of development and business programs. During the winter of 2021, CLGBTCC contacted Blue Ridge Pride proposing a partnership.

“LGBTQ businesses are part of WNC’s economy, and we want it all to flourish,” Perry says. “It signals to businesses and individuals that own businesses that these are safe places to go and you don’t have to worry about judgment.”

Chris Tinkler, director of fundraising for Blue Ridge Pride, leads the BRPBA, and Dylan Lennon spearheaded the launch of the CLGBTCC Blue Ridge chapter. Learn more about both programs at

RV/MH Hall of Fame includes Brevard camper in exhibit

The GO Camper, the flagship product of Brevard-based SylvanSport, joined an exhibit at the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Ind.

This is the first time the museum for recreational vehicles and motor homes has included a product from the local outdoor gear company. “We were all very excited,” says Tom Dempsey, founder and CEO. “It’s an unexpected honor. Normally, we think those things happen after an entire career’s worth of work and effort.”

The GO Camper debuted in 2008 as SylvanSport’s first product, which Dempsey designed with employees Kyle Mundt and Tom Reeder. In creating the camper, Dempsey prioritized the “toys,” such as kayaks or canoes, that adventure-seekers bring along, which he says the RV industry had often treated as an afterthought.

The GO Camper will be featured in the Go RVing exhibit, which is supported by the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association and will run for six months. In addition to the Go RVing exhibit, the RV/MH Hall of Fame displays motorhomes and trailers from the last century, including a 1913 Earl Trailer that is believed to be the oldest nontent trailer in existence.

Learn more about SylvanSport at and the RV/MH Hall of Fame at

Opportunity knocks

  • NC IDEA, a private foundation that supports entrepreneurs, will host a happy hour and info session in Asheville. The happy hour will be held Tuesday, July 27, from 5-7 p.m. at Archetype Brewing. The info session will be held Wednesday, July 28, from 8:30-10 a.m. at the Hatch Innovation Hub Event Space. Guests at the info session can learn more about NC IDEA’s $10,000 MICRO grants and $50,000 SEED grants for startup businesses. More information at
  • PLR Connect Events, an events and marketing agency, will hold a brainstorming session called “Expand Your Circle: Roundtable for Women Entrepreneurs” Thursday, July 29, from 5-7 p.m at Focal Point in Asheville. An experienced entrepreneur will lead each table at the event as participants share questions and feedback. All backgrounds and skill sets are welcome. Tickets are $25 and must be purchased in advance at To inquire about scholarships to attend the event, contact Valerie Welbourn at
  • Members of WNC’s outdoors industry are invited to register as vendors for the seventh annual Get In Gear Fest. The festival will be Saturday, Sept. 25, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at Camp Rockmont in Black Mountain. The location features two demonstration areas for water sports, trails and climbing walls; vending space is first come, first served. More information at

Time to learn

  • The Explore Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau hosts two events on Tuesday, Aug. 3. A 10 a.m. webinar, Responsible Travel and Sustainability in Tourism, will feature a presentation from nonprofit Tourism Cares and a panel discussion by local tourism partners who claim to practice sustainability. To register for the webinar, visit And from 4-6 p.m., a summer social and sustainability resource fair takes place at Highland Brewing Co., with registration at
  • Early bird tickets are available through Saturday, July 31, for the Outdoor Economy Conference at, which is co-sponsored by Mountain BizWorks. The conference, with the theme “Stewards of Opportunity,” will take place Tuesday-Friday, Oct.12-15, at Harrah’s Cherokee Conference Center in Cherokee. Conference tracks include sustainable outdoor recreation tourism, outdoor-driven economic development, balancing conservation and the outdoor industry and responsible outdoor product innovation. For more information and to inquire about student and bulk purchase tickets, email Noah Wilson at

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About Jessica Wakeman
Jessica Wakeman is an Asheville-based reporter for Mountain Xpress. She has been published in Rolling Stone, Glamour, New York magazine's The Cut, Bustle and many other publications. She was raised in Connecticut and holds a Bachelor's degree in journalism from New York University. Follow me @jessicawakeman

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