Reading Pride Celebration launches LGBTQ+ Business Alliance

Business communities are stronger when those who own and operate participating businesses respect each other and work together for the common good.

That belief, explained Enrique Castro Jr., executive director and CEO of the Reading Pride Celebration, was the driving force behind the creation of the recently launched Berks LGBTQ+ Business Alliance.

The Alliance, an offshoot of Reading Pride Celebration—a non-profit organization founded in 2006 that works to celebrate and promote diversity in Greater Reading’s LGBTQ+ community—is open to any business in the Greater Reading community, whether owned by LGBTQ+.

“I believe there is strength in numbers and we can all achieve more by working together,” Castro said.

Enrique Castro Jr., executive director and CEO of the Reading Pride Celebration, was a driving force behind the newly formed Berks LGBTQ+ Business Alliance. (PHOTO BY SUSAN SHELLY FOR MEDIANEWS GROUP)

The Berks LGBTQ+ Business Alliance is an extension of the Reading Pride Celebration’s Safe Space Initiative, a program launched in 2014 as an effort to get business owners to pledge non-discrimination to all customers and employees.

While the safe space initiative was effective, members of the Reading Pride Celebration located at the Goggle Works Arts Center were eager to take it to the next level.

“We have a lot of amazing business owners who joined the safe space initiative as soon as it started and have been renewing it every year since,” Castro said. “But we think a more structured organization like the alliance will create greater opportunities for business and the community as a whole.”

Those opportunities, he explained, include potential partnerships between established businesses and new entrepreneurs seeking guidance and mentorship, more networking opportunities and increased collaboration between local and regional businesses.

“The union is about connecting and building all businesses, regardless of size, location or structure,” Castro said.

Members will also have business training and business pitch opportunities on the alliance website.

Membership fees are based on the number of employees, ranging from $500 for businesses with 50 or more employees to $50 for businesses with no or only one employee.

“We didn’t want anyone who wanted to join to be turned off because of the cost of membership,” Castro said.

Logo for the newly launched LGBTQ+ Business Alliance. (SUBMITTED PHOTO COURTESY OF PRIDE CELEBRATION)

Since its launch at the beginning of the year, nearly a dozen LGBTQ+ and related businesses have joined the alliance.

“I was overwhelmed to see the interest,” Castro said. “We have already signed up members and attracted some potential corporate partners. It lets us know that there is a desire for an organization like this.”

Scott Jarachewski, a realtor who leads the Scott Jarachewski team with United Real Estate in Wyomissing, joined the LGBTQ+ Business Alliance shortly after its launch.

He became a supporter of the Reading Pride Celebration after taking part in its annual festival last July.

“Last year was the first year we were a part of the Reading Pride Celebration and we had such a great time networking and supporting other businesses and festival goers,” Jaraczewski said. “When I heard about the LGBTQ+ Alliance, it seemed like something we should do.”

Jaraczewski hopes the alliance will bring businesses together to show support and empower members of the LGBTQ+ community.

“LGBTQ+ businesses need to know they have allies in the community who support them,” he said. “I hope this support gives someone the courage and tools to start a new business when they might not have been inclined to do so, or even meet investors who are willing to help them.”

Festival goers gather for fun at the 2022 Reading Pride celebration at Jim Dietrich Park. The LGBTQ+ Business Alliance is an offshoot of the Reading Pride Celebration. (SUBMITTED PHOTO COURTESY OF REDDING CELEBRATION)

Jaime Baez Jr., owner of Smothered Sensations, a popular local food truck, echoed Jaraczewski’s hope that the newly formed alliance will result in businesses supporting each other.

“The alliance creates a way for business leaders to connect and form support systems with one another,” Baez said. “This can help create more opportunities for members of the LGBTQ+ community and businesses and related businesses. It brings us together and we are stronger together.”

Jaime Baez Jr., owner of Smothered Sensations Food Truck, serves a customer. Baez’s business is a member of the Berks LGBTQ+ Business Alliance. (SUBMITTED PHOTO COURTESY OF JAMIE BAYS, JR.)

Business owners, employees and others can learn more about the LGBTQ+ Business Alliance by attending a launch mixer sponsored by Diversity Mixers, a Lancaster County-based business owned by Jobany Bedoya, on Wednesday, February 22 from 5:30 to 6 : 30 p.m. at Willow Creek Brewing in West Reading.

Those planning to attend should register via the link on the alliance’s Facebook page. More information about the LGBTQ+ Business Alliance is also available on the Reading Pride Celebration website at

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