State’s LGBTQ chamber sets up roots in Easthampton


Staff Writer

Published: 02-01-2023 5:40 PM

EASTHAMPTON — With an estimated 21,000 LGBT-owned businesses contributing $49 billion to the state economy each year, a Boston-based nonprofit is looking to ensure that the members of the LGBTQ+ community not only have a seat at the table, but have the tools to help them grow and thrive from Boston to the Berkshires and down in the Valley.

While the COVID-19 pandemic delayed plans into the western part until this past year, the Massachusetts LGBT Chamber of Commerce’s membership base now exceeds 450 members — 150 of which are based in western Massachusetts, according to Grace Moreno, executive director of the chamber. In the coming year, she has a goal to increase membership to 600.

“We’re on target,” said Moreno.

The chamber first launched in 2018 following former Gov. Charlie Baker’s expansion of the Massachusetts Supplier Diversity Program. As part of that order, the state expanded its certification categories to include a certification for LGBT-owned business enterprises.

With a goal of statewide growth and economic equality for the LGBTQ+ community, Moreno said it was important to put a stake down in western Massachusetts.

“Unfortunately, resources tend to stay in the eastern part of the state. The headquarters of numerous corporations reside there. It can feel like the hour and a half drive is a world away,” she said. “But how can we say we’re a state organization if we’re only helping one area?”

In an effort to extend the chamber’s services, every few weeks Moreno drove out to western Massachusetts and spent days trying to foster connections and establish support and interest.

Among the partnerships she cited was MassMutual, which holds a seat on the chamber’s board, and Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle.

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“She welcomed us with open arms to the area,” said Moreno.

In making those connections, the chamber found a rental space in the Keystone Mill building on Pleasant Street and officially opened its doors to a new branch in November.

Walking the talk

In supporting LGBT-owned businesses, the chamber’s new Easthampton digs were designed, decorated and furnished by LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs, including KW Home, Oxbow Design Build, Handy Humans LLC, and painter Leeann Worsnop.

Inside the spacious room is a vibrant fuschia wall with black-and-white photographs by Thais De Marco Mapstone Photography of chamber members like Two Mamas Farm in Cummington and Mayrena Guerrero, founder and CEO of Colorful Resilience LLC, which provides outpatient mental health services in West Springfield.

“It is the most fabulous place you’ll step into in western Mass.,” Moreno said. “Everything in this space was done by an LGBT-owned business.”

Overseeing the Easthampton office is Angie Montalvo-Greene, the western Massachusetts engagement director of the chamber, which typically has open hours from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Currently, the chamber has a total of 11 full-time employees and six consultants statewide, though Montalvo-Greene is the only employee in this region. The chamber is also looking to hire one other person in the coming weeks who will be focused on membership engagements.

Montalvo-Greene said the space is set up for members to use, whether that includes a team meeting of some kind or just another option for those who work from home.

“This is not my space. This is not the chamber’s space. This is the member’s space,” she said. “Right now, we’re really focused on creating a vibrant place where our members can come at any time for whatever they need.”

Montalvo-Greene said that the LGBT Chamber of Commerce, which is the first of its kind in the state, offers business support and networking services, interview preparation training, loan and grant opportunities, and hosts hiring events.

To date, the chamber has a 100% approval rate for certifying businesses as LGBT-owned. Once a business is certified, they are then eligible for various grants and state bids.

Support also extends beyond what a traditional chamber of commerce may offer, she said. More recently, a member popped in after losing their partner.

“People can call us for anything,” she said. “When you join the chamber and I have a welcome meeting with you, it isn’t rushed. I want to get to know you as a person and I want to get to know your business. How can I serve someone if I don’t know them, right?”

Safe space

To this point, much of the recruitment process has come to fruition through word of mouth or “boots on the ground” events and visiting of businesses, says Montalvo-Greene.

Although Massachusetts is often categorized as politically progressive and liberal, there’s still a stigma associated with coming out, she said.

In the business world, that can mean missing opportunities or losing customers by “outing” yourself. As an example, Moreno said that one member outed themselves and was certified as a LGBT-owned business and lost some of its heterosexual clients. In support of that member, the chamber was able to connect the business owner with some of its corporate partners that enabled the business owner to expand their business.

“We’re here to say that we support you. This is a safe place,” said Montalvo-Greene. “I can help you do a business plan and get a grant, but what’s more is that we do it in a safe space where you can 100% be yourself. I can say that as a lesbian. I come to work and I can be 100% myself with no filter.”

Locals will have an opportunity to check out the chamber’s new space during the 10th Annual WinterFest. On Saturday, Feb. 11, the chamber is hosting an open house from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. that will feature 11 of the chamber’s members, who will showcase their businesses and their products.

To learn more about the chamber, visit

Emily Thurlow can be reached at]]>