The Ringmaster: Wade Frisbie
In this day and age, it’s hardly groundbreaking or controversial to be an openly LGBTQ business owner. Queer businesses and employees are everywhere, and it’s not uncommon to have queer factions and groups within larger businesses. But it wasn’t always so.
“Back in 2008, 2009, having that safe place to conduct business was key,” explained Wade Frisbie, currently of Frisbie Financial, and formerly chairperson of the Colorado LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce. “If someone was going to spend money, they would actually go out and look for an LGBTQ-friendly business or a business owned by someone in our community. It was that important to be able to give back and spend money within the community.”
“I started at Trilogy Financial, and I saw a lack of education in the financial world for the LGBTQ community,” he said. “I really wanted to start helping with that, and the biggest way of doing that was getting involved in the chamber. I was able to get on the board and make my presence known, and then I was able to help LGBTQ people with their finances.”
As a financial guru, Frisbie realized that, much like the healthcare field, one of the biggest challenges in his area of expertise was a lack of transparency. If clients couldn’t talk openly to their financial advisors about things like sharing finances with a same-gender partner, living under the same roof with such a partner, and even expenses related to their queer identity, then there was no way for them to get good financial help. He strove to make giving that help the goal of his financial practice and carried that role over to the Chamber both as a board member and as chairperson.
“The whole point of the Chamber is being able to help as many people as possible,” he explained. “I’ve done some free seminars with the Center Stage Program, an elder program, which was amazing. During my time as chairman, I was also able to connect with the five other minority chambers: the African American Chamber, the Women’s Chamber, the Indian Chamber, the Asian Chamber, and the Hispanic Chamber, and created a program where it wasn’t just us doing things on our own; it was all of us together. When we combined our power, we were really able to make more of a difference.”
Today, it’s not so necessary to just have a place where queer folks feel comfortable coming out or a way to find other, few and far between, LGBTQ businesses. That’s thanks in part to the Chamber.
“There are so many different ways to show support,” Frisbie said. “Even if it’s not a LGBT-owned business, you see a lot more of the flags on people’s front doors. You also see a lot of businesses actually starting to give back to nonprofits. People use social media to promote that, and then people come to their businesses eager to give back.”
With that victory under his belt, Frisbie recognized that it was time to step down. It wasn’t that he didn’t have more to offer the community; he just felt he could do so with his new financial business, Frisbie Financial, and realizes the importance of balancing power in a nonprofit.
“With any nonprofit, fresh ideas and fresh faces are a must,” he explained. “And Jim [Smith, the current chairperson] was able to take over, and I was very happy to turn over the leads to him to make more steps and leaps and bounds with, like I did with the Chamber. I also stepped down with Trilogy and started my own firm, Frisbie Financial, and 90 percent of my clientele is in the LGBT community. So, I’m still trying to make sure that everyone has a safe place and a safe space for them to share their finances and move forward. I’m also on the board of the Rocky Mountain Arts Association, which is the Denver Women’s Chorus and the Gay Men’s Chorus, and we’ve been doing some amazing things.”
While Frisbie’s days with the Chamber may be over, his life calling of helping queer folks with their financial needs is far from it. Find him on the daily with Frisbie Financial, and look for his legacy in all the good that the Chamber still does.
Photo by Veronica L. Holyfield