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A United Force

Phoenix Pride 2016 selfie before the parade.
Phoenix Pride 2016 selfie before the parade.

Since my first day at Yelp as a Local Account Manager, I’ve always known that our core business model is rooted in equal rights and equal opportunity. In my current role as a Franchise Account Manager and Co-Chair of OUTburst, Yelp’s LGBTQIAA Employee Resource Group, I work hard to keep that spirit alive. Phoenix OUTburst started as a simple invitation to see Laverne Cox speak at Arizona State University a little over a year ago. You probably recognize her name from her incredible work as a transgender rights activist or her turn as Sophia Burset in Orange Is The New Black. This initial outing sparked an amazing sense of community and OUTburst continued to grow from there.

At our heart, OUTburst is a diverse group of united people who support, celebrate, and give back to the LGBTQIAA community. For example, after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, we celebrated with a glorious lunch outing. We’ve also hosted some incredibly successful fundraisers: We delivered 600+ Candy Grams to Yelp employees to benefit Project Jiqsaw and put on a charity happy hour for Yelp employees at a local Scottsdale gay bar — all proceeds were donated to One-N-Ten. We’ve been able to make a real difference within the  LGBTQIAA community with these fundraisers due to the immense amount of support the employees in the Phoenix office provide. As such, it was no surprise that when we sent out a sign-up sheet for the PHX Pride Parade, we received such an immediate and overwhelming response from Yelp employees.

Yelp booth at the Pride Festival
Yelp booth at the Pride Festival.

Our goal for our first Pride was to win hearts and minds. As the two-day festival kicked off, OUTburst members anxiously awaited the Phoenix community, decked out in Yelp Pride shirts, Yelp schwag, and pamphlets discussing exciting career opportunities. 10 minutes before the festival opened, we were greeted by a business owner who asked about “hidden” reviews on her Yelp page. This questioned created a dialog between us, and we discussed how our Recommendation Software works, why it exists, and how all our users still have access to reviews “not currently recommended”. She appreciated our explanation and walked away with an ‘I Heart Yelp’ shirt, sunglasses, and a more complete understanding of the company. Throughout the rest of the weekend, business owners continued to stop by to talk about their experiences on Yelp, and our users shared their stories of finding great local businesses — both at home and on vacation.

After all the excitement of Saturday, Sunday morning started bright and early. Before the start of the Pride Parade, a lively group of Yelp employees and their families and friends gathered together. The scene included tons of Yelp gear, thigh-high rainbow socks, and even a few tutus here and there. Their demonstration of support was fantastic; we had 115 diverse participants, ranging from new hires to department heads. As the march began, I led our pack in my homemade Yelp Burst costume. We walked together as one, each of us representing Yelp PHX in our own way. We cheered, waved, handed out EAT24 coupons, and wished the Phoenix community a happy Pride as we proudly marched the two-mile stretch into the Festival. The final part of the Parade provoked some tears, and though I can’t confirm who cried, I can guarantee that when it comes to supporting the LGBTQIAA community, Yelp always stands as a united force.