As small business owners and entrepreneurs, we often are building movements. There’s no one who knows more about leading a movement bigger than yourself than the Executive Director of NYC Pride, Chris Frederick.
Not only does Chris lead NYC Pride year after year, he recently managed World Pride in NYC at the same time as the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising and a half-century of LGBTQ+ liberation. Hosting over 25 events in one month, talk about needing a vacation!
Tune into this episode to hear:
- How Chris has embraced risk-taking and expanded the vision of the organization in doing so (and how you can too, no matter what you’re business!)
- The challenges that come with leading a diverse movement bigger than yourself.
- The next exciting endeavor coming up for NYC Pride in 2020!
Facebook Live Replay
Transcript of Episode
Leah Gervais: Hey visionaries, welcome back to the Your Biggest Vision show. I’m your host, Leah, and today we have as our guest, Chris Frederick, he is the executive director of Gay Pride in New York City. Hey Chris, thank you so much for being here.
Chris Frederick: Of course. Thanks for having me.
Leah Gervais: My pleasure. Um, you all, as you’re hearing this, um, Chris, I think you’re just coming off of doing WorldPride in June. You’re probably still exhausted from it. So you just celebrated 50 years since Stonewall’s uprising and LGBTQ liberation. How are you feeling?
Chris Frederick: Yeah, I know. I mean, it’s been nice to have a little downtime. I think that, um, world pride was a huge success for us. We had about 5 million people, attend the events over those last two weeks in June, um, did 25 plus events, raised over $200,000 for other organizations that are LGBT identified. And so we’ve had, we had a tremendous amount of success and kind of, it’s been nice to have a little bit of downtime as we go into 2020 planning season.
Leah Gervais: Awesome. Huge. Congratulations. I’ve heard nothing but amazing things from people in the community, and you very much deserve a vacation. 25 plus events in one month is no joke.
Chris Frederick: Yeah, I mean it’s, it’s great. We have a great team. Um, you know, we’ve had a lot of success success over the last 10 years and, um, kind of continuing to build on that going into 2020 next year, who’s going to be the 50th anniversary of the pride March. So there’s a back to back big anniversary. So, uh, you know, we’re kind of getting ready and starting to plan and think about like what next year looks like in now that we’re no longer creating WorldPride but back to a normal NYC pride experience, which is still on an annual basis really big. So, yeah. Um, you know, it’s going to be a really amazing year, I think. And we have a lot of exciting things planned.
Leah Gervais: This is my last question on it, but is, is New York’s a parade the biggest in the world, or is there a bigger one?
Chris Frederick: So it’s my understanding, it’s definitely the largest in the world. Uh, as it relates to LGBTQ pride marches or parades, um, this year the event ran 12 hours and 30 minutes. Uh, which is crazy. I don’t really know that many other marches or parades, uh, in the world that lasts that long. Um, you know, it’s been interesting to see that event grow. I think that, uh, you’ve seen a lot of interests that has become our, you know, it’s always been our kind of signature event, but, um, you know, more and more, uh, people want to have that experience. They want to be a part of that experience. So, um, it’s definitely become our, our most popular event by far.
Leah Gervais: Sure. Amazing. Congratulations.vI want to go a little bit further back. Before you were the executive director here, where are you from and what did you think you were going to be when you grew up when you were younger?
Chris Frederick: Uh, so from Ohio, originally a small town in northwest Ohio, Findlay, about 45 minutes south of Toledo. And you know, grew up there, graduated from Finley High School, went to Ohio University for Undergrad and uh, majored in political science. And so I kind of always had a passion or a community organizing and politics. Um, but, uh, also knew that I had a lot of passion around events. So, um, moved to New York, you know, a week after I graduated undergrad and got a job working at Out magazine, which is kind of the largest LGBT publication in the U.S. as the marketing and sales assistant. Uh, and then just kind of rose up within that organization, uh, eventually landed, uh, as doing kind of being the event manager there for four years. Uh, so got my experience kind of building up LGBT centered events and then transferred over, uh, to heritage of pride, New York City pride where kind of I’ve built up the organization and, um, you know, had a tremendous amount of success in growing the organization from the ground up. So it’s been, it’s been a fun ride.
Leah Gervais: What do you think it is about you or people similar to you where you have, you know, you experienced some sort of discrimination or challenge in your life or you, you know, you have that very daunting-
Chris Frederick: Well yeah, I mean, I think that everyone that identifies this is LGBT has a story and a moment where they felt as though that, you know, they were discriminated against in some way, shape, or form. Uh, you know, I’ve always been passionate about creating pride every year because I think that pride is, um, that kind of last remaining space. You know, now the LGBT has become so mainstream within society. Uh, it is kind of that last remaining space where everyone can come together for this one singular moment, uh, and feel as though they are loved and respected and feel as though they can hold hands with the ones they love, um, and be, and feel comfortable in their own skin. Um, and so pride has always kind of been that, that moment or that that events that brings people together. And, um, you know, I, I think that as a white gay man, uh, I have a very different lived experience than others, uh, within our community. And I think that that’s what makes, um, LGBT so really remarkable and interesting and, uh, it’s diversity.
So, um, you know, there are varied, uh, individuals within our community that have varying degrees of lived experiences. Uh, I have my own. Um, but you know, there is a wide array of discrimination within our community, specifically trans women of color where, um, you know, they are more marginalized. They are, um, the part of the community that tend to see the highest forms of violence, uh, against them. And so, you know, there, I think that overall it’s, it’s good to understand that like, we all kind of have various degrees of lived experiences, but, um, no one is greater than others. And I think that I’m always kind of thinking about how we can bring those voices and those experiences polite so that people have a platform during pride to share, share their life and share. Um, you know, why pride is important to them.
Leah Gervais: Before you worked at pride, you worked at Out magazine and it sounds like you started working there when you were 21, 22 pretty young. You know, what, what was the moment when you said, not only do I care about my rights, but I’m gonna make it my career and I’m going to dedicate my life to it because that’s a big decision, you know, so many people face levels of discrimination, many women, but you know, and people of color. But to really say, I’m going to do this, was there a moment that you just realize you have it in you?
Chris Frederick: I mean, I think that when I saw the job posting for this role, I knew that I was, um, I knew it was meant to be. Yeah. I knew that I wanted to really take on this, this responsibility. And it’s, it’s, it’s a really challenging role sometimes because you have to be, uh, you know, pride is kind of like that organization where you have to be everything to everyone. Yeah. Um, and so knowing it, knowing that, that, that is your responsibility there, there was a lot of weight on my shoulders when I first started and still remains. Um, but I, I knew I wanted to take on that responsibility because I wanted, I wanted try to be as great as I think people expected pride to be. Um, you know, when I first came on board, they had had several years of, of deficits, uh, in the organization was not on track, uh, in the right way to continue to grow.
If they were going to continue to kind of have these deficits, there was a chance that pride would no longer exist. New York or another organization would have to come in and help create it. And so I was passionate in knowing that I wanted to turn this place around and I wanted to do it in a way that, um, allows for us to have a greater voice within our community and this organization provide that level of platform or that platform or those voices that are, are not heard on a daily basis. And so, you know, I think that that’s kind of where, um, my initial interest came from. And I think we’ve had a lot of success as a result of, um, you know, uh, this kind of year over year growth that we’ve experienced over the last 10 years.
Leah Gervais: Did you face some pushback when you came on board and change the finances of the organization? Basically?
Chris Frederick: Yeah, I mean, I think that I was very aggressive with growth over the last 10 years and largely, uh, I was very aggressive because I knew that if we were going to host world pride, uh, we need to get to a certain level of income that allowed us to create the best experience that I think people expect from hosting a world pride, uh, in New York City. So, you know, I was very aggressive and I think that, um, you know, now it’s going to be kind of how do we readjust, uh, in, in a setting where we’re not a $12 million organization anymore, but how do we come back to kind of reality, which is like a 5 to a $6 million organization, uh, which is where we left off in 2018. And I think that, uh, I’m excited about the next year because it’s, it’s allowing us to kind of how do we kind of create a, a soft landing for this or that, um, long term more sustainable and continued can continue our track record of growth and um, but it’s a bit more manageable to a level that I think that this organization can expect to see.
Leah Gervais: Yeah. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I’m sure that it’s a lot to juggle, to go through such a fluctuation but you have to if your, he made a managing something like WorldPride in New York.
Chris Frederick: I was just going to say, yeah, I mean I think that it’s exciting because for so long that we were so laser focused on a WorldPride that now we get to start to think about like, well, what does pride mean five years from now or 10 years from now, and what are our goals over the next five to 10 years to help us become a better organization than now we’re finally able to take a step back and start looking at those things. Now that world pride is over.
Leah Gervais: Right, right. You don’t have this big thing that you’re kind of making decisions around. I’m sure that’s how I feel about my wedding right now. I feel like I can’t make any decisions until it’s over. Yeah. Yeah. What I’m doing is like toward my wedding.
Chris Frederick: Yeah. I mean it becomes like such a part of your, your life and your identity and uh, I think for so long that that’s what everyone wanted to talk to us about as an organization. What are you doing for WorldPride? What are your plans? Right? And now it’s like we can take a little breath and really start to be like, okay, like we’ve achieved what we needed to achieve, but like what, what does, what does pride look like 10 years from now? Because I think it is evolving and, um, every year is kind of a different, has a different dynamic to it than the previous year. And so how, how can we start planning, uh, over the next five to 10 years to better, um, you know, serve our community and make sure that they feel like they are getting the best experience possible.
Leah Gervais: Other than this year’s world cried in June. Was there a particular moment you’ve had in your time at pride and New York that, but while you’ve been working there, whether ed or not, where that really stands out as just a big win or as a really exciting moment for the community that, you know, just felt like we made a difference?
Chris Frederick: Well, I mean, I think there’s always been these moments, uh, that have kind of popped up over the years that coincided with pride. Um, and you know, unfortunately, like, you know, there are bad moments like, uh, the pulse shooting happened like the week of pride. Um, and so how do we make sure that we are really honoring these really special individuals that, you know, had just happened and how do we make sure that we are not tone deaf and make sure that we are honoring those that we have lost as a result of, of that shooting. And, but then there’s all, uh, we also had the year where the Supreme Court, um, you know, finally, uh, allowed for gay marriage. And so, and that happened the day before. Yeah, yeah. It was like, it was like three days before the, our largest day. And, you know, how can we make sure that like this really historic monumental moment, um, is represented, uh, for generations. And so I think that it’s thinking about a lot of times we’ll have to turn on, on a dime in terms of how can we adjust or tweak programming, um, very, very last minute. So that is, it allows for us to speak to whatever is happening at that, that single moment. Um, and I think that we do pretty well at that. Um, and I think that we’ve really excelled in kind of creating these millions of moments over the last, you know, 50 years that, you know, historians will look back at and say, wow, they really handled these really significant moments in LGBTQ history in a way that, um, allowed for our generation to remember it forever.
Leah Gervais: Has there been any unexpected or maybe expected, but still difficult challenges in gathering a community that does have something in common? But like you said earlier, is very, very diverse. I mean, a lot of people don’t have a lot of things in common. So has there ever been challenges in unifying the community?
Chris Frederick: For sure. I mean, I think that, uh, it’s because it’s so diverse, there are so many unique points of view and voices within what makes up LGBTQ. And so you’re always kind of tasked to like ensure that everyone feels as though that they have a seat at the table and they have a voice. Um, and so that can sometimes be challenging, isn’t trying to kind of condense all of these ideas and visions and thoughts together into one singular experience can, can be daunting and challenging, uh, and stressful. Um, but I think that at the end of the day, we’ve, we believe that we create the best experience, uh, for any pride organization in the world. Uh, and it’s a result of being connected to the community on what they want. Uh, and you know, we’re always evolving, we’re always changing. And I think that that’s what’s always really exciting about New York City pride is that like, I feel like we were never satisfied with the status quo. We’re always kind of looking at how we can help more people serve more people, um, phrase better experiences so that people feel as though that they are represented in some way, shape or form through all of our programs. So, um, you know, it’s a big task, but it’s, it’s always, it keeps us on our toes as well.
Leah Gervais: Yeah, it’s exciting. I mean, I think being in New York, you kind of are the leader in a lot of ways. And so that’s an honor, but it’s also probably a lot of work some of the time trying to, you know, do things that no one else has done yet. For the most part.
Chris Frederick: Yeah. I mean you definitely have to have a thick skin and have to kind of be used to people having very pointed opinions about what you’re doing. And I think at the end of the day you have to just have your own conviction that you know you, you’re doing what you think is right for the community, and that’s the best you can do.
Leah Gervais: Yeah, I’ve definitely, so my audience, like on this podcast, many of them are entrepreneurs and they work with, you know, they have their communities, which is usually like who follows them on Instagram and who’s on their email list and their website traffic. In other words, much smaller, smaller communities than what you manage every day. But I feel like one of the challenges that Solo preneurs or new entrepreneurs have is creating a movement that is, is actually bigger than themselves because a lot of times you’re on branding and your own self goes into it so much. And I can’t think any community that is bigger than, you know, just even the gay pride organization. But really it isn’t a complete movement. And so how do you feel like you, a couple of questions about that. Like how do you feel like you have emotionally separated yourself from it? Because you have to sort of, like you just said, not take it personally, not take it like have a thick skin or things don’t go exactly the way you want. Um, and then also maintain that movement in cohesiveness. And you said one of your strengths is communicating with your community and I’m sure you do that all throughout the year. And do you have any tips on how you, you know, really do reach out to people and hear from them?
Chris Frederick: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s really, uh, testing out ideas in a way that allows for you to understand and measure success. Um, I think that one of the things that we’re always doing is testing out new events, testing out new programs. Um, I think that that’s really important in kind of further growth, at least for as it relates to pride. Um, you know, so don’t, don’t be afraid to take risks. I think a lot of times, um, you know, as small business owners or entrepreneurs, um, you know, we oftentimes can be afraid to take large risks and I think that we’ve, there’s been some risks along the way that we’ve taken and they worked out in our favor. Um, specifically with WorldPride, you know, there was a big discussion when we were bidding on WorldPride on if we should even bid on WorldPride because we already had this really significant, uh, anniversary with the 50th anniversary of stonewall.
So there was a big dialogue about, well, do we really need to bid on WorldPride? Is there, you know, do, is that something that we actually need considering we already have the 50th anniversary of stonewall? Uh, and I really kind of led the way and said, no, we have to do both. We really have to kind of package it as one kind of singular experience. WorldPride for the [inaudible] anniversary of stonewall. And that risk, um, I think alone contributed a tremendous amount of success for this organization that we would’ve never seen if we wanted a posted WorldPride. So a lot of times it’s like, follow your gut, follow your instincts. Um, don’t be afraid to take risks because I think a lot of times you have to do, uh, kind of take those on, um, to be able to get to a level that I think, um, you know, people where you kind of want to be, you know. Um, and so that’s, I would say my biggest learning on over the last 10 years. Is that just kind of trust your guide. Take those big risks.
Leah Gervais: Do you feel like you are naturally, you know, you’re excited about risk taking, or do you think it’s something you really had to push yourself as you’ve grown into this role and as you’ve pushed the vision for pride bigger?
Chris Frederick: I think that it’s something that you develop over time. I think that, you know, I took a big risk just joining this organization in the sense that like I didn’t, you know, a bulk of, you know, why they hired me, um, originally was to help fundraise for the organization. Yeah. And I had no experience fundraising. I didn’t have any sales experience. You know, I had, you know, minor sales experience with Out magazine, but just in the sales department. I’d never really had a background in closing large deals or anything like that. Um, and so, you know, I think it’s understanding that like you may think that you have a certain skill set, um, but there are a lot of things that we don’t really kind of realize in ourselves until you’re put into a situation. Um, and so, you know, what I’ve found just from working here is that I’m actually a pretty decent fundraiser and, you know, it’s something I would’ve never expected from myself 10 years ago.
So it’s kind of putting yourself in an awkward positions or an awkward. You’re not comfortable with that. It allows for personal growth, professional growth. Um, and I think that that’s helped us get to, um, you know, the level that we’re at right now is I kind of look for staff to take on a very entrepreneurial way of working at this organization that allows for them to have different areas that, you know, they may not have any experience in. But I think that’s the, the great thing about being a small business owner or being a small organization is that like you can, you can really find your footing in a lot of different areas because there are just so many, there’s so few, uh, kind of personal resources, um, to help support you. So you’re kind of all doing it on your own, right. And so it’s, um, you can kind of, you know, test out different areas that I think you may be surprised in yourself later on down the line.
Leah Gervais: Do you feel like in becoming better, I guess, for lack of a better word, but better at risk taking and more familiar with risk taking, you’ve also become a bit more comfortable with failure because I feel like one comes with the other, you know, you can take a lot of risks and then can pay off, but usually there’s for every… I know in my entrepreneurial experience, for every risk I’ve taken, I’ve failed. And then for every, I guess I should say for every win I’ve had, there’s been a failure with it at some point.
Chris Frederick: Yeah. I mean, I think that there’s, there’s always gonna be failure in, in everything that you do. And you know, there’s, I think that failure a lot of times allows for you to take a step back and realize some things about yourself and about the process and the risk. Um, and I kind of always look at failure as a learning on how to become better. So I think that failure is natural and failure is a part of the process. Um, and you know, it’s, it’s just a part of the ride really.
Leah Gervais: Yeah. You just gotta buckle up and count on it. Awesome. Well you are incredibly inspirational and I really appreciate you sharing some behind the scenes, uh, what we can expect out of this. And I’m going to say it again, congratulations on moral pride because I know that that 12 and a half hour parade was probably not the shortest day of your life. You probably didn’t take a full breath the whole time.
Chris Frederick: Yeah, no, I mean it’s like I said, I mean it’s, it’s always super inspiring. Every single year I have this, um, you know, tradition of looking down the march route and having a moment where I realized that there are kids on the sidelines, they’re grown adults that have just come out or there are people that have never experienced New York City pride for the first time and that, that alone, um, and that idea that we’re changing lives at that particular moment is always something that I look forward to every single year. And I’m glad to be a part of it.
Leah Gervais: He gives me chills just thinking about it. Amazing. Well thank you for everything that you do. I know that you have probably changed more people’s lives than we’ll ever know and it’s very, very inspirational to just talk to you and hear how dedicated you are to this work. And I’m really grateful that you came on to talk to us. I have a few lightning round questions for you. Are you ready? What is your go to when you’re having a bad day, what’s the first thing you do?
Chris Frederick: Cardio.
Leah Gervais: Cardio. Love that. What are you most proud of in your career so far?
Chris Frederick: Getting Madonna to perform.
Leah Gervais: My God. I don’t know if I’ll ever do anything that amazing. I’ll see myself out now. That’s awesome. Do you have an inspirational podcasts or book that you like to motivate you or to keep you inspired?
Chris Frederick: I don’t have a regular podcasts that I, you know, I’m a big fan of NPR, so, uh, you know, I will listen to NPR podcasts all the time. Uh, I think that they’re super inspirational. I like learning about the world. And learning about where we’re at, where we’re headed. And um, you know, NPR has always been that like media outlets that I listen to on the regular to kind of learn about the world.
Leah Gervais: This is not part of my speed questions, but I’m just, I’m thinking of it and hopefully you’re not opening up a can of worms by asking it in your office. Have you had to create any rules or guidelines around political talks? Because I’m sure it can get somewhat exhausting.
Chris Frederick: I mean, I don’t think so. I mean, it’s weird because I feeling generally LGBT people now there are some exceptions are all kind of have shared political views. Uh, obviously, you know, it’s not 100% all the time, but within our office we’re all pretty liberal and we all have a pretty shared vision of the world and where we’re headed and what needs to change. So yeah, I mean, I, we don’t really experience that too much. Sometimes you experienced that, you know, maybe in like committee meetings within the organization where you may have a member that has a different political view from you. But
Leah Gervais: Yeah, I mean I wasn’t so much thinking like debates in the office. I feel like if anything, you guys are all probably very much on the same page, especially with certain policies or things going on. I worked at a nonprofit before I worked for myself and sometimes it would just be like a whole day of like, can you believe this is happening? No. Can you believe this is happening? No. We’d all just be like, what is happening?
Chris Frederick: Yeah, no, we have a very open communication, uh, flow in our office and uh, we’re always very, the great thing is that the staff, we all get along very well and we all really love working here and it’s always awesome to see a group of a small group of passionate people bring, you know, this experience to life every single year is always super inspiring.
Leah Gervais: Yeah. Amazing. Well, where can people find out more about you and, or your organization and what is an exciting thing coming up next?
Chris Frederick: Well, so like I said, we’re in the process of planning the 50th anniversary of the mic pride March, which will be taking place next June, 2020.
Leah Gervais: Come to New York for it. If you guys don’t live here.
Chris Frederick: Come to New York. We’ll have lots of different events, probably maybe not as many as we had this year, but still probably about 20. Um, but uh, and then you can learn more about all of our firstname.lastname@example.org or follow us on the wide array of social channels, uh, at mic pride, pretty much across all platforms. Uh, and that’s kind of the best way to keep in touch.
Leah Gervais: Fabulous. And that will all be in the show notes. You guys, Chris, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to come talk with us and inspire us about what it means to build community, take risks, follow what you in, go through adversity, have a thick skin and keep going. And you know, keeping a bigger picture in mind. It’s very inspirational and we’re really grateful.
Chris Frederick: Thank you so much for having me.
Leah Gervais: Thank you! All right, visionaries. We’ll talk to you soon. Here is to your biggest vision.
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