Riah Gonzales-King, founder of Stunner Social, has a natural entrepreneurial spirit. She comes from a family of business owners and founded her marketing firm in 2017 with a desire to forge her own path. Now, she is the chamber vice president of the Equality Chamber of Commerce DC Metro (ECCDC) leading them a new way.
“Business ownership has just been something that’s been ingrained in me since childhood and something that I’m passionate about,” Gonzales-King says.
Growing up Gonzales-King’s mother also owned a marketing firm and she learned about running businesses from her. Her childhood was her formal education, Gonzales-King says, because she was around a lot of entrepreneurs. Her grandmother, mom and aunt also instilled in her the importance of operating a business with social responsibility.
“Integrity in business is a huge thing. I always say [it’s] capitalism with a conscience and people will laugh at me when I say that, but I do think it’s possible,” Gonzales-King says.
At Stunner Social, this unique thought process helps Gonzales-King create impactful content for her clients, something she says is a personal passion. Her day-to-day activities, she says, also consists of delegating her team, meeting with clients and creatively helping them achieve their goals.
The first ECCDC event Gonzales-King attended was on Valentine’s Day 2019. It was a Chamber Connects networking event and she called before attending to make sure it was trans-inclusive. At that time the group was called the Capital Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, and Gonzales-King says she wanted to make sure she was welcomed.
Since that time, the ECCDC has changed its name to be more reflective of its broader inclusivity. It also held board elections and selected Gonzales-King as chamber vice president.
“I feel like that whole thing with the Chamber’s been divinely guided,” Gonzales-King says. “I was thinking it would be years before I joined the board and [my appointment] happened [around] six months after my first event.”
During her first year on the board, Gonzales-King notes that Covid-19 happened and disrupted both the ECCDC and her business. At Stunner Social, this meant a rush of business from clients moving to digital. For the ECCDC, this meant a transition from in-person events, Gonzales-King says.
The result of this transition was a move towards political advocacy and helping small business owners navigate the pandemic. For example, she introduced a Covid-19 webinar series that tackled issues like how to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan.
Her proudest moment, though, came from an idea she had in January 2019. It involved connecting the ECCDC to the D.C. government. The result was an event with the Mayor’s Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Affairs (MOGLBTA), which came to fruition in May. It went so well, the ECCDC now foresees it becoming an annual event.
“I think we have created equity from within our own community,” Gonzales-King says. “And that is amazing, that’s amazing, you don’t see that a whole lot.”
Without ECCDC, Gonzales-King says her business would not be where it is today. She says the networking, community and leadership really helped her as a member.
Now, she has an opportunity to return the favor in 2021. Gonzales-King says she thinks the upcoming year should be about elevating the community by showing that the LGBTQ+ community and businesses are legitimate. She also hopes to begin mentoring young transgender entrepreneurs.
The first step of this was when the ECCDC recently held its first transgender networking event, Gonzales-King says.
“I think my LGBT identity has nothing to do with the value that I can bring to a company [or] to a client. If anything, I think my community is so creative and so strong that it’s an incredible benefit, but I can’t force people to see the world the way I see it.”
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