Gratitude has been on my mind a lot the last few months. My sister and I have had several conversations this fall about how grateful we are to be living in these times. Life has advanced in ways we couldn’t have imagined as kids.

When I was a kid, there was no Internet. Today, it’s possible to have a store there without a brick and mortar building. A year ago at this time, I was asking friends and family members if they thought it would be crazy for me to start an online business called “The Gayest Store on Earth.” When I discovered that the domain name was available, I figured it was fate. I ordered the domain, set up an LLC, and started buying Pride merchandise to fill the store. I also developed on a line of original t-shirts to sell. The Internet is a big place: I honestly wondered if anyone would find my online store. Not only did they find it, they started making purchases!

The pop up shop made its debut at Tampa Pride a few months later, in March of this year. I again wondered if anyone would buy things from us at the Pride festival. No worries there – we wound up with a line of customers waiting to get into the shop most of the day! A reporter from the Tampa Bay Times stopped by my pop up shop, as well, and I had the good luck to be featured in a newspaper article. The business was off and running! It was exciting to see people at Pride festivals wearing one of our original t-shirts that they’d purchased at a previous event or online. After the first couple of Pride festivals, it was heartwarming to learn that our customers were actually looking for the shop at subsequent Pride festivals. I am so thankful for our wonderful, loyal customers!

I am grateful to be living in these times because I can not only be out and proud, but I actually can have a business that supports gay pride. My life has changed and expanded in ways I never imagined over the past year. I’ve had the pleasure of going to Pride festivals and meeting wonderful, inspiring people from the LBGTQ community. I’ve had my picture taken with some fabulous, fun drag queens. I’ve sent wedding cake toppers and gay newlywed t-shirts to states where gay marriages weren’t legal until this year. I’ve sent Pride flags, hats, t-shirts and pins all over the country. I’ve even had the privilege of being trusted to send Pride merchandise discretely to individuals in other countries where being gay is considered a crime.

I’m grateful for the customers who’ve supported the this year. I’m grateful to have the chance to do it all over again next year!

I wish you and yours the all the best in 2016. Happy New Year!