Editor's Note: Guest blogger Laura Kingsbury is a Pittsburgh native who enjoys putting her writing,
marketing and social media skills to use for startup companies with great new ideas. A graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a passion for LGBT issues, she has written for several newspapers and blogs.
Have you ever wished you could navigate the LGBT women's scene in one place?
From location-based profiles to keeping everyone "in the know" about upcoming events, the new, free mobile app Wing Ma'am aims to unify the LGBT women's community through a complete social networking package.
Its inspiration came from founder Ariella Furman's experience in the gay community running a successful monthly LGBT women's dance party called Impulse. New to the Pittsburgh area, Furman felt a sense of isolation and a lack of resources to connect with other queer women. Quickly her event grew to a subscriber network of more than 4,000 LGBT women who expressed similar feelings of isolation and a strong desire for more avenues to unite the community.
In fact, most women she interviewed noted a lack of participation in LGBT women's events outside of their small social circles, and that lesbian-oriented bars were closing down at epidemic speeds. But since her research also found numbers hinting at a queer women's population of about 4-7% of women (or 9.4 million nationally), it didn't quite add up.
The problem? There is no centralized place to connect, browse profiles, chat with like-minded individuals, share information, and create and RSVP to LGBT events. However, this isn't for a lack of interest.
Despite the fact that the queer women's community sometimes feels small, it actually represents a large, vibrant, and diverse population of individuals who refuse to be quarantined to only to lesbian-oriented bar scenes or even just monthly parties. The more than a thousand women interviewed expressed a common theme of wanting to break outside of these limiting circles to share a wide variety of interests and connect through a wide variety of events from lesbian book clubs to weekly potlucks to outdoor activities.
"I think creating a centralized place for women to meet, albeit virtually, can both increase the dating pool as well as make it a lot less intimidating to make the first move," Furman said. "I remember being single and feeling completely hopeless. The dating pool in my social circle seemed tiny! Everyone had dated everyone, so some people were off-limits to me just because they were the ex of a friend. The people I liked were already in relationships."
"Our community tends to be really fragmented, and not all women hang out at bars," Furman continued. "My goal for Wing Ma'am is that it becomes a centralized and safe place for LGBT women to meet and connect, for friendships or for dating."
Now more than a year into the planning stages and several months into marketing efforts, Wing Ma'am has a staff of four in a small office and getting ready to launch in November.
The project was accepted into Alpha Lab, a Pittsburgh business accelerator who saw great potential in the app's business plan. In fact, it was the first time an LGBT business received investment funding in the area.
The staff at Wing Ma'am feels this project will not only connect women, but it will also increase the visibility and viability of the LGBT women's population for investors worldwide, both for Wing Ma'am and many LGBT businesses to come.
With more than 3,000 current app signups, web traffic reaching almost 10,000 unique users, articles in top lesbian media like AfterEllen and Autostraddle, and celebrity buzz from the likes of The Real L Word cast and Kate Clinton, LGBT women are well on their way to a better-connected community through Wing Ma'am.
To join the movement, sign up at www.wingmaam.com and watch the exclusive demo video below.