In October 1996, an idea formed in Simon Davies’ head.
Davies, then a board member of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Business Association (SGLBA) Inc, and later its president for several years, thought Sydney’s gay and lesbian business and professional community needed a networking event, where gay businessmen, their friends and guests could exchange ideas, meet new people and grow existing business networks.
The result was Fruits in Suits, Sydney’s premier gay networking and social event.
Fruits (as it’s fondly known) has been held at many venues during the last 15 years — from The W Hotel to Mars Lounge to Slide. It is the original of the now many ‘Fruits in Suits’ events around the world. There are ones in Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Hong Kong and Tokyo.
“Fruits in Suits was groundbreaking in that we got Macquarie Bank on board from day one, as its sponsor,” Davies said.
“Publicly associating with gay organisations was still a big deal for large corporations in the mid-’90s. The fact that the sponsorship even existed drew mainstream media attention at the time.
“The Macquarie sponsorship also allowed SGLBA to advertise Fruits in The Australian Financial Review, which brought more mainstream press attention.
“Because the AFR was a national publication, Fruits received attention in other state capitals. Within a year of SGLBA’s Sydney launch, GLOBE launched its own Fruits in Suits in Melbourne.
“At one stage, Fruits were held in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Auckland, Hong Kong and if I recall correctly Brisbane too — always on the third Thursday of each month.
“Fruits was and still is designed to reach out to an audience of educated professionals with a theme of ‘come as you are, after work’ — don’t go home first and put on the tight muscle clothes that seemed to be the only acceptable dress code on Oxford St back then.
“It offered an opportunity to network with similar guys (and girls) in a ‘mix and mingle’ setting — a good addition to the sit-down dinners SGLBA was also hosting in those days.
“I’ve done much bigger things in my corporate and professional career both before and after Fruits — but I don’t think I could ever be prouder of something, or of the SGLBA team who worked with me to make Fruits in Suits the success it became.”
“It’s a privilege to be the current custodian of this much-loved event,” SGLBA’s current vice president and Fruits in Suits director Mark Haines said.
“Every month I see people networking and promoting their business. In the four years I have coordinated this event, our member businesses have donated close to $100,000 worth of prizes — an incredible expression of generosity and support for the event.
“I believe it’s also a validation of the opportunities the event provides our member businesses with. Many of them are SMEs and may not have the access or financial wherewithal to tap into other marketing opportunities until they’ve established themselves.
“By supporting the event, member businesses have exposure to our database of more than 1600 people, can promote their business on the night and through sponsoring, receive promotion on our web page and through the local community media.”