LGBTQ 🏳️🌈 is a movement designed to represent people of various gender identifications and sexual orientations so they have equality in society, especially in a business context. The acronym itself stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender, Queer.
As a group, the LGBTQ community has been somewhat overlooked in comparison to other social demographics – for instance, there are relatively few resources available in comparison to African Americans or female entrepreneurs.
However, the group of LGBTQ-owned enterprises is growing and their impact is accelerating. This guide will inform you as to how to support the LGBTQ community. We’ll also run through some of the top resources for LGBTQ business-owners for business, legal, workforce, and other spheres.
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How to Support LGBTQ Businesses
With increased awareness surrounding these issues, now is the perfect opportunity for expansion. LGBTQ owners need support at a time when people are becoming aware of different demographics that do not have an equal platform to excel in the world of business.
The following are some of the best ways to support LGBTQ-owned businesses right now.
🏳️🌈Buy From Them
The most simple and obvious way to support LGBTQ-owned businesses is to shop at their stores. This is a direct financial contribution to this cause. If they are helped out financially, it will give them more empowerment and a larger voice in business and commerce. And with COVID-19 making it more difficult right now, the financial assistance is badly needed.
While LGBTQ-owned businesses are not as numerous as other groups, such as Blacks or female entrepreneurs, they are there. You can also check an online resource for a register of LGTBQ-owned enterprises. Three ways you can investigate LGBTQ-owned enterprises include:
🏳️🌈Use Social Media
Social media is a powerful tool for helping out underprivileged groups who do not have an active presence or voice. It has been instrumental in bringing social issues to the public awareness across many different spheres – third world poverty, racism, animal cruelty, the destruction of the Amazon rainforest – all of these vital issues are being brought to public attention through social media.
Whether you are on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, use a social media platform to highlight important statistics and facts about the plight of the LGBTQ community. You could even share this post to help people get informed about the topic at hand and to generate awareness.
🏳️🌈Do Your Research
There is little point in launching a campaign for this social demographic if you are not made aware of the statistics and the data surrounding it. Have you talked to people in the community? How do they feel about it? What studies have you looked into? What are your data sources? How many data sources are you drawing from?
The more research you do, the more information you will have. You can then answer questions and outline your reasons for supporting this particular group. It will make you sound more intelligent – because you will actually be more intelligent. At least with regard to this topic. You can then educate others and see where the real problems lie, instead of adding blind support to a cause you know little about.
🏳️🌈Take an Active Role
You can champion the cause and take an active role in terms of helping out. Form groups, attend parades, go to seminars, get active on online forums, etc. You can also ally your business with the movement. There are media outlets that list LGBTQ-allied businesses. If your business is more than 51% LGBTW-owned, then you can get LGBTBE certified (‘BE’ standing for ‘Business Enterprise’). There are many ways to actively support the campaign.
Instead of buying from the many LGBT-owned businesses, you could also consider a direct donation. Donations do not have to be large. As little as $5 a month can be of assistance. Every little helps, and if a lot of people donate a large amount, it can really make a difference. Most people prefer to buy from LGBT businesses as opposed to making a donation – we don’t want to make them into a charity group, but we do want to lend them support.
What’s an LGBT-Owned Business Anyway?
In order to qualify as an LGBT-owned business, the enterprise must meet the following criteria:
- Must be at least 51% owned, operated, managed, and controlled by an LGBT person.
- LGBT owner must be either U.S. citizen or lawful permanent residents.
- Enterprise has independence from any non-LGBT business enterprise.
- Enterprise has headquarters in the USA.
- Enterprise has been formed as a legal entity in the United States.
There is no criteria for the LGBT criteria other than that the person identifies as a member of the LGBT community. It is a subjective measure.
How to Get Certified
There are 2 ways you can get certified as an LGBT owner. The first is self-certification. You simply need to sign one of two forms, the Self-certification affidavit form or the SBA online self-certification. That’s it. If you want to get certified, you simply have to fill out the form.
The other way is to get certified with a third party. At present, there is only one entity offering this certification, known as the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (‘NGLCC’). There are numerous advantages to getting certified with the NGLCC, such as access to corporate partners.
Big corporations are huge in sponsoring LGBTQ communities due to public appeal. And there are precious few entities that have actually registered with the NGLCC.
In other words, NGLCC business owners should definitely register with this organization and take advantage of the huge corporate sponsorship on offer.
Top Resources for LGBTQ Owners
In terms of grants and financial resources, there are not very many options in comparison to other minority groups. But in terms of general resources, there are quite a number available to LGBT owners. Remember to take account of all of the usual routes when it comes to funding.
The US Small Business Administration and online lenders provide financial support to all US-based businesses, regardless of race and ethnicity. And certain factions of the SBA will provide you with grants and alternative support for minority owners. Aside from financial support, some of the top resources for LGBT owners include:
- Lesbians Who Tech – These are women involved in STEM areas (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Some of the most highly recognized executives and leaders have spoken at Lesbians Who Tech seminars, including Hilary Clinton, Del Harvey, and Sheryl Sandberg. This group is also responsible for the Edie Winsor Coding Sponsorship, which covers 50% of the tuition fees for “incoming LGBTQ women, non-binary and trans techies to kickstart careers in technology.”
- Stanford LGBTQ Executive Leadership Program – This is actually a pioneer program, the first of its kind, designed specifically for LGBT leadership by one of the world’s most prestigious universities. It is a weeklong program that covers typical entrepreneurial topics such as networking, communication skills, and time management. As far as courses go, this is about as reputable as it gets for LGBT business executives.
- Reaching Out MBA – This non-profit offers numerous free courses for LGBT business owners. They also offer a Business conference specifically for transgender, lesbian, and bi-sexual women. According to the website of the organization, Reaching Out MBA (‘ROMBA’) is the ‘biggest and best-known organization focused on supporting the LGBT+ MBA Community’.
- The LGBT National Help Center – This offers a number of support options to LGBT individuals including peer support, senior LGBT phone support, youth LGBT phone support, LGBT center locations, and messaging services. It is supported by LGBT volunteers and all communications are confidential. This is a resource for psychological help, not financial support.
- Parents, Family & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (‘PFLAG’) – This is another non-profit organization offering support for LGTB individuals and business owners. This organization provides statistics to generate awareness for the LGBT community and has huge 250,000 members across 500 chapters in the USA.
- The Transgender Training Institute (TTI) – This training institute provides training and consultancy services for non-binary and transgender individuals. It works across the USA to build numerous leadership skills including public speaking, presentations, and professional development training.
Aside from general resources, there are multiple LGBT organizations that specialize in certain areas. These are divided below into ‘Professional LGBT Resources’, ‘Legal LGBT Resources’, and ‘Other LGBT resources’.
All of these are all very important to LGBT business owners and you need to be made aware of them, whether you have a business or not. If you are an LGBT business owner, you will need to be made aware of the rights of LGBT workers and what the issues are.
🏳️🌈Professional LGBT Resources
- Gay, Lesbian & Straight Educators Network (GLSEN)
- Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA)
- National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals, Inc. (NOGLSTP)
- National Gay Pilots Association (NGPA)
- The Association of LGBTQ Journalists (NLGJA)
- Lambda Literary
🏳️🌈Legal LGBT Resources
- Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD)
- Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund
- National Lesbian and Gay Law Association (NLGLA)
- Transgender Law Center (TLC)
- interACT (formerly known as Advocates for Informed Choice (AIC))
🏳️🌈Other LGBT Resources
- Modern Military Association of America (formerly known as OutServe-SLDN)
- Gay & Lesbian Association of Retiring Persons (GLARP)
- Services & Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders (SAGE)
- Pride at Work
- Out and Equal Workplace Advocates
Best Grants for LGBTQ Owners
If you are an LGBTQ business owner, keep in mind that you qualify for all most of the typical minority grants and microloan grants. Remember that grant writing and application is a skill that you need to hone with time.
You can’t apply to any grant and expect to win it. You have to judge your chances of success against what the ultimate prize is. It can take a lot of time when applying for a grant program. The following are 6 of the best grants available for LGBT owners.
- The David Bennett Foundation – The David Bennett Foundation started giving grants to the LGBT community all the way back in 1999. This makes it one of the first, as this community was not under the limelight whatsoever at that time. It has only garnered real attention in the past 5 – 10 years. Over $23 Million in grants have been donated to the LGBT community, with $1 Million this year alone. The grants range from $500 all the way up to $10,000, depending on which ones you go for.
- Astraea Lesbian Foundation For Justice – LGBTQ business owners can apply to the Astraea Lesbian Foundation For Justice for a diverse range of grants, which extends all the way up to $30,000. This is a little higher than the David Bennett Foundation but read each grant carefully to see what you need to do to qualify. Grant contests are quite difficult to win. Astraea has 4 programs. One of the organizations based in the USA, another for international businesses, a program specifically designed for intersex people, and one for Global Arts.
- The Arcus Foundation – The Arcus Foundation is looking to empower LGBT communities across the globe with a variety of programs, grants, and campaigns. The grants go to businesses that are looking to make the world a better place, which basically means businesses involved in humanitarian and social causes. In 2018, they granted $15 million to organizations that focus on those causes.
- SBA LGBT Outreach – As can be expected, the Small Business Administration is involved in the distribution of relevant grants to members of the LGBT community. While they don’t seem to have a loan designed specifically for LGBT owners (unlike their many minority grant programs) they do have a lot of resources. According to the SBA page – “The SBA conducts outreach to be more inclusive of LGBT business owners, and our staff welcomes and recognizes the importance of greater inclusion at all levels and in all communities”.
- StartOut – This is a community specifically for LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs to get up and running. They provide mentoring, resources, and funding opportunities for LGBT owners who are getting started in the business. You have to subscribe to their community, and you will be assigned a mentor when you do. They have centers only in Austin, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York.
- Diversity Fund – Technically, this is not really a grant. But it’s an excellent route if you are looking for venture capital. Live in Texas, you will be pitching in front of investors in a bid to get them to loan you some capital for your new venture. This is only available to technology-based startups in Texas.
There are not very many grants available only to members of the LGBT community. This is because all grants that are available to women (of which there are many) are also going to be available to this class of people. The same goes for venture capital funding.
While there are only a limited number of options, LGBT owners can apply for all the same grants as women owners and general small business owners. For a full list of grants (and how to write a grant proposal).
LGBTQ Ownership Statistics
In comparison to other groups, there is less official data on the LGBTQ community. But there are definitely some reports and trends out there. The most authoritative resources and findings come from the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (‘NGLCC’). Some of the latest findings are that:
- There are over 1.4 million LGBT-business owners.
- $1.7 Billion is contributed to the US economy annually from LGBTBE certified enterprises.
- The figure rises to $2 Billion when non-certified LGBT businesses are estimated.
- LGBTBE certified enterprises have created over 33,000 jobs.
- The average revenue of the LGBTBE certified enterprise is nearly $2.5 Million.
- The average LGBTBE certified enterprise has 12 years in business.
In other words, diverse enterprises such as LGBTQ-owned businesses are thriving. However, most of these figures are from certified corporations and do not include non-certified businesses, which would most certainly bring down these figures. According to the NGLCC President Justin Nelson:
“The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce is elated to be able to evidence through this report what we’ve observed since our founding fifteen years ago: that America’s LGBT business owners are driving our economy upward and deserve every opportunity to keep creating jobs and innovating our industries. The estimated 1.4 million LGBT business owners NGLCC advocates for have truly earned a place at the equality table,”
It always helps to do your own research and to try and find your own insights. Not everything you hear in the mainstream media will give you a full picture on any issue or topic. In fact, much of it is actively misleading and out of context. So do your own personal investigation into the facts.
LGBTQ is not taking place in a vacuum right now. We are in a stage of social, political, and economic upheaval. One prominent movement is Black Lives Matter (‘BLM’). With outrage in the USA, people are gearing up to support black enterprises in droves. COVID-19 is also hugely disrupting national and international trade. It’s hard to turn a profit when things seem to be falling down around your shoulders.
COVID-19, BLM, and the LGBTQ movement are intimately connected. People are joining together to support real causes and are taking a more open approach to economics. It’s not just about making money anymore – it’s about helping people and supporting real issues to alleviate world suffering.
The world of economics is changing and a more humanitarian approach is being favored as opposed to simply making money. And it’s not simply about business owners. Employees are also being taken into consideration so that all parties can get a fairer deal. Everybody is doing their part to create a more equitable environment, not just one isolated group.
7 Pieces of Advice for LGBTQ-Business Owners
Running a business is difficult no matter who you are. The following are 6 of the best pieces of advice for LGBTQ-owners and for people in general.
🏳️🌈#1 – Understand Your Funding Options
Regardless of your race, ethnicity, or sexuality, the only reason a business goes out of business is due to a lack of funds. With this in mind, you will need to take stock of all the funding options at your disposal. Online lenders such as OnDeck, Kabbage, Lending Club, and PayPal LoanBuilder can provide you with a loan within minutes to keep you afloat. Having a line of credit handy in the event of emergencies can save you from collapse in a tough economic environment.
For a larger figure, you could apply for an SBA (7)(a) with a lender such as SmartBiz. The interest rates will be lower and the total amount can be very large. However, you will need to have a higher credit score and annual revenue to qualify for this loan.
🏳️🌈#2 – Use The Resources Available to You
Check out the resources listed above to see what help is available. Join groups and get active so you can benefit from partnership and mentorship. More than anything else, remember to get certified. As an entrepreneur, you need to learn to capitalize on the most lucrative opportunities that you can. There is a tonne of corporate sponsorship available to certified LGBT owners and a lot of publicity. You can rely on social and financial capital to give you a boost.
🏳️🌈#3 – Be Adaptable
Adaptability is one of the most important traits of a business owner. This was always the case. But it is really the case now with a world that moves so quickly. With issues such as COVID and Black Lives Matter hitting the globe, everything has become volatile and human preferences are changing at a rapid rate. With the onslaught of technological progress, customer spending habits are changing extremely quickly.
So be prepared to change your business model. This is known as ‘pivoting’, and even if you don’t completely change it, you will have to make some innovations. Sponsors might fall flat, people get sick, employees do not deliver, clients pull out of contracts. The more adaptable you are to these inevitable events the more your business will thrive.
🏳️🌈#4 – Tell Your Story
As an LGBT business owner, you likely have an interesting backstory. There is still a lot of reluctance on behalf of LGBT business owners to come out as proud representatives of their business. Make sure to advertise your presence and ownership status. You might also be the beneficiary of financial assistance and press coverage.
A good story can really propel your business forward. It can engage customers and business partners, as well as help you to become more confident.
🏳️🌈#5 – Focus Your Time and Energy
Running a successful business all comes down to focus, energy, and attention. The more focus and attention you give to a particular topic, the better your results will be. The trick is to spend some attention on the most important items each day. As you get more specialized, you can outsource some areas and get management to focus on certain areas – you can’t do it all, unfortunately.
But you still need to become excellent at managing your attention. Get organized, ger up early, and focus on the things that really matter. The hard fact is that most entrepreneurs spend too much time on irrelevant details and too little time on the really important facets of business development. You’ll also want to look into taking some time off for vacation and relaxation. The more you can relax, the most productive you will be when you do get back to work.
🏳️🌈#6 – Keep Reading And Learning
There is a mind-boggling amount of things to learn in order to run a successful business in the USA. Taxes, insurance, software, accountancy, best business practices, marketing, building an online presence, SEO, blogging, HR, maximizing employee productivity – the list goes on and on and one.
You need to make sure that you learn each and every day in order to stay competitive. Get some good books and read through them each day. You don’t have to spend an excessive time doing this, just make a list of good books and blogs that you can learn from. Even 20 minutes a day should be enough, as you long as you intend to learn and apply that knowledge.
🏳️🌈#7 – Don’t Get Too Attached To Labels
It can seem like every single group is trying to create a profile for themselves – female entrepreneurs, Blacks, Veterans, eco-warriors. While this might be useful in a limited context, sometimes it’s good to simply drop the labels and to get together with other human beings. You still need to learn the business fundamentals and how to improve and develop as a person. You won’t get by on identity alone, and running a business is not easy for any group, regardless of the resources that are available to them.
Future Trends for LGBTQ
According to the latest research, LGBTQ business owners tend to do far better than the rest of the population, similar to female entrepreneurs and diverse ownership boards. However, the research is mostly based on a small dataset of 900 or so LGBT certified businesses.
The support will continue to grow for this community and they are taking a more prominent role in mainstream society. Right now, it is important to generate awareness so they get a fair hearing and an equal footing in the context of economic development.