June is Pride Month, which means only one thing: It’s time to celebrate the amazing LGBT community. This month, we’re putting a spotlight on the LGBT entrepreneurs who not only enrich communities around the country, but also the US economy.
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According to The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce:
- The typical LGBT-run enterprise has been in business, on average, for more than 12 years.
- LGBT-run businesses contribute more than $1.7 trillion to the US economy and have created more than 33,000 jobs.
Every business needs help to thrive, and finding a supportive community can be especially key for minority business owners. For any LGBT entrepreneur looking to start a business or find resources to help run one, these online communities could become your new virtual best friends:
1. The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC)
Description: The NGLCC is a great first stop. It’s a US-based organization with resources, trainings, and meetups for aspiring LGBT entrepreneurs. It was founded in 2002 by Justin Nelson and Chance Mitchell to empower the community economically.
“We realized no one had truly considered the economic equality of LGBT people or the impact economics could have on the equality movement,” they wrote in The Advocate earlier this year. “With over 1.4 million LGBT business owners (and growing) behind us, we have seen the LGBT community earn its place at the table of economic opportunity.”
Who it’s good for: It’s a perfect start for LGBT business owners in the US looking to expand their businesses and get certified—or aspiring to exhibit their companies at conferences and meetups organized by the NGLCC.
What it offers:
- LGBTBE (LGBT Business Enterprise) Certification: This gives your business the opportunity to compete for sourcing contracts with the NGLCC’s Corporate Supplier Diversity Partners. These corporate partners are committed to creating a diverse supply chain that is inclusive of LGBT businesses, and they have targeted amounts for spending with diverse business enterprises.
- Supplier Diversity Initiative (SDI): This program is the main bridge between corporate America and LGBT-owned businesses and entrepreneurs. Certified LGBTBEs can meet face-to-face with potential suppliers at NGLCC SDI matchmaking events, and they may also be eligible for scholarship programs, mentorship and leadership training, and other business development tools.
Here’s the criteria your business needs to meet for LGBTBE certification:
- Majority (at least 51%) owned, operated, managed, and controlled by someone who identifies as LGBT and is either a US citizen or permanent resident.
- Exercises independence from any non-LGBT business enterprise.
- Has its principal place of business (headquarters) in the United States.
- Has been formed as a legal entity in the United States.
2. LGBTQ Entrepreneurs
Description: This is a Facebook community of LGBT entrepreneurs—and aspiring entrepreneurs—who want to grow their businesses. It offers insights from Cee Smith, a successful entrepreneur who has built businesses in multiple industries, from entertainment to business development.
“The Facebook group came from my experience as a young and out entrepreneur who navigated the business world alone. A majority of us are alone on this journey. We don’t fight just to make our business successful, we also have to fight prejudice and stereotypes that engender inequality,” says Smith.
Who it’s good for: According to Smith, “This group is good for entrepreneurs looking for community support, problem solving, and resources. We have people of all ages and levels of entrepreneurship, from a few months in all the way to 25-plus years in business.”
What it offers:
- Video content by Cee Smith.
- Educational material on scaling your business, like how and where to get funding and other key insights.
- Community support and problem solving.
3. Out Professionals (OP)
Description: Out Professionals calls itself “the nation’s leading LGBT networking organization.” Founded in 1983, it has about 1,000 members, 5,000 email subscribers, and 600 companies.
Who it’s good for: Members include many of the LGBT community’s leading writers, designers, producers, directors, and others in the arts.
What it offers: Membership costs $65–$125 per year and gets you:
- A personal listing in their public Business Directory.
- Various events each month, like mixers, celebrity interviews, film screenings, professional panels, and career workshops.
- Exclusive access to OP’s online Member Directory, where you can browse or search for other members.
- Seminars and workshops. One upcoming event is “How to Brand and Market Yourself or Your Business on LinkedIn.”
4. The Lesbian Business Community (LBC)
Description: The LBC is a lesbian-owned business directory and resource for LGBT-owned-and-operated businesses. The goal is for these businesses to build their visibility and brand—and make it easier for consumers to find them.
Who it’s good for: According to LBC’s website, there are only 370,000 lesbian-owned businesses in the US. They hope to change that by supporting lesbian entrepreneurs around the country. LBC is also LGBT-friendly and supports other entrepreneurs within the community.
What it offers:
- A directory of detailed profiles for members to tell their stories and for users to connect with other lesbian or LGBT-friendly professionals.
- Easy search of a broad range of categories so new clients and strategic partners can find lesbian-owned and LGBT-friendly businesses and service providers.
Description: FourTwoNine is the LinkedIn for LGBT communities. Headquartered in San Francisco, the print, online, and in-person platform brings together LGBT people and their allies.
Who it’s good for: According to its website, FourTwoNine caters to “thought influencers and cultural leaders of all genders.”
What it offers:
- Articles written by industry-leaders.
- Job search with LGBT-friendly employers on its job board.
- An executive mentoring program connecting rising star professionals with established industry leaders.
- Monthly live social events across the country and internationally.
Smith, the creator of the LGBTQ Entrepreneurs Facebook group, believes the LGBT community can benefit greatly from hearing the stories and experiences of others. “How can we have an equal chance to succeed when we are fighting a bigger battle with lesser resources? We need to foster connections with other entrepreneurs, and have access to training and programming,” she says.
These groups are just a click away and can help you take your business to the next level. If we’ve missed out on any, let us know! Email us to add an online community that has helped your business grow.