There was an interesting finding in a recent survey conducted by the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). Although roughly one-third of LGBTQ+ small business owners lost 50% of their business due to COVID-19, nearly 80% expect to make a full recovery. What explains this remarkable resurgence?
“As LGBTQ people overall, we always learned to be resilient — even in our personal lives, dealing with family or coworkers or people in general who are not accepting,” said Donnya “Zi” Piggott, the co-founder and CEO of the LGBTQ+ travel platform Pink Coconuts. “Because of that, it has taught us to use these same tools to persevere.”
In conversation with Hello Alice’s Sophia Zisook, NGLCC Senior Vice President Sabrina Kent, and StartOut Director of Programs and Partnerships Sarah Burgaud, Piggott discussed the current situation of the country’s roughly 1.4 million LGBTQ+ small business owners in a virtual town hall.
The event builds on a recent impact report analyzing the LGBTQ+ small business community. According to Hello Alice data, the number one challenge these owners face is access to capital; they also operate in the industries most affected by pandemic health restrictions, making it difficult to operate their businesses. Even so, we measured an incredible emphasis on community. LGBTQ+ owners create jobs for their community, donate to LGBTQ+ nonprofits, and foster safe spaces for all.
In an hour-long conversation, the panelists discussed the most pressing concerns of LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs and shared resources to help this community as we emerge from the pandemic. You can watch the full panel embedded below and read key take takeaways and action items to carry us forward.
How to Be a More Inclusive Business Owner
First, all business owners should ensure their employees feel comfortable at work. That means using correct pronouns, not enforcing gendered dress codes, and hiring a diverse staff. This advice applies to LGBTQ+ owners, too.
“We have a lot of work to do within our own LGBT community when it comes to gender inclusion,” said Kent of the NGLCC. “Just because we’re L or G or B doesn’t mean that we’re well-versed on these things. We have even more work to do when it comes to breaking down silos within our community.”
On the HR front, business owners should evaluate their benefits and HR policies. Many insurance plans do not cover trans healthcare, and it’s common for employee handbooks to not accommodate the needs of queer families. “Making a statement to include those is a really big deal,” said Burgaud of StartOut.
Voice Your Support for the Equality Act
For both members of the community and allies, you can urge your senator to pass the Equality Act. This piece of legislation adds sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes under the 1964 Civil Rights Act alongside race, color, religion, and national origin.
“We need the Equality Act because, in over half of the states in the country, you can be denied access to credit or a business loan just because of the fact that you’re LGBT,” said Kent of the NGLCC.
The act passed the House of Representatives in February, but the bill has recently stalled in the Senate. Now is the time to contact your elected officials and urge them to negotiate a deal to protect all Americans!
Where LGBTQ+ Owners Can Look for Funding
The number one challenge LGBTQ+ owners face is finding the capital to start and grow their businesses. Measures like the Equality Act will hopefully make it easier for queer entrepreneurs to get traditional financing, but the panelists pointed to several funds and angel investors interested in funding New Majority businesses.
Here are some of the sources mentioned during the town hall:
Why LGBTQ+ Entrepreneurs Should Get Certified
Finally, LGBTQ+ owners can unlock new opportunities by getting certified through our partners at the NGLCC. Becoming a certified LGBT-owned enterprise provides contracting opportunities and a network of hundreds of fellow entrepreneurs. Crucially, your LGBTE certification challenges stereotypes of who small business owners are and what they can look like
“We can do a better job of being visible because visibility is power,” said Kent.