The power and influence of LGBTQIA+ businesses are on the rise. In fact, statistics show that LGBTQIA+-owned businesses outrank other categories in both longevity and annual revenue.
Still, these businesses face challenges like many other minority-owned ventures.
At ZenBusiness, we know just how difficult it can be to successfully run a business. And LGBTQIA+ business owners can face even more obstacles than most. That’s why we’ve created this guide for LGBTQIA+ business owners.
Keep reading for helpful resources available to LGBTQIA+ businesses and more information on what LGBTQ+ business owners need to know about legal protections for their businesses.
What are the requirements to be considered an LGBTQIA+ business?
LGBTQIA+-owned businesses continue to make up only a fraction of the total number of small businesses in the U.S. each year. In an effort to expand economic opportunities for and greater social acceptance of LGBTQIA+-owned businesses, the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) created a certification process exclusively for LGBTQIA+-owned businesses. This has become known as the LGBT-Owned Business Enterprise (LGBTBE) Certification.
Not just any business will have the privilege of being a Certified LGBTBE company. Specifically, to meet the minimum criteria for certification, your small business must:
- Be at least 51% owned, operated, managed, and controlled by an LGBTQIA+ person or persons who are either United States citizens or lawful permanent residents;
- Have been formed as a legal entity in the United States;
- Exercise independence from any non-LGBTQIA+ business enterprise; and
- Have its principal place of business/headquarters located within the United States.
Importantly, an LGBTQIA+ person and a non-LGBTQIA+ person can own a company jointly. However, to qualify as a Certified LGBTBE entity in such a scenario, the LGBTQIA+ owner must be the majority owner of the business with at least 51% ownership.
Benefits of Certification
There are a number of benefits that come along with the status of being a Certified LGBTBE organization. These benefits include:
- Opportunities to compete for sourcing contracts with the NGLCC’s Corporate Supplier Diversity Partners;
- National recognition as a Certified LGBT Business Enterprise by some of America’s top corporations;
- Automatic inclusion in the NGLCC database of Certified LGBTBEs;
- Eligibility to exhibit at the annual NGLCC Business and Leadership Conference and other regional events;
- Use of the NGLCC Certified Business logo on your own business’s marketing materials; and
- Eligibility to participate in mentoring programs, leadership training, and scholarship opportunities.
Certification as an LGBTBE can be a gateway to increased professional, networking, and funding opportunities for your LGBTQIA+-owned business. To get started on certifying your LGBTQIA+ business and begin realizing these benefits and more, visit the MyNGLCC website.
Funding and Raising Capital for LGBTQ+ Ventures
As with all new ventures, raising capital will be one of the first and most important steps as you start your business. But where can you turn for funding for your LGBTQIA+-owned business venture?
Fortunately, there are a number of funding resources available specifically to LGBTQIA+ and other minority entrepreneurs.
Resources Specific to LGBTQIA+
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is a proud supporter of the LGBTQIA+ business community and has a network aimed at bringing economic empowerment to the LGBTQIA+ business community. From inclusion and outreach programs to connections with District Offices with strategic alliances with the LGBTQIA+ business community, there are a number of LGBTQIA+ resources available directly through the SBA.
StartOut is another organization with great resources for LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs. This LGBTQIA+ non-profit was formed to promote LGBTQIA+ equality and combat discrimination specifically in the business industry.
StartOut provides resources to the LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurial community, promotes successes in the LGBTQIA+ industry, and researches the economic impacts of discrimination. The overall mission of StartOut is to increase the number, diversity, and impact of LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs throughout the world.
StartOut also offers free 12-month memberships to LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs who have been historically underrepresented within the community. Visit startout.org to learn more and apply.
Another LGBTQIA+-specific resource is Gaingels, an investment company that aims to invest in businesses that embrace LGBTQIA+ leadership. Gaingels connects business founders with a global network of LGBTQIA+/ally investors, providing access to capital, investors’ business acumen, and contacts.
General Minority Resources
There are a number of other resources geared toward minority groups generally that may also be available to LGBTQIA+ business owners.
One such resource is Pipeline Angels. Pipeline Angels was formed in 2011 and aims to change the face of angel investing and creating capital for:
- Transgender women
- Cisgender women
- Nonbinary individuals
- Agender individuals
- Gender-nonconforming individuals
An “angel investor” is a high-networth investor that provides funding to small startups or entrepreneurs in exchange for ownership equity in the business. However, according to one study, only 5% of U.S. angel investors in 2016 were minorities. The Pipeline Angels organization seeks to change the scales.
Pipeline Angels provides a training boot camp for new investors to educate on investment topics and connect with seasoned angel investors. It also provides business owners with opportunities to present their ventures and attempt to secure funding from members of Pipeline Angels.
Another valuable resource for minority business owners is Accion Opportunity Fund. Accion Opportunity Fund fights to break down barriers to financial inclusion and advocates for the needs of underserved small businesses in the United States.
Specifically, Accion provides small business owners in the U.S. with access to capital, networks, and coaching. Accion’s Small Business Impact Fund is the country’s largest small business impact fund that directly provides loans to underserved small business owners — primarily to minority- and women-owned businesses serving low-income communities.
Grants, Fellowships, and Scholarships
You might think that there is no such thing as “free money.” However, grants, fellowships, and scholarships are essentially just that — free money for your new or growing LGBTQIA+-owned business.
Below are some of the many opportunities that may be available to help fund your small business.
Reaching Out MBA is an organization that aims to increase the influence of the LGBTQIA+ community in the business industry by educating, inspiring, and connecting MBA students and alumni. The organization sponsors the largest gathering of LGBTQIA+ business students and alumni, the ROMBA conference.
Reaching Out also offers a ROMBA Fellowship to develop the LGBTQIA+ and ally business leaders of tomorrow. ROMBA Fellows receive a minimum $20,000 scholarship and access to exclusive leadership opportunities.
David Bohnett Foundation
The David Bohnett Foundation has contributed more than $120 million in grants to socially active organizations. The foundation specifically offers several grant opportunities for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, awarding over $24 million in total grant funds.
The Arcus Foundation partners with experts and advocates to ensure that LGBTQIA+ individuals thrive in a world where social and environmental justice are realities.
The Arcus Foundation employs grantmaking strategies that prioritize LGBTQIA+ organizations through its LGBTQ Social Justice Program. The Foundation distributes grants to initiatives or organizations that are clearly aligned with their program strategies and goals, distributing more than 2,000 grants to more than 500 organizations worldwide.
Education and Training Resources
Because LGBTQIA+ businesses have been traditionally underrepresented, many LGBTQIA+ business owners may not have the access to the education, training, and mentorship that other business owners have. Below are some useful resources for your LGBTQIA+-owned business.
LGBT Capital focuses primarily on the LGBTQIA+ consumer segment and the pursuit of business advancements in LGBTQIA+ equality and inclusion worldwide. LGBT Capital has developed an LGBT Diversity Investment Index and an Institutional Investment methodology and offers LGBT Accreditation for companies seeking to make LGBTQIA+ diversity and inclusion a priority.
StartOut also offers a mentorship program for entrepreneurs and business founders wishing to exchange ideas. Aspiring founders can participate in the Founders Program to receive feedback from successful business owners and entrepreneurs.
Echelon is another fantastic resource for those wanting to stay current with LGBTQIA+ business news. The magazine hosts the Gay Business Magazine Blog, which includes articles concerning LGBTQIA+ businesses or individuals in the business industry.
Networking and Connectivity Resources
Many LGBTQIA+ individuals in the business community struggle to find networking opportunities throughout their communities. Fortunately, several organizations have developed networking programs designed for LGBTQIA+ businesses to remedy the issue.
National Chamber of Commerce for Gay and Lesbians
As discussed above, the NGLCC comprises the largest advocacy organization dedicated to expanding economic opportunities and advancements for LGBTQIA+ people and is the only certifying body for LGBTQIA+-owned businesses. The NGLCC offers several networking opportunities for LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs and business owners.
Out Professionals boasts the title of the nation’s leading LGBTQIA+ networking organization. The organization offers a wide variety of networking opportunities for its members, including mixers, professional seminars, and even wine-tasting events.
Out and Equal
Out and Equal is an organization focused exclusively on LGBTQIA+ workplace equality.
The organization aims to help LGBTQIA+ individuals thrive in their workspace and supports organizations that create a culture of belonging for all individuals.
Out and Equal holds an annual summit allowing executives, entrepreneurs, and LGBTQIA+ employees to network and share strategies to create more inclusive workplaces.
The Equality Act, if passed, would significantly improve legal protections for LGBTQIA+-owned businesses.
LGBTQIA+ individuals still lack basic legal protections and continue to face discrimination throughout the United States. If your rights are being violated, either in your individual capacity or in your capacity as an LGBTQIA+ business owner, below are some helpful resources to turn to.
Human Rights Commission
The Human Rights Commission (HRC) advocates for pro-LGBTQIA+ legislation by calling attention to policies and laws that discriminate against the LGBTQIA+ community. The HRC has launched field operations that led to the passage of same-sex marriage laws and has invested millions of dollars into state ballot initiatives addressing LGBTQIA+ rights.
Lambda Legal is a non-profit organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of:
- Gay men
- Transgender people
- Everyone living with HIV
The organization aims to meet this goal through impact litigation, education, and public policy work.
Lambda Legal’s website outlines the rights of LGBTQIA+ individuals and those living with HIV on its front page. Its help desk provides information and resources relating to discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and HIV status.
The National LGBTQ Legal Aid Forum
The National LGBTQ Legal Aid Forum is a listserv dedicated to improving legal services and accessibility for low-income LGBTQIA+ clients. The forum permits members to post questions and answers related to serving LGBTQIA+ clients and share new developments in LGBTQIA+-related law.
Need help starting your LGBTQIA+-owned business?
Starting your own business can be stressful and overwhelming at times, but it doesn’t have to feel this way. ZenBusiness can connect you with the tools and resources you need to start, run, and grow your LGBTQIA+-owned business.
For more information on our business formation plans, take a look at our prices and the features we offer. When you’re ready to take the first step on setting up your business, ZenBusiness will be ready to help.
Disclaimer: The content on this page is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.
- Are there requirements to be an LGBTQIA+ business?
Yes, there are requirements to be considered an LGBTQIA+ business for the purposes of NGLCC national certification. Specifically, the business must be at least 51% owned, operated, managed, and controlled by one or more LGBTQIA+ persons who are either U.S. citizens or lawful permanent U.S. residents.
- Do I need a certification to be considered an LGBTQIA+ business?
You don’t necessarily need a certification to be considered an LGBTQIA+ business. And, in fact, many businesses will market themselves as being LGBTQIA+-owned and operated. However, the NGLCC is the exclusive certifying body for LGBTQIA+-owned businesses, so obtaining the official LGBTBE Certification is a great way to set your business apart.
- What are good ways to support LGBTQIA+ businesses?
There are many ways in which you can show your support for LGBTQIA+-owned businesses. But the most helpful thing you can always do is continue to search for and buy goods and services directly from businesses that are owned and operated by LGBTQIA+ individuals.