What do Geocities, Facebook, PayPal, and Calvin Klein have in common? All were founded or co-founded by someone from the LGBT community. With about 1.4 million LGBT-owned businesses in US, it’s not surprising that some are among the most successful businesses around. Over 800 of them have been certified as LGBTEs (LGBT Enterprises), a number that is expected to rise sharply in the coming years, as the Small Business Association launches its second outreach to the LGBT business community.
While government support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender entrepreneurs lags behind that for women and minorities, a few private organizations (backed by more than a few Fortune 500 companies) have become very useful resources to the community. Some of these organizations have been dedicated to LGBT advocacy, networking, or publishing for decades, creating communities and partnerships among LGBT business owners and their allies. Others have sprung up to fill in the gaps.
Whether you’re looking for other LGBT-owned businesses, wondering what certification means, or hoping to connect with LGBT entrepreneurs and allies at the next national conference, these resources have you covered.
- National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
The NGLCC, a global advocacy group that calls itself the “business voice of the LGBT community,” is a major player in the LGBT business world. Its 140 corporate partners include IBM and American Express.
Founded in 2002, it is the oldest organization of its kind, and the only certifier of LGBT-owned businesses. As of June 2016, it has certified 864 LGBT Enterprises. While certifying a business can help it grow on a national scale, joining one of NGLCC’s 52 Affiliate Chambers can help LGBT entrepreneurs at any stage connect with a supportive community.
Through a partnership with the Small Business Administration and Affinity Inc. Magazine in 2015, the NGLCC launched the LGBT Business Builder. This initiative encourages LGBT Business Enterprise Certification and collaboration between SBA offices and local. Business Builder events are happening across the country throughout 2016.
StartOut is another solid presence on the LGBT business scene. It is a national nonprofit founded in 2009 whose mission is to support LGBT entrepreneurs through educational events networking, and mentoring. It hopes to fight discrimination through promoting LGBT entrepreneurs in the media. StartOut has chapters in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin, Boston, and Chicago. Membership is between $95 and $5,000 per year.
dot429 is something of a combination of LinkedIn and Forbes specifically for the LGBT community. The network is free to join. Free events across the country encourage further connection and networking for LGBT entrepreneurs.
- Gay Entrepreneurs Network
The Gay Entrepreneurs Network hosts a members-only website, Facebook page (with over 11,000 likes), and closed Facebook group. Founded 2013, it aims to connect LGBT entrepreneurs nationwide.
OutProfessionals calls itself “the nation’s leading LGBT networking organization.” The OP website hosts a business directory, membership directory, list of B2B network groups, job listings, and event postings. Founded in 1983, it is has about 1,000 members. Membership is $65-$125 per year.
- Lesbians Who Tech
Lesbians Who Tech is a global community of over 15,000 queer women and allies with 35+ chapters. The organization, launched in 2012, has national and international summits each year. Its programs include coding scholarships & Bring a Lesbian to Work Day.
- Reaching Out MBA
ROMBA is an organization that connects LGBT students in MBA programs around the U.S. through events, particularly its annual conference. ROMBA hopes to create a supportive community of future LGBT business leaders.
- LGBT Week
LGBT Week is a diverse series of conferences, workshops, and events held each spring in NYC. The event is organized by Community Marketing & Insights and Pink Banana Media.
- The Original LGBT Expo
“The LGBT community’s most powerful business event,” the Original LGBT Expo is an annual convention begun in 1983. The 2016 Expo was held in March at the Javits Center, where over 300 companies exhibited.
Business Directories & Media
- Affinity Inc
Affinity Inc (also known as AIM) is a quarterly magazine dedicated to the LGBT business community and allies. Its three pillars are innovation, success, and loyalty. Article categories include government and nonprofit alongside business equality news.
- Open for Business
Open For Business is an informal coalition of businesses, including behemoths like Google and IBM, that want to make an economic case for LGBT inclusion. It’s included in the Media section because the coalition’s main work was to create a report that explains the opportunities associated with LGBT inclusion and the business risks of discrimination.
- Local Gay Business
As the name suggests, Local Gay Business is a 90s-style website featuring a gay business directory and membership portal. According to its Facebook page, the site has been seen by 7 million unique visitors.
- Gay Lesbian Directory
The Gay Lesbian Directory is a simple site that lists businesses and organizations supportive of the LGBT community. You can search by keyword, location, or business type.
- Lesbian Business Community
The LBC is a website made up of a nationwide directory of lesbian-owned and LGBT-friendly businesses, LGBT event listings, and articles for LGBT business owners. It aims to bring attention to lesbian-owned businesses and connect them with consumers.