Welcome to Breaking the Blueprint — a blog series that dives into the unique business challenges and opportunities of underrepresented business owners and entrepreneurs. Learn how they’ve grown or scaled their businesses, explored entrepreneurial ventures within their companies, or created side hustles, and how their stories can inspire and inform your own success.
The LGBTQ community is small but mighty, contributing trillions of dollars and thousands of jobs to the economy each year.
Despite this, LGBTQ individuals still face marginalization. The community continues to fight against historic and current systematic discrimination, which can present barriers to achieving equity and equality — even when trying to start or grow a business.
While progress is slow and not always linear, the good news is there are many resources intended to help give LGBTQ entrepreneurs a leg up. We’ve assembled a list of some of the best out there, which can help LGBTQ business owners thrive through peer networking, educational and leadership training, mentorship, and funding opportunities.
Resources for LGBTQ+ Entrepreneurs
1. NLGCC (National LGBT Chamber of Commerce)
The NLGCC, the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, offers the only third-party certification for LGBTQ+ businesses in the U.S. If you complete their program and become a Certified LGBT Business Enterprise®, it opens the door to a new world of sales, networking, and educational opportunities.
Government bodies, and many corporations, have supplier diversity requirements — and obtaining a certification like this can put you in the procurement pipeline. The organization also offers many educational and networking opportunities, events, and resources.
This nonprofit exists to support LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs and help them accelerate growth.
Resources include events, mentorship matching, a startup accelerator (StartOut Growth Lab), and even access to business capital. StartOut has several chapters throughout the U.S. with member networks and events, though if there isn’t one near you, the organization offers online events.
3. Out Professionals
This organization is somewhat similar to StartOut, though it’s more of a business network for all LGBTQ+ professionals, not just entrepreneurs.
Out Professionals has a membership program with chapters across the country that hold networking events, and the organization is open to people starting chapters in areas without them. These can be ideal places for LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs to connect with potential clients or partners. Members can also be included in an online directory and attend educational webinars.
Finding capital to launch or grow a business is hard for any entrepreneur, but it can be especially difficult for those in marginalized or under-resourced communities.
Gaingels was formed in 2014 as an angel investing group that focuses on helping LGBTQ entrepreneurs access capital, and it’s an excellent resource for startups seeking funding. Another firm to consider is Pipeline Angels, which creates capital for entrepreneurs who identify as cis or trans women, non-binary, two-spirit, agender, or gender non-conforming.
5. Out & Equal
While Out & Equal mainly focuses on supporting diversity and equality at large businesses, it also offers fellowships and career development training programs for LGBTQ+ leaders.
The organization also provides training on LGBTQ inclusion in the workplace, and its annual World Summit brings together business leaders to share best practices. They also offer a variety of online community engagement groups for those who want to connect with like-minded LGBTQ people (some current ones include bi+, LGBTQ+ people of color, and transgender & nonbinary people).
6. Lesbians Who Tech & Allies
Once geared toward lesbians, this group is now more broadly open to anyone in the tech industry who identifies as an LGBTQ+ woman, non-binary, trans, or an ally.
Lesbians Who Tech focuses on getting more women, people of color, and queer and trans people in technology. The organization also works to create visibility, foster community, and provide career and educational opportunities, such as coding scholarships. Their annual summit is an incredible opportunity for LGBTQ entrepreneurs to learn and network.
7. Out Leadership
This organization advocates for LGBTQ+ equality in the workplace. In addition to educating companies on how to be more inclusive, Out Leadership offers a global business network and programs for LGBTQ+ leadership. Entrepreneurs who want to hone their craft can apply for OutNEXT, a development program for emerging LGBTQ leaders, or OutWOMEN, for connecting LGBTQ+ women in business.
8. SBA Resource Partners
The U.S. Small Business Administration (the SBA) offers loads of free resources, including several partner organizations that support entrepreneurs. These aren’t specifically for LGBTQ+ individuals, but the SBA has been vocally affirming and supportive.
One resource funded by the SBA is its Small Business Development Centers, which are located nationwide and provide free business consulting, training, and support. Another SBA-supported resource is SCORE, which matches entrepreneurs with free business mentors who can help you start, grow or transition a business.
9. Your Local LGBT Chamber of Commerce
The NLGCC is the only national LGBTQ chamber of commerce, but its affiliate network contains city, state, and regional LGBTQ chambers across the U.S. Review their list of affiliate chambers to see if there are any near you.
These organizations are networks of LGBTQ-owned and allied businesses and entrepreneurs, and becoming a member plugs you into a network of peers. Members are also included in directories, which helps with marketing and signals that you’re in, or supportive of, the community. Local chambers usually also host many networking, social and educational events for members.
10. Out in Tech
Out in Tech is available to a broad audience of LGBTQ people working in technology, and its 40,000 members are tech leaders across the U.S. The organization has 32 chapters worldwide, featuring networking, education, social events, and a leadership training institute. Out in Tech also provides volunteer opportunities, such as the Digital Corps, which helps build websites for LGBTQ+ organizations and activists.
11. Reaching Out
Reaching Out was created to connect LGBTQ+ business school students with communities of alumni. It has several conferences, including Out Women in Business, that brings together LGBTQ+ women in the business community.
LGBTQ entrepreneurs with MBAs can join this nonprofit and participate in year-long programming that helps build a network of MBA students, alumni, and corporate partners.
12. Stanford Executive Leadership Program
If you want to uplevel your leadership, consider signing up for this week-long program hosted by Stanford’s business school. Hosted in person in California for a week in June 2023, participants learn how to excel as an LGBTQ+ business leader, improve interpersonal and communication skills, and build a strong peer network. The program is unique in that it teaches attendees how their LGBTQ+ identity is a strength to leverage in the business realm.
You’re Never Alone
While these are some of the top resources for LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs, it’s far from an exhaustive list. There are many more at the local level and in specific industries. LGBTQ people often experience isolation and discrimination, but know that our community is full of fellow entrepreneurs you can connect with and committed angel investors, nonprofits, and government partners eager to support you.
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