By Tarik Perkins, StartOut Director of Programs
Are you dreaming about starting your own business? If so, what’s keeping you from making it happen? If you identify as LGBTQ+, access to funding may be one obstacle you’re facing. It’s legal for lenders to discriminate against LGBTQ+ business owners in more than half of U.S. states, making it more difficult for LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs to start their own businesses in the first place.
LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs also struggle with access to capital. According to data gathered by StartOut, if everyone had equal access to funding and resources, there would be ten times more LGBTQ+ growth entrepreneurs in the U.S. Beyond access to funding and capital, a lack of representation and out role models hinder LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs from starting their own businesses as well.
How Discrimination Impacts LGBTQ+ Entrepreneurs
As these numbers show, LGBTQ+ people are not provided the same opportunities to build their businesses and startups from the ground up, limiting their ability to hire employees, purchase business equipment, and rent office space, among other critical expenses. What is also a great cause for concern within the LGBTQ+ community is how the intersectionality of race, ethnicity, and gender further exacerbates the chances for members of our community to gain access to capital. There is simply not enough being said about these challenges.
It’s difficult for women, gender non-conforming, transgender, and LGBTQ+ founders of color to be out and have the same access as other members of the community. According to data gathered by StartOut, for example, “While 47% of gay, bisexual, or transgender male entrepreneurs raised more than $2 million to fund their businesses, 70% of their female counterparts raised less than $750,000.” Keeping these numbers in mind, how are all members of the LGBTQ+ community supposed to run successful businesses and startups when the playing field is so uneven? The answer lies in the power of community.
Tapping Into the Power of Community
LGBTQ+ people understand the importance of community and supporting one another each and every day — from marching together during Pride Month to volunteering at shelters. Similarly, several nonprofit organizations are dedicated to supporting LGBTQ+ people who want to turn their entrepreneurial dreams into reality.
StartOut, for example, accelerates the growth of the LGBTQ+ community to drive its economic empowerment and build a world where every LGBTQ+ entrepreneur has equal access to lead, succeed, and shape the workforce of the future.
The organization provides a 6-month startup accelerator, the StartOut Growth Lab, which offers top-quality mentoring, education, and networking opportunities for young companies that are founded by LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs. To date, 65 companies have graduated from the StartOut Growth Lab, resulting in $763 million in funding raised and the creation of more than 3,650 jobs.
The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, one of StartOut’s community partners, is another resource for LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs who want to connect with other LGBTQ+ business owners for networking purposes. You may consider applying for the organization’s LGBTBE Certification, which opens the door to several supplier diversity opportunities.
If you’re ready to launch your own business, visit startout.org to explore helpful resources. You can also learn more about StartOut’s Growth Lab and how it empowers LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs who want to drive inclusivity and social progress while doing what they love.