Happy Pride! This month, we're celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community and its many contributions to our culture and economy. Whether you're a member of the community or an ally, we hope that you're celebrating with us.
At StartBlox, we're proud supporters of LGBTQIA-led small businesses around the United States because, well, we're one of them!
According to a report by the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce in October of 2016, there were only 909 (out of 28.8 million) small businesses registered as LGBT business enterprises (meaning, they're at least 51% led and operated by an LGBT person).
American culture is often one about supporting the underdog, but unfortunately, minority-owned business "underdogs" can get the opposite treatment. America is diverse, and someday business ownership might reflect that better. That's why it's important for existing minority-owned businesses to be visible and supported, encouraging other minorities to start their own businesses and infusing new ideas into Main Street. This month is our shout out to our brother/sister organizations making it happen.
If you're showing support for LGBTQIA+ in your community this month, consider taking it a step further by supporting equality in their rights and in their businesses. Here are some of the ways you can help:
1. Become a customer
The first and most important way to support an LGBTQIA+ company is to give them your business. As with any small business, you'd be surprised by the amount of your daily needs can be fulfilled just as well by your neighborhood small businesses. Rather than ordering a book online, consider stepping into a bookstore near your home and finding out what's in stock. Instead of stepping into a Starbucks, walk into the coffeeshop around the corner for a more local vibe.
2. Become a mentor or coach
If you have a business background or run your own successful business, volunteer to mentor or coach LGBTQIA+ business owners in your community. In addition to supporting these leaders through the tough process of running a business, you'll be able to develop a closer relationship with a fellow entrepreneur. As with most coaching and mentoring relationships, the value will go both ways and can grow both of your businesses.
3. Pledge your support
If you operate your own small business, make your support for the LGBTQIA+ community known by pledging to be #OpenForAll. This pledge announces your commitment to serve all customers, regardless of their sexual orientation and adds you to the growing list of allies around the United States.
4. Promote their businesses on social media
If you've found a local business that you love, shout about it. Whether sharing their posts on your own Facebook page or letting all of your friends know about the great haircut you got (and who it was by), letting your network know about these businesses is a crucial part of helping them be heard in your community.
5. Review them online
Make a concerted effort to review businesses that will benefit the most from what you have to say. In today's economy, online reviews matter more than ever, so take a moment to post a review on Yelp, Angies' List, or their Google Company Listing. This will help the business gain credibility and (in most cases) even increase their visibility.
6. Donate to LGBTQIA+ friendly organizations
Supporting LGBTQIA+ small businesses isn't just about the companies that are already operating. Your support can also help to secure the future of these companies by donating to organizations that support LGBTQIA+ people of all ages.
7. Host an event
Whether you're considering hosting a networking event or a party, every opportunity you have to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community is a good one. If you own a small business or have access to an event space, you have the opportunity to bring together small business owners, business leaders, potential customers, and more to facilitate lasting relationships or meaningful business connections that will help these companies grow.
8. Advertise your support
Don't be shy about your support. Helping to grow LGBTQIA+ small businesses shouldn't be a tightly-kept secret, so showcase your support on your personal social media, car bumper stickers, and everywhere else. If you run a small business, make it clear to your customers that you support LGBTQIA+ communities. The community can be very loyal to businesses who support us.
9. Form a partnership or start co-marketing
If you have the means, consider partnering with a business in your community to help grow their business and yours at the same time. A great example of this is by utilizing co-marketing to drive customers to both of your businesses in a single day. You could also reward customers of their establishments with additional discounts at yours, and visa versa.
10. Share your story
Nothing is more impactful than a story. If you're an LGBTQIA+ business leader, share your story and become a role model for individuals within your community. The more you open up about your experience, the more you encourage more businesses to proudly tout their status as allies or members of the community.
Ways to Grow Your Own Business
If you're looking for ways to grow your own business this month, check out the SBA resources for LGBT-owned businesses.