Top resources for LGBTQ+ business owners

There are around 1.4 million businesses owned by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) individuals in the U.S., contributing more than $1.7 trillion to the economy, according to the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. Yet while LGBTQ+ representation grows in the economy, there are still significant barriers to entry for many business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs in this community.

Pride in Business

In fact, LGBTQ+ people in Ohio and 28 other states are not considered a protected class by the state, leaving the door open to legal discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity by lenders and other individuals.

From struggling to access capital to fears of discrimination and intimidation, there can be some significant and unique hurdles for LGBTQ+ business owners to overcome. These hurdles were underscored by a 2022 survey that found LGBTQ+ business owners had a harder time securing funding from lenders compared to non-LGBTQ+ business owners, and another survey that same year found more than 1 in 3 LGBTQ+ adults faced some form of discrimination in the previous year.

While it’s imperative for changes to occur at both a government policy level and at the community level to ensure all business owners feel safe, protected, and in a position to thrive, there are also resources out there that LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs can tap into.

  • Get certified - With an increased focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in the business world, many entities are seeking out contracts with minority-owned businesses. By seeking out a certification for your business, it’ll be easier for buyers to identify you. The National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) offers a certification that gives LGBTQ+ owned businesses access to key networks. LGBTQ+ businesses that lack a certification may be missing out on significant networking and growth opportunities. The U.S. Small Business Administration can also assist in getting your business certified.
  • Join a network - A number of organizations exist to help engage, educate, and empower LGBTQ+ business owners through networking and educational opportunities. OutProfessionals offers regular virtual and in-person networking events, Reaching Out hosts several events and educational programs each year, and StartOut provides networking and mentorship opportunities for LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs.
  • Pursue diverse funders - In addition to seeking funding for startup and growth costs through traditional financial institutions, there are also funding sources that focus on connecting LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs with access to capital. Backstage Capital, for example, is focused on providing financing opportunities to minority entrepreneurs across the U.S. If you’re an investor looking to better support LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs, LGBT Capital offers an index that helps guide LGBT-inclusive investments and Diversity VC helps funders meet diversity metrics.
  • Know your rights - In states like Ohio, nondiscrimination protections aren’t guaranteed by the state. This can pose a serious issue to the LGBTQ+ community, including business owners as discrimination can be experienced when applying for funding, renting commercial space, or hosting business events in public spaces. To fill this void at the state level, many municipalities - including Cuyahoga County, Cleveland, Akron, and Medina - have responded by ensuring equal protection to the LGBTQ+ community. Organizations like Equality Ohio provide more information and awareness around these issues.

Committed to inclusion

Westfield Bank is committed to uplifting business owners from all backgrounds. Offering a range of products and services designed to meet the unique needs of your business, our commercial banking team is here to be a strategic, collaborative partner throughout your business’ journey, regardless of your walk of life. Learn more and get in touch with our team today.