June 14, 2023
By: Kari Amarnani
Would it really be Pride Month if we didn't honor LGBTQ+ business owners? More LGBTQ+ founders and CEOs are desperately needed to launch ventures, advance equality and representation, and advocate for inclusion, especially in light of the political climate that creates barriers against diversity.
It's critical to promote an environment where all members of the LGBTQ+ community are valued and respected. And so, we want to take this time to value their contributions to society.
In honor of June, a month dedicated to remembering that Pride is and always has been a year-long fight for equal rights and opportunity, we are showcasing some of the most influential LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs and innovators who paved the way for others like them in fields that are woefully underrepresented.
As a means of celebrating the contributions of the LGBTQ+ community to the business world, we've compiled a list of 26 inspiring founders and CEOs that are changing the game for what it means to be out and proud.
There are many challenges in our current society for LGBTQ+ members. With the majority of our work completed online, it seems that people are more comfortable writing hate speech and harassment as opposed to saying it in person.
It can be easy to be afraid to speak your mind for fear of judgment, strong opposition, or even the threat of violence.
I encounter challenges every single day as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, both personally and professionally. Personally, living in Florida, our rights are constantly under attack, and I deal with ignorant remarks from individuals, both online and in person.
Young LGBTQ+ professionals starting their careers will face plenty of personal and professional hurdles. I encourage them to persevere and not be afraid to be who they are. Don’t settle for working for a company that doesn’t value you or supports an inclusive culture.
There are so many allies in the LGBTQ+ community, don’t let one bad experience hold you back from finding the right "home." I personally stepped out and created my own place by starting my own company—one that encompasses all of the inclusive values I want in the industry.
My business is about helping people find the perfect gift for their loved ones. We have a wide selection of products, from books to jewelry, that can be personalized and delivered to the recipient.
When I started my business, I faced the challenge of standing out in a crowded market. Being part of the LGBTQ+ community has helped me better understand the needs of my customers and create a more inclusive shopping experience.
I promote and support my community in my business by hiring LGBTQ+ employees, offering discounts to LGBTQ+ customers, and donating a portion of our profits to LGBTQ+ charities.
My advice to LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs trying to make it in the world is to never give up. It can be difficult to break into a new industry, but if you stay focused and work hard, you can achieve success.
It was challenging starting my business because I had no background in finance, marketing, or capital. Being part of the LGBTQ+ community has really been an asset to differentiating us and strengthening the Pals mission, based on my own personal experiences as a female, Jewish member of the queer community.
We support the LGBTQ+ community by not only highlighting acceptance as a lifestyle but also donating to queer-focused nonprofits through our FUNdraising program. Since starting it in 2019, we have donated over $250k.
My one piece of advice to other LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs would be to really expand your network thoughtfully, and start while at school. You never know who knows someone that could help you in some way, and it's nice to be nice.
My businesses, White Lotus Wellness and Rebel Goddess Academy, are all about helping post-parenting people (typically women or fem-presenting) rediscover their true selves and find purpose in their lives. When starting my business, one challenge I faced was finding my own voice and authenticity in a crowded market.
Being part of the LGBTQ+ community has helped me grow my business by allowing me to connect with a diverse range of individuals and understand their unique experiences and needs. I promote and support the LGBTQ+ community in my business by creating a safe and inclusive space where everyone feels welcomed and celebrated.
My advice to LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs trying to make it in the world is to stay true to yourself, embrace your uniqueness, and let your authenticity shine through your business. Your community will resonate with your genuine voice and support you wholeheartedly.
It has always been my hope and intention to create safe, inclusive spaces for all of my students, no matter why they come to me. I only use gender-neutral terms in classes. I’m trauma-informed and use appropriate language. And I have some cute little consent cards to let me know at a glance if it's okay to physically correct the form. Otherwise, I simply give verbal prompts.
My business is Men Who Brunch. The reason I started the brand is because of the lack of spaces for queer people of color, especially black gay men. I initially produced events during Pride Month in 2017.
Then I expanded the brand by creating a blog in which I covered queer pop culture and lifestyle, including the hottest gay bars and popular black gay influencers.
One of the challenges of starting my business is building a team. My vision didn't always align with certain members, so it was hard to execute certain ideas and have everyone on the same page.
The LGBTQ+ community helped grow my business by coming to events that I produced. One piece of advice is to be passionate about your business. You'll encounter a lot of challenges and failures during your business journey, but if you remain passionate, you'll succeed in the end.
Total Engagement Consulting by Kimer is a diversity strategy, training, and career development firm. We work with companies, non-profits, and government agencies on all areas of diversity (inclusive recruiting, unconscious bias, effective employee resource groups), but we have deep expertise in LGBTQ+ diversity.
For 12 years, I have assisted companies in establishing their transgender support policies, including assisting with respectful workplace transitions.
I had to be patient and realize it would take several years to build the business to the point where we had market recognition. In my first several years, I had small amounts of revenue, but it has grown over time to be financially successful.
Since much of my business is consulting around LGBTQ+ diversity, being a gay man has certainly helped. I can bring personal experience and credibility to consulting in an area that directly relates to who I am.
I feel it is important to be generous and contribute financially to several non-profits, both LGBTQ+ and non-LGBTQ. Be your authentic self and realize that because you are LGBTQIA+, you have something special and unique to offer the marketplace.
Be creative and explore how you can leverage being LGBTQIA+ as a business advantage.
Being a part of the LGBTQ+ community has been instrumental in the growth of Integrative Psych. Our team is predominantly composed of members from the LGBTQ+ community, and our clinic is situated in a historic area for the queer community, on the border between the West Village and Chelsea, not far from the iconic Stonewall Inn.
In addition to our work, we are committed to giving back to the community. Our team volunteers at the local LGBTQ+ Center, and we serve many LGBTQ+ clients, providing them with the mental health support they need. We believe in the power of community engagement and strive to make a positive impact.
If I were to share one piece of advice with LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs trying to make it in the world, it would be this: leverage your LGBTQIA+ network. Building relationships and seeking mentorships within the community can provide invaluable support for your business.
It's not just about networking for business growth; it's also about fostering a sense of community and mutual support. The journey of entrepreneurship can be challenging, but with the right support network, it can also be incredibly rewarding.
I am proud to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community and to lead a business that not only supports the mental health needs of our clients but also contributes to the community. I believe that our work at Integrative Psych is a testament to the power of diversity and inclusivity in entrepreneurship.
I delayed starting my own law firm because I thought I had to choose between living openly and having a successful law firm. As a young attorney, there weren’t many women-run firms to look up to, and I didn’t know of any women criminal defense lawyers.
As I grew as an attorney, I realized that I didn’t want others to have the same fears about acceptance that I did. I also want to make sure that people looking for a criminal defense attorney are reassured that they can find acceptance and community.
That’s why, the day we opened our doors at Path Forward Legal, I made sure to publicly identify the firm as LGBTQ+-owned. Being a business owner also gave me an opportunity to reflect on how cis-gendered and heteronormative our society still is, even in Colorado.
We are working to change that, and the first place to start is from within. Our office policy is to declare our pronouns and to ask how others identify themselves, so we can be a part of changing the narrative to be more inclusive.
If I could share one piece of advice with LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs, it would be to "start now." Whether it’s starting a new business, opening in a new market, or changing direction: don’t wait. There may be a little kid who needs a role model just like you to show them how it’s done.
When I began SHARE of Florida, one of the main challenges I faced was establishing credibility and building trust with clients.
Starting a mental health practice requires a solid foundation and a reputation for providing quality care. Being part of the LGBTQ+ community has provided me with invaluable insights into the challenges and experiences faced by individuals within the community.
Promoting and supporting the LGBTQ+ community is an integral part of my business. I actively engage in community outreach and collaboration to raise awareness about mental health issues and promote acceptance and inclusivity.
Additionally, I make a conscious effort to create an inclusive and welcoming environment in my practice. This includes using inclusive language, displaying LGBTQ+-affirming symbols and literature, and continuously educating myself and my team on LGBTQ+ mental health issues and best practices.
If I could share one piece of advice with LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs trying to make it in the world, it would be to embrace your authentic self. Your unique experiences and perspectives are assets that can help you connect with your community and set your business apart.
Be proud of who you are, and let that pride shine through in everything you do. Surround yourself with a supportive network, seek mentorship from other successful LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs, and never underestimate the power of community.
Being a queer, gender-fluid individual has helped me integrate my passion for helping my community with my passion for mental health and sex education. I am able to provide a safe and intimate space for queer individuals to heal through psychotherapy.
Being a queer person allows clients to receive services from me without having to step into the educator role so that I can better understand them. There is a common knowledge base between us that allows for a deeper exploration of their inner world.
I support the LGBTQIA+ community by providing services that are queer-affirming, which allows a person to be their authentic self in therapy without wondering if they will be judged or discriminated against.
There is a long history of the mental health field wielding violence against LGBTQ folks, and so I offer a safe place where the bare minimum is queer competency and safety.
One piece of advice I have for LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs is to bring their authentic selves to their businesses and make decisions based on their ethics and values. Oftentimes, we do not trust ourselves and rely on external guidance, which can lead us to work against our values.
Trusting yourself is important for building a successful business.
Being part of the LGBTQ+ community was a huge inspiration for our designs, especially because I don’t always feel part of the community since I’m in a straight-passing relationship.
I’m in several queer Facebook groups for fans of these artists; the inclusion and celebration of love that I feel in these communities is one of a kind, and I wanted to bring that feeling to our brand. My designs are filled with rainbows, color, and love. Creating like this has made me feel more connected to the community than ever before.
We launched in April 2023 and have already received over 700 orders! What I thought would be a fun side hustle has turned into a full-time job overnight. Within about a week, I launched an LGBTQIA+ Pride line. Each design is something I personally love and wear, making it even more special that other people are spending their hard-earned money on our apparel.
None of this would have happened if I weren’t truly myself when I was coming up with designs. We didn’t do this to make a quick buck off of a trend. We started this as a way to bring together even more people through music.
My advice to other LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs is to embrace your whole self when launching your business. Make it something you can be proud of that uplifts the community. In a world with a lot of hate, seeing Live Music Threads spread joy and build community has been extremely rewarding.
The biggest challenge I faced when I started my business was that I started it during the pandemic. In-person events and readings weren’t a thing.
Being a psychic who is passionate about community and building trust through acts of service, definitely made it challenging. I am fortunate that my talents let me provide services virtually, so I wasn’t only focusing on in-person events and readings.
Being part of the LGBTQ community has definitely helped me grow my business. Many of my clients are part of the community. There’s an understanding, acceptance, and respect for who we are and how far we’ve come to be proud of our authenticity, no matter where we sit in the community.
One big way I help support the community in my business is by reading for free at a local, LGBTQ+-friendly coffee shop on First Friday Art Walk. I love being accessible and visible in my community. I address spiritual needs and real-life problems with identity, self, and relationships in a safe space at no financial cost one evening out of the month.
Many people in our community are therapy-adverse, and I provide an accessible, safe alternative. I also use tarot decks that are super inclusive of different ethnicities, genders, and physical abilities. Tarot is for everyone, and it’s important to have a visual representation.
My advice is to keep going. Don’t stop. Every recipe for success is unique.
When we started our business, we had high hopes of making a living within a year. But the reality proved to be more demanding and time-consuming than we initially anticipated. We had to dig into our savings to pursue our dream of living off our passions.
Despite the obstacles, our unwavering commitment to our craft and our desire to inspire others to make healthier food choices kept us going.
As members of the LGBTQ+ community, we faced discrimination from the migratory authorities when releasing my (Gus’s) visa residency as Joaquin's legally married husband. This experience, while challenging, only reinforced our determination to succeed.
Drawing upon our shared experiences of adversity and discrimination, we navigated the challenges of entrepreneurship with resilience and determination. Overcoming personal struggles and embracing our authentic selves empowered us to approach our business with authenticity and compassion.
To LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs striving to succeed, we offer this advice: embrace your authentic self and let it shine through your business. Being true to who you are not only helps you connect with your audience on a deeper level but also sets you apart from others in the competitive business landscape.
By staying true to our identities despite facing discrimination, we have built a community of supporters who appreciate our unique perspective and the passion we bring to our work.
My business is The Gender Doula. I offer full-spectrum support to folks who are exploring, questioning, or transitioning their gender. I also offer classes, workshops, and other resources.
The main challenge of my business has been the need to market the business itself while essentially educating folks about what a gender doula is and what I do.
There are many trans people who have supported other folks through transition, and some have even used names like Transition Coach, but I am one of the first people who has gathered this specific set of services under this title.
Being queer and trans has been a vital part of my business. It allows me to connect with other queer and trans folks who I can offer services to, but it also gives me a unique lens on the role of gender in our culture and in our lives.
My advice to LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs would be to center their community and their values in everything that they do. Your approaches will be different from the status quo; embrace that! Your unique perspective will help you find the people you need to find and create new possibilities to thrive in this world.
AMR Therapy is an inclusive mental health practice dedicated to providing tailored care to members of the LGBTQ+ community and other marginalized communities. We offer remote therapy services, a sliding scale, and evidence-based care with a diverse team of therapists.
My sister and I were raised in a household with our father, his partner (dad #2), and my mom. In this unique situation, I witnessed the struggles and discrimination of LGBTQ+ people. Not to mention my own coming-out process.
In high school, despite the backlash from the school board, I initiated the first LGBTQ+ club. With the support of a few friends and teachers, we created a safe space where individuals could find support. Then, we became the first high school to march in a pride parade in Long Beach, California, back in 1998.
In 2018, I founded AMR Therapy as a solo practitioner. Today, with the dedication of others, AMR Therapy has evolved into a thriving practice with a remarkable team of over a dozen therapists, serving over 1500 people since our inception.
Through social media, events, and training, we strive to connect with LGBTQ+ folks and let them know we are a resource for them. I only wish we had more ways to let them know we are here!
If I could offer one piece of advice to fellow LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs, it would be this: Follow your passion and be prepared to work hard.
The challenges I face are numerous, including constantly figuring out how to manage inbound and outbound cash, marketing, and legal things like the prosecution of patents. It's also a scary time to be gay in this country, and that definitely affects business.
Being part of the LGBT community, however, has given me familial/emotional support and connections that I could not get elsewhere, and have been invaluable in terms of moving my business forward.
I support my community by advertising in many LGBT groups on Facebook and sharing special promo codes with family. The one piece of advice I give to anyone is to never give up. This applies not only to entrepreneurial endeavors but to life itself.
Life, indeed, grows in value the further along you get, like a solid stock. Stick around, because you never know what cool things are in store for you along this journey. And ignore the haters.
As Katt Williams says, if you've got haters, you're doing something right.
As an independent health insurance broker, my business revolves around helping individuals and businesses navigate the complex world of health insurance.
Being part of the LGBTQ+ community has positively influenced my business in several ways. Firstly, it has allowed me to connect with other LGBTQ+ individuals who may have unique healthcare needs or face specific challenges related to their identity.
This understanding and empathy enable me to provide tailored guidance and support. Additionally, being part of a diverse community has strengthened my ability to connect with clients from various backgrounds, fostering inclusivity and creating a safe space for discussions about healthcare concerns.
I actively promote and support the LGBTQ+ community in my business by engaging in community outreach initiatives. This includes partnering with local LGBTQ+ organizations and participating in events that raise awareness about healthcare issues relevant to the community.
My advice to LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs would be to embrace their authentic selves and use their unique perspectives as an asset in their business. Be proud of your identity, leverage it as a strength, and seek out opportunities to connect with and support the LGBTQ+ community.
Oscar Velazquez Cosmetics is a beauty brand focused on providing high-quality, inclusive, and cruelty-free makeup products. We celebrate individuality and empower our customers to express their unique beauty.
Being part of the LGBTQ+ community has played a pivotal role in the growth of my business. The unwavering support I have received from my community has been instrumental in establishing my brand's presence. Additionally, the LGBTQ+ community's shared values of diversity and inclusivity perfectly align with the ethos of my business.
Furthermore, I participate in LGBTQ+ events and collaborate with community organizations to raise awareness, celebrate diversity, and promote inclusivity within the beauty industry.
My advice to LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs would be to embrace their authentic selves and leverage their unique perspective as a strength in their business. Surround yourself with a supportive network, seek mentorship, and never underestimate the power of community.
Together, we can break barriers, challenge norms, and create a more inclusive entrepreneurial landscape.
I am the founder of Straight... But Not Narrow Ladies, which is a community designed to cultivate meaningful connections among bisexual, bicurious, and queer women. As a coach, I teach women to become more self-aware, understand their sexuality, and find the clarity to show up more authentically in life, dating, and relationships.
Many businesses did not want to work with me or collaborate with me because my business services bisexual women. I also struggled with connection, as many within my audience and community are not out for various reasons.
I offer visibility and representation to an overlooked, misunderstood, and underrepresented group. With this, many within the LGBTQ+ community have affirmed and supported my work and efforts. I create safer, non-judgmental spaces for like-minded people to feel seen and heard.
It may take time to find your way, but don't stop. You are needed, valued, and appreciated.
My business is called Kelly Convos — I am a communication coach. Communication is a skill that’s deeply necessary to find success, connection, and authenticity in our culture, but it isn’t one that is easily taught. My business is run entirely by myself (with emotional support from my cat).
There is something magical and intangible that binds queer people together with a desire to see each other not only succeed but triumph in this world. Our community possesses a revolutionary authenticity; we are committed to knowing ourselves deeply outside of the boxes society puts us in, and communication is a critical component of that.
Our community has widely received and supported my mission; half of my clients have been queer and have been very proactive in sharing my materials and giving reviews. In short, we are committed to seeing each other succeed.
I offer a sliding scale for individual coaching for people in our community. Being a resource and advocate for our strength and power is a high priority for my mission.
Additionally, I offer my training series for free to queer organizations and events; now more than ever, queer people deserve to find their voices, despite so much effort to make us be silent and disappear. This is an investment in our community: our voice, our resilience, and our great and untapped worth.
Find a need that lights you up, and use your gifts to meet that need. This will serve you and the world. This is how we create lasting change.
The iconic artist Beatrice "Beato" Wood, known as the Mama of Dada, served as the inspiration for Beato Chocolates, an artisan chocolate company.
We conceived of and started this business as an extension of our art gallery, which we owned and ran for 10 years. We are an all-female, LGBTQ+-owned and run business that is, as we like to say, "anti-established in Ojai, CA."
We have always been incredibly proud and grateful to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community. We love not only its strength and diversity but also the inherent belief that "a rising tide lifts all boats."
Our community has supported our businesses and growth in multiple ways, from advising us on our decisions to collaborating on projects to choosing to "advocate with their wallets" by purchasing our products.
We are huge believers in mentoring. Before we launched Beato Chocolates, we owned and ran an art gallery where we mentored LGBTQ+ students from the local schools through internships.
If we could share one piece of advice with LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs trying to make it in the world, it would be "community." Use it, give back to it, relish it, support it, collaborate with it, get advice from it, and honor it.
Developed in a 100-year-old pink house, Pink House Alchemy was founded through the love of food and flavor.
As a woman-owned business, you are already on the outside of the handshake boys club model of doing business. It is harder to raise capital or get large contracts than it is for my male counterparts.
The added layer of being a member of the LGBTQ+ community reduces that access considerably, especially if you advertise that you are a proud member of the community. Which we do!
I have so much to be grateful for to the queers before me who have laid down their lives and suffered immeasurably so that my family and I can thrive. I have a wife and three children. It is not lost on us how lucky we are, and that applies to business. We are living in a time of tremendous support, some fabricated, and some not, and for that, I am grateful.
We support the LGBTQ+ community by celebrating Pride Month and beyond, and we rally together as a community to support those of us that need it most. Pink House donates to local organizations that offer resources for our community in crisis. We celebrate, hug each other a lot, and gather in as many spaces as we can.
Know who your people are. You need different people for different things. Surround yourself with a diverse group of people that can support you when you are in need.
From an early age, I had the mindset of a creative entrepreneur. At the same time, I was trying to figure out what it meant to be gay. I created Soulo to redefine how we approach our feelings and create an experience that acknowledges where you're at instead of just telling you to feel better.
Starting a company is not easy, and it's even harder for women, BIPOC, and queer people. Less money is invested in companies founded by this group of people. Before I launched, I didn't think that I should address my identity as a gay man, but I realized that it's a very important part of my story and the reason I founded Soulo.
I've been very fortunate to have met some incredible people and mentors who have supported me along the way and continue to do so to this day. I've learned that it takes time to understand how to utilize each mentor in my journey, making sure that we both find value in the relationship.
Over the years, I've built a community of mentors who are each very good at what they do. There are two mentors that come to mind who have been a big part of my journey to get to where I am now.
My advice for LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs? As Brené Brown said, "Give more energy and time to how you feel and what you want, and less time to what people think. We'll never control how we're perceived, but we're likely to betray ourselves in the process of trying."
I am the owner of Flippin' Pawsome Dog Training & Care, based out of Newark, NJ. It is a queer-owned business founded in 2018 that serves New Jersey and NYC.
Starting my business out, I felt that I didn't face more challenges than most new businesses due to being queer, but the industry is quite divided in terms of views on LGBTQ+ overall. Unfortunately, there is still a vocal subset of conservative male trainers who don't take queer female trainers seriously or even female clients.
I've always openly promoted my business as queer-owned and am planning a Pride Month Fit Dog Club event, which will just be a way for people to be out, be proud, and meet other queer dog owners with their pups. I've been very lucky that being openly queer has given me an amazing clientele of both LGBTQ+ dog owners and allies with dogs.
Another way I give back to my local community living and working in Newark, NJ, is by assisting low-income Newark residents with dog training via much-reduced rates, and I would love to start a non-profit to help low-income dog owners since training issues are one of the main reasons dogs are surrendered to shelters.
My one piece of advice is to be yourself. Don't get scared of being yourself. Being your authentic self only helps build your rapport with clients. If being out and proud scares off a client, let it. They will be replaced with a better client.
I am a book publisher and film producer on a mission to highlight the stories of the underrepresented and voiceless. As a black female CEO and founder, I faced opposition from the gatekeepers of these industries, which often do not value minorities. Many of the things they continually share for public information are not inclusive.
Today, being openly queer (especially with the current political field), I have found nothing but love and support from my LGBTQ+ community. From business connections and resources to emotional support, our community has been nothing but kind and supportive.
They are helping me provide additional opportunities for LGBTQ+ voices to be heard and flourish. As a book/magazine publisher and independent film producer, I welcome LGBTQ+ youth and adults to share their stories and expose the truth and humanity of LGBTQ+.
One piece of advice I would share with other LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs trying to make it in the world is to live your truth and follow your heart. If you are living a life in fear of what you will lose by living your truth, you are not living.
Business and life will require you to take a stand. Everyone will not agree with you, but you have to decide to stand flat-footed in what you believe and deal with the consequences of that. One of those consequences should never result in losing your essence.
I originally started JWPR as a side hustle in 2018. I wanted to take my background in strategic communications and create a consultancy focused on building and protecting the reputations of small businesses, large companies, and non-profits.
It wasn’t until last year that I decided to lean in, dedicate myself full-time, and commit to growing JWPR into a business.
Being a part of the LGBTQ+ community has always played a significant role in my life, mainly because I have always surrounded myself with those who accept me for exactly who I am.
When I promote the companies and brands I represent, I know I am supporting the LGBTQ+ community. Additionally, I look at myself not just as a representative of JWPR but, in many ways, as an ambassador of the LGBTQ+ community.
My advice to LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs would be to embrace their identity and use it as a strength. Your unique experiences and perspectives are extremely valuable assets in your entrepreneurial journey. Seek out mentorship and support from fellow LGBTQ+ and ally entrepreneurs and organizations.
You just have to ask. And be open to new and, at times, uncomfortable experiences. You should take risks, fail, and learn from those mistakes. Just because you fail doesn’t make you a failure. It makes you human.
As they continue to shatter barriers and promote diversity and social change in their respective industries, LGBTQ+ founders and CEOs have a lot to be proud of.
Although there is still much work to be done, the people in this piece have carved out a place for themselves. In fields where different voices have historically been silenced, they have served as the voice of their communities.
These featured business owners don't carefully avoid the shattered glass at their feet. They walk across it with pride and passion, striving to improve everything for everyone.