LGBTQ entrepreneurs receive less than 1% of investor money. LGBTQ entrepreneurs face distinct disadvantages as startup founders and employees. In 27 states, no anti-discrimination laws protect LGBTQ folks from getting fired based on their sexuality. More than one in three LGBTQ entrepreneurs seeking funding are not “out” to their investors, partly because they feel it would hurt their chances of raising money.
But according to StartOut’s 2016 study, just 3% of lesbian-owned businesses reported revenue over $5 million compared to 12% for gay men. 70% of female LBT founders raised $750,000. In contrast, 47% of male GBT founders raised over $2 million. Once race is combined into the intersection of gender, average revenue, and fundraising dollars submerse even further.
“It seems politically correct to say that whom one happens to love is not relevant in business, but our research shows otherwise,” says University of Chicago Booth School of Business Clinical Professor Waverly Deutsch. “LGBT entrepreneurs specifically choose diversity-friendly states to start their companies; raise less capital than their straight counterparts and have to balance the risk of homophobia and discrimination with creating authentic relationships with investors, customers, and partners.”
Despite the odds, several LTBGQ entrepreneurs, including many outstanding Latina and Black women entrepreneurs, have risen to the challenge. Below, we celebrate standout women in the LBT entrepreneurship space whose journey inspires the next generation of queer women and nonbinary folks to create, innovate, and lead their respective industries just as they are.
Nathalie Huerta founded The Queer Gym, the first queer gym to create a safe space for “healthy, happy homos”.
As a former college basketball player, physical trainer, and lesbian, Nathalie Huerta initially marketed herself as a lesbian fitness trainer, observing how heteronormative and unsafe gym culture felt for LGBTQ clients. Soon, Nathalie had more clients than she knew what to do with. In 2010 she created The Queer Gym as a safe space for the LGBTQ community to work out without fear and in the community.
“For queer folks, our bodies are constantly under attack,” Huerta explained in an issue of Shape. “The gym shouldn’t be another place where we’re told something is wrong with our bodies. It’s an integral part of creating a safe space.”
Now in its 13th year, the completely virtual, homophobic-free, mirror-free, mansplaining-free environment provides fitness, wellness, nutrition, and community services.
Stephanie Lampkin, co-founder, Blendoor
More diverse people would get hired if we took names and headshots out of the recruitment process. That was Stephanie Lampkin’s hypothesis when she founded Blendoor, an AI-powered diversity analytics and leasing software company. Lampkin is a serial entrepreneur, MIT MBA graduate, and Stanford engineer with over 15 years in tech. She learned how to code when she was just 13 years old.
Lampkin was working on another startup that needed more traction when she came up with the concept of Blendoor. She pitched her idea at a 2014 digitalundivided Conference, winning the hackathon that propelled her vision into fruition. Nine years later, clients using Blendoor have seen an increase of over 2x the hiring of women and 6x the hiring of minorities.
Angelica Ross, founder, TransTech
You might recognize Angelica Ross as the first trans woman to be a season regular on two major television shows (Pose and American Horror Story: 1984). But she is also the founder of TransTech Social Enterprises, a co-working, co-learning community dedicated to empowering trans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer people, and allies with practical, career-ready skills. Ross says, “I discovered my path to independence through technology and the potential for a global lifeline for trans people worldwide looking for the same.”
Ross persevered through countless discrimination cases throughout her young life, including a stint in the Army and disownment by her Evangelical mother (they have now reconciled), before skyrocketing to Hollywood fame. Through that time, she learned invaluable skills as a self-taught computer programmer. TransTech and the TransTech Summit came into being to create access to tech labs, coworking hubs, and affirming learning events for the LGBTQ community.
Corianna and Brianna Dotson
Twin sisters Corianna and Brianna Dotson grew up as two Black girls in Minnesota without many resources. However, they both held much love and encouragement from their parents. Moving to New York City in 2009, they had to find ways to create resources while remaining true to their creative roots.
Coco and Breezy started as an optical sunglass outlet that pushed some of the most innovative looks on the market and was inspired by the twin’s use of eyeglasses to shield themselves from their younger haters. Soon, they caught the eyes of Rhianna, Lady Gaga, and other notable celebrities, launching their brand into one of the most coveted NYC eyeglass brands.
Natalia Oberti Noguera
Natalia Oberti Noguera is a Yale and Columbia graduate changing the face of angel investing and venture capital by creating funding for trans women, cis women, nonbinary, two-spirit, agender, and gender-nonconforming founders. Through Pipeline Angels — the friends and family round for entrepreneurs who don’t have friends or family — Oberti Noguera is building an army of savvy, early-stage investors. Pipeline Angels have run since 2011 and have supported countless investors — and entrepreneurs. Through national pitch competitions, these investors enable diverse women and gender non-confirming folks to secure funding and runway at a critical early-stage time in the startup stage.