Image Alt Text
Built with Pride

Built With Pride: ALOK, writer and performance artist

Name: ALOK

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Describe yourself in three words: Purposeful, Imaginative, Empathetic

What is the name of your business and what do you do?

I’m a working artist who speaks and performs all over the world.

Why did you decide to start your own business? How did you get started?

At first my art practice was just a hobby or a side project. I didn’t think it would ever be possible to make it my main focus. When I moved to NYC in my early twenties I connected with older LGBTQ+ artists and realized this was a viable trajectory for me. Getting started was a slow, deliberate, and gradual process. For years it was about making the road while walking—from designing my own flyers, to budgeting for creative projects—a lot of moving parts to launch this ship. It’s been over five years now that I’ve been running my own business. I can’t believe it!

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by ALOK (@alokvmenon)

In just a few words, how does running your own business make you feel?

Eternally grateful. As an artist my creative intuition is my North Star. Being able to heed my creativity, set my own schedule, and adapt accordingly wherever it takes me has been so rewarding.

What are some of the hurdles or roadblocks you’ve faced as an LGBTQ+ small business owner, specifically? How do you overcome them?

As LGBTQ+ people in creative fields, people often dismiss our work as “not real” or “not serious.” It can feel isolating and an uphill battle to continue advocating for your worth and legitimacy. What has been most helpful for me is connecting with my peers—finding other trans and gender non-conforming artists and small business owners and developing a personal network to share, process, and strategize together.

As an LGBTQ+ small business owner, do you feel you’ve been granted the same access and opportunities that other small business owners in your community have been given? If not, what are some examples? How did you push past that?

I think across the board small business owners have it really hard and find it very difficult to get meaningful support. This is definitely compounded when you’re LGBTQ+. People often pigeonhole you to your gender or sexuality, reducing the complexity and scope of your work to just your identity. This limits the horizon of possibility and expansion.

What unique perspectives do you feel you bring to the small business economy as an LGBTQ+ business owner?

LGBTQ+ people have had to self-author our lives in a world that has written us out. In this way, innovation is intrinsic to our identity. We are constantly inventing new languages, and new ways of being and living. This means we are uniquely equipped to reimagine everything: including business. Including LGBTQ+ people isn’t just about helping us, it helps everyone.

What are some of your major wins or accomplishments since starting your business? What are your proudest moments?

Hiring my first assistant was so major for me because for the first time I could re-allocate so much of the time I was spending doing admin work to focusing on my craft. Delegation was such a novelty and delight.

I’m most proud after every show. All of the logistics—the copious emails, the PR, the constant back-and-forth with venues, the negotiations with vendors—it feels worth it when you’re on stage looking at a packed house. There’s nothing else quite like that feeling.

What are the next big plans you have for your business?

I really want to build out my ecommerce store and expand our product range (more gender free fashion!!).

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by ALOK (@alokvmenon)

When you’re having a tough day, who or what inspires you to keep going?

I’m a big LGBTQ+ history buff. One of my favorite things to do is to learn about the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of the people who came before me. My transcestors (trans ancestors) give me so much hope because I know they felt the same sense of impossibility and still they persisted. It reminds me that we are part of an ongoing legacy—that we are making history right now.

How can LGBTQ+ business owners give back to their community?

One tangible way is by hiring other LGBTQ+ people. Because of pervasive discrimination, trans and gender non-conforming people often find it difficult to obtain work. Employing trans and GNC people in safe environments where they don’t have to compromise their identity or expression is so important!

What advice would you give to other LGBTQ+ small business owners just starting out?

It’s okay to ask for help! There is so much involved in this work—learning how to navigate taxes and deductions, forecasting budgets, and maintaining the day-to-day administrative tasks. Chances are the people you look up to also fumbled through it at first. Be vulnerable—by which I mean: Be courageous. Reach out and seek advice.

What’s your “power song” and why? 

“You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” by Sylvester. Before mainstream awareness of non-binary gender, Sylvester was living their best gender non-conforming life! They were committed to the relentless pursuit of individuality and didn’t wait for the world to change, they claimed space in the there and now. Their music helps ground me and remind me what this is all about.

Recommended for you

Mail icon
Get the latest to your inbox
No Thanks

Get the latest to your inbox

Relevant resources to help start, run, and grow your business.

By clicking “Submit,” you agree to permit Intuit to contact you regarding QuickBooks and have read and acknowledge our Privacy Statement.

Thanks for subscribing.

Fresh business resources are headed your way!

Looking for something else?


From big jobs to small tasks, we've got your business covered.

Firm of the Future

Topical articles and news from top pros and Intuit product experts.

QuickBooks Support

Get help with QuickBooks. Find articles, video tutorials, and more.