Pride Month is celebrated every June to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots against persistent police brutality in Manhattan and which triggered the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement in the United States. The event has become a global celebration of the achievements, resilience, and impact the queer community has had on the world.
We asked our QuickBooks users to reflect on what it means to them to be LGBTQ+ small business owners and how we can all help support their businesses. Check out their responses below.
How has the LGBTQ+ professional community inspired and helped you achieve your definition of success as an entrepreneur?
Genavieve Jaffe: I want to show up even more. I want to make my community proud. I want to help our community to grow and be proud of who they are. That requires me to step up, be visible, and get to work every single day!
Brendan Pang: The LGBTQ+ professional community has inspired me to continue building a business based on my values which largely involve being inclusive and celebrating diversity. Above all, success is when I can be myself. I feel I am truly doing that.
ALOK: By being “possibility models” for me. As a working artist there are so few templates out there of how to make a sustainable and viable career. That’s why access to community is so important—it’s often the only place where we can obtain the skills and insider knowledge to navigate our chosen industries. Over the years, my LGBTQ+ professional peers have taken me under their wing and taught me the ropes—from basic book-keeping to negotiating contracts with venues. What I’ve learned from being a part of these communities and networks is that success is not just about income—it’s about transforming society and challenging a culture of homophobia and transphobia.
Being authentic is part of being a successful entrepreneur.
Stoney Love: The LGBTQ+ professional community has inspired me to be authentic while still being a businesswoman. Many times, we feel as though we can’t be ourselves when running or conducting business. I learned that being authentic is a part of being a successful entrepreneur. I’ve also learned to value the journey and try not to measure time or money, but rather the amazing feelings I get when I achieve my personal goals.
Andrew Sotomayor: The LGBTQ+ professional community inspires me because they taught me that who I am in life will determine who I am in business. It’s possible, important, and frankly profitable to build your personal story, identity, and values into your own business. Who you are is what makes your business unique and relatable to your customers. You have to take up space and ask for what you deserve. And you must share knowledge with other business owners. Working together, there’s enough room for all of us to succeed. The success of the LGBTQ+ community depends on all of us earning a living in ways we can feel proud of.
How are you celebrating Pride this year?
Genavieve Jaffe: A lot of virtual celebrations! My family and I did a Pride photoshoot with lots of rainbows so we can spread love on social media. A local town is having a week-long festival, so we will attend a few of the events.
Brendan Pang: I’ve contributed to publications talking about my experience as a member of the LGBTQ+ community and have shared my coming out story. I’ve also been engaging in proudly diverse campaigns, working closely with a local charity called Minus18 on multiple campaigns, displaying posters of inclusivity at work, and educating myself on the topic.
Amidst so much continued prejudice and invalidation, we continue to exist…now that’s something to be proud of.
ALOK: I am reuniting with some of my closest trans and gender non-conforming friends and we are celebrating each other. Amidst so much continued prejudice and invalidation, we continue to exist. What a miracle! Now that’s something to be proud of.
Stoney Love: I’ll be celebrating pride this year by looking my best in my favorite Stuzo gear, making colorful cocktails, and sharing pride stories with my community.
Andrew Sotomayor: This year, I’m assembling backpacks to donate to the young LGBTQ+ people at the Ali Forney Center. There are websites like BagsInBulk.com where you can order backpacks prefilled with school supplies and toiletries, each for less than the cost of lunch. I decided to add markers and drawing pads, too. Growing up, art was an important part of discovering who I am, taking care of my emotional health, and creating beautiful things to put into the world.
What challenges have you had to overcome as a LGBTQ+ entrepreneur?
Genavieve Jaffe: I use my wife and family in my marketing, so I am sure the images turn people off. But those are not the people I want to work with anyway, so I feel like my branding weeds people out for me.
Brendan Pang: On the whole, being an LGBTQ+ entrepreneur in the public space has been positive. I’ve had opportunities to share my story on platforms such as TEDx and charities like Minus 18 have provided me with a sense of inclusivity. Regardless, there have been challenges more notably on social media where I have experienced homophobic comments on posts where I am actively promoting diversity.
ALOK: Pigeonholing. People think that your work is just relevant to LGBTQ+ people and issues. This denies the full scope, complexity, and expanse of the work. And discrimination. People don’t trust us. They think they are doing us a favor, when in fact we are so business savvy and competent. Also, invalidation—people don’t believe the work that we do is legitimate and necessary.
Stoney Love: It was quite challenging being another queer brand. I found that earning the trust of my community took a while to build. People want to know that you’re of the community and not a trendy queer brand. Over the years, our peers have embraced the brand after seeing that we are them and have the best intentions to represent us.
The biggest challenge is constantly reminding myself to ignore the need to feel confident, and instead to just choose courage.
Andrew Sotomayor: The biggest challenge is constantly reminding myself to ignore the need to feel confident, and instead to just choose courage. Courage is when you do something important even if you’re afraid. Queer people, artists, women, people of color have been told to be cute, compliant, to hide our identities, or accept when we get only the minimum of what we deserve. Deciding to stand up, be ambitious, and do the work is the first of many challenges we need to overcome.
What are some resources for LGBTQ+ members who are looking to get into entrepreneurship?
Genavieve Jaffe: There are local LGBTQ+ business groups all over if you need OR want to connect with other entrepreneurs.
ALOK: Our community is our best resource!
Stoney Love: Our company offers mentorship for those seeking advice or guidance. The Phluid project is also an amazing resource for those looking to get into entrepreneurship.
Andrew Sotomayor: Get involved with the Trans Legal Defense and Education Fund. With any small business there can be a lot of paperwork and getting your personal documents to represent you accurately can boost your self-esteem when signing a lease, filing taxes, or even just ordering supplies. The Trans Legal Defense and Education Fund connects you to free legal services to get your name officially changed. If you want to support queer businesses, donate to The Transgender District, and their Entrepreneurship Accelerator Program which provides mentorship and seed grants for new small businesses.