10 steps to becoming an LGBTQ entrepreneur

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10 steps to becoming an LGBTQ entrepreneur

If you’re queer, there are two reasons why you should become an entrepreneur. The first reason is, per the Cato Institute, 80% of millionaires are first-generation millionaires and roughly one-third of them, a plurality, are entrepreneurs or managers of nonfinancial businesses. So, theoretically, unless you were born or married into money, your best bet to achieve millionaire-status is to become an entrepreneur.

The second reason is more altruistic: Become a queer entrepreneur because we need more queer leaders in both the private and public sectors. There are lots of discussions today of about diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Most of those discussions are being led by those who aren’t LGBTQ and haven’t had the experiences and challenges of being queer.

The next wave of equality for queer people will be from the private sector, as evidenced by LGBTQ outreaches from financial services firms to sports apparel companies. In order for equality, diversity, and inclusion to look how we want, we need more LGBTQ people at the table of those discussions. Ideally, we’ll have more queer people at the head of those tables leading those discussions.

How do you become a queer entrepreneur, then? Here are tens ways to get started.

1. Start a blog

For many reasons, everyone, regardless of their interests or goals, needs a blog. There’s even a trend of blogs replacing resumes. In fact, it won’t be surprising if someday blogs become more important than resumes. Therefore, the sooner you start your blog, the better.

A blog will lay the foundation of your entrepreneurship. You can flesh out your ideas and develop your brand. Your blog will give potential clients, customers and business partners an introduction to you.

As a queer entrepreneur, your blog will make clear who you are and serve. Your blog will create a natural selection of those who are and those who aren’t interested in doing business with you. Yes, disinterest could be a form of discrimination, but believe me, you don’t want to waste your precious time and money trying to do business with someone not in your corner.

2. Know your avatar & niche

There’s an old saying in marketing and sales that goes, “If you’re speaking to everyone you’re speaking to no one.” As you consider what your business is and what your blog will say, get crystal clear on who your business and blog will serve. Your product or services may be ideal for everyone, but you just can’t connect with everyone. Enter your avatar — the personification of your target audience.

My avatar is Jason. He’s 34 years old and lives with his boyfriend in San Diego. He has $30,000 worth of credit card and student loan debt. He’s in information technology and hasn’t advanced as quickly in his career as he’d like. Knowing this enables me to write articles and create products and services for Jason.

Even though I target Jason, my second-largest audience happens to be married lesbians. My third-largest audience is married, millennial women. Therefore, your total audience will be larger than your target audience.

Should you target a subpopulation of the LGBTQ community? Not necessarily, but the queer community is an underserved demographic, and it may not hurt you to do so.

3. Create a social media following

With the increase of online entertainment, such as YouTube, and more households choosing Hulu and Netflix over cable, traditional marketing is experiencing an upheaval today. The return on investments (ROI) from television and radio commercials are down. As a new entrepreneur, this is good news because buying television and radio ad time is expensive and target marketing is harder than with social media.

At its simplest, a social media strategy is marketing and why the new gig-economy is so great. The barrier to entry to start a business today is much lower than in the past.

Unlike the old economy when business owners needed a lot of money to advertise on radio and television — which could take all their revenue or savings — business owners today don’t need to invest thousands of dollars in advertising today. With a few advertising-dollars, you can promote your product or service to a very targeted audience.

Social media, also, lets you be social with your audience. The ability to engage with an audience is huge. You can talk one-on-one with them and follow them on social media without being creepy.

Engaging with your audience on social media will let you learn about them, how they talk and what they need. Learning about your audience helps you create the content, products, and services they need. Rather than investing thousands of dollars in market research, a simple poll on Facebook or Twitter with an $100 Amazon gift card is all you need sometimes to get started.

4. Join your local LGBTQ chamber of commerce

Connecting with your audience virtually, whether they’re queer, straight or both, is great, but don’t discount connecting with your local queer community and business leaders. Join your local LGBTQ chamber of commerce for two reasons.

The first reason is you’ll connect with local LGBTQ prospects and business partners. There’s a philosophy that says every successful business needs 1,000 raving fans, people who will be your biggest clients and advocates. People also love supporting local businesses. The better you connect with your local community, the quicker you’ll get your 1,000 raving fans.

The second reason is local chambers of commerce provide a wealth of knowledge and experience. Whether the other members are in the same industry or not, they’ll likely be good resources for bouncing ideas off of and getting advice for overcoming challenges.

5. Join the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce

While you’re joining chambers of commerce, join the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). Most local LGBTQ chambers of commerce are affiliates of the NGLCC. You’ll get a discount on your national membership if your local chamber is an NGLCC affiliate.

6. Join queer groups on LinkedIn & Facebook

Another benefit of the gig-economy is you can find LGBTQ-related and supportive groups virtually. Virtually connecting with such business partners is time and cost-effective. For many of the same reasons, you should join your local and the national chambers of commerce, join LGBTQ groups on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Join entrepreneur and business-related groups and groups that have members who may be ideal business partners and clients. Remember joining such groups isn’t a one-way relationship. Before trying to close business within these groups, engage with and support the other members to establish a rapport.

7. Network, network, network with other queer people, queer networking groups

Ultimately, your business will grow from business-to-client (B2C) relationships, so do your best to connect with people face-to-face. Investing in developing your B2C relationships may be your best ROI.

In small and large cities across the country, there are LGBTQ support groups that connect LGBTQ people with common interests, such as hiking or running. Such groups can provide dual benefits of expanding your circle of influence to support your business and help you establish personal relationships.

8. Partner with local LGBTQ advocacy organizations

Another way to connect with your local community is to partner with and support your local LGBTQ advocacy organizations. Such organizations include local PFLAG and SAGE (Advocacy and Services for LGBT Elders) chapters. In some cities, other groups advocate at the state-level for LGBTQ equality and those that serve other demographics.

In addition to supporting LGBTQ causes, you’ll create a network of support for your business. Many of these groups have email lists of donors and members. If there’s a symbiotic partnership, you may get access to these email lists and exponentially grow your business.

9. Apply for LGBTQ-friendly business grants

Most companies need funding to start and grow. My business has mostly relied on mine and my husband’s W-2 income. That’s a more viable option in today’s gig-economy because of the lower costs to entry. However, some businesses need more capital to start. Therefore, it’s helpful to apply for queer-friendly business grants.

An online search yields numerous results for local, state and national-level grants. One of my favorite resources for LGBTQ-friendly grants is BecomingSelfMade.com because it partners with the NGLCC to share queer-friendly grant information.

Applying and winning grants isn’t easy, but with the size of some grants, your return ROI may be worth it.

10. Never quit

Becoming a queer entrepreneur isn’t all roses. It’ll be downright hard. There will be times when you’ll wonder if it’s worth it and you’ll want to quit. It is worth it, so don’t quit.

Jim Rohn’s quote on quitting is brutal but true. He said, “If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.” Therefore, prepare to struggle and don’t quit.

This list on starting your queer entrepreneurship isn’t comprehensive, but it’s a start. Don’t sacrifice the good for the great. Don’t wait to start for the perfect time or the right amount of money. It’ll never be perfect. For your personal and financial success and the success of your queer community, just start.

Image: kate_sept2004