Hand Holders and Community Builders

A look at several organizations helping LGBT entrepreneurs find success and each other.

Candice Helfand-Rogers By Candice Helfand-Rogers

Editor’s Note: This post is part of a project on LGBT women business owners. Read more here.

Credit: Startup Stock Photos

Credit: Startup Stock Photos

Women and men in the LGBT community face a number of economic challenges, including legal workplace discrimination and increased risk of homelessness, that affect not only their financial health but their emotional and physical well-being, too.

Numerous organizations have been formed and developed over the years to help combat those problems by fostering communication and connections between LGBT business owners.

Each is finding ways to offer support systems, networking events, learning opportunities and more to an entrepreneurial community that is often disenfranchised from society. And each is dedicated to helping these business owners become a more vocal, more recognized and more engaged contingent of our economy.

Here’s information about a few leading groups:


National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
Founded:
2002
In Short: The NGLCC, founded by businessmen Justin Nelson and Chance Mitchell, was formed to elevate the work of queer business owners at a time when LGBT men and women were hardly at the forefront of American discourse. The organization wants people to know that LGBT business owners are “a vibrant, essential part of the small business engine that makes the U.S. economy run,” and shares that message through a multi-pronged effort focused on disseminating information, encouraging collaboration and advocating for policy changes. Today, the Washington, D.C.-based NGLCC has numerous affiliate chambers located throughout the country, and partners with corporations like IBM, Wells Fargo and Motorola.


Golden Gate Business Association
Founded:
1974
In Short: When the GGBA was formed, it was the only resource for LGBT entrepreneurs in the now gay-friendly San Francisco Bay Area. The membership-driven nonprofit connects people by both hosting events for its members and helping LGBT businesses get properly certified, a process that can open doors for vendor relationships and other lucrative opportunities for LGBT entrepreneurs. The organization also formed what is now the Horizons Foundation, which raises money for local LGBT initiatives like the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the SF Pride Parade. To honor the accomplishments of the organization, San Francisco now celebrates GGBA Day every Feb. 26.


StartOut
Founded:
2009
In Short: The primary aim of StartOut is to “inspire, educate and support LGBT entrepreneurs.” Community building is a primary focus of the organization, and it has organized more than 60 educational and networking events each year, attended by an estimated 14,000 people. StartOut also works to combat discrimination and negative stereotypes by spotlighting LGBT women and men who are making a difference — and a profit — with their businesses. Mentoring programs also play a role in their overall mission to connect and engage with queer business owners. StartOut has chapters in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston and several other large, diverse cities throughout the nation.


Lesbians Who Tech
Founded:
2012
In Short: LWT was founded to bring lesbian technologists together and to elevate the visibility of those women who are making the biggest splashes in the STEM world. “We need more examples of lesbian leaders, and that means we need to come out as the amazing, successful people we are,” the organization says on its site. Championing them is key to its mission to let folks both within and beyond the community know about the significant accomplishments of queer women in tech. LWT focuses primarily on hosting regional events that bring together LGBT women working in various tech hubs. Founder Leanne Pittsford has overseen the growth of LWT into an international presence, with chapters located from Seattle and Minneapolis to Dublin and Berlin.

Posted: September 9, 2015

Candice Helfand-RogersHand Holders and Community Builders