As rewarding as it can be, small business ownership comes with its fair share of hurdles across the board—hurdles that, unfortunately, can be greater for entrepreneurs that identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer. While LGBTQIA+ businesses are an important part of the small business community in America—the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) estimates over 1.4 million LGBTQIA-owned businesses exist in the U.S. today, and that these businesses together contribute over $1.7 trillion to the nation’s economy—they have in many cases been disproportionately impacted by barriers to small business success, including a lack of access to capital and limited state or federal support.
That said, the state of LGBTQIA+ small businesses has progressed significantly in recent years. A recent survey conducted by the NGLCC in partnership with CNBC and Acorns found that, while around 40% of LGBTQIA+ small business owners have been denied a loan in the past and 30% are skeptical about legislation intended to increase access to credit for their business, over 56% of those business owners also don’t feel like their sexual orientation or gender identity has negatively impacted their ability to secure opportunities for their business. This paints a much more optimistic picture compared to a decade ago, when that number was nearly half of where it is today.
As the small business landscape changes, official certification from the NGLCC is one way to ensure that your LGBTQIA+ small business is as well-positioned as possible to take advantage of unique opportunities and ready for continued success in years to come.
What is the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce?
Started in 2002, the NGLCC was born out of a need for national advocacy on behalf of the LGBTQIA+ business community. Since its inception, the organization has worked to create more equal economic opportunities for business owners regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, such as by partnering with companies and government agencies to create fully LGBTQIA+ supply chains.
As part of its efforts to raise up LGBTQIA+ businesses, the NGLCC launched its Certified LGBT Business Enterprise (LGBTBE) program in 2004 to help LGBTQIA+ small business owners access more opportunities and overcome unique barriers standing in their way. In doing so, it became the exclusive third-party certifying organization for majority-owned and operated LGBTQIA+ businesses.
In addition to NGLCC’s LGBTBE certification for small businesses, the organization also supports other minority communities within the small business space through additional programs like the NGLCC Communities of Color initiative (CoCi), which aims to provide additional support to LGBTQIA+ businesses owned by people of color.
What are the benefits of becoming a Certified LGBTBE?
Getting certified as an LGBTBE can help you readily position your business to reap the unique benefits that are afforded to members of NGLCC’s exclusive network. Here are a few of the ways this certification can help your business grow:
Access to training, mentorship, and networking opportunities
Certification through the NGLCC’s LGBTBE program gives LGBTQIA+ businesses access to a wealth of exclusive resources and programs that are specifically tailored to their needs—and designed with their growth in mind. This includes: ongoing, expert-led webinars; scholarship programs; exclusive access to supplier and networking events; mentorship programs with other LGBTQIA+ business owners and leaders; and exclusive corporate partner discounts.
Greater chance to reach and connect with LGBTQIA+ customers
The LGBTQIA+ community is the fastest growing minority segment in the U.S., according to recent census data—and it holds a collective spending power of over $1.4 trillion. When it comes to how consumers who identify as LGBTQIA+ choose to spend their money, CMI reports that: 76% buy from brands that are openly supportive of their community, 54% encourage friends and family to support brands that are openly supportive of their community, and 79% are willing to pay up to 15% more for products when they know a business supports LGBTQIA+ issues.
As a business owner, you can stand out from the crowd and establish your business as a go-to within the LGBTQIA+ community by advertising your LGBTBE certification and building a stronger relationship with your customers.
Access to corporate and government contracting opportunities
The NGLCC has a network of over 200 corporate and government partners that it works with to secure valuable business connections and opportunities for Certified LGBTBEs. These partners proactively tap into the NGLCC’s proprietary LGBTBE database to forge strategic relationships with LGBTQIA+ businesses, and certification as an LGBTBE ensures that your business is on these partners’ radars. It also helps your business connect with other LGBTQIA+ businesses across industries to engage in unique, mutually beneficial B2B partnerships.
Opportunity to further the progress of the LGBTQIA+ small business community
As the LGBTQIA+ small business community continues to grow and demonstrate its perseverance in the face of disproportionately greater challenges, it’s important for leaders and organizations like the NGLCC to have a way of capturing that momentum and progress in quantifiable terms. LGBTBE certification helps support continued economic progress for the LGBTQIA+ small business community by facilitating accurate reporting and growth tracking. This in turn reinforces the power of this minority segment within the economy and helps pave the way for continued growth.
Does your business qualify for LGBTBE certification?
To qualify for certification as an LGBTBE, your business must meet four main criteria:
- Your business must be majority (51% or more) owned, operated, managed, and controlled by an LGBTQIA+ person (or team of LGBTQIA+ people) who are either U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.
- Your business must exercise independence from any non-LGBTQIA+ business enterprise.
- Your business must be headquartered or have its principal place of business in the U.S.
- Your business must be established as a legal entity in the U.S.
How can your business get certified as an LGBTBE by the NGLCC?
Obtaining your LGBTBE certification from the NGLCC is a simple, four-step process:
- Create a business profile on my.nglcc.org to share more information about you and your business.
- Submit supporting documents to confirm your eligibility for certification. During this step, business owners can connect with an NGLCC team member, who will help navigate the process.
- Schedule a site visit from NGLCC’s certification committee, during which a regional representative will connect with you to verify the details of your application and learn any additional information needed about your business.
- Submit your application, which will be reviewed by the NGLCC’s certification committee before a final decision is made regarding your approval for LGBTBE certification.
For more information about the NGLCC and Certified LGBTBE program, visit the organization’s website at www.nglcc.org