These businesses can be an economic force to be reckoned with
By Katie Mead
It is estimated that there are more than 140,000 LGBT-owned businesses in Canada, with a buying power of over $90 billion and contributing nearly $200 billion to the Canadian economy. They play an important part in Canada’s economic success, and it’s critical they have access to resources and tools that can support their growth.
Here are three simple tips to grow your business by leveraging programs aimed at LGBT entrepreneurs:
Join your local LGBT business group
Across Canada, there are numerous LGBT Chambers of Commerce and business groups whose mandates are to help LGBT entrepreneurs and companies thrive. These groups provide amazing opportunities to connect with other business owners in your region, creating a local B2B network offering support as well as sales opportunities. Though each group may offer different services, they all exist to help promote LGBT businesses, advocate for pro-LGBT business policies, build market access equality, and provide overall support as needed.
By joining your local group, you also become part of a national and international network of LGBT businesses. These networks strive to promote economic growth and prosperity both domestically and internationally. Having access to this network opens the door for companies to grow and do business beyond the local level.
Participate in professional development opportunities
It’s important for business owners to find ways to continue to develop their own skills. LGBT businesses can stay competitive by ensuring they are innovative and current, and have the right tools to provide the best product or service.
One of the many services offered by LGBT business groups is access to information, training and resources. Again, this will vary by region and by group, but often includes opportunities such as workshops, webinars, best business practices and conferences.
Mentorship opportunities may also be offered, whether with other LGBT-owned businesses or through the organization’s corporate partners. These mentorship programs are invaluable ways for business owners to learn from leaders in the industry, and apply those learnings within their own company.
Become certified as an LGBT-owned company
Over the past 10 years, Canada has seen the growth of an initiative called “Supplier Diversity.” The goal is to create an inclusive corporate supply chain by procuring goods and services from traditionally underrepresented community groups, including women-, Aboriginal-, visible minority- and LGBT-owned businesses.
The Canadian Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (CGLCC) has been building LGBT Supplier Diversity since 2012, and is the only certifying body of LGBT-owned businesses in Canada. The CGLCC works closely with these certified businesses and corporate Canada to make connections, in hopes that they will work together. Becoming certified provides the opportunity for these businesses to connect with decision makers at companies that they might not have been able to access previously.
Certification is available to businesses that are 51 per cent or more LGBT-owned, operated and controlled. Darrell Schuurman, CEO of the CGLCC, explains, “We see certification as another opportunity for business development, another tool in any LGBT entrepreneur’s toolbox. While it’s essential that each supplier successfully win the business based on the strength of their value proposition, through certification and supplier diversity, we can at least help them get their foot in the door.’’
The impact of a strong LGBT business community
Canada’s LGBT-owned businesses not only play an important part in the country’s economic growth and prosperity, they provide an invaluable support to the LGBT community at large. Through employment and community give-back, LGBT businesses are investing within the LGBT community and building our community’s wealth. So when you have the chance, support our LGBT businesses.
KATIE MEAD, supplier diversity program manager for the CGLCC, is an ex-opera singer who comes to the CGLCC with many years of business development experience, most recently consulting for both corporate and non-profit clients. She enjoys leveraging her sales/business development experience to help organizations achieve the next level in their evolution. In her spare time, she is completing a Masters in Gestalt therapy.