Despite the progress that’s been made in promoting equity for the LGBTQ community over the past few years, we still face discrimination both covert and outright. And while many of the current cultural conversations surface how discrimination can tax our overall quality of life and even threaten our physical, psychological, and emotional well-being, not much has been documented on how it threatens our financial security.
As the founders of Debt Free Guys and more recently, the Queer Money® podcast, the lack of financial security among LGBTQ individuals is an issue we’ve been well acquainted with for more than half a decade. In 2014, we decided to take what we’ve learned from our careers in the financial-services space to build a stronger LGBTQ community by promoting financial literacy and security for LGBTQ individuals and their allies.
Since then, we’ve connected our community to helpful resources, insights, and education that can help them achieve financial security. And while some of the pieces of advice that we offer may have changed alongside the evolving economic trends that have emerged since we first started, one of the best recommendations we can make has been the same since day one—if you want to forge your own way forward to financial success, start your own business.
We often find that this recommendation gets met with reluctance--“it’s too challenging,” “I don’t know where to start,” or “that’s not for me.” And our response to that is to share the details of our own journey. We started out with nothing more than $2,000, a relentless determination to succeed, and a willingness to fail forward. Since then, we’ve put in the effort to create a business that allows us to live and work from anywhere in the world and thrive personally, professionally, and financially.
We believe that if we can succeed with building our business that anyone with enough courage and tenacity can succeed with their business. Here are a few reasons why you might consider doing so yourself.
It can help you overcome workplace woes
Despite the Supreme Court of the United States ruling in 2020 that LGBTQ people can’t be denied employment based solely on their LGBTQ status, a KFF survey of 1,765 randomly selected private firms from July of 2020 revealed 26% of employers still don’t offer employer benefits, such as healthcare, to the spouses of employees in same-sex marriages.
The consequences of that can mean up to hundreds of dollars a month being diverted to additional healthcare coverage and away from key financial goals, such as building an emergency savings account or investing for retirement. And this affects same-sex spouses especially—unlike their straight married peers, a same-sex spouse who decides to stay home with the children or pursue their own business may need to shell out more for healthcare. This contributes to additional financial insecurity and possibly making hundreds of thousands of dollars unavailable same-sex couples when they reach retirement.
Overt discrimination isn’t the only kind of discrimination we must guard against--unconscious biases can result in being denied jobs, promotions and raises simply for sounding or appearing gender non-conforming.
It can enable diverse income streams
If you’re not being paid enough, whether because of your LGBTQ status or otherwise, a possible way to augment your income is by starting your own part- or full-time business. A micro-business that acts as your second job, or what many today call a side-hustle, doesn’t necessarily need to be a brick-and-mortar business with employees or bulky overhead. It can be just you (or you and a partner) working at your kitchen table before or after your full-time job.
We started out with nothing more than $2,000, a relentless determination to succeed, and a willingness to fail forward. Since then, we’ve put in the effort to create a business that allows us to live and work from anywhere in the world and thrive personally, professionally, and financially.
In 2016, the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) published a report indicating that the 909 LGBTBEs (LGBT Business Enterprises) certified by the NGLCC showed an average annual business income of $2.5 million. Some businesses earned as little as $1,707 a year while the top-earning business grossed $180 million. There’s proof you can have a legitimate small business that can potentially earn a couple of thousand dollars a year to tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
It can help you reduce your reliance on an employer
Some people become entrepreneurs because they have no other choice. That’s why we may be seeing an increase in new business applications during tough economic times, as in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic.
While everyone must manage macro-economic factors, micro-economic factors that affect fewer workers also play a role in folks starting their own businesses. Such factors can include both legal and illegal discrimination. Your financial independence may not only reduce or eliminate your reliance on an employer or individuals who may discriminate but it can potentially give you time and money to support the organizations, causes and people who are fighting for LGBTQ equality.
The barrier to entry has never been lower
Revisiting the fact that you may be able to create a micro-business from your kitchen table, the barrier to entry to do so has never been lower than today. We know this because it’s our story and the story of countless entrepreneurs who we know.
Nearly everything we do for debtfreeguys.com and the Queer Money® podcast is done on the very laptop on which we’re writing this article. We’ve grown a micro-business with no income to a full-time business that generates six figures annually and employs two full-time people, two part-time people and several contractors.
With the ability to create websites relatively easily for your own products and services, create your own store for your products on online marketplaces, you may be able to turn almost any idea or inspiration into a virtual business.
One of our clients restarted her photography micro-business by creating a website on a drag-and-drop website builder and creating a business account on Instagram. Her initial startup costs outside of the camera equipment totaled near $500. Another client started a t-shirt and coffee mug micro-business on a few online marketplaces. His initial startup costs were under $1,500. Both clients use their additional income from their micro-businesses to expedite paying off debt and to have more money for retirement.
Our initial startup costs for Debt Free Guys were under $2,000. We also started our website and blog on a drag-and-drop website builder. Over time, we’ve scaled our micro-business to where we could afford to have a custom-built website. We started the Queer Money® podcast about two years later with an investment of under $1,000, mostly for recording equipment. These initial investments now return an annual six-figure business income.
We truly believe you’re only limited by your imagination.
You can architect your life
A regrettable balance that many LGBTQ people struggle with is surrounding ourselves with affirming people in our personal lives to offset the non-accepting people in our work lives. We shouldn’t have to struggle with this, but it’s our reality. If you’re tired of this balancing act or haven’t reached it, a solution is having your micro-business.
Even if you’re playing all the roles, from administrative assistant to CEO, you can stop being around people who may not embrace all of you. If you build a team, you can build an entire team of people who know, like and trust every part of you.
Imagine your quality of life and what you could achieve for yourself, the LGBTQ community and beyond if you were almost always in a positive environment.
So, how can you search for funding for your micro-business?
As you think about becoming an LGBTQ entrepreneur, and we hope you do, don’t be scared. The first obstacle most folks encounter when launching a business, no matter how great their idea, is finding the money to get started.
Some entrepreneurs begin their funding journey bootstrapped, or from their own personal savings accounts. Others look to fund their businesses through additional means, such as business credit cards or business loans that give them what they need to get started.
If you decide to embark on the journey, you’ll find several organizations in your corner, including the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), StartOut and the Small Business Administration (SBA).
The NGLCC is the national advocacy organization for LGBT-owned and operated businesses. Members range in size from micro- to large businesses, and the NGLCC helps LGBT businesses succeed. StartOut is a non-profit that nurtures and mentors aspiring and growing LGBTQ business leaders. The SBA is a cabinet-level federal agency that supports small businesses by providing “counseling, capital, and contracting expertise.”
Photo credit: Getty images
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