Being an LGBTQ+ business owner can be isolating, especially if you’re neurodivergent, based rurally, or you find it difficult to leave your home. When I began working, I realised I needed to find ways to connect with LGBTQ+ businesses online.
I started out by joining online networking events, which helped me build up connections across the community on social media. Now I’m proud to say that, although I don’t meet people in-person, I have hundreds of LGBTQ+ business connections I can turn to when I need support.
Knowing where to start is the first hurdle to finding your own support network. Here I share how I overcame my isolation and started making those connections.
How to connect with LGBTQ+ businesses online
Knowing where and how to connect with LGBTQ+ businesses is important, and the ‘how’ depends on your personal preferences.
If you’re out and proud, you might find it easier to make immediate connections because people feel comfortable around you. One way of showing this with minimal effort is to put your pronouns on your social media and in your name when joining online networking events.
Including your pronouns when networking can help others feel comfortable sharing their own and referring to you. This can also open up conversations with people.
For people who are still exploring their identity or don’t feel comfortable making part of their identity too visible, don’t worry. Look for people with pride flags, badges, and language, then speak to them privately. You don’t have to discuss your identity with anyone! But finding people you feel comfortable with can make a huge difference.
I’m an out and proud person who wanted to put my identity to the front, so I did several things when I started networking online:
- I put up a pride flag in my office within view of my camera
- I added my pronouns to my name for every meeting (when I remembered to)
- I created a pitch that highlighted who I wanted to connect with
If you’ve never networked before, I recommend reading as much as you can about it to prepare yourself. I especially recommend this FSB article on creating an elevator pitch for networking.
An elevator pitch that highlights your identity or who you’re looking to connect with helps you get to the point. For instance, your pitch could be: “Hi, I’m Alex, I’m a content writer. I want to connect with more LGBTQ+ business owners to share experiences with and support one another.” This pitch encourages people to reach out to you, so for those of us who are shy or unsure of ourselves feel comfortable with you.
Another way of pitching yourself might be: “Hi, I’m Alex, a content writer specialising in the tech industry. My pronouns are they/them. I help tech businesses appeal to potential customers by providing high-quality blog content without the technical jargon. I’d appreciate any referrals to people who might be interested in my services.” This pitch incorporates your identity while keeping the focus on your business and what you’re looking for from others.
Whatever you want to get out of networking, I can’t stress enough how valuable it is to connect with like-minded people.
Networking with LGBTQ+ businesses online
There are a few places where you can network with LGBTQ+ businesses online.
Federation of Small Businesses
The Federation of Small Businesses’ LGBT+ Networking events are my personal favourite networking events, because it’s where I started out.
I’d never networked online before, so I went searching for networking events for the LGBTQ+ community. It’s here that I immediately found my people. I feel the least pressure in these sessions, compared to all of the other networking events I attend, because I can be myself.
Different people attend each time, so you’re bound to meet someone new. The organisers are all wonderful people too.
The next networking event and some great resources can be found on the FSB LGBT+ business support hub.
I’m still new to OutBritain, but what I love about their website is the business directory. It’s completely free to sign up and add your business to the directory, and you can browse other businesses posted there.
The directory is also only available for people who are signed in, so spam is minimal. I found a great business connection through their directory from the very beginning.
OutBritain hosts monthly networking events, both in-person and online. While I’ve never attended one of these myself, it might be the place for you.
While less for business owners and more geared to LGBTQ+ professionals of all levels, myGwork is an LGBT+ business community that organises and promotes events, including networking events.
Anyone who wants to connect worldwide will benefit from being part of myGwork, as events can be hosted from across the world.
Training, awareness, and job-seeking advice are also offered on myGwork.
Create your own networking event
If you’re comfortable with networking and maybe even have some experience in event management, creating your own networking event might be for you. Having a larger variety of LGBTQ+ friendly networking events will only benefit our community.
Creating your own networking event is just one way to support the LGBTQ+ community.
It’s important to remember that networking needs to have some level of moderation. The current political climate is incredibly difficult to navigate. The LGBTQ+ community not only needs support but also safeguarding.
Social media for LGBTQ+ businesses
Of all the social media channels, I’ve felt the most comfortable connecting with LGBTQ+ businesses on LinkedIn and BlueSky. There are also LGBTQ+ groups on Facebook that could suit you.
LinkedIn is the perfect companion to networking online, and I’ve connected with many LGBTQ+ businesses online just through existing connections.
Many online networkers will link to their LinkedIn for people to connect with them. It’s a habit I recommend getting into. If you’re asking to connect with LGBTQ+ business owners, link to your LinkedIn and invite them to send you a connection request.
This is the most popular social media channel for businesses and professionals, so make the most of it.
When you have questions for other business owners, post on LinkedIn asking for advice or others’ perspectives on similar issues. It’s a fantastic platform for seeking support and giving it back, so try to react to your connections’ posts when you can.
I haven’t used Facebook to connect with many LGBTQ+ businesses, but there are groups out there for the community and businesses. Finding the best home on Facebook might take some time, but there are plenty of options.
Always review group rules before joining a group. Generic rules, or rules that don’t include anything against harassment or bigotry, suggest that any problems within the group won’t be handled properly by the group admins.
Be aware: Facebook’s data collection and privacy settings still aren’t great. You can set up Pages and secondary accounts to protect your personal information from others, but Facebook will still collect any and all data it can.
With the state of Twitter (X) in 2023, I abandoned it as soon as I could get an invite code. BlueSky has proven to be a much better alternative, with many LGBTQ+ people jumping over by the end of the year.
If you liked Twitter for marketing or to follow other businesses, BlueSky is the closest alternative. Mastodon (specifically mastodonapp.uk, the UK instance) is also a great alternative, with many LGBTQ+ businesses and people making a home there.
It will be some time before either alternative shows itself to be better for LGBTQ+ businesses online. Having a presence on both will help you determine which is better for your needs.