Each June, Pride Month shines a spotlight on friends, family and colleagues in the LGBTQ+ community. It’s a celebration of the strides made toward equality, and it’s a chance to reflect on the ways we can work to create a business community that’s more inclusive and equitable for all.
Companies are more mindful than ever that their leadership and workforces should be representative of the LGBTQ+ community and other marginalized groups. Still, access to capital remains a greater challenge for LGBTQ+ founders than the general population of founders.
JPMorgan Chase Commercial Banking is proud to work with businesses and community organizations that lower these barriers and nurture strong relationships among founders.
We talked to leaders within the LGBTQ+ business community about how business owners can improve their chances of securing capital without sacrificing their authenticity.
When they’re first launching their businesses or trying to scale, LGBTQ+ founders often don’t have a broad list of contacts to lean on, said David Barbee, Head of LGBTQ+ Initiatives for JPMorgan Chase Commercial Banking. “Not having that embedded network is an immediate barrier they have to address and tackle,” he said.
But it’s not as simple as meeting more people.
“As they’re developing and building a network, LGBTQ+ founders are reading the room, trying to determine if they’re in a safe space,” Barbee said. “‘Am I comfortable disclosing my identity to the people I’m engaging with?’ That’s an added complexity that the broader entrepreneurial community doesn’t face in as impactful a way.
”JPMorgan Chase strives to break down those barriers. It does so directly—by developing one-on-one relationships with founders to understand their needs—and indirectly via partnerships with organizations that help LGBTQ+ founders develop networks. Those organizations include StartOut and the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce.
“Whether it’s capital or other resources—private coaching, mentoring, access to diverse-supplier opportunities and new customer acquisition opportunities—they all help founders become more embedded in the business community and more visible,” Barbee said. “It’s about being very intentional in creating that space for founders to be comfortable being their full, authentic selves as they develop relationships and as we bring more resources to the table.”
One such resource: Capital Connect by J.P. Morgan. The members-only digital platform provides networking, data and tools to help early stage startup founders and venture capital investors connect and grow.
Fortunately, there are plenty of success stories among LGBTQ+ founders who were apprehensive about being more open earlier in their careers. One duo of founders said they made an important realization years later.
When Jess Page and Nicole Doucet first started raising capital for Open Water, which sells purified water in recyclable aluminum bottles and cans, they kept their personal lives to themselves. As the business grew, they realized a good fit requires more than just funding.
“You don’t want someone on your cap table who doesn’t respect who you are,” said Doucet, the company’s CEO. “In the long run, the providers of capital should be aligned with your own values for the business to work in a good way.”
When founders connect with potential business contacts, they talk about the causes and values that are personal and meaningful to them, said Page, who serves as chief brand officer for Open Water. “If you’re trying to be too discreet, that will come across,” she said.
In its first six years, the Growth Lab helped 65 companies raise over $763 million in funding and create more than 3,650 new jobs, said Tarik Perkins, director of programs for StartOut.
Despite receiving half a percent of all startup dollars over the past 20 years, LGBTQ+ founders have excelled when given opportunities.
“LGBTQ+-founded companies today create 36% more jobs compared to the average entrepreneur,” Perkins said. “LGBTQ+ founders have created 114% more patents compared to the average entrepreneur. And they’re 44% more likely to exit, despite having 16% less funding.”
The potential is great, he said. “The problem is getting the support. Being a founder can be a very lonely place and having access to a community of founders who can relate is invaluable. It’s the sauce that holds it all together.”
How we’re helping
JPMorgan Chase aims to lead by example by making sure the voices and perspectives of LGBTQ+ businesspeople are represented throughout the firm and encouraging the broader business community to be more inclusive. Through our Office of LGBTQ+ Affairs, we support organizations and initiatives that inspire future business leaders, provide training and resources, and try to close gaps experienced by marginalized populations.
Looking for more resources that can help LGBTQ+ founders scale their businesses? Learn about the process of becoming a certified LGBT Business Enterprise and connect with peers and organizations that can expand your network.
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