What’s it Like Owning and Marketing an LGBTQ-Owned Business?

Running a business is never easy. Most days feel like you’re juggling plates. On a unicycle. That’s on fire.

You need to balance operations, finances, marketing, sales, quality control, human resources, legal, and a host of other issues competing for your attention.

But for owners that come from marginalized communities, there can be additional challenges, but also opportunities.

One such community is LGBTQ. These days, LGTBQ stories fill the news. On one hand, gay marriage has been legal in all 50 US states since 2015. On the other, Florida recently passed what’s known as the “don’t say gay” bill, greatly restricting what can be taught in schools regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, with many other states looking to follow. Similarly, Texas is trying to pass what many consider to be anti-transgender laws, again, with other states looking to create similar legislation.

Despite this environment, many members of the LGBTQ community are running businesses, hiring workers, and contributing to the US economy through entrepreneurship…truly embracing the “American Dream.”

According to the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, in 2021 there were 1.4 million LGBTQ-run companies in the US, accounting for 1.7 trillion a year in revenue. Still, stories of people tearing down Pride Flags and signs (or worse) from businesses are all too common.

To get a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities LGBTQ-owned businesses face, I reached out to several here in our home state of Maine for interviews. Not everyone was willing to talk, and some felt they didn’t have much to add because their identity wasn’t part of their business or who they served.

In the end, I collected interviews with twelve businesses, both via email and Zoom calls.

Featured LGBTQ-Owned Businesses in Maine

John Sundling

Plant Office

Jonathan Carr

Nothing Bundt Cakes

Hope Rovelto

Little Chair Printing

James Dillon III

The Third and Only Photography

Jaime Wing


Frank Champa


Andrew Ashey

AAmp Studio

Kasey Ivan

Kasey Ivan Photography

Cara Stadler

Bao Bao, Zaza Cafe, Canopy Farms

Below are the questions I asked, and a selection of the answers I received.

What did I take away from these conversations?

My biggest takeaway was that even within a specific community, there is a huge amount of diversity and opinion.

For some, their personal identity drove a lot of the brand identity and marketing, while for others, it was almost unrelated to their business. Some people sought out business from their community, while others didn’t specifically target them at all.

The idea of openly queer businesses as a “safe space” was also a recurring theme, in some cases expanding to really any one who might feel “out of place.”

It also seemed that feelings around the word “queer” were mostly generational; Boomers and Gen X grew up when it was an insult and so tend to shy away from it, where Millenials and Gen Z see it as more of an inclusive term. It certainly rolls off the tongue easier than LGBTQ!

In the end, the experience reaffirmed what I had hoped when I started this process: I had the opportunity to interview twelve fellow entrepreneurs who were all interesting, unique, and caring.

While not everyone here agreed on how to best be an ally–from “treat us the same as any business” to “support Pride through patronage”–please consider checking out these businesses online or in person, and give them the opportunity of winning your business.

Expert Quote - Rich Brooks

Rich Brooks is founder and president of flyte new media, a digital agency in Portland, Maine, that’s been in business for 25 years. He is a nationally recognized speaker on entrepreneurship, digital marketing, and social media.

He founded The Agents of Change, an annual conference and weekly podcast that focuses on search, social & mobile marketing. He recently co-founded Fast Forward Maine, a podcast and workshop series for growing Maine businesses.

Rich is the author of The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing, a popular and well-received book that helps entrepreneurs and marketers reach more of their ideal customers online.