Three StartOut Founders Share Their Thoughts
By Pete Holmberg
With 2019 being the 50th Anniversary of LGBTQ Pride, many people expected Pride 2020 to somehow feel less significant in comparison. How wrong they were. Having spent the better part of the spring living in fear of a mysterious pandemic, shut away in isolation, and united with all other humans across the globe through our shared biology and possible mortality, we spent the first days of June collectively experiencing the grief and the horror in watching George Floyd’s brutal and senseless murder. As this month comes to a close in a time of great turbulence and trauma, we can all agree that this Pride was certainly less joyous and celebratory than years past, but for many in our community, Pride 2020 was more meaningful — and significant — than ever. We checked in with three StartOut Founders to see what Pride means to them this year.
“The greatest gift of diversity is the way it empowers rich, unique, and inclusive storytelling, and this year during Pride we needed that gift more than ever,” said Camille Ora-Nicole the Founder and Creative Director of Q26, a womxn-owned digital media company and creative studio supporting LGBTQ+ creatives with a focus on people of color. “Pride used to mean a celebration of who you are, it was an affirmation. But I think its purpose has evolved and now it’s about who WE are. All of us. To ensure that nobody is left out, we need to first listen to those who have historically been marginalized first. My great for hope for Pride 2021 is to see Black trans people no longer being a secondary thought, but a primary focus. I’m proud to be living in a time where one doesn’t have to make the choice between being an entrepreneur and being an activist. In the year 2020, good business means affecting meaningful change.”
For Washington DC-based Javi Sanchez, Co-Founder of Con Gusto, a community celebrating Latinx in art, design, and fashion, Pride 2020 was a time of honoring Pride’s origins as a riot of Black and Brown trans community rebelling against police brutality and injustice. “As a gay Latino, I live through racial issues and LGBTQ issues 24/7. Thankfully, my family is open and accepting of my sexual orientation and my partner but I’m very aware of the fact that not many Latino families out there are quite as liberal as mine. So for me, there’s a lot of work to be done. Pride is a time where we need to reach out to people in our families and our communities to educate them, we’re for whatever reason or another, we’re trying our best to succeed in life, in our lives, and pursue our dreams and passions. Along with my partner Gaby Ramirez, I’m so proud to be building a community where Latinx can share personal and professional journeys, and have their emotions intertwined into bodies of work to that incorporate mindfulness and connection into all of our daily lives.”
“Pride is protest, pride is celebration, and most importantly it is an opportunity for folks to be their entire selves,” exclaimed Isabelle Swiderski, the NYC-based entrepreneur who serves as both the Founder of Seven25, a consultancy that supports social entrepreneurs and ecosystem builders to design better ventures, and also as founder of Sesame — a curated member community for queer women. “This year’s Pride has been a time for me to reflect on how far we’ve come and determine what we still need to do, and make the effort to really open our eyes to all the people who have been assigned otherness. In the past several years I’ve been working on supporting entrepreneurs, often in emerging economies. I’ve focussed on studying the man-made mechanisms that make injustice and inequality foundational to society. I listed a few of the books that really helped advance my thinking in a recent blog post on June 3rd entitled Five books to better understand and fight systemic racism and inequality. I’m also making every effort to shop locally. As isolated and frightened as we all are during this time, it’s vital to remember that when we lift up local businesses, everybody wins.”
In many ways 2020 was the year that Pride returned to its roots. Some festive celebrations did indeed happen, and they will most certainly resume on larger scale in the future. But as we can see from our own community within StartOut, the celebratory spirit driving our annual coming together has been severely challenged, and ultimately enriched, by being reminded that we still have so far to go.
Founded in 2009, StartOut, a national 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, is the largest national organization to support LGBTQ entrepreneurs with 17K members nationwide. Its mission is to increase the number, diversity, and impact of LGBTQ entrepreneurs and amplify their stories to drive the economic empowerment of the community. StartOut helps aspiring LGBTQ entrepreneurs start new companies; supports current entrepreneurs as they grow and expand their existing businesses; and engages successful entrepreneurs as role models and mentors, on its online portal, and through targeted events nationwide. For more information, please visit www.startout.org.