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Square Champion
Tips to make your business feel more inclusive to LGBTQ+ customers

Sometimes, digesting news and information can be an overwhelming part of owning a small business. I know many small business owners have talked to me about legislative efforts and anti-LGBTQ+ measures over the past several years and what to do. It takes vulnerability to ask and learn about new ways to increase inclusivity in our businesses. In the post-gay marriage legalization era specifically, I see a lot of efforts to create distance from the LGBTQ+ community because of boycotts, internet trolls, and confusion over how to make changes that don’t feel performative or profitable from a marginalized community. Hopefully this article can help you show up for your LGBTQ+ customers honestly, with the realization that this is a demographic that is growing and changing rapidly.

 

jiroe-matia-rengel-b9kh72kOcdM-unsplash.jpg

Photo by Jiroe (Matia Rengel) on Unsplash

 


I want to preface this by saying I haven’t had training or specific DEI experience outside of owning my own business and being part of the LGBTQ+ community. We can all be beginners at the art and practice of something new in business, right? There is no way to perform 100% perfectly, and I know that creates a little fear surrounding how to be a good ally. If you make a mistake, chalk it up to learning. 

 

Showing up for your LGBTQ+ customers year-round

 

How are you showing up for your LGBTQ+ customers? What are you doing to welcome them or create safety for them? If you aren’t doing specific things, why not? Could we create a space for dialogue about your reservations for your business?

 

I know a lot of non-LGBTQ+ business owners fear being accused of talking the talk without walking the walk. Some think they have to identify as part of the community to create acceptance and visibility within their businesses. In recent years, there has been a lot of conversation in business circles about navigating Rainbow capitalism, which is defined as a company that will change its logo to rainbow colors or sell Pride merchandise but not actually support the community at large or its own employees. I get that — I do — it rings false to many LGBTQ+ consumers. Last year, many companies withdrew from the dialogue or caved on their promised support because of noisy boycotting populations. 

 

All of that said, I’m approaching this topic by asking myself, “What can I do to create support and allyship that extends beyond a single time of year? What does my company’s support look like outside of Pride month?”

 

Why is this important?

 

It is important to remember what Pride stands for — it isn’t a simple celebration, parade, or time of year. It commemorates the history of our community, its stories, its struggles, and, most of all, the battle for acceptance. For me and many others, it loudly shouts, “We’re still here!” This is especially true in uncertain times of book banning and legislation on even talking about LGBTQ+ people in schools, trans health care for all ages, workplace identity, pronouns, etc. I am personally seeing a greater conversation on the safety of travel, shopping, medical care, and traversing in society that many people take for granted. 

 

Pride can and should be a celebratory time of year that honors our history, our present, and our futures and informs our businesses about how we can do better.

Visibility matters. To see is to believe. To get personal for a moment, I grew up without knowing many other LGBTQ+ people. It was very isolating and led to me hiding my true self for a very long time. Fortunately, this is changing. The LGBTQ+ community is persisting, support on social media is growing, and more of each generation is identifying as part of the community. Acceptance differs by region, state, and city, and customers rely on the cues a business gives them to determine their safety, especially when trying out a new shop or service.

Customer demographics are shifting.

 

According to data from a Gallup survey, the LGBTQ+ community is statistically making up 7.6% of the population. Realistically, in your interactions, do you see that percentage represented? Think about media consumption. For example, if 7.6% of all of the TV and movies you consume had LGBTQ+ people, imagine the difference that would make in inclusion. Do you have this percentage of representation on your staff? Your customers? 

 

Gen Z identifies as nearly 22% LGBTQ+, which is important for all of us as business owners making future plans, right? Below is a list of practical steps you can take to support your LGBTQ+ customers and steps you can take to create an inclusive workplace. Source: LGBTQ+ Identification in U.S. Now at 7.6% 

 

Steps to show support for LGBTQ+ customers

 

  • Small things matter. Display support in the form of acceptance signage, a yard sign, a Pride flag, or stickers located around your business. 
  • Raise funds for LGBTQ+ organizations if you sell Pride-themed merchandise or host special Pride events.
  • Show the LGBTQ+ community in your social media feed as your customers, your employees, and your marketing images.
  • Support protections for the LGBTQ+ in your community, whether that is fighting back against discriminatory legislation or voting for protections.
  • Familiarize yourself with where your location/state stands on equality. Check out  Movement Advancement Project | Snapshot: LGBTQ Equality by State. You can also check to see if your state has its own organizations, like Georgia Equality.
  • Have gender-neutral signage, greetings, and restrooms.
  • Using words like friends, patrons, guests, people, folks, and y’all is more inclusive than ladies and gentlemen and ma’am and sir.
  • Update your Google and social listings to make it clear that you are LGBTQ+ friendly.
  • Hire members of your team and staff that represent the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community. A friendly face makes a world of difference and shows trust in the community.

 

Steps to create an inclusive workplace

Businesses that support the LGBTQ+ community about customer experiences should keep in mind that visibility and inclusion are also important internal practices that fall into place with the guidelines for customers. Your staff is an extension of your values as a business owner. Make it a regular practice to ask your staff what they need for safety and visibility within your team.

 

  • Suggest that your team list their pronouns in Slack channels and email signatures. Refer to someone using their correct pronouns, even when they are not there.
  • Implement inclusive hiring practices and gender-neutral or supportive language in your applications (i.e., don’t list gender) and ask for pronouns before an interview so you can respectfully interact with someone. Ask their name. We have two lines on our contract: given name and preferred name in case someone has socially transitioned but not legally transitioned yet or needs to use a method of payment that connects to another name.
  • If you own a shop that sells products, invest your money in product lines owned, operated, or made by LGBTQ+ people.

 

Additional resources

 


I’m grateful to have the business-owner mindset as well as the customer mindset. All of us as Square sellers have this dual role, which prepares us for these conversations and changes in business to follow social cues and demographic shifts. Creating loyalty in our customer base starts with creating a comfortable experience for our shoppers and service users. Loyal customers return to spend money. LGBTQ+ communities benefit from being welcomed into our businesses. Starting small and doing what we can to be good allies creates loyal customers to bring the business relationship full circle. Visibility matters, and we can all be a part of protecting and inspiring future generations of small business owners.

Thank you for spending this time with me, and Happy Pride!

 


Deklan Ranlett owns MudFire in Decatur, GA. This is Deklan’s second small business in the ceramic industry, their focus since 1999. Deklan and their wife Daphne run a mentorship program for young makers, a date-night experience, a summer camp, and a membership-based pottery studio. Being LGBTQ+ as a business owner provides a unique perspective on allyship and business ownership.

 

This article is only for informational purposes. The information provided in this article solely reflects the speakers’ views and is not endorsed by Square. This article is limited in scope and is only intended as a high-level overview of the topics mentioned.
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