When I first moved to the United States from India, I visited Chicago’s Northalsted area (also known as “Boystown”), an LGBTQ+ neighborhood. I was still in the process of coming out, and I was amazed to see so many businesses welcoming the LGBTQ+ community and building a space that felt safe. For the first time, I felt comfortable in my skin as a gay man and experienced the feeling of truly belonging.
This past year, LGBTQ+ businesses and service organizations — that are at the heart of LGBTQ+ life — were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. These businesses are more than just bars, restaurants, bookstores, salons or health clinics. They’re places of validation where LGBTQ+ folks are able to gather, find community, commiserate in tough times and celebrate the good times.
That’s why Google is continuing to show up year-round with dedicated resources to help small and medium-sized businesses — owned by or serving the LGBTQ+ community — on their road to recovery.
New hub for LGBTQ-friendly small businesses and LGBTQ+ business owners
We’re launching a new LGBTQ+ small business resource hub where small business owners can learn about our growing number of product features that help the LGBTQ+ community find safe and welcoming spaces. Businesses like Nos Casa Cafe in Roxbury, Massachusetts and Orhan London Tailoring in London, UK proudly show they are “LGBTQ friendly” on their Business Profile on Google Search and Maps. Others like gc2b, a Black and Latinx transgender-owned company, use Google Ads to reach and help the trans community worldwide.
We’re also connecting LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs with StartOut, an LGBTQ+ nonprofit organization that helps facilitate mentorship, access to capital and tools to create an equitable playing field for the community.
Tools and resources for LGBTQ+ business owners
Our economic opportunity initiative, Grow with Google, is helping LGBTQ+ small businesses, like TomboyX, learn how to use digital tools that can drive business growth. We’re partnering with the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), the “business voice of the LGBT community,” to provide their network of affiliate chambers with training curriculums and resources that help small businesses adapt, grow and better serve their community. Together over the next year, we’ll deliver more than 100 digital skills workshops for LGBTQ+ small businesses.
Supporting Black LGBTQ+ founders
StartOut's Pride Economic Impact Index shows that over the last 20 years, "out" LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs in the U.S. raised only about 10% as much funding as their non-LGBTQ+ counterparts. This is why Google for Startups is committed to fostering a global startup community that’s diverse and inclusive, leading to more equitable outcomes for underrepresented groups.
Earlier this month, we announced the second $5 million Google for Startups Black Founders Fund in the U.S., which was created to spur economic opportunity for Black entrepreneurs who are consistently locked out of access to capital. StartOut is nominating founders from their community to receive up to $100,000 non-dilutive cash investments, in addition to other benefits like free access to Google products and mentorship.
Space to belong
In January 2020, before COVID-19 spread worldwide, U.S. search interest for “lgbt friendly” had reached an all-time high. But by March, search interest for “lgbt friendly” dropped dramatically as the pandemic shut down small businesses and gathering places around the country.
This summer, Google is launching a global campaign to help support and celebrate LGBTQ+ friendly spaces on their road to recovery – from queer and trans owned auto repair shops to historic gay bars and community art centers. You can learn more at our Pride hub: pride.google.
Today I live in the Castro, a neighborhood at the heart of San Francisco’s LGBTQ+ community. Like most people, I have my neighborhood go-tos, a coffee shop where I’m always greeted with a smile and a friendly bark from customers’ dogs that gather outside in the morning. Across the street are other beloved neighborhood restaurants and shops that are LGBTQ+ friendly, many of which were empty or less vibrant during the pandemic. That’s why at Google we feel strongly about supporting LGBTQ+ friendly businesses and safe spaces so that we can build towards a world that fosters belonging for all.