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Breaking Barriers: 7 LGBTQIA+ Entrepreneurs Shattering Stereotypes in Business

Despite progress, the startup ecosystem still faces challenges of sexism, homophobia, and unconscious bias. LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs often struggle to secure funding and face unequal access to vital resources, as highlighted by research from Chicago Booth. A lack of research into LGBTQIA+ discrimination further compounds these issues. However, in honor of Pride and the ongoing fight for equal rights and opportunities, we celebrate the accomplishments of LGBTQIA+ founders, technologists, and innovators. These trailblazers have carved out space for themselves and others, bringing diverse voices to an industry that sorely needs them.

Angelica Ross

Founder and CEO of TransTech Social Enterprises, a co-learning and co-working nonprofit that economically empowers trans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer people and allies with practical, career-ready skills. TransTech Social was founded in 2014 by media star and trailblazer Angelica Ross. After teaching herself graphic design, photo editing, and coding – she realized that technology was a catalyst for change in her life! She used her skills to create a foundation for financial security, then reached out to the community around her to share those skills.

McKensie Mack

McKensie "Bunny" Mack (they | them | theirs) has over a decade of experience helping organizations, community groups, governing agencies, and healthcare organizations expand equity dialogues across anti-racism, gender, class, disability, and LGBTQ+ rights. Mack is the Co-founder and CEO of MMG, a Black-led and nonbinary-led social justice organization and change management firm. Their core belief is, "We are all born worthy."

Paola Fernandez

Founder and CEO of High Hemp, the first all-organic and anti-tobacco herbal wrap company based in Orlando. Before High Hemp, Fernandez worked at her father's tobacco company. For seven years, she divided her time between managing the shop and helping her father develop new brands. This breadth of knowledge and experience is what she draws on today.

Stephanie (Lampkin) VanPutten

A Stanford engineer and an MIT MBA graduate, VanPutten is an executive in residence at The Equity Alliance, which invests in diverse emerging VC fund managers. She is also the founder and executive director of Visible Figures and BlendScore.

Corianna and Brianna Dotson, Co-founders of Coco and Breezy

Founded in 2009 by twins Corianna and Brianna Dotson, Coco and Breezy Eyewear offers optical glasses and sunglasses that don't sacrifice form or function with customers like Rihanna, Prince, and Lady Gaga. In July 2019, Coco and Breezy launched its first capsule collection with the founders, releasing two limited-edition aviators inspired by Gloria Steinem.

Alicia Garza

A strategist and organizer for over two decades, Garza has spent her career combating anti-Black state-sanctioned violence and the oppression of all Black people. She's the principal of Black Futures Lab. This Oakland-based think tank works to transform Black communities into constituencies that wield independent political power at the municipal, state, and federal levels. Garza is also the co-founder of Black Lives Matter, a globally recognized organizing project that focuses on combating anti-Black state-sanctioned violence and the oppression of all Black people.

Challenges and disparities often mark the journey of LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs in the startup ecosystem, making it harder for them to access funding and critical resources. However, amidst these obstacles, LGBTQIA+ founders have shown remarkable resilience and innovation, carving out space for themselves and others in an industry that lacks diverse voices. Their achievements serve as a powerful reminder of the ongoing fight for equal rights and opportunities. By highlighting their stories and accomplishments, we honor their contributions and inspire the next generation of LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams and reshape the startup landscape with pride and determination.

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