Nathan Brown is the co-founder and president of the Upstate SC LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce, which is currently the only chamber in South Carolina that focuses on helping LGBTQ+ and ally businesses thrive. As a serial entrepreneur with more than fifteen years of experience in analytics, business strategy, international partnerships, and technology, Nathan is uniquely positioned to help LGBTQ+ businesses of all industries succeed.
Nathan is no stranger to the challenges LGBTQ+ individuals and businesses face in today’s political climate. His advice? He encourages queer founders, entrepreneurs, and individuals to plug into trusted networks to keep them safe and help them grow. He also challenges allies to vocalize their support for the LGBTQ+ community and work to create more safe spaces for marginalized groups. And he encourages both LGBT+ businesses and allies to unite to create a more diverse and inclusive economic community in the Upstate.
Why is it important for queer founders to become a certified LGBTQ business? What are the benefits and how does one go about getting certified?
Nathan: Certified LGBT Business Enterprises (LGBTBEs) have access to more markets with greater potential for earnings and growth. In a world where buyers are recognizing the value and need to uplift marginalized communities, there's a growing trend toward earmarking funds for diverse vendors, which includes LGBTBEs.
Corporations in America have publicly earmarked billions of dollars to spend with diverse businesses, so there's a clear opportunity at the national level. And locally, there's a great opportunity to attract customers who believe in the power and strength of diversity.
Editor’s note: For members of the Upstate LGBT+ Chamber, certification is free, which is a savings of $900.
Looking at local/statewide entrepreneurial ecosystems, what can the greater community do to create a more diverse and inclusive business community? What works well today? Where can improvements be made?
Nathan: Frankly, we really need allies to stand up against draconian, fear-based legislation sweeping across the country. Legislators in South Carolina currently have 14 bills on the docket that would directly and materially marginalize LGBTQ+ people, which makes this state an unsafe, unwelcoming place to live, and an unappealing place to do business.
As the data show, states that don't protect minority populations lose talent when they restrict the freedoms and protections of minorities. States like South Carolina lose productivity when people don't feel safe to live, work, and worship in peace. And we create a toxic environment that breeds distrust while hampering our ability to creatively, robustly build strong, thriving businesses in this state.
In short, we need voters to respectfully but persistently seek protections for marginalized populations. We need allies to vocalize their opposition to bills that attack LGBTQ+ residents. It's in everyone's best interest to create safe spaces where people are free to exist without state-sponsored blockers to healthcare, education, work, and freedom of expression. We need voters to inquire about LGBTQ+ topics with their politicians and to vote in a way that fosters healthy, safe, economically uplifting environments. We all benefit when the weakest of us can survive in peace.