The first step to any budding LGBTQ entrepreneur no matter what startup’s business may focus on it is understanding your “why”. It is important to have, acknowledge, and understand your “why.” Why is this important to you? This is vital because if you have your “why” that you believe in you are in a better position. You can push yourself through and over the hurdles that will inevitably arise. Being an entrepreneur is tough, risky, high pressure, challenging, and can often feel lonely. Your “why” becomes your mission, your passion, and your drive.
It likely will shape the products or services you offer. It can become a core part of your marketing. All great marketing is rooted in “why” and leveraging that to tell the story and connect the client/consumer with the brand and its products/services. An authentic “why” can help get others on board in the early stages to support your business venture. It becomes a tool for measuring your own definition of success and helps to keep you focused.
“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.” Maya Angelou
Your “why” might strike you all a sudden or it may develop over time. It could be that something inspired you from your childhood. Maby you see a problem in the world and aim to be a part of creating a solution. Your “why” may have been inspired in a countless number of ways.
Questions to Ask to Get to the Heart the “Why” of Your Business
- Why do I do what I do? Or Why do I want to do this?
- What does it mean to me, my family, my life, the community, others?
- What is the purpose for me, my family, my life, the community, others?
- How can it help me, my family, my life, the community, others?
- How can will it make a difference for me, my family, my life, the community, others?
- How will it support me, my family, my life, the community, others? In what ways?
- How will make me feel fulfilled and happy?
- What are there gaps that it might be able to be a part of filling and why does that matter?
“Why” and Your Story
Your “why” can become of your company origin story being the foundation of your mission, driving your vision, and demonstrating your commitment. It can lead customers to identify with it, fall in love, and become brand champions. With businesses and consumers being overwhelmed with social media, emails, text, and more your well-crafted message has the challenge and opportunity to stand out as authentic. If your target audience sees and feels your passion, they are more likely to appreciate it, connect with it and do more than become a client/customer to becoming a valued brand champion sharing it with all they know.
Your “Why” is Not Money
Well, technically it could be money, such as the desire to help LGBTQ people with their personal finances like my buddies at The Dept Free Guys. Their branding has their “why” message clearly throughout. John and David were $50,000 in dept. They made a plan and became debt-free. They want to help others do the same.
A true “why” is not “I want to get rich“. Businesses rarely make profits right away, so the dream of money alone will not be reason enough to see it through. Could your “why” lead to financial gain, comfort, and success as you define it? Sure. Amazing if it does. Naturally, as you build your business plan and start executing on making it a reality you’ll set targets.
On a pure financial front, maybe your “way” is simply so that you can support yourself and your family while being your own boss. That is perfectly fine. There are lots of entrepreneur ventures matched with your skills than can if well executed fulfill that worthy “why”. Maybe a franchise would be a good fit with a business model, suppliers, and marketing pretty much done for you. But if its a mindset of only greed and to hell with anyone or anything else, you will likely live a miserable life doing crap you really don’t enjoy and feel zero personal satisfaction doing it regardless of the money. Money cannot buy true happiness.
Surround Yourself with Support
It is often said, and I wholeheartedly believe, that no matter if you are an entrepreneur or building your professional career, you must surround yourself with likeminded people who support your vision and lift you up even if they don’t totally understand it right now. That support can be in person or even online. Ideally, you will have also have one or more mentors who can guide you as well as hold you accountable to reach the heights of what your “why” can contribute to yourself, the community, and those your serve.
Having your immediate and extended family support can be helpful. As LGBTQ persons sometimes that is not a reality due to homophia and learned biases. But if you are one of the lucky ones that you being LGBTQ does not negatively affect your personal family relationship, they also can support you in your entrepreneur startup vision. This support might be that they just lend an ear when you need to talk or it could be that they are the first finanical investors in your business.
I and most industry leaders believe that having a life partner who supports your entrepreneurial interests is vital to your potential success. You are taking a huge risk, will have sleepless nights, likely work long hours, and may have financial ups and downs. If your life-partner doesn’t fully support you, it WILL strain the relationship. As early as appropriate, start the dialog with your life-partner about your ideas. Does that person support you and have as best as possible an understanding of all the risks, challenges, and commitment involved? If so, GREAT! Be sure along your journey that you keep the lines of communication open so they are part of your journey and sense when you need that extra effort from them.
A personal Note
My ex-husband was not very supportive of my entrepreneurial drive. He was more comfortable with the illusion of stability working for someone else, commuting every day to an office, and sitting in a cubicle. We got into many heated discussions over the topic. He had a difficult time understanding that my entrepreneurial drive is at the foundation of who I am. The best years of our relationship were when I did business travel 50-80% but was also miserable due to that. So, for many reasons after 17 years we parted ways and divorced – now 3 years ago. I’ve been single since and hope to eventually stumble upon a life-partner that supports, challenges, balances, and compliments me – and me him.
Friends – Supportive, Negotiate and Edit
This also goes for people you consider friends. As you start and work to grow your business, as mentioned you may be working long and irregular hours. You’ll likely often be stressed out. You may have financial struggles. Are your friends really your friends? Are they there for you as best they can be or are they superficial who will complain when you are no longer as accessible or don’t have the time or funds to join them all the time for activities like you might have before? If you value that person, at the first sign of them being frankly clueless and/or selfish, schedule a time to have an honest conversation. Then time will tell if they are a supportive friend or not. If need be for those that prove to be superficial as quickly and kindly as possible either edit them out completely or move them to the occasional acquaintance category.
It is perfectly fine if a friend doesn’t understand your business or why you work so much. But a good friend will strive to understand that it is important to you and be there when you are able to hit the beach, go out dancing, go on a hike or bike ride, and also lend an ear when you need someone to talk to.
Seek Out Other Entrepreneurs
As an entrepreneur it is a great idea to build a network other entrepreneurs who do get you and what you are going through. They might also be a great resource to bounce ideas off of. They could be a good barter partner for services your business needs and referral source. They can be a great business and community resources. They can become great personal friends. And who knows, if the timing is right a mutual attraction, who knows maybe become a life partner. Who better to understand your and your entrepreneur’s journey than another entrepreneur?
Your “Why” Is Your Strength
When you boil down to your “why” it will give you strength. When you whole-heartedly believe in your message and your mission it’s easy to stop feeling self-conscious and just do it! You, like me, have something more important than your own insecurities to share. Your audience, customers, clients, constituents, employees, members, life-partner, family, friends, and the community, need you to shake away the clutter, identify and live your why and be as awesome, amazing, inspiring, and as kick-ass as you can be. They deserve it. You deserve it. You have the potential to be a great LGBTQ entrepreneur but they’ll never know it if you don’t step up, own it, and grow into your “why’s” potential. Plan don’t get stifled in thinking perfection is needed before starting. Most entrepreneurs, if honest, learn as they grow, and grow as they learn. Your first step is “why”.