Like other businesses, LOVE LAW FIRM takes time in June to celebrate the accomplishments of the LGBTQ+ community. Almost everyone knows of the tremendous success of Apple's CEO Tim Cook, Inga Beale as CEO of Lloyd's of London and Dow Chemical Company CEO Jim Fitterling. While not worldwide business leaders, many LBGTQ+ small business owners lead companies and follow an entrepreneurial dream like never before.
Finding Avenues to Success
Opportunity welcomes talent, creativity, innovation and courage. LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs start and run businesses that offer challenges and the rewards of accomplishment. With determination and a vision of possibilities, many choose a path of adventure and achievement that knowledge of business law can enhance. Four stand out as representatives of a growing and thriving group of LGBTQ+ small business owners across the country.
Gina Trapani: Powerful LGBTQ+ Force in Tech
Even as early as 2007, the Wall Street Journal recognized Gina Trapani's talented and innovative presence on the internet as the founder and editor of Lifehacker. Her training as a software engineer and her tech writing experience enhanced her membership in a community of entrepreneurs. Univision acquired her highly popular and successful technology and productivity blog in 2016. While managing a team of writers for four years and staying out of the spotlight that appeals to many, she wrote the highly popular and well-received Lifehacker book.
Her love of technology shows in almost everything she does. On her website, she admits to building software and founding companies for more than two decades. As a Managing Partner at Postlight, she leads the company in producing web platforms, apps and other digital products from the New York City studio.
Her articles appeared in some of America's most prestigious publications, including The Harvard Business Review and NYT, which also published a work profile. Recognition of her achievements came from work profiles in the Wall Street Journal and a Rave Award from Wired magazine. Fast Company added praise by listing her as one of the Most Influential Women in Technology.
In an interview with Steminist, she described her early interest in tech as writing BASIC for her family's first computer. On graduation from college, during the dot-com boom, web developer jobs attracted her attention.
At Postlight, she founded ThinkUp, an analytics product partly funded by the MacArthur Foundation. The Obama White House found it a useful tool. Her innovative technological thinking led her to co-create Makerbase, a database for creators of digital projects. Fog Creek later acquired the company. Fast Company honored her by including her on its list of the Most Influential Women in Technology. Business Insider cited her on its list of the most influential LGBTQ+ people in technology. In her work to develop ThinkUp, she offered guidance and encouragement to young coders to pursue their interests in open source software development. She enjoys helping others benefit from the learning experience of building software.
Tim Lemuel: Standing Up for Black Lives Matter at LGBTQ+ Ruby Deluxe
Flashbangs by Raleigh police did not phase eight-year Army veteran Tim Lemuel, but he understood the panic they created among his bar staff. He knows from experience that sounds of shots can mean that people can get hurt or even die.
A local establishment that fans say attracts people who love bars, Ruby Deluxe offers drag shows, live music and dance parties for Raleigh's residents. On the first day of Pride month, he faced police flashbangs while using his business as a support station for Black Lives Matter protesters. The activity attracted a lot of attention and consternation in the southern city. A video of the interaction went viral, showing the intrusive interference by the police while Lemuel and his staff handed out bottles of water and snacks.
The trouble started the night before when Lemuel discovered a white supremacist sign on his building, along with broken windows and doors. While the police approached with shotguns, he tried to explain that he had owned the business for five years. However, the shotgun blasts made him and his staff back off. The City Council later condemned the actions by the sheriff's deputies. Lemuel turned the resulting focus on his LGBTQ+ bar into directing contributions to provide bail funds and support for social justice groups. Almost a thousand people who got hurt in the peaceful protests received the kindness that Lemuel offered for about seven hours before the police arrived.
Arlan Hamilton: Making Funding Fair and Equitable
Dedication to making opportunity available to people who rarely receive it inspired Arlan Hamilton to found Backstage Capital. The Los Angeles Times was sufficiently impressed with her drive and determination that it published a feature article about her. Truly an exceptional person, Hamilton is Black and a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Even more remarkable, she was homeless when she founded and built her venture capital company. Business law can provide a basis for understanding the complex world of venture capital.
Intending to minimize the disparities in funding, she chose to invest in people of color, women and members of the LGBTQ+ community. The phenomenal success she has achieved since 2015 shows in her ability to raise more than $15 million and investing in at least 170 startups with founders who deserved the faith she placed in them. More recently, she expanded her outreach by co-founding Backstage Studio that supports accelerator programs for deserving founders in Detroit and Philadelphia, Los Angeles and London.
Part of Hamilton's inspiration came from seeing Ellen DeGeneres and Ashton Kutcher invest in startups. Her desire to start a company coincided with her observations which also let her note that most of the funding recipients did not fit the profile of underrepresented and undervalued founders. The opportunity to challenge the gaps in diversity and equity motivated her to develop her own company. Without a college degree or access to wealthy circles, she actually had no place to live when she made her pitches to investors. She found a home at an airport or someone's couch, and she does not recommend the path she took to anyone else. It just turned out as the only way forward for her.
She recognizes the challenge of obtaining funding but relies on her competitive spirit that makes her want to make millions. A motivation that informs her drive, she knows that she must play catch-up to erase inequities of hundreds of years of institutional discrimination.
Stephanie Lampkin: Creating Fairness in Recruitment
From experience, Stephanie Lampkin knows that the hiring process often allows bias to prevent qualified applicants from consideration. The effect that age, gender and race can have on an application may surpass skills, education and work history. Convinced of the unfairness of the traditional evaluation process, Lampkin decided to found Blendoor and build a recruiting platform that prevents it. The use of her innovative approach by Airbnb, Facebook, Google and Twitter reflects the validity of her idea and the success it has achieved.
Fortune reported increases in corporate support of racial justice after George Floyd's murder, but research showed some conflicting results. Companies that expressed solidarity with the Black community had fewer Black employees than those who did not commit. The difference of 20 percent highlighted an issue that Lampkin wanted Blendoor to address. Even though the support for diversity presented disappointing results, companies' financial commitments created more than twice as much as all amounts accumulated in the previous six years.
The startup that she founded to prevent inequities in hiring helps companies reach a more diverse candidate pool.
Coding held a fascination for Lampkin, who started doing it as a teenager. With degrees from MIT and Stanford, she has dedicated her efforts to using technology to strengthen diversity and prevent unconscious bias. Her innovative use of knowledge and skills allows companies to view candidates without names or pictures, factors that often influence hiring decisions.
Pitchbook shows venture capital funding of $150,000 for the recruiting and analytics company. Blendoor's software sources job applicants from diverse areas such as universities and strategic partners, Missing information about candidates includes age as well as photo and name. Without it, Lampkin's company helps corporations select qualified applicants without relying on race or gender, disabled identity, LGBTQ+ or military service descriptors.
Visible Figures, a network that she runs for Black women in tech, provides opportunities for members to exchange knowledge with others. Frequent topics include press advice, contacts, connections and funding. Lampkin recognizes the struggle to achieve necessary change but does not shy away from it.
LOVE LAW FIRM was founded on the premise that the businesses of Main Street deserve the same access to quality legal services that those on Wall Street enjoy. We strive every day to provide our clients with the depth of insight, clarity and commitment that they deserve. We love stories of individuals who have made the decision to make a difference for themselves, their families, and their communities. Every day we tell our clients that we are proud to be a small part of their success stories. As an LGBTQ+ owned business ourselves, Pride is something we feel every day of the year.
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Francine E. Love is the Founder & Managing Attorney at LOVE LAW FIRM, PLLC which dedicates its practice to serving entrepreneurs, start-ups and small businesses. The opinions expressed are those of the author. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice. To learn more about LOVE LAW FIRM please see our website, www.lovelawfirmpllc.com.