LGBTQ+ entrepreneur shares expert tips on building a thriving business with help from Meta

Stephen Watkins

Taking the plunge and opening a small business as an LGBTQ+ person can be life-changing.

It can be glorious an opportunity to shout your Pride from the rooftops, but it can also be a gamble – not only are you striking out alone, you’re also likely to face systemic barriers.

It’s why Meta has launched its Small Business Parade, an initiative celebrating LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs by giving them a platform to share their stories, advice and Pride.

Among them is artist Stephen Watkins, who came out as gay 2018.

“I was 42 and married with three kids,” Stephen tells PinkNews. After coming out, he moved to London, where the vibrancy of the city filled him with hope for the future. Then came the COVID-19 pandemic. 

When he was placed on furlough, Watkins had time to reflect on what truly brought him fulfilment in life. After working as an architect for 20 years, he decided to take the plunge and pursue his hobby – painting cityscapes – as a full-time career.

Living authentically as a gay man has been integral to Stephen’s thriving new business. But he also couldn’t have changed his career and achieved such quick success without social media.


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His profiles on Instagram and Facebook became a de-facto gallery space and online shop, where he could showcase and sell his paintings, while also generating new commissions. He now has 25,000 followers on Facebook and 2,700 followers on Instagram.

“Most of my artwork is sold through social media,” Stephen says. “It’s a massive help to my business.”

Using Meta’s Make It With Pride resources, queer business owners like Stephen can learn how to best use Facebook and Instagram to maximise their potential, while discovering how visibility and equality can be harnessed for growth.

As part of the initiative, Meta offers training to help small businesses grow. Recently, it launched a three-part series with Arlan Hamilton on mastering the basics of financial planning and overcoming gate-keeping in the world of investment.

Meta has also published a Global LGBTQ+ Culture Guide for businesses that want to be better LGBTQ+ allies all year-round, offering insights, inspiration and expert advice.

One of the things that has helped Stephen’s business is Reels, which can be used to reach a broad audience of new potential customers. Stephen regularly posts time-lapse videos showing the process behind bringing his skyline artworks to life, using Reels transition effects.

“I think if I didn’t have social media, I would be struggling,” Stephen says. “It just gives you a space to be who you are and connect with people. I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing without Facebook and Instagram.”

Now based in Suffolk, Stephen hosts a “painting and wine” evening, by streaming on Facebook Live, at least once a month. Each time, he connects with up to 2,000 people watching live, drinks wine, discusses his work and sometimes gives out prizes, like small drawings or prints.

 “It generates a lot of interest and buzz,” he says. “I always get some sales after it, because I think people want that connection to the person who is making the art, so Facebook has been a good way for me to interact with people and expand my network of followers and customers.”

Social media has been integral to Stephen’s journey of personal self-discovery too, which has enabled his painting business to thrive. Without being authentic in himself, he doesn’t think he could have been as successful. 

“As a recently out gay man, I’ve met so many amazing groups of people on social media. I don’t think I’d have gone into my painting if I was still in the closet,” he says. “It wouldn’t have worked out, because I wasn’t really being me.”

Visit Meta’s Make It With Pride resource to find out more.