Canada’s first LGBTQ trade mission to the UK highlights opportunities for LGBTQ-owned businesses

A woman with curly hair is turning over an "open" sign behind a glass door.

In the first-of-its-kind event, an LGBTQ+ trade mission from Canada has visited the UK to talk about the opportunities available for – and challenges faced by – LGBTQ-owned businesses.  

The event, hosted by Canada’s LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce (CGLCC) and its UK counterpart, OutBritain, featured speakers from both the UK and Canadian governments along with corporate partners from Apple, Amazon, Fidelity International and Dow Chemicals, to name a few. 

“This is a historic moment for Canada’s LGBTQ businesses and we are proud to be promoting and supporting their growth internationally,” said Darrell Schuurman, CEO and co-founder of CGLCC.

“From accessing a larger customer base and increasing profitability to diversifying revenue streams and staying competitive, there are so many benefits to international expansion.”

Matt Dabrowski, CEO and founder of OutBritain, added: “The US and Canada have a long and successful history of supporting LGBT+ business owners through their dedicated Chambers of Commerce.”

Canada boasts over 100,000 LGBTQ-owned businesses that generate over $22 billion in annual revenue and employ nearly half a million Canadians. Simply put, queer-owned businesses mean big business – but even with progress, the work is never done. 

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Statistics provided by CGLCC show that:

  • 1 in 5 LGBTQ-owned businesses continues to face challenges abroad, due to their being part of the community.
  • 1 in 3 LGBTQ-owned businesses have purposefully hidden their LGBTQ+ status.
  • 1 in 3 has faced discrimination because of being LGBTQ+.
  • 1 in 4 have lost contracts due to LGBTQ+ ownership.
  • 1 in 5 found it difficult to access mentorship and coaching.
  • Overall, LGBTQ+-owned businesses are under-represented in global trade.

Canadian Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, the Honourable Rob Oliphant used the event to highlight that the CGLCC served as a reminder that “working with LGBT+ businesses is not just about celebrating ‘Pride’ it is also about doing great business with great business owners.”

He added: “We are committed to helping our partners succeed, so they can thrive, create jobs and go out and talk about all of the great things we are doing in Canada!” 

From left to right: Darrell Schuurman, CEO and co-founder of CGLCC, Minister for Equalities, Stuart Andrew, Matt Dabrowski, CEO OutBritain.
From left to right: Darrell Schuurman, CEO and co-founder of CGLCC, Minister for Equalities, Stuart Andrew, Matt Dabrowski, CEO OutBritain. (Laura Palmer)

“There was no support system in place”

Here in the UK, queer-owned small businesses still have the chance to thrive – despite hiccups in the economic outlook and the discriminatory hurdles LGBTQ+ business owners face.

Dobrowski said: “When I moved to the UK three years ago, there was no such support system in place. I have seen first-hand the value which LGBTQ business owners bring to the economy, not to mention the game-changing opportunities that are available for minority-owned businesses through corporate partners looking to diversify their supply chain.” 

Minister for Equalities, Stuart Andrew, talked about the role LGBTQ-owned businesses have to play in the successes of the UK economy and highlighted the need to support equality by researching the economic cost of discrimination.

According to Dabrowski, one of the challenges in the UK is that historically LGBTQ+ business owners have been reluctant to be out and proud in the workplace for fear of discrimination. With big corporations actively seeking majority-owned LGBTQ+ businesses with whom to partner, as part of their commitment to supplier diversity, visibility is key.

In response, OutBritain has developed a certification scheme which certifies majority-owned LGBTQ+ businesses making them easier to identify while ensuring they can access the business support they need.

The ability to identify LGBTQ-owned businesses will become more important than ever as companies are increasingly held accountable not only for what they can do for their customers but also the good that they do for their local community and the wider world as a whole. A large part of this will be their ability to demonstrate the diversity of their supply chain.

Dabrowski concluded: “We are honoured to have played a part in bringing together such a gathering of influential individuals committed to advancing the opportunities for LGBTQ business owners both at home and abroad.” 

“The community is bursting with entrepreneurial talent and we committed to helping LGBTQ business owners to gain the recognition they deserve.”

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