Trade Opportunities and Challenges for LGBTQI+ -Owned Businesses in the United States

Despite ongoing setbacks threatening our rights and wellbeing, there has been a growing recognition of the economic contributions of the LGBTQI+ community in the United States within the past 10 years. Analysis conducted by Witeck Communications, a nationally-recognised strategic communications firm, estimates that the combined buying power of the U.S. lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) adult population for 2015 is approximately USD917 billion. Additionally, a 2019 LGBTQ Consumer Products Survey Report revealed that 76% of LGBTQ consumers agree that the brands they buy tend to be openly supportive of the LGBTQ community, with 79% agreeing they would pay a premium for products sold by an LGBTQ-friendly company instead of purchasing from their competitors. The demonstrated economic purchasing power of the LGBTQI+ community in the United States coupled with LGBTQI+ consumers’ commitment to supporting LGBTQI+ – friendly products illustrates a profitable market which encourages global LGBTQI+ businesses to export to the United States.

When it comes to the potential of LGBTQI+ businesses based in the United States to expand internationally, these businesses often see exporting as a long-term goal worth exploring when and if the time is right. Additionally, because of the barriers to entry and lack of data regarding the economic purchasing power of the LGBTQI+ community outside the United States, exporting is not their priority unless they have a specific target of potential buyers. Data on the economic purchasing power of the LGBTQI+ community worldwide is an important missing incentive to export for several reasons, but mainly because it could help US-based LGBTQI+ – businesses and marketers understand the potential market size and consumer behaviour of this community in other parts of the world, enabling them to tailor their products and services to better meet their needs which in turn can lead to more inclusive and targeted marketing strategies while fostering a sense of belonging and loyalty among LGBTQI+ consumers.

Nevertheless, it is crucial to pay close attention to trade as a means for US-based LGBTQI+ – owned businesses to generate additional revenue and go global. Here are some of the benefits and challenges LGBTQI+ – owned businesses in the United States face to enter the global marketplace.

Trade Benefits for LGBTIQ+ -Owned Businesses
1. Increased Market Access – Opening up trade opportunities allows LGBTQI+ – owned businesses to access larger consumer markets beyond their domestic borders. This expansion in market reach can lead to increased profitability and sustainability for these businesses. A study, reported by the International Trade Association (ITA), of U.S. exporters found that 60 per cent of small companies and 44 per cent of medium-sized companies in the survey derived 20 per cent of annual earnings from exports.

2. Diverse Consumer Base – The LGBTQI+ community represents a significant consumer base with specific needs and preferences. LGBTQI+ – owned businesses can tap into this market by offering customised products and services that resonate with this demographic. By understanding and meeting the demands of the LGBTQI+ community, these businesses can gain a competitive edge and thus increase their revenue.

3. Economic Empowerment – Trade opportunities enable LGBTQI+ entrepreneurs to create jobs and generate economic growth. By supporting and promoting LGBTQI+ – owned businesses, governments and trade organisations can foster entrepreneurship, reduce unemployment rates, and contribute to the overall economic development of a community, city, state, and country as a whole.

1. Discrimination and Prejudice – LGBTQI+ – owned businesses may face discriminatory practices and barriers to trade even in countries with standing protection laws. Stakeholders across sectors should actively work to fight discriminatory business practices and enforce policies that protect the rights of LGBTQI+ entrepreneurs. Encouraging dialogue, education, and awareness can help change attitudes, especially among private and public sector entities and create a more inclusive trade and business environment.

2. Access to Capital – Like all small and diverse businesses, LGBTQI+ – owned enterprises also struggle to secure financing and investment. Governments, financial institutions, and venture capitalists should provide accessible funding options and credit opportunities, mentorship programmes, financial education and information regarding the red tape attached to exporting goods including taxes and penalties to encourage and prepare LGBTQI+ – owned businesses to export.

3. Data and Security Threats – Data and security threats are also a major concern for U.S.-based LGBTQI+ business owners seeking to export and conduct business abroad, especially in places where anti-LGBTQI+ laws and social attitudes are the norm and represent a threat to both the local community as well as for those visiting be it for business or leisure.

4. Understanding the Purchasing Power of the LGBTQI+ Community Outside the U.S. – International businesses are incentivised to sell to the LGBTQI+ community in the United States because there is data available on the purchasing power of the LGBTQI+ community, whereas other countries do not fully grasp the impact of being able to demonstrate their LGBTQI+ communities purchasing power to interested buyers. Therefore, exporting is not a priority for LGBTQI+ owned businesses based in the United States to sell overseas, in this case to the LGBTQI+ community abroad, simply because we need more data on LGBTQI+ consumers’ economic and purchasing power abroad. With access to data on LGBTQI+ purchasing power abroad, LGBTQI+ businesses based in the United States and elsewhere will be able to make a more informed assessment of the economic benefits they gain from exporting globally and thus be more keen to do so.

5. Networking and Mentorship – LGBTQI+ business owners may face challenges in networking and finding mentors who understand their unique experiences. Trade organisations and professional networks should establish platforms and initiatives that connect LGBTQI+ business owners with established mentors who can provide guidance, support, and industry insights.

By dismantling discriminatory barriers and fostering a more inclusive trade environment, we can contribute to a world where diversity and equality are celebrated in the marketplace in every corner of the world.

Success Stories – Industries
Numerous success stories highlight the potential and resilience of LGBTQI+ – owned businesses in the global market. For example, a 2016 study by Out Now revealed the global lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender travel market is now worth over USD211 billion in consumer spending per year. By tapping into these profitable markets and curating inclusive and safe experiences for LGBTQI+ travellers, LGBTQI+ – owned travel agencies have emerged as leaders in the travel industry. Additionally, fashion and beauty brands owned by LGBTQI+ people have gained international recognition for their creativity and authenticity. These success stories demonstrate the untapped potential and market demand for LGBTQI+ – owned business community in these and many other industries.


The expansion of trade opportunities for LGBTQI+ – owned businesses holds immense potential for economic growth, social progress, and the promotion of inclusivity. By recognising and supporting these businesses, governments and trade organisations can foster entrepreneurship, job creation, and economic empowerment within the LGBTQI+ community. Ensuring trade in safe, inclusive, and supportive environments could help these businesses to turn to export opportunities, and thrive economically while also contributing to socioeconomic progress. Furthermore, by dismantling discriminatory barriers and fostering a more inclusive trade environment, we can contribute to a world where diversity and equality are celebrated in the marketplace in every corner of the world. Through collaborative efforts, we can ensure that trade opportunities become a platform for positive change, enabling LGBTQI+ – owned businesses to thrive and contribute to a more inclusive global economy which in turn benefits each and every one of us.


Recent Blog Posts