Businesses of the Month: Celebrating Black Entrepreneurs

| By Sarah Jester

Taking place each February, Black History Month is a valuable chance to uplift and spotlight Black voices and accomplishments throughout America’s past, and work toward a much better future. Black History Month also serves as a reminder to continue this practice every month of the year, not just in February. Through the Communities of Color Initiative (CoCI), the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) is proud to be committed to racial justice and equity year-round, and to provide business development resources and exclusive networking opportunities to Black entrepreneurs around the nation.

This month, we spoke to ten Black LGBT business owners about their entrepreneurial journeys, their involvement with NGLCC and CoCI, and what makes their businesses unique. We encourage you to learn more about these businesses below, and to engage and network with the powerhouses behind them!

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Zaylore Stout & Associates, LLC is a boutique employment law firm. Founded by Zaylore Stout, the firm focuses on cases relating to sexual harassment, discrimination, wrongful termination, and wage disputes.

“Our focus is also to engage our clients in proactive measures by ensuring both employees and management are aware of both the laws and rights employees have in the workplace,” explained Stout. “Part of that work includes conducting workplace investigations so that matters are address in-house without litigation.”

Zaylore Stout & Associates has a strong foundational background in human resources, helping the firm to stand out from its competition. Representing both plaintiffs and defendants in litigation, Stout is intimately familiar with the inner workings of employment law. The firm also distinguishes itself through powerful advocacy work with children in educational settings.

“We've already published Our Gay History in Fifty States and our second book Our Black History in Fifty States is already in the works,” Stout said.

Upon securing his LGBTBE certification, Stout was able to leverage supplier diversity resources to grow his business and secure additional contracts.

“It also prompted me to engage in advocacy to broaden supplier diversity efforts in my local community and states where we do business,” he said. “Ensuring others have both knowledge and access to these opportunities is essential to creating a critical mass to diverse businesses that can become tier one suppliers for larger contracts.”

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Fisher Law Practice, P.C. works to create healthier workplaces by addressing office disputes. Under the leadership of Founder and Principal Attorney Genesis Fisher, Fisher Law Practice offers a wide range of services to clients, including mediation, facilitated dialogues, and leadership coaching.

Fisher’s practice has helped over 1,500 people in 6 different countries resolve workplace conflicts, reduce employee turnover, and create a healthy, communicative workplace environment.

“We help people clear the air, communicate about their differences, and repair trust,” Fisher explained. “We also help managers lead with their values. Happy employees mean less turnover, less time investing in hiring and training, fewer lawsuits, and a stellar business reputation.”

Fisher joined the NGLCC to engage with like-minded individuals in the LGBT business community.

“I joined NGLCC for the community of entrepreneurs and business leaders who are looking to make an impact in the world AND want to support folks showing up as their whole self while doing it,” she said.

Connect with Fisher Law Practice on Instagram at @fisherlawpracticepc, or on LinkedIn!

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Taylor Melrose Cosmetics is a beauty and cosmetics manufacturer and distributor. Founded by Skylar Taylor, the Certified LGBTBE® caters to a wide variety of clients ranging from small boutiques to mass-market retailers.

“I formulate and design the packaging for everything in the beauty, skin, hair, and make-up industry,” Taylor explained.

Taylor Melrose Cosmetics is largely fueled by Taylor’s unique and multifaceted skillset. As both a graphic designer and an art director, Taylor leapt from the corporate sector into entrepreneurship.

“What I did for privileged CEOs and companies, I am now able to do for myself, a young, black, gay male with the same resources and talent - but representing myself at the table and delivering on goods within my industry,” said Taylor. “Not many people look like me and I love representing myself, my company, and my community in a space that was underrepresented until now.”

Taylor became a member of the NGLCC to become involved with the larger LGBT business community and its allies.

“NGLCC has brought me incredible resources and major visibility on a national stage right into my laptop and office,” he said.

Connect with Taylor Melrose Cosmetics on Instagram at @taylormelrosecosmetics.

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Content Maven Media is a multimedia production company. Specializing in various kinds of media services, founder Kristy Ramsey help businesses to tell their story in new and innovative ways, including video production, podcast production, livestream production, and photography.

“My ability and want to form lasting relationships with my clients and the numerous amount of certification that my business has, draws many other businesses to at least want to have a conversation,” Ramsey explained.

Content Maven Media is a DBE, ACDBE, BEP, LGBTBE & WMBE certified firm. Through these multiple certifications, Ramsey has built a strong network focused on maintaining and growing business relationships.

“Because I am a Certified LGBTBE®, there have been numerous opportunities for visibility and networking,” said Ramsey. “I get excited when I see emails from Sean (and the NGLCC Engagement Center) because I know that something great awaits in that email and it has the opportunity to do something really good for my business.”

Connect with Content Maven Media on Instagram at @content_maven_media.

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Kosibah is an elevated couture brand specializing in bridal and eveningwear under the direction of acclaimed designer Yemi Osunkoya.

“I design and create custom dresses for weddings and special occasions as well as a line of luxury loungewear I developed over the lockdown period,” Osunkoya told NGLCC.

Osunkoya was classically trained in London, and is well-versed in old school couture techniques. This skillset allows him to create dresses from scratch that are attuned to individual body measurements, therefore helping Kosibah to be inclusive of all body types.

Osunkoya obtained certification for his business to expand his network following his relocation to New York from London.

“I found it great to be connected to the community during lockdown and support over the last year,” he said. “It always buoys up my spirits to have the support of the community behind me. As a Nigerian British gay man in NYC, I am excited for the possibilities the future holds through connections and collaborations with other NGLCC members.”

Connect with Kosibah on social media on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, or LinkedIn

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Certified LGBTBE® Inclusion Score is the Standard Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Operating System™. Inclusion Score’s founders wrote the international consensus on the D&I standard that has now been adopted across 163 nations. Led by James Felton Keith, Inclusion Score created the first insurance policy for a lack of inclusion practices, sells a software platform for D&I audits, and is the primary certifying body for the International Standard for D&I.

“Corporate lawsuits on D&I have skyrocketed above $5,000,000,000 in the US and EU similarly,” Keith explained. “In response, Inclusion Score Inc has created…the first Risk Management Insurance Technology (InsurTech) for D&I. InclusionScore is also the largest D&I data source for change management related to corporate governance, human resources, product delivery, and supplier diversity.”

As one of the first Black LGBTQ person to run for U.S. Congress, as well as the Founding CEO of the Detroit LGBT Chamber of Commerce, Keith is no stranger to breaking barriers. He joined the NGLCC in order to showcase his company’s pride and to set a positive example for other Black LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs.

“That stated, the NGLCC has strategic shortcuts in our ability to use the certification process to garner other certifications faster, like California's Supplier Cleaning House or various city WMBE certifications,” said Keith. “Getting our LGBTBE certification has helped us meet more than 20 S&P500 companies and close new business across the globe in 13 countries with them and their suppliers.”

Connect with Inclusion Score Inc. on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @InclusionScore, or on LinkedIn!

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Stealth Bros & Co is a luxury Dopp kit supply company that provides travel and at-home personal storage for both medical and personal necessities. Founded by Braxton Fleming, Stealth Bros & Co provides innovative, convenient and stylish injectable storage for the transgender community, diabetic individuals, IVF recipients, and other communities in need.

“I've filled a void within our community by providing safe, neat and discreet option to hold all medication/personal needs along with revolutionizing how sharps are disposed, right at home or on-the-go!” Fleming told NGLCC.

Stealth Bros & Co’s mission is to make their clientele feel safe, neat and discreet with their products all while being able to express themselves as individuals. The company seeks to transform the lives of individuals who are taking their daily, weekly or bi-weekly injectables, helping them to feel comfortable wherever they are.

Fleming joined the NGLCC for business development guidance, as well as to grow his LGBT business community.

“Joining NGLCC has ultimately changed my life,” Fleming said. “The phenomenal networking opportunities and access to corporate supplier learning programs has taken my business to the next level in many ways. It's like having a business family in your back pocket for whatever you business needs, you can always reach out to someone and get honest feedback and if someone doesn't know they will point you in the correct direction.”

Connect with Stealth Bros & Co and Fleming on Instagram at @StealthBrosCo and @Sire.Brax.

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Authentique Agency is a multimedia marketing agency. Offering services ranging from Brand Development Graphic Design, Messaging & Public Relations, Social & Digital, Influencer Engagement and Sponsorship Activation, Authentique serves a wide variety of clients with customized offerings.

“Authentique offers masterfully curated 360° marketing plans that create authentic connection to diverse audiences,” explained founder Roy Broderick Jr.. “We have deep general market and multicultural experience. At our core, we are a collective of consciously disruptive creators and strategists passionate about designing campaigns that redefine the narrative.”

Authentique works to challenge the status quo with their innovative marketing services. They not only helps companies to unearth their true selves and share their stories accordingly, but they bring their own selves fully to the table as well.

“Authenticity is who we are - we don't code switch,” Broderick Jr. said. “We always challenge the status quo - we understand that change doesn't happen without disruption.”

Authentique Agency sought out LGBTBE certification to fine-tune their service offerings and obtain market penetration.

“We strategically positioned ourselves within conversations where our capabilities would aid in driving positive business results while aligning our service offerings to meet market demand,” Broderick Jr. explained. “Joining NGLCC also was a personal venture for me as I wanted to feel connected to this part of my multifaceted identity. With the help of NGLCC I've been able to do that nationally and locally through the OUT Ga Business Council.”

Find Authentique Agency on Instagram or LinkedIn at @authentiqueagency.

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Hyphen8tion Studios is a creative solutions firm offering brand, digital, web, and print media. 14 years ago, Alexander Bryan created the firm to provide clients like NBCUniversal, Hilton Hotels Worldwide, LAX, and Paramount Pictures with multimedia solutions and products.

“We are a new age-ency!” Bryan said. “We strive to create experiences and products that are functional and delightful to use, as well as something that the client will be proud to showcase. We keep the end-user at the center of our design philosophy to help us achieve these goals.”

Hyphen8tion Studios was founded with an intent to use on-demand talent and specially customized services for each project. Functioning as a fully remote firm since its inception, the company’s model predated the rise of freelance platforms during the pandemic.

“We’ve found that it gives us a huge advantage by providing the customized services you expect from much larger agencies at lower price points and faster timelines,” explained Bryan.

Hyphen8tion Studios is both LGBTBE and MBE certified. Bryan obtained certification through NGLCC for the firm to form deeper connections with his diverse communities, as well as to grow and develop his business.

“As a one-person shop for the last decade, I am often in a silo so I would love to connect and meet others who might have some of the same stories and experiences,” he said. “I believe that when we work together we create the best results. I am [also] very thankful that you have created CoCi. As a POC it sometimes feels like you are on the margins of an already marginalized community so having a program like this that is directed to people like me feels like I am being heard.”

Connect with Hyphen8tion Studios on LinkedIn.

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Bridge Philanthropic Consulting (BPC) is a full-service fundraising firm and Certified LGBTBE® supplier. Under the guidance of founder & CEO Dwayne Ashley, BPC focuses on providing counsel to plan or enhance capital campaigns, event and program development and planning, and a series of other strategic team building and organizational development initiatives.

“Functioning as the nation’s only full-service Black-owned fundraising firm led by a Black gay man sets BPC apart from most agencies in the fundraising/philanthropic space,” said Ashley. “BPC prides itself on its strong connection to the Black community, most notably through creating 500 jobs for Black people to supplement their income, begin their careers and gain work experience while attending college.”

Ashley joined the NGLCC and obtained certification for BPC to boost his business’s success, as well as to set a positive example for other Black gay entrepreneurs.

“Joining the NGLCC was a decision I made with the idea of economic expansion for the LGBTQIA+ community top-of-mind, as opportunities for our community can be scarce due to unfair stereotypes and generalizations,” he explained. “The NGLCC has created a space where I feel understood regarding the challenges I encounter as a business owner and member of the LGBTQIA+ community through its supportive team and inclusive LGBTBE certification.”

Connect with BPC on Instagram at @bpc.fund.

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Learn more about the NGLCC Communities of Color Initiative (CoCI) and get involved at nglcc.org/coci.