Business Credit and Loan Resources for LGBTQIA+ Business Owners

Starting and running a business is seldom an easy-breezy endeavor. It’s something that requires a lot of grit, persistence, and unfortunately, capital.

For members of the LGBTQIA+ community, these barriers are often compounded. According to the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, the LGBTQIA+ community in the United States includes 1.4 million business owners, who collectively contribute more than a trillion dollars to the American economy.

Sadly, about 46% of those business owners report that they received none of the financing they applied for in the past year, compared to just 35% of non-LGBTQIA+ business owners.

Clearly, there’s still room for improvement when it comes to supporting LGBTQIA+ small businesses — and that’s where this guide comes in. We’ve collected a list of business credit and loan resources for LGBTQIA+ business owners to help get you up and running.

Whether you’re in the early stages of business planning or looking to expand, we have the resources to meet you right where you are. 

Qualifications for Loans/Credit for LGBTQIA+-Owned Businesses

Each business loan or credit option we’ll talk about has its own list of qualifications. It’s always wise to read the fine print to make sure you and your business will qualify before you start filling out applications.

However, there tend to be some common requirements among these organizations, most of which fall in line with the programs granted by the Small Business Administration (SBA). 

In general, you will need to meet the following qualifications:

  • Your business must be for-profit
  • The business must be operating within the United States or its territories
  • You must be able to prove you have equity in the business — investing your own time and money

Some programs require a certain number of years in business (two years is common) along with strong financials. That means you need a decent credit score (typically good to excellent — 650 or higher) and the demonstrated capability to repay your loans.

However, some of the programs on this list (including some loans offered by the SBA) are more lenient, allowing borrowers to qualify who have lower credit scores and less time in business.

Unique Financial Challenges within the LGBTQIA+ Community

Applying for business funding is challenging for everyone, but LGBTQIA+ individuals often face a more complex financial landscape. Transgender and gender non-conforming people, for example, have experienced higher rates of unemployment and lower wages as well as challenges in accessing education and traditional paths to financial stability.

This means securing business funding may also be more difficult — though certainly not impossible. 

Types of Loans Available to LGBTQIA+ Entrepreneurs

The loans available for LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs tend to be no different from those available to any other business owner. There are a few avenues worth exploring.


SBA loans (offered by the Small Business Administration), as well as microloans (small, short-term loans with shorter repayment periods), are vital tools for fostering entrepreneurship, particularly in underserved communities. 

Both loans tend to have lower interest rates and more inclusive approval criteria, which helps small businesses gain access to capital they might not qualify for through normal business programs.

Bank Business Loans

The bank is often the first place entrepreneurs go when they’re looking for business funding. If possible, seek out banks known for their inclusive practices and commitment to diversity. Some banks also offer dedicated funding and other resources specifically for LGBTQIA+ business owners. 

Online Business Loans

The rise of online lenders has created more opportunities for diverse entrepreneurs, including LGBTQIA+ business owners. These lenders often have more flexible underwriting criteria and provide quicker access to funds, which is crucial for businesses that require rapid capital infusion.

How to Apply for Business Loans

Applying for a business loan may be daunting. However, with the right preparation, it can be smooth sailing.

Remember, each grant or loan varies in terms of what you’re expected to provide or the qualifications you must meet, but this rough guide should get you most of the way there.

What to Expect

  • Research: Understand the types of business loans available and which ones best suit your needs. The guide below will help you get started. 
  • Credit Check: Lenders will assess your creditworthiness to determine loan approval and terms. Before working on applications, do your best to raise your credit score by paying your bills on time. 
  • Documentation: Prepare financial statements, business plans, tax returns, and other relevant documents. You’ll need this set of documents for anybody with ownership in your business.
  • Interest Rates: Be aware of interest rates and fees associated with loans. As these may significantly add to the cost of your loan over time, you should choose a loan you can repay.

Pre-Application Checklist

Before applying for a business loan, make sure you have the following items ready to streamline the application process and avoid any delays:

  • A business plan outlining your goals and financial projections
  • Financial statements, such as income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements
  • Tax returns for the business and, possibly, personal tax returns
  • Legal documents, including business licenses, registrations, and any contracts
  • Collateral information, if the lender requires this


American Association of University Women Career Development Grant

The Women Career Development Grant supports women (including those who identify as LGBTQIA+) by providing funding for education and career development. It helps them advance in their chosen fields and overcome barriers to success.

Arcus Foundation Grants

The Arcus Foundation Grants focus on social justice issues, including LGBTQ rights globally. It supports organizations and initiatives that work towards equality, inclusion, and acceptance for LGBTQIA+ individuals, fostering systemic change and advocacy efforts.

Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice Grants

The Astraea Lesbian Foundation offers several grants to American and international businesses. It focuses solely on nonprofits striving for social change. Amounts typically range from $5,000 to $30,000. To qualify, you must show that your project is working with or on behalf of queer, intersex, or transgender communities on issues such as weather and disaster resilience, environmental racism, or climate justice. 

Borealis Philanthropy Grants

Borealis Philanthropy offers various funding opportunities to support marginalized communities (including LGBTQIA+ individuals) by providing resources for organizations working towards social justice, equity, and empowerment.

Coca-Cola Foundation Grants

The Coca-Cola Foundation grants aim to empower diverse communities (including the LGBTQIA+ community) through initiatives focused on education, health, and environmental sustainability.

David Bohnett Foundation Grants

The David Bohnett Foundation is unique in that it does not accept unsolicited grant applications — you can apply by invitation only. Your organization will need to be striving to improve society through activism. The best way to get noticed? Hold community events and encourage community members to write to the foundation.

Eileen Fisher’s Community Partnership Grant

Eileen Fisher’s grant supports female and LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs. It’s geared toward those who are working to foster environmental and economic health in their own communities.

ExxonMobil Foundation Grants

ExxonMobil Foundation grants support various community programs, such as those that focus on STEM education, women’s empowerment, and LGBTQIA+ initiatives.

Ford Foundation Grants

The Ford Foundation provides 1,500 grants each year to support social justice causes (including LGBTQIA+ rights) by funding organizations that address systemic inequalities, advocate for policy changes, and work towards building more inclusive societies.

Founders First National Pride Grant

The Founders First National Pride Grant targets LGBTQIA+ small businesses, offering financial support and resources to help these entrepreneurs grow their ventures sustainably and navigate the challenges unique to their community. is a comprehensive database of federal grants available across various sectors. It provides LGBTQIA+ organizations and individuals with access to funding opportunities to support a wide range of initiatives — from research to community development.

National Pride Grant for LGBTQIA+ Small Businesses Grants

One of the best-known funding resources for the LGBTQIA+ community, the National Pride Grant offers 25 grants per year, totaling $25,000. You must identify as an LGBTQIA+ business owner, have at least a year in business, and have two to 50 employees. You must make less than $5 million in annual revenue. 

NGLCC Community Impact Grant Program

Offered by the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, this grant is designed to support restaurant owners. Grants range from $10,000 to $25,000. To qualify, you must prove you are LGBTQ owned or allied. 

NYC Pride Grant

The NYC Pride Grant awards thousands each year to LGBTQIA-friendly and LGBTQIA-affirming organizations. Each award is $10,000. Recipients are small businesses in the New York City area.

Open Meadows Foundation Grants

The Open Meadows Foundation offers grants for businesses that are led by and benefit women and girls. You must be a 501(c)(3) charity to qualify.

Pepper Startup Grant for Black Women

The Pepper Startup Grant is a $5,000 award for Black women and nonbinary entrepreneurs who are in the early stages of business and have raised less than $500,000 in external equity financing. In addition to the monetary stipend, you’ll have access to promotions and mentorship calls. 

Restaurant Business Development Grant Program

Do you own a restaurant or another type of business in the food service industry? If so, the Restaurant Business Development Grant Program through the Feed the Soul Foundation might be a good choice for you. Your business must be at least 51% owned by someone identifying as LGBTQ+ or be a Black, indigenous, Latinx, veteran, or formerly-incarcerated individual. 

SoGal Black Founder Startup Grant

The SoGal Black Founder Startup Grant is for Black and nonbinary entrepreneurs who own “highly disruptive brands” and have inclusivity as a driving force.

State and Local Grants

Take a deep dive into the programs your state offers. Each state offers different programs for LGBTQIA+ business owners, but some examples include:

The Transform Business Grant

The Transform Business Grant is a microgrant to support individuals in systematically oppressed groups, including (but not limited to):

  • People of color
  • Queer, transgender, and nonbinary individuals
  • Formerly incarcerated people

Though the grant is small — $1,000 — you’ll also receive a customized business strategy and development program for a year.

Venture Capital Firms and Angel Investor Networks

Diversity VC

Diversity VC delivers expert tips to help businesses create successful enterprises and connect with other business owners focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion.


Gaingels is an investment organization composed of private investors dedicated to diversity and inclusion. They offer a significant amount of capital to LGBTQ+ people and other underrepresented individuals.

Pipeline Angels

Pipeline Angels is an angel investor firm that offers capital to two-spirit, nonbinary, cisgender women, transgender women, agender, and gender-nonconforming business owners. The firm requires business owners to present their business ideas at a pitch summit to receive funding (not unlike Shark Tank!).


As the name implies, IFundWomen specializes in small business grants for women and queer-owned businesses. As it’s a crowdfunding platform, you’ll need to do your own fundraising and marketing, but it can be a great way to raise capital for your business.

Backstage Capital

Backstage Capital is a venture capital fund that invests in companies owned by underrepresented groups (such as people of color and LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs) and women. Your business needs to be highly scalable and can generate a 10x return on its investment. 

Resources That Support LGBTQIA+ Businesses

Queer to Stay: An LGBTQIA+ Business Preservation Initiative

The Queer to Stay annual grant program was launched in 2020 to support small businesses focused on women, LGBTQ+ people of color, and other individuals, particularly those who were impacted directly by the COVID-19 pandemic. It not only awards grant funding but also offers additional resources, all courtesy of the Human Rights Campaign and the TV network Showtime.


StartOut provides a variety of resources, such as community forums and networks, product discounts, and events to help LGBTQ+ business owners get their operations up and running. There is also an investor portal you can use to find capital.

Women’s Business Centers

The Association of Women’s Business Centers works hard to secure entrepreneurial opportunities for women (including those in the LGBTQIA+ community) to give them access to financing, networking, training, and much more.

Rainbow Rundown: Accessible Financial Services for LGBTQIA+

This podcast is recorded at the Rainbow Clubhouse at the Emma L. Bowen Community Service Center. As part of a work-ordered rehabilitation program for adults with a mental health diagnosis, it is a good resource for LGBTQIA+ community members who are interested in bettering their lives, businesses, and communities. 

National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC)

The NGLCC is an advocacy organization that offers the LGBT Business Enterprise certification, which we’ll describe in more detail below. It also offers networking, mentoring, and other resources.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s LGBTQ Inclusion Hub

The LGBTQ Inclusion Hub provides an easy-to-use online platform for LGBTQ business owners to find resources and inspiration, including diversity and inclusion resources for workplaces.

Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs)

SBDCs are sponsored by the SBA and hosted at local colleges and economic development agencies. They offer resources like mentorship, training, networking, and coaching. Although they don’t offer direct funding, the centers offer resources to help you find funds and grow your business.

LGBTBE Certification from NGLCC

The LGBTBE certification from NGLCC includes access to scholarship programs, leadership training, and other tools to build your business. 

Small Business Administration LGBT Outreach

The SBA has an LGBT Outreach division to help business owners find local offices and resources. This isn’t available everywhere, but some divisions include:

Queer Business Alliance

Last but not least, the Queer Business Alliance is a nonprofit organization that provides resources and education to LGBTQ+ business owners. These resources include quarterly workshops, peer-to-peer mentorship, and microgrants. 

Navigating the financial landscape as an LGBTQIA+ entrepreneur can be daunting, but with the right information and resources, it’s within your reach. 

Remember, every business starts with a dream — with the right support, that dream can become your unique legacy. 


What is an LGBTQIA+-owned business?

An LGBTQIA+-owned business is defined as a business where the majority ownership, typically 51% or more, is held by one or more individuals who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community. This includes individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, or any other non-heteronormative or non-cisnormative identity. These businesses may range from small startups to large enterprises and can operate in any industry.

How do grants work?

Grants are funds provided by an organization, government agency, or individual that do not require repayment. They are awarded based on specific criteria, such as the nature of the business, its social impact, or the financial needs of the entrepreneur.

Are there specific organizations that support LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs? 

Yes, there are several organizations, such as the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), StartOut, the LGBTQ Victory Institute and more that provide resources, networking opportunities, and financial support to LGBTQIA+ business owners.

How can I improve my chances of securing a loan or grant? 

To improve your chances, ensure you have a strong business plan, a good credit score, and all necessary documentation. It also helps to demonstrate how your business positively impacts the community or addresses a specific need.

Do I need to be certified as an LGBTQIA+-owned business to access specific resources?

While certification is not always required, it can provide access to exclusive resources and opportunities.

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