Harmony, an association of LGBTQ and allied entrepreneurs in the Triangle, hopes to create the nation’s first LGBT+-focused business incubator. And it’s making progress.
In late June, the group unveiled project Seen: An LGBT+ Coworking Community, a space where LGBT+ business owners can receive financial support and training to grow their companies.
The plan is to launch Seen within Harmony’s office in Downtown Raleigh’s Warehouse District before moving the incubator to its own location with meeting rooms, artist studios, event space and two retail areas for new businesses to try selling their products and services before making the leap to buy commercial space.
The need for a dedicated LGBT+ incubator stems from societal prejudices, said Harmony Board President Kade Kimber.
“Lending, leasing, basically, any resource that a non-LGBT business owner has access to is statistically not the same for LGBT individuals,” he said.
Studies show a higher percentage of LGBTQ individuals have, at some point in their lives, been rejected by family members than non-LGBT people. This can include being cut off financially during college, which can result in carrying greater debt into adulthood.
Kimber notes the financial obstacles are even tougher for LGBT+ entrepreneurs of color.
“Our goal is to centralize organizations within the community as much as possible into one space,” he said. “So, we are going to give first dibs of leases for the office space to LGBT+ organizations.”
Harmony, which lists 63 area businesses on its online directory, hopes to raise $350,000 to launch Seen. So far, Kimber said the company has raised around $75,000, including from its first corporate sponsor Advance Auto Parts. The Raleigh-based auto parts company has pledged $15,000 in 2022 and 2023 for the project, the Triangle Business Journal first reported.
This story was produced with financial support from a coalition of partners led by Innovate Raleigh as part of an independent journalism fellowship program. The N&O maintains full editorial control of the work.
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