LGBTQ+ Entrepreneurs Share Their Pride – UConn Center for Career Development

Local Entrepreneurs ID CT LGBTQ + shared with us their business ventures. They offer guidance and advice to others in the queer community looking to follow similar paths, along with personal insights about openness in their identity as business owners.

HBar Salon and Spa

First, we have HBar Salon and Spa. Antonio is the owner and chief stylist of HBAR Salon & Spa and has been in the industry for almost 20 years. As an educator for Goldwell he is proud to carry exclusively Goldwell and Oribe products at the salon along with Dermalogica for aesthetic services. It has been published in Huda Beauty, CBS, WAG and others. His specialty is color repairs and blonde services.

Antonio was born and raised in Stamford and always wanted to own his own living room and dreamed of opening one in his hometown. The opening during the COVID-19 epidemic was not part of his dream, but he not only opened the business but prospered through the epidemic. He appreciates his entire team for allowing their first years and he is excited about the future.

(Photo and information provided by HBAR Salon & Spa)

Photo credit: HBar Salon and Spa

What does it mean for you to be open with your identity as a business owner and what advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs within the LGBTQ + community?

Antonio: “My goal to be my authentic self as a business owner is that no matter who you are and where you come from you can do anything. I’m aware that it sounds cheesy but it’s the one 100% truth.

If you believe in yourself and your art your hard work will pay off.

All my life I have had a dream of opening my own salon and spa. With the help of my family I was able to fulfill my dreams and much more. Starting a business was one of the hardest things I ever did, to continue to succeed is the second most difficult. I work 10-12 hours a day 7 days a week and I love it.

They say that if you do what you love, you will not work one day in your life, it is not true at all, but I will say that the satisfaction of doing it is worth every moment. ”

Will Beauty Store

Then, we have Will from Shop Will Beauty. Will set up Shop Will Beauty in 2017 as an online store to buy drag queens designed wigs. Over the years they have expanded to include a wide range of wig-related products and shifted their focus to being a comprehensive store of human hair wigs for everyone under and outside the LGBTQ umbrella. Every human hair wig they sell is made to order so they can ensure that people of all shapes and sizes will find the perfect fit. They believe that beauty is a powerful tool of self-affirmation to show the world your true identity.

Will started doing theater in college and specialized in a wig and makeup store at Juilliard School after college. Even though it was such an amazing experience, they realized that doing theater is not their journey. Will always wanted to be independent and their passion for drag and queer performance art pushed them to focus on wigs for drag queens and other LGBTQ actresses. They have now increased their business to sell over $ 30,000 a month in human hair wigs, their own line of glued wigs and adhesives and other accessories.

(Photo and information provided by Shop Will Beauty)

Photo credit: Shop Will Beauty

What does it mean for you to be open with your identity as a business owner and what advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs within the LGBTQ + community?

desire: “Being a proud open queer person is the foundation of my business. When I started selling wigs marketed specifically for drag entertainers, I used myself to model my wigs. Social media was a very powerful tool for increasing my brand awareness and I was always at the top and center of my content. I think my audience Really connecting to seeing me present myself fluently with my gender expression.

The advice I would offer to other small LGBTQ businesses is to make sure people can connect your face to your brand. This is the beauty of a small business. People like to know where their money is going and who they are supporting. The more authentically you present yourself, the more people will connect with you and want to support your business. “

Lightning & Vine

Finally, we have Ralph and Lewis from Bark & ​​Vine. Bark & ​​Vine was started as an Instagram page in 2017 by Ralph and Lewis to share their gardening experiences as parents and new homeowners. They wanted their adventure to be a diary for anyone who kept saying “I can not keep a plant alive” to remind them that green thumbs are beneficial, not gifted.

With their dog, Coco, playing and barking while they were in kindergarten gave them the idea to go there, Bark & ​​Vine. Their new home was quickly filled with houseplants as they naturally brought their passion and knowledge of outdoor gardening. “Shells and vines? It must be at home!” They recently adopted a new dog named Moss. He definitely joined the ponytail with the loud barks in the garden and unfortunately enjoyed chewing their houseplants.

A few years later, Ralph and Lewis found themselves at home during the plague. During their quarantine, they spent their free time in the garden learning how to grow all kinds of different plants and vegetables while cultivating their passion for indoor and outdoor gardening. One evening, Lewis suggested to Ralph the idea of ​​opening a plant store. Ralph’s background in retail and design and the useful work of Lewis and the entrepreneurial mindset have become the perfect combination that has propelled Bark & ​​Vine from the Instagram pages to a full plant business within a few months.

The business opened as an online store during the plague peak in August 2020 and later moved to white space in New Haven, CT in February 2021. Bark & ​​Vine quickly became a destination for plant lovers where they could find easy-care plants to begin their plant journey to unique and uncommon plants. More for near and far plant collectors.

(Information and photos provided by Bark & ​​Vine)

(Image provided by Bark & ​​Vine)

What does it mean for you to be open with your identity as a business owner and what advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs in the LGBTQ + community?

Ralph and Lewis: “At Bark & ​​Vine, we strive to be an example of what success can look like for people and queer communities. We take our responsibility to our communities seriously, whether the LGBTQIA + community or the plant community, and always strive to create a welcoming, loving and kind space. , And without fear of prejudice or hatred.

I would say to aspiring entrepreneurs that being vocal about searching and expecting the same treatment in return will allow you to attract the right customers and team members, without bearing the burden of constantly representing an entire group of people alone. “There is no agenda, no end game, but simply a group of people who love plants that happen to be queer and allies.”

Thanks to all the developers for sharing their stories and tips! For more resources centered around entrepreneurship, check out the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Career Community here.


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