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LGBTQ Owned Business Certification – The Why’s & How’s

By Kimberly Kafafian


You may have heard about certification programs for small businesses, as well as for businesses owned by minorities, women and veterans. But there is also a lesser known certification that we are excited to bring to your attention: LGBTQ+ owned businesses. 

This certification was first created by the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) back in 2004 as a way to improve the economic equality of LGBT business owners. And since then, the number of certified businesses has truly grown. The Certified LGBTQ2+ Business Enterprise® (Certified LGBTQ2+BE®) certification is now used by over 1/3 of Fortune 500 and federal, state, and local government supply chains nationwide. 

Criteria for Becoming a Certified LGBTBE

The requirements for becoming certified are pretty straightforward:

  1. The business is at least 51% owned, operated, managed and controlled by a person or persons who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community and are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.
  2. The business is independent of any non-LGBTQ+ enterprise.
  3. The business is headquartered in the United States.
  4. The business is a for-profit organization.

Jurisdictions Recognizing LGBTQ+ Owned Businesses in Pool of Suppliers

The NGLCC, which is a third party certification body, is the main source for businesses wishing to be certified. Their designation helps businesses stand out to those organizations looking to increase their diversity initiatives. The NGLCC even has its own group of corporate partners seeking to work with LGBT businesses.

Some jurisdictions are also establishing their own LGBTQ+ certifications. In my home state of New Jersey, Governor Murphy recently signed an executive order instructing the New Jersey Department of the Treasury to create a state-backed certification program for LGBTQ+-owned businesses. This certification, which will be free of charge, will expand public and private contracting opportunities.

New York City has also taken moves to promote LGBTQ+ businesses. It invites LGBTE’s certified with the NGLCC to apply for the Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise and the Emerging Business Enterprise certification programs. LGBTQ-owned businesses that aren’t already NGLCC certified may also apply for NYC certification through the standard application on the city’s Small Business Services Connect website.

LGBTQ+ owned businesses are also specifically recognized by the city of Baltimore, which provides for a certification. 

While the number of jurisdictions with their own certification is certainly small, New Jersey’s latest move may propel other states to follow suit.

The Benefits of Being LGBTQ Certified

Just as being a certified women-owned and minority-owned business brings new opportunities and access, so too does being LGBTQ certified. With diversity and inclusion initiatives topping corporate agendas today, many organizations are looking to do business with LGBTQ+-owned companies. Being designated such a business will make companies stand out from among the competition. 

Holding a NGLCC designation also opens a host of other doors:

  • Access to their network of 200+ corporate and government partners who are looking to support LGBTQ+ businesses.
  • B2B opportunities – NGLCC has 1000+ LGBTBEs across all industries, expanding networking capabilities.
  • Educational programs and mentorship opportunities.
  • Networking and scholarship opportunities.

If you’re a certified LGBTQ+ business, I would love to hear about your certification experience.


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