Understanding that a city with a high number of LGBT individuals might need a specialized business development program, the U.S. Small Business Administration and the National Black Justice Coalition took its Many Faces. One Dream. program to the city of Columbus, Ohio, in September. MFOD is an economic empowerment tour for LGBT communities of color. The two-day event consisted of workshops, one-on-one and small-group counseling and a Business Resource Expo with local community partners. It was also part of the 13th Annual Mayor’s Small Business Conference + Expo.

“Small businesses — including those owned by LGBT people of color — are the heart of our economy, providing jobs and services that are essential to our quality of life,” Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman said. “Our LGBT residents provide leadership, creativity and ingenuity to make Columbus great. Every day, the city of Columbus depends on their products and services to better serve our citizens. This event celebrated their contributions to the city, along with an educational forum on the latest trends and best practices to help their businesses grow and a platform for networking, connecting with business leaders, buyers and other business owners.”

MFOD sessions included the impact of marriage equality on LGBT-owned businesses and companies with LGBT employees, the importance of pursuing certification from the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and the assortment of business financing options available for entrepreneurs.

“MFOD is an additional example of the commitment SBA-wide to making entrepreneurial programs available to everyone in the business community regardless of race, gender or orientation,” said Eugene Cornelius Jr., SBA deputy associate administrator for field operations and MFOD keynote speaker.

Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks, NBJC executive director and CEO, added that SBA has been a vital partner in the MFOD initiative as it travels across the country. “Because of the challenges we face, LGBT people represent an untapped segment of aspiring entrepreneurs,” she said. “The SBA and NBJC are expanding the conversation to include economic empowerment.”


Columbus by the Numbers

15th  – Columbus’s rank based on the population of adults who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender in Gallup Inc.’s survey of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas

100 -The city’s score on the Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index

1 – Columbus’s rank among Ohio’s large cities in Community Research Partners’ Gayest Cities and Villages in Ohio, which estimated 2,817 same-sex households within the city

4 – Number of Columbus hospitals named Healthcare Equality Index 2014 Leaders in LGBT Healthcare Equality by the Human Rights Campaign

  • The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
  • The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute
  • Columbus Public Health Department
  • Chalmers P. Wylie VA Ambulatory Care Center

9 – Number of same-sex couples per 1,000 households in Columbus, according to the U.S. Census