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June 27, 2022

It’s time to be OUT at the office. And in the shop. And on the jobsite… 

Businesses, entrepreneurs and individuals who never imagined they would be sitting across the table from a PepsiCo, Johnson & Johnson, or Bell Canada buyer, now see doors open up to a new world of opportunity through Supplier Diversity initiatives. 

Traditionally, hiding your LGBTQ2+ status has been recommended in the workplace. A study commissioned by the CGLCC and conducted by Deloitte LLP surveyed LGBTQ2+ owned, operated and controlled companies across Canada in 2021. Here, it was found that approximately 33-39% of LGBTQ2+ owned businesses had been harassed, lost business, faced discrimination, or purposely hidden the fact that their company had LGBTQ2+ ownership. 

The study concluded that there are over 100,000 LGBTQ2+ businesses in Canada generating over $22 billion in gross corporate revenue. LGBTQ2+ businesses also employ about 435,000 full time and part time employees, or the approximate equivalent to the population of Halifax! 

Over 40% of businesses surveyed ultimately said that there was value in publicly promoting their LGBTQ2+ ownership. One of those values was the opportunity to join a community of diverse suppliers to network and gain access to corporate procurement opportunities through a Supplier Diversity Certification program. 

“Supplier Diversity means providing opportunities for individuals and companies that might have difficulty getting in the room, or getting access to certain networks,” says Gavin Armstrong, owner of Lucky Iron Fish, a CGLCC Certified Supplier. “We know that marginalized communities are sometimes left out of those important opportunities. For me, it’s important to come together as a network to help each other, provide resources and access, and to help us thrive and succeed.”

Not your father’s Chamber of Commerce

While visions of dusty, dark oak-paneled, pipe-smoke filled ‘Old Boys Clubs’ may dance through your head when hearing the words Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian LGBT+ Chamber (CGLCC) does things quite differently. 

“When I started Lucky Iron Fish as a gay entrepreneur I felt very isolated and alone, and I didn’t feel like I belonged in the support programs that existed for other entrepreneurs,” Gavin continues. “The CGLCC brings together individuals who have a shared experience, shared identity, and shared community. It provides resources, support programs, and access to different networks to help organizations meet their full potential.” 

Small and medium enterprises are the backbone of the Canadian economy. The Deloitte survey also found that LGBTQ2+ entrepreneurs are unique in that they are more likely to be self-employed, younger, serving more domestic markets, and more likely to employ and work with other diverse owned businesses. And while many ‘niche’ businesses and entrepreneurs may not initially see the value in joining a Supplier Diversity Certification program, many more are finding exactly the connections they need to scale up. 

“In the beginning, I didn’t put it out there. I didn’t originally think it mattered,” says Patrick Hunter, an artist currently skyrocketing to success after fully embracing his indigenous and two-spirit identity within his work and professional networks. “It wasn’t until I infused who I was and where I came from into the work that it really started to take off. The more authenticity you have, the more that resonates with people.”

Patrick has been a long time member and friend of the CGLCC, having been involved in the OUT For Business Youth Entrepreneur and Supplier Diversity programs. His donated artwork, framed by Akasha Art, is awarded annually to winners of CGLCC’s  Supplier Diversity Awards. Recent successes also include Patrick’s artwork being on display in the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks home arena as part of the teams’ new Land Acknowledgement, a growing custom hockey and biking helmet market, and more large-format commissioned work for legacy spaces. 

“I like that there is a place, a Chamber of Commerce for us, that is always adapting and growing. They’ve nurtured my career and I would not have been able to go as far as I have without the Chamber,” says Patrick. Donated art has also inspired more commissioned work requests from larger enterprises for the artist and graphic designer. He has worked with some of Canada’s largest companies like RBC, Rogers, Purolator, Bell, EY and Staples Promotional Products. 

Certified Suppliers are seeing immediate results in expanding their networks, business acumen, and professional connections with those who will help their business thrive. That said, the real benefits lie in a longer-term investment in the community. “A lot of entrepreneurs don’t realize the value of an opportunity when there’s no dollar value in it right away,” says Patrick. “Long-term value doesn’t always come with a dollar sign attached.”

If you would like to see more value in your business or workplace, find out more about the CGLCC at

A revised version of this article originally appeared in the Toronto Star and in True North Living’s Pride and Empowerment Issue.