While June is now marked around the world as a month of Pride celebrations, for many LGBTQ-owned businesses, Pride is an event—and commitment to the communities they serve—that extends year round.
Three LGBTQ business owners spoke with Shopify about how they’ve forged connections with their customers, many of whom also identify as LGBTQ. Ahead, hear about how these owners listen to their customers to drive business decisions and incorporate Pride into their brands all year long.
Jesus Gutierrez and Sergio Aragon’s New York–based brand Gay Pride Apparel specializes in shirts, accessories, and home goods that are covered in bright rainbows, flag colors, and phrases designed to be worn proudly by members of the LGBTQ community. But they didn’t start out that way. “The first couple months we were like, no rainbows—we're a cool Pride brand,” says Jesus.
Over time, however, they realized they weren’t serving an important segment of their customer base: those who lived outside of major city centers and were less easily able to access affirming communities. For these customers, wearing apparel with rainbows was a meaningful way to share their pride with their local communities. As a result, Gay Pride Apparel started incorporating more traditional Pride symbols into their products.
Resolving this—among other stumbles, like realizing that customers who weren’t out to their parents required packing that didn’t ship with Gay Pride Apparel’s branding on it—had a positive side effect when it came to building closer connections with this community.
“Truly connecting with that community and connecting with people who don’t have that [support] was almost just by nature,” Jesus says. “I think they found community within our social media and our messaging and how we connect with them.”
Jean-Luc Palumbo named his makeup brand after himself with a purpose. He says it lets customers know exactly who they’re buying from and builds a direct connection to his personal journey as a queer entrepreneur he shares on TikTok.
The tagline for his Toronto-based cosmetics brand is “Make your face proud.” Jean-Luc achieves this in two ways: First, he sells vegan makeup that’s meant to be used by anyone of any gender expression, relying on a diverse range of models to illustrate his point.
Second, involves the cosmetic shades themselves, which embrace queerness via lip colors like “Femme,” “Fruity,” “Bear,” and “Flamer.”
“I’m 28 now, and I’ve grown to really embrace my identity, love my identity. And that’s something that takes a long time to do,” Jean-Luc says.
“A lot of the shades are sort of poking fun and sort of reclaiming some of the terms that are used in the queer community. And it’s been really, really well received.”
At his past jobs in the fashion industry, Daniel DuGroff noticed that while many of the customers he served identified as LGBTQ, the branding didn’t reflect or acknowledge this.
This insight, coupled with a love of prints, fueled the launch of his swim brand, HOMOCO, complete with cheeky catch phrases like “Versatile tops and power bottoms.”
“Because there’s authenticity around the way that we talk to the community and the products that we make, we have a ton of straight customers who are buying into it because they want to feel allyship and support the artists that we’re working with,” says Daniel.
Another way HOMOCO connects with the community has been by teaming up with artists with existing fan bases to create prints for the line. Each print is a limited edition run, and sold at a price that makes HOMOCO’s pieces accessible to those who can’t afford original art.
“That’s just been a really amazing way to tap into different segments within the queer community,” he says. “I’ve found that serving the widest breadth within that small group is how you build a business.”
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