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Community Conversations: Levelling the field for LGBTQIA+ SMBs in APAC

By Ian Darby | journalist

July 14, 2022 | 7 min read

“This month is our opportunity to show what gender diversity is all about,” says Nikorn Chimkong, The Director of Bangkok Rainbow, a pioneering equality and gender diversity group in Thailand. And he’s not wrong. Throughout June, members of the LGBTQIA+ community and beyond have been celebrating the rich social diversity present across the APAC region and the wider world.

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The experiences faced by LGBTQIA+ SMB owners have helped to shape unique business perspectives

As part of Meta’s ongoing Community Conversations series in APAC, June saw the celebration of the diversity of its SMB community by talking with LGBTQIA+ business owners in the Philippines and Thailand. Led by Tukata from the Facebook Thailand team and Gelo from the Meta Philippines team, the conversations explored how the experiences and challenges faced by LGBTQIA+ business owners have helped to shape both their identities and unique business perspectives – as well as the role Meta’s solutions have played in empowering these SMB owners on their digitalization journey.

Putting this in context, Prae Dumrongmongcogul, Facebook Thailand country director at Meta, says: “We are proud of our attention to the LGBTQIA+ experience across our apps and technologies. But we know there is more work to do to continue creating a safe space for LGBTQIA+ communities, empowering them to be their authentic selves and unlock social and economic opportunities through digital."

Connecting people and commerce

Inspiring the next generation of LGBTQIA+ business owners was a recurring theme of both the Thai and Filipino sessions. As a result of challenges that they have personally faced, entrepreneurs such as Regie Jaminal, believe it’s important to connect with and help fellow LGBTQIA+ business owners to express themselves, develop income streams, and push for brighter futures.

Jaminal, who launched the Perfect Mushrooms business in Cebu, Philippines, in April 2019, says: "My goal is to inspire other people as a part of the LGBTQIA+ community here in the Philippines. I want to help them understand that growing mushrooms can be fun, integrated into modern technology, profitable, and able to attract young generations."

It's a sentiment echoed by Ronel Medel, co-founder of the Filipino hair, fashion and beauty business GAGA Signatures. Medel says that while the business may have started as an outlet to share hairdressing videos during the pandemic, they also want it to be a source of inspiration for the LGBTQIA+ community: “We are creating these videos to support the community. We can inspire them, especially the young ones, to earn extra income from making videos online from their own ideas.”

Voices in the community

Inspiring the next generation of business owners to pursue new and empowering economic opportunities is certainly important, but the digital tools these entrepreneurs use to market and sell their products can also be powerful communication vehicles.

Thai entrepreneur, Arasa Chuenchit, also known as Nam, founded the apparel brand VZ by viriszamara.com in 2008 and has achieved massive growth through digital strategies. Yet she sees the broader picture too: “Not everyone knew June is Pride Month, so we publicized this [on our webpage] and in our content like ‘this outfit’s color would be great for joining a Pride parade!’ - it’s a cute way to inform our customers.”

Nam has also gone further in her use of digital tools having used a range of Meta services in smart ways, such as Facebook Live, to both spread a positive message and grow her business: “I chose a transwoman review our new clothing collection and highlight her sense of confidence and pride in the beauty of her figure. When we released the review video clips, not only were customers were really engaged but our sales went through the roof!”

Business with a heart

Hamugaway Pet Boarding & Day Care was launched in April 2020 by Deo Dealino in the Philippines. Dance, the general manager and Deo's partner, says that what differentiates the business from others is that follow their passions and serve “with a heart”.

She adds that entrepreneurial members of the LGBTQIA+ community shouldn’t feel like they can’t achieve their business dreams – but that “knowing your passion and purpose” is a key starting point. Building connections with the community is vital too as individuals can continually inspire each other, using tech platforms to share and discover new ideas and skills that can contribute to their success.

“We became better because we never stood still. I always tell [Deo] - take one step forward every day. We are blessed because there are videos [and communities] on Facebook and YouTube [that help us to] study hard and keep on upgrading.”

GAGA Signatures’ Ronel agrees that digital tools can be useful in building brand awareness and spreading knowledge among the LGBTQIA+ community: "What we share on Facebook will give [viewers] an edge and ideas on how [they could also] do business."

But ultimately, tools are only part of the journey. Dance concludes the session with a rallying call to her fellow LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs, encouraging them to be fearless in pursuit of their business dreams:

“Don’t look back and never question your gender identity as a challenge to doing business,” she says. “We [want to] show our full potential. As long as we can inspire people, we will stand our ground and we will be proud to say that we are part of the LGBTQIA+ community.”

To find out more about Meta’s Community Conversation series visit the Meta Supports Small Business Hub.

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