News

June 2023

LGBTQ+-owned Columbus businesses continue to thrive thanks to community support

Starting out from humble beginnings, Queerencia and Bake Me Happy have seen so much success in central Ohio.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Starting a business is hard enough. Starting one alone is even harder.

That is why community support is so important to so many small businesses.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic got a lot of people to shift their priorities, and Ty Collier was no different.

“It was extremely difficult being in the position of ‘what do you do in a pandemic and where do you pivot?’ But using that as a motivator and not a crutch, it gave me the capacity and space to focus on a priority of mine and that’s the LGBTQIA community,” he said.

Collier worked for his family-owned company in wholesale apparel before deciding to start Queerencia, an LGBTQ+ apparel and accessories brand based in Columbus.

In these last three years, Collier said, “It’s been fantastic. We’ve grown extremely fast, and we’ve had a lot of support from our community.”

He got that support from Chase Bank’s free Minority Entrepreneurs Program which was started to help people like Collier get their businesses going on the right foot.

“Some of the things we have gained from the program is getting certified as a minority-owned business, which has opened the door to contracts and opportunities with corporations and the federal government,” Collier said.

Thanks to those central Ohio connections, Queerencia is partnered with Stonewall Columbus for Pride, and the company is taking on all their merchandise for this year’s event.

That is a big leg up that Letha Pugh knows all too well.

“I would say the community support is what keeps us going. It’s hard being a small business owner,” she said.

Letha and her wife, Wendy started Bake Me Happy, a bakery with multiple locations in central Ohio that opened in 2013 after noticing a need for gluten-free treats in the area.

She said that starting out, money was difficult.

“It wasn’t like people were knocking down the door to help us with that. We spent our own personal funds to get Bake Me Happy started.,” Letha said.

In the last decade, Pugh said their community has rallied behind their business and their message of safety and inclusion for everyone.

Even making sure the bakery wasn’t left out to dry during the pandemic.

“The Urban League has supported us in a couple of different ways. Primarily through the pandemic, I did receive some support from franklin county,” she said.

Now a winner of multiple community awards, Pugh gets to pay it forward by helping the Columbus Urban League make decisions on how to help new business owners get started.

“It’s kind of been a nice 360. I mean, it’s taken 10 years, but being on the other side of it and being able to help people live their dream… we get a lot further working together as opposed to tearing each other apart.”

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