During June, we find ourselves in Pride, the month-long celebration of love, life and justice for the LGBTQ+ community. Here in Central Ohio, there are many ways to celebrate. This includes attending the annual Stonewall Columbus Pride parade, familiarizing yourself with the history and importance of Pride, and being an ally for those who identify as LGBTQ+.
Along with these important ways to celebrate, you can create waves of impact by supporting LGBTQ+ founded businesses, organizations and social enterprises. SocialVentures connected GetCR8V Creative Director Lawrence Lemon with LEAP Co-Founder Stef Goldberg and Heywoods Dog Sudz Founder Jennifer Nolan for an insightful discussion.
Goldberg and Nolan are both inspiring leaders recognized at the recent Women Sparking Change event, and here they share some of the challenges that come with running businesses as queer people as well as the opportunities they have found in the social enterprise space.
Lawrence Lemon (LL): It’s great to connect with you! Can you share information about your business missions?
Jennifer Nolan (JN): I’m the owner of Heywoods Dog Sudz – we specialize in selling organic pet shampoo, and for every bottle of pet shampoo that the company sells, we donate a bottle of pet shampoo to local animal non-profits who are making a positive difference in a rescue’s life. I’m originally from Florida, but I’ve been here (Columbus) for a while, and last year I was introduced to the LEAP business accelerator program and it has empowered me to take Heywoods to the next level.
Stef Goldberg (SG): I’m the Chief Operating Officer of LEAP (LGBTQ Entrepreneurial Accelerator Program). We’ve been leading (LEAP) programs for a couple of years now. Launching LEAP was a convergence of my passion for activism in LGBTQ causes, my decades of business acumen, as well as my desire to help LGBTQ people start their businesses. As my title suggests, I deal with all of the back-office operations related to leading our non-profit, which includes curriculum development, leading of cohorts, recruiting participants, presenters, and mentors, and making sure everything is engaging and impactful.
(LL): Can you describe what all LEAP offers for those unfamiliar with the organization?
(SG): LEAP is similar to other accelerator programs where participants go through several courses and are prepared to spring forward with their business idea. What makes LEAP different is that all of our classes are taught and inspired by local LGBT business owners and experts. At LEAP, all of our participants and mentors are members of the LGBTQ community, and we intentionally address any barriers members of our community may encounter through providing a network of resources both locally and nationally.
(LL): That’s really awesome. Jen, what sets Heywoods apart from other pet shampoos?
(JN): Heywood’s pet shampoo is made of simple and natural ingredients. The base is castile soap which is made from olive oil. It’s biodegradable, vegan-friendly, environmentally-friendly, and most importantly pet-friendly. It’s not only a great product as pet shampoo, but due to castile soap being a multi-purpose product, when diluted enough it has many different applications. You can use Heywood’s soap as pet shampoo, but it can also be used as a human shampoo, you can clean dishes with it, wash your clothes, clean floors, and wipe down countertops. What also sets the products apart is that the business becomes a segue to then help non-profits. It’s not just about making money it’s about donating products, raising awareness for non-profits, and connecting with and supporting them which is the most important element of the business for me.
(LL): Both of you powerful leaders were recently recognized at Women Sparking Change. Tell us about it.
(SG): I was the cheerleader and kickoff person for Women Sparking Change. Pushing forward the idea that we as women in business are here to help each other in our personal and professional growth was really what we were going for at that moment. My role for the program was helping with the agenda, doing a bit of prep, and promoting Jen. Jen’s business is the perfect example of the collaboration between LEAP, ECDI and SocialVentures. My relationships with both Vicki (SocialVentures) and Courtnee (ECDI) are really where the background of my efforts in the program came to fruition.
(JN): For me, it was a little bit overwhelming, in a good way. As a newcomer to the social enterprise ecosystem, coming into Women Sparking Change and seeing that many women in a single space who all have a positive message was astonishing. It made me reflect on what I can do to help give back to our community and continue that spark. If I can spark change in another business or business owner however small or big, I feel it compounds and gets bigger and bigger. It’s hard for me to put it into words just because it was the first time I’d ever seen anything like that or been involved in anything like that. Being recognized and speaking to that many women was just a fantastic experience.
(SG): The event was so purposeful. It was the most authentic resource-sharing and networking program I had ever been to. It wasn’t really about networking so much as it was about uplifting and that’s really what made the difference.
(LL): Can you both briefly speak on the challenges and opportunities that come with being women sparking and leading change?
(SG): There’s a great deal of intersectionality that goes into it. It’s not only being a woman or being a lesbian, it is all of these different life experiences that I bring to the table when I think about the challenges of running a business or running a social enterprise. One word that encapsulates the challenges is access. There is a network that has to be built and pulled together that does not exist. Access to capital and resources is vital in growing a business. Access to these resources are not as easy to find for members of the LGBTQ community.
(JN): I would agree with Stef as far as the traditional hurdles for getting into a business. Stef and I have worked in traditional financing and it’s that old stuffy suit & shirt mentality. It’s the middle-aged white male “I don’t understand your business therefore I’m not going to fund it” or “I don’t like you as a human” kind of thing. That level of closed-mindedness still exists and that can become one of the biggest roadblocks.
As a woman-owned, gay-owned, Columbus-based business I want to support other businesses like mine. It takes a lot of research on the back end to know that you’re doing business with people who are supportive of you and your thinking. For me, the biggest challenge is just holding that course and staying true to what my beliefs are, and taking the time to find those companies that are like me.
(LL): What does Pride mean to you?
(SG): This will be my 29th Pride, and when I first started celebrating, we were marching for a level of acceptance, access and passion that we have now which is incredible. I can’t speak for the entire LGBTQ (community), but I think the key for LEAP is that pride is an amazing month. It is a celebration. It is a protest. For LEAP, we have Pride 365 days out of the year.
(LL): How can we better support your purpose-driven businesses year round?
(JN): People buying Heywoods Dog Sudz and sharing our social change mission is a huge help. The more pet shampoo we sell, the more pet shampoo we give away. Another big way to support is just getting the Heywood’s Dog Sudz name out there. I don’t have a huge social network in town, so I want to start locally and make the biggest impact I can in Columbus and Ohio, then expand from there.
(SG): For The first thing folks can do is go to the website which is at leap2it.com and from there you can pick from a variety of different ways to support the organization. We’re a non-profit, and all of our participants go through the accelerator for free – we absorb the costs for each participant to go through a 15-week program, and we engage sponsors to support each participant. If you know of a corporation that is looking for a way to make their DEI donations meaningful, in more than just a rainbow washing in June kind of way, but more in a pride 365 kind of way – sponsoring the LEAP program is a great way to make an impact. The other way that people can support our work is to volunteer as a panelist or an educator. Two great ways to support – donating money and donating talent.
(LL): Thank you for this great conversation Stef and Jen! As you emphasized, it’s important for everyone to advocate for LGBTQA+ during Pride month and throughout the year. You are both wonderful role models showing us how it’s done – thank you for all you do to make our community stronger!