Colombian LGBT Entrepreneurs Expand Reach to Grow Business

Jacqueline L. Hoist Tapia, President of the Council to Prevent and Eliminate Discrimination in Mexico City (COPRED)
USAID and the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce are working to educate and empower LGBT entrepreneurs in Latin America.
Abraham Saraya Photography
Training, networking opens markets for small businesses
“[The training] gave us the opportunity to build some important alliances in our task of expansion.”

Oct. 2014—In recent years, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Colombia has successfully advocated the government for the recognition of many basic rights. With impressive progress being made on achieving human rights, USAID—through its LGBT Global Development Partnership—is now partnering on a new effort to address the economic discrimination historically faced by Colombia’s LGBT community.

Marco Andrés Jaramillo is an entrepreneur and CEO of EgoCity, an online and print magazine for the LGBT community in Medellín, Colombia. In April 2014, Jaramillo joined 60 LGBT Colombians for #ActivatingLGBT, an entrepreneur training hosted by USAID partner, the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce of the United States, and the Colombian LGBT Chamber of Commerce. The training, held in Barranquilla, coached innovative LGBT entrepreneurs on how to create and sustain economically viable businesses, conduct trade with international partners, and make use of inclusive procurement policies.

Prior to the training, EgoCity primarily conducted business on a local level, advertising local businesses and promoting LGBT events in Medellín. However, after joining the Colombian LGBT Chamber of Commerce and participating in the training, EgoCity was able to secure a scholarship from the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association Foundation to attend the organization’s Global Convention in Madrid, Spain. There, Jaramillo connected with AXEL Hotels, an international boutique hotel chain that caters to LGBT clientele around the world. Because of the relationship Jaramillo formed through chamber connections, AXEL purchased ad space in EgoCity for its hotels and is currently negotiating to become a regular sponsor of the magazine.

With new skills and connections, business is booming. Jaramillo is turning his business from a small, niche magazine focused on his local community into one serving major multinational clients throughout Latin America and Europe. In the past year alone, business has grown 22 percent.

Jaramillo credits much of this growth to the support he’s received from the LGBT Global Development Partnership, saying, “#ActivatingLGBT was such a great experience because it allowed us to meet new entrepreneurs who are working on behalf of the LGBT community in Colombia. It gave us the opportunity to build some important alliances in our task of expansion.”

Based on the success of the initial #ActivatingLGBT, the partners are replicating the training for LGBT business owners in cities across Colombia.