Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and an online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Spiffy here with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Brian Richardson, the CEO of StartOut. Let’s learn what’s happening at StartOut and how Brian is making a positive impact in the world.
Spiffy: Hi Brian, thanks a million for talking to me today. Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through StartOut?
Brian: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! We know that LGBTQ+ face discrimination across the world. This is true in our economic systems as well, where LGBTQ+ may not be able to start their own business and also be out and proud. StartOut enables LGBTQ+ people to turn their business ideas into a reality through mentorship, training, access to capital, educational programs, research, and community.
Spiffy: What motivates you to do it?
Brian: I'm a queer person and believe every queer person should have the same opportunity as our cisgender, heterosexual siblings. Providing economic opportunities to queer people helps me achieve that goal.
Spiffy: What would you say is the impact of your work?
Brian: We have directly helped 1,270 companies and connected 25,000 LGBTQ+ people and allies. All told, our companies have created $5.5 billion in economic value. That's the power of the queer community, and we know that by continuing to work we can create more economic value—and more importantly—make our world more equitable and just.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organization milestone or initiative. What impact does it make on your audience?
Brian: We just hosted a Demo Day, where eight LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to a panel of investors (just like on TV's Shark Tank). I was inspired by each of these entrepreneurs who are creating new products, developing new markets, or finding new solutions to old problems. I was just glad I wasn't one of the judges, because I wanted all of them to win!
Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
Brian: There is real beauty in community and working together. Though we often talk about the LGBTQ+ community from a deficit perspective (i.e. the challenges we face), the reality is that our community is vibrant, proud, and resourceful. I've learned through StartOut's community how we lift one another up, how we learn from one another, and how we are making progress together. That's a beautiful thing. Happy Pride!
Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Brian—it’s been an honor!
Brian Richardson's career spans the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Prior to StartOut, he served as Regional Director for Lambda Legal, the LGBTQ legal defense group, Deputy Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Health, Communications Manager at Google, Press Secretary to a U.S. Senator, and national spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee. He began his career as a high school teacher. He has degrees from the University of Chicago and UC-Berkeley. He is a proud gay man and parent. (First published on the Ladderworks website on June 12, 2023.)
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.
© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Anushree Nande. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.