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Celebrating with Pride: An Interview with Byron Peart, Co-founder of Goodee

“Tech startups and VCs need to understand that their audiences are not traditional monoliths: they are more likely intentionally progressive minded. They are looking to buy products or seek investment from organizations that have a much wider aperture and sincere commitment to building companies that are truly representative of society at large" - Byron Peart

Eghosa Omoigui, Founder & General Partner of EchoVC
Byron Peart, Co-founder of Goodee

For Pride Month, we interviewed Byron Peart, Co-Founder of Goodee, to learn about his journey as an entrepreneur from the 2SLGBTQI+ community, the impact of his intersectional identity on his experience, and what a true commitment from the tech industry towards supporting Pride Month can look like.

BKR: What importance does Pride Month hold for you?

Byron: Naturally, we should be celebrating Pride every month, but like Black History Month, it feels like the right and honorable opportunity to dedicate the entire month of June to spotlight and celebrate all of the beauty, resilience, and achievements of the vast, diverse and powerful 2SLGBTQI+ people and communities who have come before us, and those who are still proudly shaping our society today.

BKR: Do you think Black founders belonging to the 2SLGBTQI+ community face a double-edged sword? If yes, how so?

Byron: Unfortunately, there has long been significant levels of homophobia and transphobia in Black communities, and as a consequence 2SLGBTQI+ persons are not adequately visible and/or represented in that entrepreneurial landscape. Being an entrepreneur requires so much strength, confidence and vigour... So, yes, it certainly adds challenges and complexity to successfully set up, finance, operate and market as someone doubly underrepresented as Black and 2SLGBTQI+. There are so many wonderful examples of young, independent founders bucking the trend and building strong, vibrant and vocal companies. One rocketing fashion brand Telfar by Telfar Clemens comes to mind.

However, without sufficient role models and examples of business leaders, it is indeed very challenging for a person who is both Black and 2SLGBTQI+ to know how best to prove oneself as a best-in-class success story.

BKR: What has your experience as a 2SLGBTQI+ entrepreneur been like?

Byron: It is really no longer an issue now, but much earlier on in my entrepreneurial journey, it was always a challenge to be in business settings, whether with suppliers, clients, financial institutions, etc., and ending up in conversations around personal life and relationships.

I would often find myself avoiding conversations about relationships to not have to continually “out” myself in business. One of the uncomfortable things in 2SLGBTQI+ communities is that we are often relegated to referring to our loved ones as “partners”, which can naturally be very complicating in a business context. Over time, as I matured, I found it much easier to simply get in front of it, and sort of neutralize it by making reference to my boyfriend or husband… and the good news is that today it generally doesn’t faze others.

BKR: What are the opportunities you see for 2SLGBTQI+ entrepreneurs right now?

Byron: Something that I think is wonderful these days, is to see that representation can now be found at the highest echelon of the C-suite of the world’s most illustrious companies, with out and proud persons like Sam Altman at Open AI and Tim Cook at Apple.

Personally, I am an optimist, and I continually think that nurturing your unique character and point of view in business always gives you the advantage to tell your own story, stand out and be recognized in a competitive landscape.

BKR: Given the recent backlash faced by DEI initiatives in the corporate world, how does one stay positive and keep going?

Byron: The recent backlash to DEI initiatives has been beyond troubling. I won’t lie, many of us, aren’t particularly surprised as we saw it coming not long after the groundswell of movement and engagement following Black Lives Matter. It is a daily reminder of the systemic injustice and the continuous effort we have to make to safeguard any of the long overdue gains that we as a people and as society made.

If there is something to stay positive about in these times, it is the ability to find empowerment, energy and purpose through both the stories of struggles and perseverance of the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) and 2SLGBTQI+ communities who laid the groundwork for us.

BKR: In reference to the practices followed at Goodee, how can tech startups and VCs celebrate Pride Month?

Byron: We at Goodee have woven diversity and inclusion into the fabric of our business from inception. Whether supporting marginalized communities or gender advocacy, our company’s values and mission are steeped in an unwavering pursuit of a kinder, happier and more sustainable future for all. As a B-certified company, founded and led by two Black entrepreneurs and design industry leaders, we recognize the significance and opportunity of the role that we, and our team, play in reshaping the representation and narrative of a modern business operating to challenge the status quo.

At Goodee, we have made a commitment to nurture, spotlight and support diverse people and companies every day and not merely on Pride Month. Nonetheless, I would share that tech startups and VCs need to understand that their audiences are not traditional monoliths: they are more likely intentionally progressive minded. They are looking to buy or seek investment from organizations that have a much wider aperture and true commitment to building companies that are truly representative of society at large.

So, more precisely, I don’t think celebrating Pride is only about making donations and/or publishing social media posts. I think it’s about making sure your company walks the talk and lives its proposed values.

BKR: As you look back at your entrepreneurial journey, what advice would you give your younger self and other aspiring entrepreneurs? Is there anything you would have done differently?

Byron: Absolutely. The most significant thing I would have done differently would be to have come out earlier. I had the good fortune of being raised in a very caring and supportive family, and I never questioned the fact that my parents loved me unconditionally. Nonetheless, I too fell victim to fear (and shame) to break free of what I had held as deep personal, familial and societal expectations of who I should be, how I should act and who I should love.

What I would tell my younger self today, is ‘Don’t Hide’... that I could never thrive as my fullest, truest and proudest self until not only people around me could see me; but that I too could see myself.

BKR: Thank you so much for sharing these important words, Byron.


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