“Stressful and busy people want to be as comfortable as they can from moment to moment,” says Firer, who does have accounts with male chefs who are from other countries. Some who initially reject him later call him for help.
A challenge for some gay owners is they’re not part of what they call the good old boy network. Straight men in business often connect by talking about a football game or golf trip, topics that some gay men don’t care about.
“A lot of the way guys relate to each other is with sports, and frankly, that doesn’t interest me,” says Nayte Carrick, owner of ClikClok, an Orlando, Fla.-based software company.
His home life is different and that can also make it difficult to connect.
“I don’t have a girlfriend and I don’t have a wife. I’m 36 and don’t have kids. That’s bizarre to them,” he says. “Even people I think of as open-minded have difficulty relating to my life.”
Some believe that being gay costs them business. Cindy Weigel, owner of Roxy Insurance in Chicago, finds it hard to sell policies to suburban families, while her wife is more successful. Weigel says she believes it’s because she looks gay — her hair is short and spiky and she says she doesn’t look as feminine as other women. Her wife, Weigel says, is “pretty” and “does not look gay.”
Weigel has a solid business selling to gay clients and straight ones who are single. But families are the most lucrative customers for an insurance agent.
“I feel that being gay is hurting my business,” Weigel says. “It’s just the way it is.”
Some owners develop strategies to avoid losing business or head off an unpleasant situation.
Stephanie Davis uses an upfront approach. She owns an entertainment publicity business in Philadelphia and sometimes works with churches. She tells pastors she is gay because she understands they may not want to work with her. Two pastors have refused to work with her — but most want her services.