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Evolution Of Attitudes And Inclusivity Towards LGBTQ+ Individuals – Darren Burn

Darren Burn, Founder of OutOfOffice.com and CEO of TravelGay
Darren Burn, Founder of OutOfOffice.com and CEO of TravelGay

To mark PRIDE month, we’re sharing the stories of inspirational business school students and alumni around the world who are using their business school experiences to make the world a more inclusive, place.

Darren Burn, is the founder of Out of Office and CEO of TravelGay. After building a career in journalism, working with established news outlets such as ITN and Sky, Darren switched gears. Armed with a BA Business Management & Economics from King’s Business School, Darren chose to strike out on his own, launching OutOfOffice.com in 2014. The company sought to provide luxury travel itineraries to destinations all around the world, ensuring an LGBT friendly experience for travellers.

Growing his empire further, OutOfOffice.com acquired TravelGay.com in May 2018, providing a comprehensive global service for LGBT travellers to benefit from.

Here, Darren shares his experiences of his studies, his start-up and his advice for others…

Could you provide some background on how you came up with the idea for Out of Office and what led you to create it?

After working as a journalist at ITN for about nine years, I felt that I had accomplished everything I wanted in that career. I had always been interested in starting my own business, and as I approached my 30s, I started thinking about the next stage of my life. I came across a competition in a magazine while on a British Airways flight, which was seeking new travel ideas for the LGBT community. I submitted an idea and ended up winning a small investment for it.

From there, I learned on the job and refined the idea with my business partners. Initially, the focus was on improving LGBT travel experiences, but we later narrowed it down to the luxury market, building the brand over the years in the UK and North American markets.

Did you encounter any specific challenges or obstacles related to your LGBTQ+ identity during your time in business school or in your career afterwards? How did you navigate them?

Back then, it was not as common to openly discuss diversity and inclusion as it is now. While I wasn’t in the closet about my sexual orientation, there wasn’t much dialogue around diversity during that time. It wasn’t a topic I would openly discuss with professors or staff members. However, I believe things have changed since then, and diversity is now more championed and discussed in educational institutions.

“…Finding your authentic tribe of people who accept and support you is important. If you can’t find that acceptance, those people are not worth your time.”

How have you seen attitudes and inclusivity towards LGBTQ+ individuals evolve within the business sector since you started your career?

The perception and acceptance of LGBTQ individuals in the workplace has improved over time. However, there is still progress to be made, as my company exists to serve the LGBTQ travel community. Ideally, we wouldn’t need to have such a business, and everyone would be fully accepted.

In the UK, diversity is now a prevalent topic, and people are beginning to understand that being inclusive and accepting makes commercial sense as well. Commercial decisions can drive positive change, and embracing diversity is crucial, especially in industries like travel and tourism.

What advice would you give to other LGBTQ+ individuals who are considering pursuing a business education or starting a career in the business sector?

Be as open and authentic as you can be. It may have taken a while for many LGBTQ+ individuals to embrace their true selves due to societal pressures, but finding your authentic tribe of people who accept and support you is important. If you can’t find that acceptance, those people are not worth your time.

Also, I recommend reading the book “The Velvet Rage” by Alan Downs, which provides insights into the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ individuals. Having knowledge and being true to yourself can make a difference.

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