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A Safe Space For Queer Business Owners And Entrepreneurs  – Teale Failla

Teale Failla, Business Manager at Somewhere, and Project Manager for the Somewhere Rainbow Enterprise Network
Teale Failla, Business Manager at Somewhere, and Project Manager for the Somewhere Rainbow Enterprise Network

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.

Teale Failla is a Business Manager at Somewhere, an organisation dedicated to championing and creating opportunities for the LGBTQ+ community in Scotland in the culture & enterprise sector. Teale is also Project Manager for the Somewhere Rainbow Enterprise Network – the UK’s first LGBTQ+ business network, creating a safe space for queer business owners and entrepreneurs to develop their businesses with authentic leadership.

She gained an MBA from the University of Edinburgh Business School, supported by the Somewhere MBA LGBT+ Scholarship, becoming its first recipient in 2019.

Could you tell us a bit about your business and what it does?

Somewhere EDI CIC, known simply as Somewhere, is a new Community Interest Company in Scotland dedicated to championing Scotland’s LGBTQ+ community through culture & enterprise, creating space and opportunity for queer authentic lives. ‘EDI’ encapsulates our mission of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, recognising the intersectionalities of our community that have been traditionally overlooked. As a social enterprise, Somewhere aims to increase the visibility of diverse LGBTQ+ lives, creating spaces and opportunities for LGBTQ+ people to thrive as their authentic selves, particularly in creative and enterprise spheres. As such, we provide the means for LGBTQ+ people and organisations to connect, create and inspire each other to make positive change. Without diminishing the struggles of the LGBTQ+ community, Somewhere focuses on highlighting our achievements and role models who inspire younger generations to further positive change and be proud to live authentically.

Somewhere operates through six main areas: magazine publishing, enterprise, research and grants, consulting, merchandise and a new podcast which shines a light on the unsung heroes and change-makers in our community with humour and sincerity. These endeavours aim to support positive mental health and wellbeing, reduce social isolation and stigma attached to being LGBTQ+ and create a safe space for people to live their authentic lives. We are proud to be a unique and creative advocate for a broad spectrum of LGBTQ+ communities and experiences and serve to combat discrimination whilst uplifting our community’s voices in new and dynamic ways.

What has your experience been of launching a business as an LGBTQ+ founder?

Kath Peirce is the founder of Somewhere, though I helped develop some of the arms of the company as the Business Manager and Project Manager of the Rainbow Enterprise Network. REN soft-launched in November 2020 as an initiative specifically aimed at supporting LGBTQ+ and ally business owners and rising entrepreneurs. The network links up LGBTQ+ and ally businesses to help raise the visibility and amplify the voice of LGBTQ+ entrepreneurship, creating a new safe collaborative space for queer enterprises to grow and thrive. Large ally businesses can join as well, receiving guidance on how to start and run an LGBTQ+ Pride group within their organisation and in turn offer mentoring for small startups in areas like finance or technology.

I began working with Somewhere just before the REN soft launch to help develop the initiative and create a business plan, analysing its viability, creating a value proposition, performing a SWOT analysis and risk assessment and mapping its financial future. I had been the first Somewhere Scholar as the recipient of the first LGBTQ+ MBA scholarship in Scotland through The University of Edinburgh and second in the UK after the University of Cambridge. Kath Pierce not only created the scholarship, but she offered mentoring throughout my MBA, helping me find research participants for my dissertation and just providing a friendly shoulder to lean on during a very strenuous programme.

Just after I graduated, Kath asked me to help develop the Rainbow Enterprise Network. I wound up becoming the Business Manager for the entire company, creating a business plan for all of the Somewhere initiatives including the Somewhere: For Us Magazine for which I wrote an article in Issue 1 about my experiences as the first Somewhere Scholar and my motivations for pursuing an MBA, especially coming from a creative background working in film and television in New York City.

Ironically, by helping develop the Rainbow Enterprise Network, I was perhaps the first member and beneficiary of the initiative. I probably would not have had the opportunity had I not known Kath and had her as my mentor throughout my MBA. This demonstrates the strengths we have as a community when we have a platform like Somewhere to bring us together.   

“It is incredibly important to have diverse voices of all kinds in executive and leadership roles, not just LGBTQ+, but people of colour, people with disabilities, people who come from working class backgrounds, people who are female, trans and non-binary, people from immigrant families, and those who exist in the intersectionalities of those identities…”

How did your business education help you launch this business venture?

Before doing the MBA, I had no idea what a business plan was or all of the factors to think about when starting a business. The Strategic Leadership course, the flagship course which runs throughout most of the programme, was fundamental in teaching about SWOT analyses, blue ocean thinking, VRIO frameworks and entre/intrapreneurship. Finance, Accounting and Economics courses provided the knowledge and skills instrumental to keeping a business viable and sustainable. All of my courses provided a well-rounded and thorough education to not just start a business, but indeed to work in any business or venture. But the most impactful course I took which prepared me to work with Somewhere was the New Venture Creation course I took as an elective. This course taught me how to make a full business plan, necessary when starting up any venture. For my final project, I worked with Leith Comedy Festival, another Scottish startup whose founder I met through Kath. I created a business plan for them which prepared me to do the same for Somewhere and help develop their initiatives.

Have you experienced any unique challenges from being an LGBTQ+ entrepreneur?

One of the biggest challenges to being an LGBTQ+ entrepreneur is the ongoing fear of potential negative consequences related to being an out business owner. Any queer entrepreneur has to constantly think about the dangers of homophobic attacks and prejudice, even in a relatively progressive country like Scotland. You worry that suppliers and B2B services won’t want to work with you, that customers will boycott you, that homophobes will attack you, your storefront, your property, even your employees. We read stories of this happening all the time. My friends have had this happen to them. Even a major business like Target in the US has felt the need to remove Pride products during Pride Month because of the threat of homophobic attacks. So even when nothing bad is currently happening to you or your business, there’s always that fear in the back of your mind that keeps you on edge. This is why mental health is such an issue, because that stress is always there. So on top of all of the other pressures entrepreneurs face, being a queer entrepreneur comes with its own set of unique tensions. And when one LQBTQ+ business is attacked, we are all attacked to the point where many people feel the need to go back in the closet, not just to protect themselves and their business, but to protect their employees and patrons.

We’ve all grown up with the normalisation of homophobia, so even when we are comfortable being out in our personal lives, being out in our business lives is a whole different challenge. This is why organisations like Somewhere and the Rainbow Enterprise Network are so important in de-normalising homophobia and providing a safe space for queer entrepreneurs to share their issues and help one another find those LGBTQ+ and ally stakeholders which will help our businesses thrive and allow us to live our authentic lives.

How important is it to get more LGBTQ+ people into executive roles, and how can we do so?

It is incredibly important to have diverse voices of all kinds in executive and leadership roles, not just LGBTQ+, but people of colour, people with disabilities, people who come from working class backgrounds, people who are female, trans and non-binary, people from immigrant families, and those who exist in the intersectionalities of those identities. My MBA dissertation was on leading creative teams in the UK television industry, and through that research, I found study after study as well as my interviews which illustrated how having diverse leadership improves creativity, lowers costs and increases profit. This has been shown in a range of industries, not just creative ones.

To get more diverse people in executive roles, you have to consciously recruit. Go out and find those people, because you can’t just expect them to turn up at your door. Too often companies claim to be open to diversity but do absolutely nothing proactive to make diversity happen. Then they shrug their shoulders when they don’t get diverse applicants. Nurture your diverse talent in junior roles and provide pathways for them to rise to executive roles. Take a vested interest in their success and they will want to stay and grow with you and help you grow your company. Make your company a desirable place to work for diverse people so that they will send you their CVs and want to work with you.

I am currently working on a PhD on Wellbeing Leadership in the UK Television Industry and one of the dimensions that I am researching is how diversity, inclusion and equity help foster wellbeing for workers which in turn provides for higher quality productions and increased profits. Diversity isn’t just a buzz term, there are real studies which show time and again the benefits of having diverse voices in leadership roles.

One of the best ways to get started increasing diversity in an organisation is to develop an LGBTQ+ Pride group at your company as well as groups for other underrepresented colleagues. I don’t want to sound like a constant plug for REN, but this is one of the things with which they help ally businesses. When people see a company has created a thriving place for underrepresented groups to work and succeed, they recognise it as a desirable place to work for everyone.

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