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Real talk: you know you are going to get that crystal, some rainbow gear for the Pride parade, those sunglasses for your upcoming trip to Bali, something to wear to your cousin’s wedding, and a new bag of coffee beans because returning to that commute and the office at 9 a.m. after two-plus years of #WFH in your sweats (oh that reminds me: also must replace those joggers) has been brutal. And that’s ok. You buy stuff. We all do. We’re Americans. It’s basically written into the Constitution at this point.
But they call it buying power for a reason. What you buy and where you shop matters, especially in this day and age where pinkwashing is common practice, with big-name brands and mainstream retailers commandeering Pride Month to release out-and-proud and “love is love” lines just to cash in as they do with just about every holiday or celebration. Worst of all, many of those same companies fund politicians who threaten to or take away LGBTQ+ and trans rights at every turn. (Not all corporations are evil of course. Here are 14 Pride 2022 collaborations that partner with community artists or use proceeds to support LGBTQ+ causes and charities.)
Whether you’re represented by a color on the rainbow flag or a supportive ally, it is important to put your money where your mouth is. One of the best ways to do that is to patronize businesses owned by members of the LGBTQ+ community. And not just in June when it’s top of mind.
What Are the Best Lesbian and Queer-Owned Brands?
We’ve rounded up 13 lesbian and queer women-owned businesses selling everything from keto snacks and shampoo to pillows and magic candles that you can order from the comfy spot on your couch all year long. And given that buying from them means you’re also raising up female entrepreneurs, you should go ahead and get two of everything.
1. Nostalgia Coffee
In her former life, Taylor Fields was an accountant at a massive Chicago firm. In 2018, she woke up and smelled the coffee (literally!) and broke up with her corporate gig to create Nostalgia Coffee. Now based in San Diego, she built and ran a mobile café complete with tables, plants, music, and a library. When the pandemic hit and the workforce shifted to home offices, Nostalgia Coffee lost a majority of its clients. Like many businesses, she had to pivot. She started roasting her own coffee instead and released the first blend, the critically lauded Memory Lane, in August 2020. By January 2022, Nostalgia transitioned to a full-time roaster, wholesaler, e-tailer, and bean subscription service. Fields works closely with farmers, often female and new to the industry, in places like Colombia, Brazil, Rwanda, Nicaragua, and Guatemala to ethically source sustainably grown beans.
She prides herself on paying thriving rates, giving back five percent of the annual revenue directly to her producers, ensuring that leadership roles are inhabited by female, LGBTQ+, and BIPOC employees, and instituting green practices like using a low-gas, low-water roaster. She’s also very proud of the final product, especially the innovative compostable brew bags which uniquely combine the pour-over experience with single-serve convenience. And because they don’t require fancy equipment, they are perfect for camping, traveling, and living off the grid. For Pride Month 2022, Memory Lane has rainbow packaging and Nostalgia is donating 10 percent of sales to the San Diego LGBTQ Center.
2. Coco & Breezy
Twins Corianna and Brianna Dotson, aka Coco & Breezy, started designing sunglasses in high school to avoid making eye contact with their haters. After moving to New York City at 19, they decided to turn their self-preservation shades into a full-blown business that strives to design eyewear (and all corresponding marketing and advertising) that makes everyone feel welcome, beautiful, and cool regardless of their gender, sexuality, size, race or religion. That everyone just also happens to include Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Demi Lovato, Kehlani, and Prince, who directly sought out the Minnesota-born sisters on Facebook to invent the Third Eye glasses the artist wore on Saturday Night Live and the American Music Awards. (The style was recently re-released to be sold at the just-opened Prince: The Immersive Experience exhibit in Chicago.)
C&B now features blue-light blockers and optical frames (which all come with complimentary blue-light coating) in its inventory and virtual try-ons on its site.
3. House of Intuition
Cradle Catholics Alex Naranjo and Marlene Vargas, a former social worker and a medical billing company owner, joined forces in 2010 to create a repository of all things metaphysical in order to help regular folks tap into the magic they believe is innate in all of us but is often trained out by Western culture.
They’ve got 11 brick-and-mortar locations in Southern California and Miami, which are often visited by famous fans including Jennifer Lopez, Alicia Keys, Kendall Jenner, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Gina Rodriguez whenever they need to stock up on crystals, moon and intention candles, pendulums, tarot cards, evil eye amulets or “I Am Beautiful” or “Bless Me With Fertility” affirmation rollerballs.
For Pride 2022, they designed the Love Wins Collection and are donating five percent of the proceeds to the Trans Justice Funding Project. If you’re new to the woo-woo world, the book they released earlier this year, Your Intuition Led You Here, is part biography and part practical (magic) guide to creating an altar, making offerings to ancestors, channeling energy, and using crystals and candles with intention.
Necessity is the mother of invention and Tekla Back, a Miami-based former PepsiCo employee who was frustratingly trying to follow a keto diet without eating meat, kept finding herself very, very hungry. So, she set out to create a healthy snack that ate like a meal. After three years of product development, KEHO, which means “living human body” in her native Finnish, was born in 2020.
Voted Best Keto Snack in the 2022 Eat This, Not That Food Awards, the hearty bars are vegan, nutrient-dense, non-GMO, sulfite-free, low-salt, and gluten-free. The current four flavors — Curry In A Hurry, Tex Mex Moment, Pizza To Go, and Thai Me Over — were inspired by the most popular plant-based Seamless orders and are made with whole foods, healthy fats, and lots of spices, and without added sugar, sweeteners, sugar alcohols, or vegetable oils. Added bonus: the Oxford-educated physicist did all the macronutrient math for you and optimized the recipes making them suitable for keto devotees and carb counters.
5. House of Dear
After studying with hair artist Guy Mascolo of Toni & Guy fame, Holly Dear took what she learned about precision cutting, styling techniques, art direction, and product development to establish her own award-winning carbon-neutral salon in Dallas. She soon grew fed up with products that camouflaged hair issues instead of treating them. Her frustration sparked her mission to create a clean haircare line that utilized ingredients found in nature (i.e. rose of Jericho, sunflower seed oil, witch hazel, and aloe vera) to get to the root of common problems like frizz, split ends, lack of volume, dry scalp and dullness.
Her botanical-powered collection, House of Dear, which now includes shampoo, conditioner, age-reversing Resurrecting Balm, volumizing tonic, finishing salve, and thickening cream, is free of sulfates, parabens, phthalates, and synthetic colors/dyes. It’s also vegan, gender-neutral, Leaping Bunny certified, never tested on animals, and housed in post-consumer recycled packaging. And did we mention that it also smells like a dream, a jasmine-, bergamot-, clove-, and neroli-scented dream.
Next time you’re screaming for ice cream (or a fairly close non-dairy facsimile) reach for this Los Angeles-based brand founded by Natasha Case and Freya Estreller. The then-dating, now-married couple started the company in 2009 armed with a dream and a busted $2,500 postal van they bought on Craig’s list and had towed to Coachella using the free 200-mile tow that came with their auto club membership.
Their frozen dessert empire is now made up of a Culver City Coolhaus scoop shop, trucks for events in LA and New York, and pre-packaged high-quality sammies, cones, pints, and cups in more than 6,000 grocery stores in creative flavors as far ranging as Street Cart Churro Dough, Enjoymint, Bananas Foster, Gimme S’mores and Take The Cannoli. Carrot Currency Cake was created in partnership with Black Girl Ventures and all proceeds go toward funding a grant that helps the next generation of BIPOC women get businesses off the ground.
When Fran Dunaway and Naomi Gonzalez didn’t feel seen or heard by the existing fashion industry, the wives decided to start their own clothing company, one that would promote “radical comfort, size, and gender inclusivity and visibility” while also concerning itself with causing minimal environmental impact and hiring an incredibly diverse staff and suppliers.
Behind the seams, TomboyX would give its employees all the good stuff from living wages and parental leave to stock options and unlimited PTO. At the Gold LEED-certified head office in Seattle, the team dreams up a wide range of bras, compression tops, underwear, activewear, swimwear, and pajamas in both dependable neutrals and sassy prints like rainbow stripes, dripping Matrix code, Wonder Woman logos, dinosaurs, and roller skates. They throw in the occasional bucket hat, fanny pack, hoodie, and joggers for good measure, all of which will come in handy during long hot Pride parades.
Something to consider next time someone asks you to help them move — saying yes just might lead you to your million-dollar idea as it did for Jen Martin’s brother Jeff.
Back in 2011, the siblings had just finished packing up her apartment when hunger pangs attacked. The only thing they could find was a bag of mini heirloom popcorn kernels in the back of the cabinet. Impressed with how much flavor and crunch (and how little hull) was packed into such small morsels, they (plus Jeff’s wife Teresa) kickstarted Pipcorn in hand-stamped bags a year later at a Brooklyn farmers’ market. This is where they were discovered by an Oprah scout who took the snack back to the popcorn-loving queen of all media. O enjoyed it so much that she put them on her annual favorite things list. (Later, she helped them perfect their truffle popcorn recipe.)
In 2013, the trio scored an investment deal with Barbara Corcoran on Shark Tank. Eventually, they added flavors like spicy cheddar Tabasco Sauce and other gluten-free treats made with non-GMO heirloom corn sourced from family farms like dippable corn chips, Cheetos-ish Crunchies, and cheese balls to the portfolio. What has not changed in 10 years is their dedication to not using anything artificial.
Sara Berks started this homewares brand named after her German immigrant grandmother in 2013 in Brooklyn. Now headquartered upstate in Hudson, the artist collective produces work in their studio and collaborates with master makers from Central and South America to stock the boutique with vibrant and ethically handmade products while helping create jobs and preserve regional craft traditions and techniques.
Many patterns, textures, and colors take inspiration from feminist art, the Bauhaus movement, vintage textiles, and global trinkets and are meant to be mixed and matched to create a look that is both modern and nostalgic. Popular sellers include Mexican linens and baskets, woven pillows, blankets from Uruguay, Guatemalan placemats, glassware by Sophie Lou Jacobsen, Peruvian rugs, and cutting boards by Fredericks & Mae.
If shopping online works up an appetite, scroll to the pantry section where the virtual shelves are lined with cookbooks and edible delights from like-minded companies Wooden Spoon Herb (Country Women Tea) and Pineapple (The Olive Oil).
Childhood can be rough, especially if other kids perceive you as different. It’s a lesson Hannah Lavon learned the hard way growing up on Long Island as a stuttering Jewish LGBTQ+ girl who was mercilessly teased by boys intimidated by her athletic prowess. She never forgot how bad the bullying felt but grew up to appreciate being unique and wanted to design a product that encouraged kids to be open-minded, kinder, empathetic, more adventurous and to seek out friends who weren’t just cookie-cutter versions of themselves because ultimately that leads to a more interesting life.
Enter Pals, her sock company where bright pairs feature purposely mismatched cartoony designs. Think burger and fries, cat and dog, silly and serious, unicorn and dragon, fire and ice. Pals also did a collaboration with Paul Frank. Sold in more than 800 stores around the world, the socks come in adult and youth sizes. Designs are also featured on baby booties, earnings from which are being donated to Family Equality in June.
Armed with cashed-in 401Ks and career experience at Nike, Emma Mcilroy and Julia Parsley dared to dream of a world where pockets were functional, button-ups didn’t constantly expose cleavage and the arms of blazers didn’t hang fair past the fingertips. From their studio apartment in Portland 10 years ago, they began to pry the fashion industry’s death grip off of outdated gender norms; first with an online store and then with their own size-inclusive menswear-inspired clothing line.
Now, their blazers, coveralls, slacks, graphic tees, joggers, and faux leather skirts are seen everywhere from the racks at Nordstrom and music festival fields to board rooms, brunches, and bars. Megan Rapinoe, Janelle Monae, Tegan & Sara Kate Mara, and Evan Rachel Wood self-identify as fans.
Wildfang, German for “tomboy,” has given more than $650,000 to good causes so far, and recent co-branded collections with TOMS and Nordstrom’s youthful and trendy in-house line BP hope to add to that total by raising funds for organizations like GirlForward and Year Up. It emphasizes inclusion, equality, diversity, and sustainability in its staffing policies, daily operations at its stores and factories, supply chain vendors, and company ethos. They even pledged to take the whole shebang climate neutral in 2022.
12. Diaspora Co.
After a full-flavor childhood in India and suffering one too many bland turmeric drinks and dishes after the ingredient became trendy in the U.S., Sana Javeri Kadri decided no one should have to settle for lackluster spices that have languished on store shelves for far too long.
To bring every boy and every girl who wants to spice up their life the good stuff, she launched Diaspora Co. in 2017 with the idea that spices should be treated more like coffee and wine in that the origin and terroir affect the taste as does blending products from multiple fields. In five years, her spice trade has grown from importing only Pragati turmeric to sourcing 30-plus single-origin, heirloom spices including Aranya black pepper, Anamalai cacao, six types of chilies, Kashmiri saffron, Nandini coriander, and Sugandhi fenugreek from 150 farm partners across India and Sri Lanka.
She takes regular trips to ensure growers and harvesters are up to snuff and promises to sell only spices in the year they’re harvested. There are several gift sets and mix-and-match options. She’s also expanded to stock colorful gear like a tote for farmers’ market shopping and the culinary tools often used in Indian (and neighboring) cuisines: brass masala dabbas, mortar and pestles, tadka spoons, and chai kulhads.
13. Kaleidoscope Hair Products
Just call her Judy with the good hair. From three-time teen mom in New Orleans to a titan of tresses, Jesseca Dupart spent years as an in-demand hair stylist/salon owner known for the big, tall, spritz molded styles popular in the aughts before combining an indefatigable work ethic, her extensive experience in the multicultural hair space, a love of color and showy statement hair, and a whole lot of faith in the man upstairs to launch her own haircare line in 2014.
Along the journey, she gained two million followers on social media, fell in love with and married rapper Da Brat (with whom she stars on WETV’s reality hit Brat Loves Judy), and guided Kaleidoscope into a multi-million-dollar business. The line started with four products promising healthy hair growth, including the longtime bestseller Miracle Drops, and now includes more than a dozen sold at big-name retailers Target, Walmart, and Sally Beauty. More recently, she added a line for kids, non-profit arm KaleidoKares, wrote a book, and nabbed a Guinness world record.