Words: Markus Bidaux
Over the past few years, I have been fortunate to meet and interview dozens of business owners to feature in our monthly Business Profile. These proud gay men are self-starters that will walk into any meeting with their rainbow-tinted hearts on their sleeve.
So, if you are looking to support the community this Christmas season try some businesses selling products your loved ones will adore...
For children (or the child-at-heart)
Grin & Bear
Michael Dankwah diverted from his career path in women’s fashion after one fateful Christmas when he made a teddy bear for a friend. Now, his bears (and rabbits), which are handmade in the UK, are flying off the shelves of Liberty.
"I’m very fortunate that I work with a really amazing workshop based just outside of London in Canterbury. I send the sketches and the fabrics over and then everything is made by hand by the team over there."
For the paw-fect pooch
Last year, partners Cian and Ryan launched Holler, Brighton’s contemporary pup boutique. They sell their own in-house-designed collars, harnesses and leads, which are available in numerous colours, including rainbow Pride and many other LGBTQ flag patterns.
Additionally, they sell other premium brands such as cosy beds from Danish company Tadazhi, quirky, fair-trade, crochet toys designed by Ware of the Dog in New York City, and gorgeous leather gear (for the dog!) by London’s Vackertass.
"Dogs are very much part of our families, even surrogate children for many of us.” Cian tells us. “We celebrate having them with us in our lives and we treat them the same as we do our loved ones. Cities and towns are becoming more dog friendly too, this means we get to enjoy having them with us a lot more.
"They deserve the best and there are some stunning products available - we all enjoy a bit of luxury so more of us are choosing to treat ourselves and our companions to something special."
For spicing it up in the bedroom
Unhappy with how heteronormative sex toys were boyfriends Josh Morris and Greg Davis launched their sex toy company Kandid with inclusivity as their main agenda.
"I wanted to improve the way we buy and procure sex toys after my own experience of buying these products. It wasn’t very interesting and wasn’t geared towards today’s changing consumer attitudes towards sex and aesthetic appreciation", Josh explained.
"Many products out there are made from poor-quality materials — that you don’t even know are body-safe – or are far too expensive that I felt uncomfortable buying them.”
For the saucy person in your life
After a decade of collecting hot sauces boyfriends Dean Smith and Steve Cook created Saucybitch - with help from Captain, their French bulldog and company mascot. they run Saucybitch. Here, we discuss their hot sauces, which are selling like hot cakes.
“They have to be rich and have flavour and those ones that completely blow your brain out don’t really have a flavour, and it almost becomes a competition to see who can have the hottest. You have to be able to have it with your pizza, on your eggs or simply with your cheese sandwich.” Steve explained.
For a good crafty brew
In 2018, boyfriends Ethan Spidey and Sören Scharf launched the UK’s first queer beer, PROUD. They have worked around their day jobs to create LGBTQIPA and take a message to the business community: if you want to be part of the LGBTQ community put your money where your mouth, or rainbow logo, is.
Ethan explained the reason for launching the brand, “We got fed up with people slapping a rainbow flag on their brand once a year and pretending they cared about the community. We thought, why don’t we start a beer company that benefits the charities we have worked with for years? PROUD is a beer company but it’s also a platform for everything we do relating back to the charities. That’s what an inclusive brand should really be doing.”
For the perfect tipple
Digby Fine English sparkling wine
When Jason Humphries and Trevor Clough met, back in 2000, UK-born Jason was working in Boston as an engineer in speech-recognition technology, while Trevor was building companies through private equity.
Years later, after moving to the UK and getting married, they decided to go into business together. But it was not until a trip back to Trevor’s native US that the lightning bolt struck. While visiting a winery outside Seattle, the pair decided to bring English sparkling wine to the luxury market.
Four years after bottling their first vintage Digby Fine English, they launched in Selfridges in 2013 and won Best English Sparkling Wine at the Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships a year later.