George Nicholls: 'Business has allowed me to channel my creativity and passion into something meaningful.'

George Nicholls: 'Business has allowed me to channel my creativity and passion into something meaningful.'
George NichollsQueer The Norm

Posted: Mon 24th Jun 2024

June is here, and you know what that means — it’s Pride Month! It’s that time of year when we celebrate our identities, communities and progress.

But amidst all the rainbows and parades, there’s something important we need to address: the upcoming elections.

Now more than ever, we need the next government to support businesses that work with LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs like myself.

I’m George Nicholls, also known as drag artist Orange Gina. I host the UK's biggest amateur lip-sync competition every week, bringing together over 500 contestants each month.

I’ve built two businesses — Queer The Norm and the community interest company Inkluder. These ventures have allowed me to channel my creativity and passion into something meaningful.

The journey

The journey hasn’t been easy, but it’s been incredibly rewarding. One of the main reasons I started my own business was because I found it challenging to be managed by heterosexual men. It was tough navigating workplaces where my identity didn’t always feel respected.

Thankfully, I was fortunate to have been managed by gay men and women for most of my career, which gave me the inspiration and courage to strike out on my own.

This freedom has allowed me to explore all my creative ideas and turn them into successful ventures. Queer The Norm is all about delivering interactive drag shows and inclusive entertainment for various events — weddings, Pride celebrations, corporate events, you name it. Our mission is to bring joy and inclusivity to every event we touch.

Inkluder, on the other hand, focuses on supporting the LGBTQ+ community in Barnet, North London. It’s been a wild ride navigating third-sector funding, with its long timelines and endless applications, but the impact we’re making is worth every effort.

Running these businesses has not only been a professional journey but also a deeply personal one. As an LGBTQ+ founder, my work is intertwined with my identity and the community I belong to. It’s about fighting for our rights, our visibility and our place in the world. And let me tell you, it does take its toll.

There have been many times when I’ve been hate-crimed as a drag queen, both physically and verbally. Going to court over these incidents has been draining, but it’s also strengthened my resolve.

What we need

This is why we need the next government to incentivise businesses to work with LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs. It’s not just about equality; it’s about fostering an inclusive economy where everyone can thrive.

We need robust anti-discrimination laws and targeted funding for LGBTQ+ businesses.

Dedicated grants, tailored business development programmes and public awareness campaigns can make a huge difference.

A statement of empowerment and resilience

Building a business as an LGBTQ+ person is more than just a professional endeavour, it’s a statement of empowerment and resilience. It’s about creating spaces where we can be our authentic selves and where everyone feels included.

When businesses are accessible and welcoming to queer folks, they become better for everyone. People can express themselves freely and bring their whole selves to work and play. Despite the challenges, I’m committed to never giving up.

We need to continue working on how we communicate with each other, using the most inclusive language possible and keep fighting against injustices. It’s crucial that we support each other and build a community where everyone can succeed.

Show me the money

Securing funding is one of the toughest parts of running a business, especially for us LGBTQ+ folks.

Here’s what I’ve learnt:

  • Find investors who already support diversity. There are plenty out there who know that investing in diverse entrepreneurs is smart

  • Use community resources like StartOut and the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, which offer funding opportunities and networking

  • Crowdfunding is another avenue — sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo let you reach people who want to support businesses like ours

  • Don’t forget about government grants, too. They’re a hassle, but they can provide essential funding without giving up equity

  • Lastly, pitch competitions are fantastic. They not only offer money but also visibility and credibility

Watch this webinar to discover how to find and apply for government grants:

Inclusivity has a ripple effect

One of the most satisfying aspects of my journey has been the opportunity to give back to the community. Through Inkluder, we run various initiatives aimed at supporting the LGBTQ+ population in Barnet. This includes mentorship programmes, community events and advocacy work. Seeing the tangible impact of our efforts on people's lives is incredibly fulfilling and motivates me to keep pushing forward.

Creating safe spaces where everyone feels welcomed and valued is at the heart of what we do. Our events at Queer The Norm aren’t just about entertainment, they’re about fostering a sense of belonging. It’s about showing people that it’s okay to be themselves and to celebrate their identity without fear.

We’ve seen how powerful this can be, not just for the LGBTQ+ community but for everyone who attends our events. Inclusivity has a ripple effect, spreading acceptance and understanding far beyond our immediate circles.

Keep pushing the envelope

As we look to the future, it’s clear that continuous education and advocacy are essential. We need to keep the conversation going about why inclusivity matters and how it benefits everyone. Whether it’s through workshops, public speaking or simply leading by example, we must keep pushing the envelope.

It’s about building a better world, one where everyone can thrive. The journey of building an LGBTQ+ business is full of ups and downs, but here’s the thing: it’s worth it.

As we look to the next government, it’s crucial they recognise and support our unique contributions. An inclusive and equitable business environment is a win for everyone.

Running these businesses has shown me that entrepreneurship in the LGBTQ+ community is a powerful tool for personal empowerment, economic independence and social change. By supporting each other and giving back to our community, we create a vibrant, inclusive ecosystem where everyone can succeed.

So, here’s to the future. Here’s to more wigs, more fun and more success. Let’s keep pushing, keep supporting each other and keep showing the world what we’re made of (the same squishy flesh as everyone else)!

Relevant resources

George NichollsQueer The Norm

You might also like…

Get business support right to your inbox

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive business tips, learn about new funding programmes, join upcoming events, take e-learning courses, and more.