Laura Clise is the founder and CEO of Intentionalist, an online guide to small, diverse businesses that seeks to uplift communities and encourage intentional spending. Clise launched her concept in late 2017, and is rapidly growing both small business and consumer engagement, including a pilot with 14 Seattle-based companies and nonprofits. To date, the business has been funded by Clise's savings and a crowdfunding campaign that raised $37,000.
Currently, Clise is preparing for a pre-seed round that will target impact investors, and though her identity has positively impacted her approach to business, she is aware of the ways in which it could also affect her ability to raise capital. “As a woman of color and a lesbian, I am absolutely cognizant of what the data says about the challenges I will face when it comes to raising capital,” Clise tells Supermaker, adding that she has faced some already. “There have admittedly been times throughout my career when I waited to disclose my identity—situations where it felt like my sexual orientation might somehow be one difference too many.”
Yiliu Shen-Burke also understands the varying access and opportunity that is afforded to people from minority backgrounds. He is currently raising a pre-seed round for his company, Softspace, a virtual project space for creatives, and has been very open about his sexuality. “Business relationships, like all relationships, are built on trust. My policy is to be as open as possible, as early as possible,” Shen-Burke tells Supermaker, adding that he tends to come out as early and casually as possible, usually by mentioning his boyfriend. “If who I am is going to be a problem for someone, I want to know that before knots are tied and dollars wired.”
As an Asian, gay founder, Shen-Burke admits he hasn’t run up against many roadblocks related to his sexual identity. Shen-Burke says that his experiences as a gay man do not compare to the challenges faced by non-male founders, particularly those who are not white or Asian. “I acknowledge that as an Asian male working in tech, I'm unfairly privileged relative to so many other people,” he says.