Columbus, OH

LGBTQ+ business owners aim to make impact in community

The Lantern
Canvas Collective Art is an LGBTQ-owned gender-neutral apparel company based in Columbus. Credit: Courtesy of Phillip Simpson

October commemorates LGBTQ+ History Month, shining a spotlight on local queer-owned businesses.

LGBTQ-owned companies are not only passionate about their businesses, but are motivated by their ability to share messages of inclusivity and diversity. Alex Copeland, owner of Plenty O’Cookies , said he opened his business in 2014 selling custom-decorated sugar cookies with themes including pop culture, baby showers, birthdays and coming out. Copeland said representing the LGBTQ+ community and doing what he loves go hand in hand.

“I think representation matters, and sometimes being a person who is out there shows anyone that people in our community can be business owners,” Copeland said.

For Phillip Simpson, owner of gender-neutral apparel company Canvas Collective Art , inclusivity and representation have always been a crucial part of his company’s message.

Simpson launched his company in 2019 with business partner Ashley Davenport with the goal of making art wearable and building a community that helps support artists.

Putting the artists first is important to Simpson, and he said they always take home the largest cut of every purchase. Along with prioritizing the artists, Simpson said he places emphasis on inclusivity and ensuring his customers feel welcome on his website.

“Everything on the website is gender-neutral,” Simpson said. “I try to make sure that in the imagery for our brand, you see every size, every gender, every gender identity and different races. I want to make sure that everyone sees a representation of themselves in our images.”

Like Simpson, Copeland said he hopes to spread awareness, but with cookies instead of clothes. He holds cookie-decorating workshops for different colleges and universities, which have created great opportunities to share what he loves.

“I interact with a lot of people who are not within the LGBTQ+ community,” Copeland said. “So it’s really nice to get either awareness out there or that representation, especially being a drag queen.”

Copeland said his vision for the future of Plenty O’Cookies includes spreading happiness and positivity from baking, as well as introducing more people to the art of cookie decorating and drag.

“It’s awesome because sometimes there are people who have never seen a drag queen, and I tell them I am comfortable answering questions about baking, cookies or drag,” Copeland said.

Copeland said he advocates for the LGBTQ+ community in multiple ways, especially by supporting other LGBTQ-owned businesses, including Queerencia , an apparel company owned by his friend, Ty Collier.

Collier said he grew up in the small town of Piqua, Ohio, where his exposure to queer history and queer culture was limited, inspiring him to spread awareness through the platform of apparel.

“All of our designs are based around queer history and culture and creating more inclusive spaces and just spreading love and equality,” Collier said. “It’s very simple and easy to get a message across using creative designs.”

Collier said giving back to the LGBTQ+ community has become one of the most important parts of his life, and he gives 20 percent of his proceeds to LGBTQ+ nonprofit organizations to keep money in the community.

With profits made through Queerencia, Collier is able to donate to Kaleidoscope Youth Center, a nonprofit geared toward LGBTQ+ youth; Equitas Health, a nonprofit health center that focuses on care for the queer community; and the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, a nonprofit that supports black transgender women.

“As a Black, gay man, being a double-minority and not having access to many things that others are more fortunate to have, it means everything to me to be able to use my platform for growth and to show that it is possible for someone like me to make an impact and use their voice,” Collier said.

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