Trans Day of Visibility: 10 trans and non-binary entrepreneurs making waves in business

In celebration of International Trans Day of Visibility (TDOV), we highlight some of the influential trans and non-binary entrepreneurs, founders and business leaders making waves in their industries.

While the landscape of entrepreneurship of corporate leadership has slowly been diversifying, the journey towards inclusion and representation remains incomplete. The fact is, the bulk of funding from venture capital still goes to a cohort of mainly straight and white men.

A study from Proud Ventures found that 75 per cent of LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs and founders have hidden their identity during some phase of the investing process. This stark data point proves that visibility in the start up ecosystem isn’t just symbolic, but also essential for fostering a culture of acceptance, equal opportunity and innovation.

Trans, non-binary and other gender-diverse people are vastly underrepresented in leadership roles and within entrepreneurship.

Through highlighting the achievements and accomplishments of a handful of trans and non-binary entrepreneurs, the goal is to inspire, empower and advocate for a future where everyone, regardless of their gender identity, has the opportunity to innovate, lead and chase their dreams.

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Tate Smith

Tate Smith is the founder and director and Tate Smith consulting. (Tate Smith)

As the founder and director of Tate Smith Consulting, Smith is an award-winning speaker and activist dedicated to debunking the myths about the trans community. While working as a legal secretary and a fraught coming out experience at an employer, Smith began to speak to his experiences as a trans man navigating the corporate world.

With his new consultancy, Smith hopes to provide businesses with the tools to support trans people through inclusive policies like gender-affirming care and tackling the stigmas around men’s mental health and trans people going through the menopause.

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Martine Rothblatt

Martine Rothblatt founded both Sirius radio and the biotech firm United Therapeutics. (Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images)

From satellite radio to bioengineering breakthroughs, Martine Rothblatt defies categorisation. A legal mind with a visionary spark, she’s not only built billion-dollar businesses like Sirius XM Radio and United Therapeutics, but also championed LGBTQ+ rights by coming out as transgender in 1994.

While compensation isn’t the sole measure of success, it’s worth noting that her dedication turned heads: Rothblatt was the biopharmaceutical industry’s highest-paid CEO in 2017.

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Vyra Sher

Vyra Sher came to the United States seeking asylum, now she is head of LECHERY, an accessories brand with a focus on hosiery. (Vyra Sher/Lechery)

Arriving in the US in 2019 seeking asylum, Vyra Sher is a contemporary example of what the “American Dream” should be all about.

As an asylum seeker and trans woman of colour, she’s faced discrimination, misogyny and rejection for most of her life. Despite this, after rebranding her fashion blog to LECHERY, an accessories company focused on hosiery, Sher found her brand in big box US retailers like Macy’s, Kohl’s and Nordstrom.

“LECHERY is my way of reclaiming the years lost when I wasn’t living my true authentic self,” she told PinkNews in 2023.

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Imara Jones

Imara Jones is a journalist and entrepreneur who served in the Clinton administration. (Getty Images)

Emmy and Peabody Award-winning journalist Imara Jones tackles social justice issues head-on. She created the impactful multi-episode docuseries, TransLash, exploring the transgender experience amidst societal resistance. Jones also hosted The Last Sip, a news show geared towards young adults of colour, particularly those identifying as LGBTQ+.

A force for intersectionality, Jones’ work spans various media platforms, including The Guardian, MSNBC, and NPR. Beyond journalism, she served in economic policy roles during the Clinton administration and held communications positions at Viacom. An accomplished academic, Jones holds degrees from prestigious institutions like the London School of Economics and Columbia University. Actively involved in social justice, Jones utilizes her platform as a Soros Equality Fellow and board member of the Anti-violence Project.

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Indy Sanders

Indy Sanders is a former tennis professional turned tech founder. (Indy Sanders/PerformVu)

A former professional tennis player turned tech growth specialist, Indy Sanders’ deep connection to the arts inspired them to launch media startup PerformVu in 2023. Considered the ‘Netflix for art,’ PerformVu has since carved its path as the leading platform connecting audiences to video and performance art.

In just 12 months, PerformVu gained venture capital backing from leading US investors, won an award at SXSW, and delivered compounding growth. Beyond being led by a non-binary founder, 80 per cent of PerformVu’s team identify as LGBTQ+ and all are proud to be carving the path to more diverse workforces.

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Maeve DuVally

Maeve DuVally attends The Out100 Party 2023 at NeueHouse Hollywood on November 09, 2023 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Presley Ann/Getty Images for Out.com)

Maeve is a DEI consultant focused on making workplaces more accepting for underrepresented groups and is a former senior communications executive at financial firms like J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs.

On LinkedIn, DuVally approaches vulnerable topics such as her previous struggles with addiction, her transition as an “older trans woman” and shares insights and learnings from her many business accomplishments as well as DE&I initiatives.

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Rico Jacob Chace

Rico Chace on stage at UK Black Pride 2023. London, England. (Getty Images)

As a Black trans man, Rico Jacob Chace has leveraged his education and five years of asset management experience to effectively manage social impact organisations’ growth. Now a charity director and entrepreneur, Chace has an established record of advocating for marginalised communities in places like the UK Parliament, the Mayor of London’s office and the United Nations’ UNITE Future Leaders Programme.

He also has appeared on the NYC Journal’s 50 Under 50 list amongst other accolades. Chace is also a gifted speaker and panelist, sharing his experiences to corporations and UK Black Pride.

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Thea Bardot

Thea Bardot, founder and chief executive at Lightning Travel Recruitment. (Supplied)

As the “thunder” and CEO of Lightning Travel Recruitment and a self-described “neurospicy babe,” Thea Bardot exudes her passion for inclusion and the luxury travel and hospitality industry in every post and speaking engagement she takes on.

Bardot’s content around DEI, neurodiversity and being a queer business owner landed her on LinkedIn’s Top 10 UK LGBTQIA Voices list. Recently, Bardot has documented her transition and gender-affirming surgery with a sense of vulnerability and realness that truly makes her an influential voice and inspiration for all trans and non-binary people.

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Robyn Electra

Originally from Nigeria, Robyn Electra arrived in the UK to study and ended up creating Gaff and Go, a fashion brand specialising in tucking underwear for trans women. (Robyn Electra)

Originally from Nigeria, Robyn Electra moved to the UK at the age of 18 to pursue both an education and to live her authentic self – beginning her transition in 2015. After relying on gaffer’s tape to prevent “bulges” while wearing dresses, Electra was inspired to create underwear for pre-op trans women that are gender-affirming, sexy, comfortable and most importantly, safe.

Now, her company Gaff & Go has over 200,000 followers across social media and plans to release a sports apparel line for trans women, non-binary people and anyone else who “tucks.”

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Dani St James

Dani St James founded the UK Charity Not a Phase which is dedicated to bringing joy to the trans+ community. (Jordan Rossi)

After working in night clubs, cosmetics and even as a recruiter, Dani St James is now the chief executive at the UK-based charity Not A Phase. The trans-led grassroots charity is dedicated to campaigning, social projects and funding initiatives for the trans community.

St. James views charity work as a catalyst, encouraging individuals to become better versions of themselves while helping others.

She told PinkNews back in 2023: “I think that something that we have really focused on now is putting out a really three-dimensional image of trans people that we’re not these beings lurking in the shadows.”

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Kylo Freeman

Kylo Freeman is an actor, venture capitalist and founder of For Them, a brand dedicated to comfortable binders for trans masc people. (For Them)

With a background in finance and venture capital, Kylo Freeman (they/he) founded For Them in 2021 with the goal to reinvent queer wellness. The company’s first direct-to-consumer chest binder served as a solution to Freeman’s own issues in finding comfortable and breathable chest binders.

Recently, Freeman and For Them acquired Autostraddle, a popular online magazine and social network for LGBTQ+ women and other trans people.

Originally from Liverpool and now residing in New York, Freeman is also an accomplished screen and film actor and has appeared on The Black List, New Amsterdam and will be in the second season of Netflix’s thriller The Night Agent.

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