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Learning to Lead in a New World

Bigmouth has been an active member of the LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois and certified LGBT Business Enterprise for almost two years, and we’re excited to announce in December of 2021 we accepted the award for LGBT Business Enterprise of the year.

More than just an award

Being in a position to win an award like this… is confusing to wrap my head around. We relaunched Bigmouth Creative in February of 2020, and then the economy came to a grinding halt, along with our global health, in ways we couldn’t have imagined. Among all the other things that had been upended around us, we had to figure out how to keep running the business and getting clients, knowing the next big thing was most certainly not going to be just around the corner given the new and shocking circumstances that came with the pandemic.

To feel any semblance of control, I needed to reach out for support. When we’re faced with new challenges, we tend to look toward those who have already found success. But that often results in unhealthy expectations, striving to achieve someone else’s definition of success, rather than embracing who we are as business owners and how we define success for ourselves. Without the vulnerability required to be true to ourselves, we can often overlook the communities that are our greatest cheerleaders for success.

A month before the pandemic, Bigmouth joined the Illinois LGBT Chamber of Commerce seeking LGBT Business Enterprise Certification and networking. Those of us who are members of the LGBTCC know that the chamber can throw FABULOUS parties that are always a blast. So, when they were looking to do a virtual seminar series for business owners, I jumped at the chance to give a seminar on how to grow your brand during trying times.

This work led to other speaking engagements as virtual conferences became the norm. As the world was adjusting to this new work life, I was able to build relationships more efficiently, oddly without hardly ever leaving the house. Additional speaking engagements led me to a diverse supplier conference, and realizing how intersectional the LGBTCC actually is.

Number of LGBTQ-run companies in the U.S. according to the NGLCC.
Number of businesses who are members of the LGBTCC of Illinois.
Gross revenue of LGBT Business Enterprises in Illinois.
1 in 6 Gen Z adults identify as LGBT, and that number is growing.

How can we embrace the vulnerability required to be true to ourselves?

Finding our tribe means knowing and living our core values—an important part of building any brand, whether personal or otherwise.

Our role as an LGBTBE

I want to be clear that I’m not 100% comfortable going after business as a “diverse supplier.” While I identify as LGBT, I’m still a cisgender, white male and that position comes with a lot of privilege.

But in being a part of diverse supplier conversations, I’ve been able to connect with several intersectional businesses that we can now work with as vendors, and create partnerships with diverse suppliers that can fill the gaps for our clients and customers where my and my teams’ lived experiences simply cannot.

Partnering with diverse suppliers like MyWhy Agency raises the quality of work that Bigmouth delivers. Life and the people in it are complex, and they are filled with nuance. Brand identities and marketing efforts should hold a mirror to that complexity, and we can’t do that without the intersectional representation that our diverse suppliers bring.

Because of these connections I’ve made through the LGBTCC, my business has grown in scale, has grown smarter, and has helped me grow into a leader – and a person – that I want to be. Not just for my personal goals and for Bigmouth, but also for my community.

Belonging and validation

The award is a great validation to the work Bigmouth has set out to do, and lord knows I need that validation whenever I can get it; I’m only human! It’s confusing to see myself here getting recognition for something I did – seemingly out of desperation.

But after reflecting, it feels natural to lead the Bigmouth team to this space that we are not just carving out for ourselves, but for other diverse businesses to thrive, and we couldn’t have done that without the support of the LGBTCC community.

And I have to say, it feels good to belong here.

Receiving the award at the LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois Annual Gala.

About the author

Jonathan Hart is Owner and Design Director at Bigmouth. He believes graphic design is the perfect blend of math, science and art. In his past life, Jonathan worked on accounts such as GE Healthcare, USG, SCA and Tork. He also played a key role in successfully branding several properties for international real estate firm Golub during one of the worst housing crises in history.

Outside of developing design based on human-centered storytelling, he works to enact Bigmouth’s mission to be a voice for good through active participation in LGBT causes and organizations. A triathlete, marathon runner and amateur chef, Jonathan has watched nearly every episode of “Battlestar Galactica.” He retains and regains his energy through his relationship with his husband Jason and their love of travel.