Two worlds collide

Jacob Gordon (Enterprise Leadership, 2020) is taking full advantage of the many innovative opportunities presented to him during his time at the University of Iowa. His interest in the areas of both LGBTQ+ and business inspired him to assist in founding the first LGBTQ+ business organization at UIowa, Reaching OUT in Business (ROB). The student organization ROB was established in Spring 2017 and makes it a priority to promote professional development for LGBTQ+ and ally students across campus. When Gordon received a newsletter that promoted a congressional summit on LGBTQ Innovation in Washington D.C., he saw it as a great opportunity for a student from Iowa to really expand his network.

As soon as Gordon was accepted as a volunteer to the summit, he reached out to a University of Iowa’s John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (Iowa JPEC) faculty member to see if they knew of any funding resources that could help him attend this conference. In May, he was able to attend the 2019 StartOut’s Congressional Summit on LGBTQ Innovation in Washington D.C. with the help of Iowa JPEC and ROB.

As an Enterprise Leadership Major, Gordon’s academic studies are helping him gain leadership, entrepreneurial and innovative skills. He had never considered that the entrepreneurial community would have opportunities specially designed for the LGBTQ+ community – or that these two areas of importance in his life would collide. “When I heard about StartOut’s conference for LGBTQ entrepreneurs and individuals it shocked me. I never knew that there would be an event like this that perfectly aligned with my passions,” Gordon stated. After attending the conference, he realized that there are plenty of resources out there for LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs, and hopes to share some of these opportunities with other UIowa students.

The Congressional Summit on LGBTQ Innovation is an event that brings together entrepreneurs, business leaders, elected representatives, and national community leaders to discuss challenges, opportunities, and solutions for the issues they each face. Due to the cost, not many college students are able to attend the conference. Although he attended as a volunteer, that did not hold him back from getting the most out of his experience.

“When I got to the event, I talked to the main event coordinator and introduced myself to him. I explained that I was an entrepreneurial student from the University of Iowa and that I want to get as much out of this conference as I can. After that they made sure that I had the best experience, I became the main MC for the event and I was sitting front and center and taking notes as if I was an attendee,” Gordon recalled.

This conference was an eye opening experience for Gordon. “The experienced individuals that I was surrounded by were inspirational. When they started out in the professional world, there were no resources for LGBTQ+ individuals, they couldn’t show who they truly were. These professionals paved the way for my generation and generations to come to be able to be themselves in the workplace. Although our society has improved greatly on these issues, there is still so much more to be done – even in the world of entrepreneurship.” Gordon was shocked by the networking opportunities and connections a student from Iowa was able to make at this event. When he got back to Iowa, he made sure to connect with every individual he met on LinkedIn and sent them a thank you message for being so receptive of his questions and comments. He was very surprised at the welcomed responses he received.

By attending this conference, Gordon learned so much about the issues and opportunities of the LGBTQ+ community. He was shocked by the networking opportunities and connections he was able to take away from this experience, and was shocked that as a student from Iowa he fit right in with the business professionals at the conference.

Gordon hopes to shares his experience and knowledge about similar opportunities with other students and members of ROB. He encourages others to attend this conference in the future to learn more about the issues and solutions surrounding the LGBTQ+ community in the business world.