For nearly a decade, Tj Jones advocated for the 2SLGBTQ+ community in Newfoundland and Labrador as a volunteer, working with the St. John’s Pride organization, co-founding and acting as training co-ordinator for non-profit Trans Support NL, and sitting on a handful of committees and boards. A few years ago, Jones decided to turn volunteerism into a career and enrolled in a Business Management (Human Resource Management) course.

“Through my volunteer work, I recognized there were barriers and challenges for queer and trans folks to gain access to meaningful, consistent employment, and human resource management seemed a good vehicle to effect change,” Jones says.

After receiving his diploma from the College of the North Atlantic in 2020, Jones got financial support from Employment Insurance and the government of Newfoundland and Labrador, giving him time to create a business plan. In January 2021, he launched Full Picture Management, an HR consulting business that focuses on giving organizations the tools they need to integrate meaningful inclusion for 2SLGBTQ+ workers, customers, service users, and customers into their operations.

OUT for Business, a mentorship program launched by the CGLCC, Canada's LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce in 2017, seemed to be the way for Jones to make the valuable connections he needed to kickstart his business, so he applied to be part of the 2021-22 cohort.

The program, geared to LGBT+ youth (aged 18 to 39) looking for support and guidance to help them establish or grow their business, is an extension of what the chamber does for entrepreneurs in the LGBT+ community. “We felt that we could do more to support young entrepreneurs,” said Darrell Schuurman, Co-Founder and CEO of CGLCC.

“We wanted to build a program out that could truly support this group as they’re going through pivotal moments in their entrepreneurship journey.”

Each year, the program, of which Scotiabank is a sponsor, accepts 15 to 20 young LGBT+ entrepreneurs. Those chosen must have a viable business — up and running for least six months — and be able to articulate how they want to grow that business so that they can be matched with a compatible mentor.

“It’s not an incubation program where somebody comes in with an idea and we help them develop that,” said Paige Harlock, Manager, Youth Entrepreneur & Partnerships at CGLCC.


I didn’t anticipate when I started my business in Newfoundland and Labrador, that I would have that national scope. It’s been a fantastic ride.  

Tj Jones, Founding Consultant, Full Picture Management

Throughout the 12-month program, participants are given plenty of opportunities to network with entrepreneurs from the community, receive one-on-one mentoring, and are given the resources, tools, and education they need to succeed. They are also provided financing by way of small grants or loans.

The 2021-22 cohort, for example, benefitted from a partnership with Sprott School of Business at Carleton University, which held a monthly workshop on anything from design-thinking to financing modelling. Participants also get feedback and advice from partners and sponsors on how to improve their business plans, which they are required to submit in the first three months of the program.

Once the entrepreneurs complete the program, they can become a CGLCC certified supplier free for one year, which gives them access to CGLCC’s corporate members, or join the chamber’s global incubator program, which helps them access international markets quicker.

Participants also often continue to benefit from the mentor-mentee relationship, Schuurman said. “One of our mentors who was part of the program since Day 1 told me he keeps in touch with all five of his mentees through quarterly checks,” he said.

Jones says his pairing with Jane Griffith, who runs executive search firm Griffith Group, has been valuable. Griffith, who works extensively with universities in an HR capacity, shared with him how she was able to navigate that sector as a member of the LGBT+ community and helped Jones shake off what he referred to as “imposter syndrome.”

Even after graduating, the benefits kept coming, Jones said. “Establishing that connection with the chamber is really helpful for me moving forward.”

The CGLCC hired Jones to prepare a comprehensive Diversity and Inclusion Policies & Practices Guide for its Tourism Project. He has also developed and facilitated 2SLGBTQ+ inclusive practices trainings for current and prospective members and partners of the chamber across Canada.

“I didn’t anticipate when I started my business in Newfoundland and Labrador, that I would have that national scope. It’s been a fantastic ride,” he said.

Many LGBT+ youth don’t have the support they need to become entrepreneurs, resulting in significantly underutilized talent opportunities, writes the CGLCC on its website. “OUT for business not only gives them that support but also assists in positioning Canada for economic growth and ultimately helps to engage and develop Canada’s LGBT+ future leaders.”

Scotiabank, which is a founding sponsor of OUT for Business, provides financial guidance to program participants, and sponsors the Black and White Gala’s Icon of the Year Award and the Global LGBT+ Business Summit. Guided by its purpose — for every future — the Bank actively supports and fosters grassroots initiatives that celebrate diversity and foster inclusion within its own workforce and in the community.

“Many entrepreneurs continue to face challenges and lose out on opportunities because they’re LGBT+, and we want to help break down some of those barriers,” Dominic Cole-Morgan, Senior Vice President, Total Rewards at Scotiabank said. “The program is so successful because it provides businesses with the support they need and increases the economic opportunities for entrepreneurs to help them reach their fullest potential.”

Harlock is grateful for support from sponsors such as Scotiabank: “This program literally only runs because of our sponsors. It’s so important to have that support because without it, we wouldn’t be able to support these young entrepreneurs,” she said.