LGBTQ+ Business Owners in the Mission District: An interview with Luis Quiroz of Mission Lotería

Luis Quiroz at Mission lotería Pride event at Arcana. Credit: Alfredo Coyotl – Coyotl Cuatlacuatl Photography

June is a month dedicated to pride, networking, and activation for LGBTQ+ business owners nationwide.

As part of our continuing coverage for Pride Month, Mission Economic Development Agency’s (MEDA) own Community Communications Manager, Juan Mesa, had the opportunity to interview Luis Quiroz, the face of Mission Lotería, a business activation program for the Mission Street corridor in San Francisco created by MEDA in partnership with the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD). Luis is among the many LGBTQ+ Latino entrepreneurs in San Francisco. After working with MEDA’s Business Development program, he founded Trending Socials, an agency that assists business owners in managing their social media channels and utilizing digital tools to effectively market their businesses.

Mesa and Quiroz discussed the current state of business for LGBTQ+ business owners in the Mission District and explored what to expect from Mission Lotería for the remainder of the year.

JM: Welcome, Luis. We’re delighted to feature you here on our blog. Let’s begin by providing an overview of the opportunities and challenges faced by LGBTQ+ business owners in the Mission community.

LQ: I would say that the general consensus is that businesses do feel supported. They do feel seen and heard. Events or recognition such as Pride Month bring a light to their businesses, which is much appreciated, but I feel they would like their business to be showcased and highlighted throughout the year, not just during that specific month.

They don’t necessarily want to be just an “LGBTQ+ owned business,” but it is great that this month helps to highlight them and their products or their services. Additionally, financial resources their way would be amazing, as with any business. Who wouldn’t want a little extra support, especially when recovering from the pandemic?

JM: What about community members looking to start a business? Are they feeling supported, safe, and confident to start a business by identifying it as a LGBTQ+ owned business?

LQ: I think that’s a very personal thing, right? Like being out or being vocal about your LGBTQ+ status. I feel we are in a very safe bubble here in San Francisco and I believe folks feel pretty safe.

I’m looking through Google Maps, looking for cafes or looking for restaurants, and I’ll start noticing Google will highlight this and this business identifying as LGBTQ owned. I think that’s major. I think that’s huge because it helps you identify what places are LGBTQ+ owned and that helps you make that decision like wanting to support them or take that step to support them.

Now if you look at the climate nationally, you know it’s very questionable. There are states that are outlawing drag queens, which is ridiculous. We just had an event at Arcana with a drag queen host, and we were having discussions about how talented drag queens are. They’re performing, they’re dressing, they’re costume changing, they’re keeping the energy going, they’re keeping the vibe. It’s just such an impressive career. Those states are kind of chipping away the confidence of being out, being outspoken.

Mission Lotería Pride celebration at Arcana. Credit: Alfredo Coyotl – Coyotl Cuatlacuatl Photography

JM: You are mentioning the cultural industry, where entrepreneurs may operate differently from traditional brick-and-mortar establishments. I imagine Pride Month holds significant importance for networking opportunities among LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs.

LQ: Absolutely. I think Pride, especially with Pride Festival and all the different events that come with it, lends itself to a more concentrated area where a lot of these entrepreneurs can collaborate, network, and connect. Additionally, there are resources available such as the LGBT Center, located on Market Street in the Castro, as well as various LGBTQ+ serving organizations.

While these organizations may not necessarily focus on entrepreneurship, they provide opportunities for personal growth and resources. Pride offers a great platform for networking and meeting other businesses that share the LGBTQ+ identity. It serves as a reminder that networking, mingling, and meeting people should always be a priority. It’s important to show support, exchange information, and even engage with others on social media with just a follow. Making the effort to connect with other business owners, particularly those outside of your immediate industry, is crucial. Pride is an ideal time to foster collaborations.

JM: How was hosting a Mission Lotería event during Pride Month? Let’s discuss the recent business activation you conducted.

LQ: This year is the first time we started Mission Lotería in the Spring, it usually starts in the late summer. We never had an overlap with Pride Month. Naturally, we chose to have a Pride event at a LGBTQ+ owned business to support small LGBTQ+ owned businesses. Our event at Arcana was the first of its kind. Arcana identifies an LGBTQ+ space. They are a wine bar, plant shop, a garden oasis, just a beautiful space. The owners identify LGBTQ+. We had a drag performance, a drag MC, who actually hosted and held the game. As for the prizes, we had a list of businesses from the Mission, specifically on Mission Street, that are LGBTQ+ owned. We gave out gift cards to these different establishments. It was a great way to support those small businesses financially, and give them exposure.

Even though we couldn’t host at each of these businesses, we gave them a space, and put a spotlight on those particular businesses which include Casements Bar, Bolerium Books, we had Café de Olla, Chely’s Beauty Salon, Latin American Barbers, and many more. We were able to highlight them and had a blast with our Drag Queen Amoura Teese. We had great attendance and great participation. I’m very happy with the results.

JM: Staying with Lotería, can you share any spoilers about what the program has in store for Summer and Fall?

LQ: This summer we are launching a partnership with Creativity Explored. Last year, we were asked to figure out a way to include the 16th Street corridor in Mission Lotería. We included 12 businesses. This year we are having our launch on 16th Street on July 8th. Creativity Explored is an art organization for adults with disabilities. They are going to be contributing new artwork to our campaign. Every year we have new art icons and this year Creativity Explored is responsible for sharing artists with us to create these icons. I can let you know the few new icons that we have coming up are Mission Dolores, La Virgencita, Las Flores and El Tacon icons. This artwork won’t be revealed until late August and that would kickoff the second half of our campaign leading into the holidays with brand new art, brand new tablas (boards) and a whole line of events.

JM: Thank you Luis, any final thoughts you would like to share?

LQ: One thing I wanted to mention about what is important to support these groups of business owners, whether it’s black-owned, immigrant-owned, LGBTQ+ owned, is that it’s crucial because these communities come from different experiences and face unique barriers and challenges.

Personally, as someone who grew up gay, I understand that it wasn’t always easy. I had to battle my own insecurities, lack of support from my family, and my personal demons. You never know what someone’s journey has been like, although not every LGBTQ+ person faces hardship, it’s important to recognize and celebrate their accomplishments.

Opening and running a business is already challenging enough, so one can only imagine the additional hardships someone may have faced to get to that point. Some individuals are asylum seekers who had to leave their home countries due to their LGBTQ+ status. Supporting and uplifting these individuals is crucial, and Pride Month serves as a good reminder to actively support them. And while it’s great to show support during Pride Month, it’s equally important to continue that support throughout the year.

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