Pride of place: Nexba leads on LGBT inclusion in the workplace

 

Nexba-co-founders-Drew-Bilbe-and-Troy-Douglas-Shelley-Beach-3Sugar-free beverage brand Nexba recently became the first Australian company to receive financial backing from Gaingels, a world-first investment vehicle for LGBT founders.

With a name derived from “gay angels” and “gaining from angels”, Gaingels is an angel-investing group that actively advocates for leadership diversity. A recent study by StartOut found that 37 per cent of founders were not “out” to investors and 12 per cent thought being “out” would hurt them.

Nexba co-founder and global CEO Troy Douglas chats to Inside FMCG about self-discrimination, learning how to own his sexual identity in business and his ambitions to take the naturally sugar-free beverage brand to the US and beyond.

INSIDE FMCG: Have you ever faced discrimination in your career journey because of your sexuality?

Troy Douglas: It is more likely that I am guilty of having held my own self-discrimination because of my sexuality. Everybody has their own experiences and for me, I was a few years into having co-founded Nexba before I actually acknowledged my own sexuality. As soon as I did, I came out to friends and family, but it still took a few years to truly become comfortable, so this made me hesitant in a professional setting.

For many years I subconsciously wasn’t open with sharing my sexual preference. This wasn’t due to the people I was working with, it was simply that as a founder I had concerns about whether my sexuality could disadvantage relationships in business.

What organisations like Gaingels and the superstar leaders like Alan Joyce and Paul Zahra as business icons have done is tell everyone that you don’t need to hide. Sure, we may get a pie to the face but ultimately that is through ignorance not strength, and your integrity and authenticity in who you are will be what ultimately drives your greatest growth in life – personally and professionally.

Troy in the UK

INSIDE FMCG: Did you ever feel like you had to hide that part of yourself to get ahead in business?

TD: While my personal experience has been a positive one, hearing the stats that 37 per cent of founders are not “out” and a further 12 per cent have a perception that it will hurt them is why I believe in sharing and being proud that Nexba is Gaingels backed. Your sexual preference is not your personal leading byline or opener – nor should it ever be. In a pure transactional business and investment-raising sense it should not be your lead driver. I have been encouraged by individuals who have led the way with public profiles to now owning being comfortable with my sense of self. Owning who you are is your greatest defence against discrimination and homophobia.

INSIDE FMCG: How do you promote LGBTQI+ inclusion in your own business?

TD: Drew [Nexba co-founder] and I have encouraged a culture that stems from our Nexba “naturally brave” mantra. Our values are: be fun, be authentic, be collaborative and be brave. Simply living each day with a mindset of being your best self is what encourages an environment where people can celebrate who they are; it is our informal way of promoting LGBTQI+ inclusion. My hope is it will become less of a needed diversity inclusion, because there is nothing that needs to be accepted.

INSIDE FMCG: What changes do you think need to happen in the FMCG sector for better inclusion?

TD: More rainbow cans could be a nice start. Also, I not-so-secretly may be pitching internally to have a Nexba float at a future Mardi Gras. Don’t tell Drew. Mentorship and FMCG leaders becoming more visible is a great start and business within the FMCG sector should encourage employees to join organisations like “Out For Australia”.

INSIDE FMCG: What does the support from Gaingels mean to you and your business?

TD: Gaingels opens up our Nexba Legends (shareholders) network beyond Australia by virtue of them being founded by US investors. As an Australian naturally brave brand delivering naturally sugar-free innovation to the world, I am confident they will add value through connections and market experiences to support any future business expansion overseas and in particular into the US.

This article first appeared in the April issue of Inside FMCG’s quarterly magazine. Subscribe to the magazine here.

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