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Owning It: 17 Red Hot Entrepreneurs

Debbie Stanton & Rachel Stanton
Co-Founders • Diversity Builder

If Barnes & Noble is fresh out of queer-friendly travel guides, and no one in your LGBT family knows anything about where you’re heading (yet there you are, plane ticket in hand, with nowhere to go but into the air), head to Debbie and Rachel Stanton’s Diversity Builder website, where you’ll find the Stantons have planned out your trip already, with pink triangles at every turn.

The idea for the southern-bred online national database of queer-friendly professionals and businesses came about after the Stantons hit dead ends in their search for an LGBT community when they first moved to Franklin, Tennessee in 2002. "[Debbie] sought out a lesbian-friendly general practitioner and gynecologist in the area," says Rachel. "She made phone call after phone call, screening each physician, before finally finding a couple who were okay with [her sexual orientation]."

So the couple launched DiversityBuilder.com in the fall of 2003. What started out as a service offering listings in four states has become a national success; the company is now one of the top 5% most popular websites. "Debbie and I were already working 40–50 hours a week in corporate America. Finding time to devote to Diversity Builder was initially a challenge,” says Rachel, who found a way to make it work. The couple also had to contend with the religious and hetero-centric ways of life in the South. “Our local chamber of commerce starts with a Christian prayer, often followed by the question, 'So, what does your husband do?'" Rachel says.

Although Rachel's childhood dream of becoming an astronaut has permanently moved to the back burner, she has big plans for Diversity Builder's near future: "We wish to develop an ongoing diversity training program within the workplace,” she says, and with a nod to their current 4-hour training program, she continues, “Rather than just presenting four hours of material and hoping it sticks."–IJ

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