StartOut Blog

6 Inspiring Quotes from StartOut Awards Recipients

This October, we’ll gather together in lower Manhattan for a second year as we celebrate the 12th Annual StartOut Awards at Tribeca 360. 

The premier gala honoring our nation’s LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs, the StartOut Awards recognizes exceptional queer founders and leaders and creates space for future generations to see themselves in our community.

Since 2012, we’ve presented 45 individuals and organizations with our Leadership, Advocate, Trailblazer, Innovator, and Next Generation awards and listened as they shared their stories of perseverance in the face of adversity. As we prepare to add more names to that remarkable list this year, we’re reminded of some of the inspiring messages from throughout the years.

Are you interested in attending the 2023 StartOut Awards? Purchase tickets here and help support the future of queer entrepreneurship!

Angelica Ross, 2021 Trailblazer Award recipient. Credit: Steven Simione

“You can start the entrepreneur process while working that 9-5 job or while working for someone else when you recognize that you are your own boss.”

Angelica Ross

Transgender Activist, Actress, and Advocate

2021 Trailblazer Award


Angelica Ross is the President of Miss Ross, Inc., star of Ryan Murphy’s FX hits American Horror Story: 1984 and Pose, and the founder of TransTech Social Enterprises, a program that helps people lift themselves out of poverty through technical training, digital work creating a social impact, and bringing economic empowerment to marginalized communities. 

From the board room to film and TV sets to Capitol Hill, Angelica Ross is a leading figure of success and strength in the movement for Transgender and racial equality. “Your body is your business, and once you learn the value of placing your body in certain environments – especially to Black and Brown, queer and trans folks – understanding your experience, your body, your entity, and your skills have value and that you just need to start out somewhere.”

Listen to Angelica’s full acceptance speech here.


Joey Gonzalez, 2022 Leadership Award recipient.

“When members of a marginalized community come together and support one another, we are unstoppable.”

Joey Gonzalez

Global CEO, Barry’s

2022 Leadership Award


Joey Gonzalez is a change agent, a global strategist, an entrepreneur, a son of a Cuban refugee, a gay parent, and the Global CEO of Barry’s, the original cardio and strength interval workout that revolutionized fitness and began the boutique movement. 

In 2018, Gonzalez was named to Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business list and received the CEO Award of the Year from North Castle Partners. In 2020, Gonzalez was named EY Of The Year and Greater Los Angeles’ Entrepreneur of the Year, and in 2021 moved his HQ from Los Angeles to Miami. ”A Cuban refugee – my Dad escaped to Spain to pursue his medical degree, eventually following his dreams to the United States. As his son, what I had the privilege of witnessing wasn’t only that hard work, dedication, and perseverance pay off, but that when members of a marginalized community come together and support one another, we are unstoppable.” 


Kandi Burruss, 2022 Advocate Award recipient.

“An advocate fights for what they believe in even when that belief may not align with popular opinion. 

Kandi Burruss

Singer, Songwriter, Producer, TV Personality

2022 Advocate Award


When thinking of Kandi Burruss, one word comes to mind: ambition. The Atlanta-born star has catapulted from singer and hit songwriter to businesswoman, entrepreneur, actress, TV personality, and proud mother — and she effortlessly balances it all. Since 2009 she’s starred in 12 seasons of Bravo’s pop culture juggernaut The Real Housewives of Atlanta, where she used the reality TV franchise to transform into a household name and as a platform to launch an ever-growing empire. 

“When I think of black queer icons, like Martha P. John, Sir Lady Java, and Bayard Rustin, I think of the determination and tenacity it took to fight against homophobia, transphobia, and racism. A fight that created a more equitable future for everyone sitting in this room tonight.”

Listen to Kandi’s full acceptance speech here.


Melissa Bradley, 2018 Leadership Award recipient.

“When you hear the statistics that say entrepreneurship is declining, let me remind you that people who look like me are on fire.”

Melissa Bradley

Managing Partner, 1863 Ventures

2018 Leadership Award


Melissa L. Bradley is a co-founder of venture-backed Ureeka, a community where small businesses gain unprecedented access to the expertise needed to grow their business. She is also the founder and Managing Partner of 1863 Ventures, a business development program that accelerates New Majority entrepreneurs from high potential to high growth. In this role she created a community of over 10,000 New Majority entrepreneurs in three years. Melissa serves as board chair for My Way to Credit (MWTC) and board member for AEO. She is a Founding Advisor to the Dell Center for Entrepreneurs and a Senator on the Board of Governors at Georgetown University.

“African American women are starting businesses six times the rate of everyone else, so the next time you look around and you say entrepreneurship is dead, go find a Black woman and say it is the means of our survival, it is a means of our economic wealth, and it is a means of our power.

Listen to Melissa’s full acceptance speech here.



Patrick Chung, 2015 Trailblazer Award recipient.

“The real trailblazers, the real mavericks, the real radicals, are the people who dare to start a new cause or company, often at great personal expense to themselves. These are the people who push us forward.”

Patrick Chung 

General Partner, Xfund

2015 Trailblazer Award


Patrick is the Managing General Partner of Xfund. Before Xfund, Patrick was a partner at NEA and led the firm’s consumer and seed investment practices. He is a director of 23andMe (NASDAQ: ME) and Philo and led investments in Guideline, IFTTT, NewtonX, ThirdLove, and Zumper. “The real trailblazers, the real mavericks, the real radicals, are the people who dare to start a new cause or company, often at great personal expense to themselves. These are the people who push us forward.”

Listen to Patrick’s full acceptance speech here.


Meg Columbia-Walsh, 2017 Innovator Award recipient.

“So it’s up to every one of us in this room to make sure that financially – which is how you get them – that we are the most successful startups and VCs.”

Meg Columbia-Walsh

Co-Founder and CEO, Wylei

2017 Innovator Award


Columbia-Walsh is one of the country’s most successfully exited female tech entrepreneurs and CEOs, building and selling four companies to the Fortune 200 and an IPO. Those include: HealthTech Digital, Founder and CEO – Sold to Interpublic Group (IPG); CBSHealthWatch, Founder and CEO, the first commercial website for consumers – Sold 33% to CBS Corp. and then led an IPO;, CEO – Sold to Pharmacia and Upjohn and Inverse Mobile, Founder, and CEO – Sold to Ernst & Young. 

She is also a co-founder and investor in Wylei Inc., a Marketing Automation, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning company. “The checks aren’t enough, and the organizations aren’t enough. We have to walk the talk.”

Listen to Meg’s full acceptance speech here.

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