WITH a career spanning more than 20 years, Michael Ruiz knows a thing or two about what it’s like to be out and openly-gay in the corporate workplace.

“For some guys it’s a no brainer – they are who they are, and why should they have to hide their sexual preference at work,” he said.

“I must say I was one of those ‘gays’ that was very much ‘out’ in the work place. However, I also remember other gays not comfortable enough to be out in their work place, and I worked side-by-side with some of these people – they just weren’t ready to come out then.”

Ruiz worked for many years as a senior business development manager with a large IT company. However, the gloss of the corporate world began to wear thin.

“I got to the point where I felt like I was just viewed by my manager as a revenue machine,” he recalled.

“The business said customers came first, but the reality was that revenue was their top priority. That was something I felt went against my values.”

Ruiz took the plunge with a major career change, and used the skills and contacts from his corporate career to help him strike out on his own in a new marketing consultancy business, Ripple Marketing.

“I am a relationship person, I believe in success through building genuine relationships with my clients,” he said.

Ruiz essentially launched himself down the “gaypreneur” path, building his own business, and he has never looked back.

“It’s a way of doing things our way, without fear of being harassed,” he said.

Ripple Marketing specialises in social media, public relations, advertising, events, web design, graphic design, videography, and marketing advice for small businesses.

“I think many gay men are creative and willing to take risks, and often end up being very successful in business as a result,” Ruiz said.

“We have large networks of people we know, and we use this to our advantage. We like to learn and explore new industries, products, services, etc.

“The term ‘gaypreneur’ resonates with me and I’m taking it.”

Ruiz also acknowledged that switching from the corporate world to running his own businesses came with its fair share of challenges – but working through them has provided him with new opportunities.

“My biggest challenge was the lack of support around various business functions,” he said.

“There was no longer an IT department to call with computer issues or accounts department to do invoicing and accounting. Being a perfectionist, I initially thought I had to do it all by myself.

“But I quickly realised that there were many people that I already knew and trusted through my business networks and social media contacts. I turned to the other entrepreneurs in my networks for advice and help.”

Ruiz regularly shares business marketing tips and tutorials with his network via LinkedIn and social media, a tactic that he claims can be used successfully by almost any business.

“Anyone running a small business should be actively looking for opportunities to build their network, which is a lot easier if you take advantage of business networking groups and attend industry seminars.

“Your network of contacts can help accelerate your growth. You can meet a lot of business owners and corporate executives from the LGBTI community by attending events by the SGLBA, Globe or GLBN.

“Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to people at events, and follow it up by connecting via LinkedIn or Facebook. Seeking advice and help from other entrepreneurs in your network is the key.”

For more information, visit www.ripplemarketing.com.au

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