Nick Alm Tackles LGBTQ Employment Issues Around the Globe
Monday, April 8, 2019
Nick Alm, ’17 BSB, remembers the exact turning point of his professional life: the moment he met his mentor and eventual business partner, Charlie Rounds.
Alm had just landed an internship with Minneapolis consulting firm Conlego, where Rounds was a client. “I’ll never forget walking along the balcony of Hanson Hall for my first coffee with Charlie. I have such a vivid recollection of looking up and seeing him and that first handshake,” Alm recalls. “My life fundamentally changed that day.”
At the time, Alm was just 19—a self-described young, queer business student unsure of his future. Meeting Rounds, who was 40 years older, gay, married, successful, and philanthropic, was a revelation. Alm suddenly had a vision for who he could become and what he could do with his degree.
Fighting For Others
At the end of the internship—and with three semesters to go until Alm’s graduation—Alm and Rounds went into business together, co-founding the Mossier Social Action and Innovation Center in January 2017.
Mossier is a social enterprise that addresses LGBTQ employment issues. For the first two years, their work was focused globally: investing in entrepreneurs in Uganda, Kenya, and the Dominican Republic—all countries where it’s illegal to be gay.
These aren’t investments in a traditional sense but rather outright grants. “If you’re an out person in Kenya and you’re trying to start a business, there are enough barriers without having to pay back a loan,” Alm says. “We also didn’t want to burden recipients with things like 20-page grant reports in a language that might not be their first. The U.S.-based aid model doesn’t always work in other countries, and we saw that right away. We decided early on that we were going to put that faith in people.”
In one early investment—a taxi business owned by an HIV group in Nairobi— the drivers pooled 10 percent of their profits into a savings account, eventually exceeding their initial grant sum. Instead of having to pay back a loan, they were able to reinvest in their business by adding another cab to their fleet.
“My day-to-day work consists of going into companies and working with people who are genuinely passionate about this. It’s a bonus that there’s a financial incentive.”
Bringing Change to the Midwest
As Mossier enters its third year, Alm is laser-focused on funding their global, nonprofit work by building a parallel local, for-profit consulting firm.
This consulting firm will tackle local LGBTQ employment issues from all sides, whether it’s increasing visibility of LGBTQ talent, or working directly with corporations to change their practices as a way to draw in and retain that talent.
Through a nine-month paid fellowship with Minneapolis social enterprise giant Finnegans Brew Co., Alm is able to develop and test this business model, all with the built-in support of the Finnovation Lab career coaches, mentors, and his fellow inaugural cohort of “impact entrepreneurs.” Fellows are expected to launch their businesses at the end of the fellowship, and Alm is well on target.
“We have competition in this space, but they’re all based on the coasts. Minnesota has more Fortune 500 headquarters per capita than most states in the U.S. Why is the Midwest being left out of this conversation? We are stepping in to fill that.”
Leveraging the many connections he made during his extracurricular achievements at Carlson—namely cofounding Compass Undergraduate (the school’s first undergrad LGBTQ student group) and starting the Carlson LGBTQ+ Alumni Reunion—Alm is able to tap into the Twin Cities’ vast network of Fortune 500 companies.
“There is a direct correlation between how diverse a company is and the likelihood that they’ll outperform on a financial statement,” he says. “Everybody’s embraced that now.”
With the recent rise in popularity—and moreover profitability—of the “Diversity and Inclusion” catchphrase, Alm realizes that the conversation can sometimes feel disingenuous. Nonetheless, he remains optimistic about real and meaningful change. “My day-to-day work consists of going into companies and working with people who are genuinely passionate about this. It’s a bonus that there’s a financial incentive.”
Alm would like to see Minnesota become the top recruiting ground for LGBTQ talent and, more broadly, for all underrepresented talent.
“Who’s coming to the state? Who’s not coming? Who’s leaving and why?” Alm asks. “If we’re going to be competitive, we have to answer those questions.”