Class of 2021 BEQ Pride LGBTQ Leader Under 40
(He, Him) is 39
The year 2020 feels like a worldwide wake-up call in so many ways. As a leader, I realize the most important thing I have learned and will take forward is…
Humility. Listening to the needs voiced by my community, rather than my own presumptions, has changed how I work to empower others. My journey as a leader has become an organically evolving story in which I play the narrator, not the protagonist. I can’t wait to turn the page!
Justin Ayars is the Founder/CEO of EqualityMD, a revolutionary LGBTQ+/SGL virtual healthcare ecosystem. A former lawyer, Justin enjoys spending his time as an entrepreneur, public speaker and educator. Currently, he is working on the many facets of EqualityMD’s comprehensive ecosystem. Launching in 2021, EqualityMD will change how LGBTQ+/SGL communities across the nation perceive, access and engage health and wellness professionals, products and services.
Justin Ayars is a self-proclaimed “recovering healthcare trial lawyer” turned serial entrepreneur. He describes himself as having the “mind of a humanities scholar, heart of a poet and spirit of a starship captain” and we agree. With curiosity as his North Star, his personal and professional endeavors over the past 12 years have had meaningful impacts in the lives of people, helped hundreds of businesses become more inclusive and facilitated institutional changes that have created new opportunities for LGBTQ+/SGL communities throughout the mid-Atlantic region.
In 2009, Ayars opened a coffee shop in Williamsburg, VA that became a safe haven for LGBTQ+ youth. In 2012, he opened a LGBTQ+ inclusive bar/restaurant in Richmond, VA that united the city’s arts, business and culinary communities. As a small business owner, he was prompted to create Richmond’s LGBTQ+ chamber of commerce and helped make that organization an affiliate of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce. From there, he went on to create Q Media, a mission-driven, SWAM-certified multimedia/marketing company. For over five years, Q Media promoted equality through storytelling by publishing a magazine, hosting numerous events—including Virginia’s first LGBTQ wedding show—and helping companies authentically engage the LGBTQ market.
By mid-2019, Q Media had evolved its operations into Equality Rewards, a software/data analytics company. As their new technology debuted, the novel coronavirus pandemic hit and the team responded by interviewing 1,000+ individuals across the country. Through their research, they discovered just how the pandemic exacerbated the existing healthcare disparities experienced by members of the LGBTQ+/SGL community. Root causes for the disparities became a focal point and led to the development of EqualityMD.
EqualityMD’s comprehensive digital platform provides inclusive, personalized healthcare that’s easily accessible and affordable. Using EqualityMD’s telehealth portal, the historically underserved LGBTQ+ community can easily access LGBTQ+ inclusive medical professionals from any device, nationwide. By creating long-overdue safe spaces in the health and wellness industries, EqualityMD is bridging the glaring healthcare disparity gap for LGBTQ+/SGL communities and bringing equitable care to individuals and families nationwide. EqualityMD is a human-motivated technological solution to long-standing systemic problems in healthcare including discrimination, challenges accessing affirming and supportive care providers, and a lack of institutional knowledge pertaining to the unique health issues faced by the diverse LGBTQ+ community. As part of its inclusive health and wellness ecosystem, EqualityMD empowers underrepresented populations through community building, educational opportunities and authentic storytelling. Ayars is diligently working to make our communities healthier, happier and safer.
Over the next decade, Ayars hopes to see more LGBTQ+/SGL entrepreneurs be inspired to build their own companies and have investors and mentors within the community work to support them. Ayars believes a strong, inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem that incorporates more LGBTQ+/SGL representation, recognition and visibility is the key to unlocking life-affirming opportunities for underserved communities and the foundation for building a more just, verdant and equitable society.