The GSBA Blog

  • Member Candidate: Jenny Durkan for Seattle Mayor

    by Jenny Durkan
    | Jul 24, 2017

    GSBA has several members on the ballot this year. GSBA does not endorse candidates for elected office, but we are pleased to offer them a chance to speak to their fellow members.

    Durkan2017During this campaign, I’ve had the opportunity to revisit every part of our city.  We’ve toured  neighborhoods and held conversations with local business owners to learn about the unique challenges facing small businesses and every neighborhood.  Gathered in coffee shops or hearing from business owners in forums, I’ve heard loud and clear that our community hates the divisive politics of Washington D.C.  People want the next mayor to bridge divides, sweat the details, and solve the toughest problems in our city. From our biggest moral challenges to our most basic needs, we need solutions on homelessness, affordability, transportation, and police reform.

    We are not going to solve these big challenges unless everyone is part of the solution. We’re the only campaign that is unifying our city with a coalition that includes labor unions such as SEIU 775 and Seattle Firefighters, the business community, environmental leaders, and the LGBTQ community.  My approach is to bring people together to find common ground. In doing this, we must remember that the voices of small business owners and workers are critical in any conversation.

    City Hall needs to understand how to work with business as a partner, which is why it’s critical for the next mayor to engage our local businesses – large and small – to build a healthy business climate in our City. I am committed to making sure Seattle’s dynamic economy continues to thrive, and I am equally committed to ensuring that those benifitting from our economic growth do their fair share. I have broad experience in creating and negotiating solutions to seemingly impossible problems, and as mayor, I will listen, learn and empower others. Our residents, businesses and labor will have seats at the policy table as we discuss and develop regulations, programs, and approaches to addressing a range of pressing issues.

    Our progressive values make our city the special place others emulate. We need all hands on deck if we are to build the just, equitable and dynamic Seattle of the future. Like many of you, I’ve spent decades fighting for equality, working for social justice, and advocating for LGBTQ individuals.

    I have spent my career focused on civil rights issues. In 2009, I became the first openly gay U.S. Attorney in our country’s history. As U.S. Attorney, I formed a special civil rights unit and prioritized hate crime prosecutions, including of a man who sought to terrorize a gay nightclub on Capitol Hill. I know the pain of LGBTQ families whose rights were stripped from them and individuals unable to visit or get information about loved ones who were being treated in an emergency. I’ve championed cases to enforce fair housing laws, language access services in our courts system, and the employment and housing rights of soldiers and veterans. I have been on the frontlines for social justice, including in the struggle for full marriage equality and other LGBTQ rights and efforts to address racial bias in policing.  The battle for equality must mean we fight for the equality, respect, and protection for every person.  Discrimination of any kind weighs down each of us.

    As your mayor, I will be a progressive fighter and inclusive leader, and I hope to earn your support as I seek to become the first female mayor in nearly 100 years and the first gay woman ever to hold this office.

    Jenny Durkan was the first openly gay U.S. Attorney. She’s a GSBA member and candidate for Mayor of Seattle. Learn more at


  • Ambassador Profile: Nikki Dickerson

    by Nikki Dickerson, Featured Ambassador, First Financial Northwest Bank
    | Jul 22, 2017

    first financial nikki dickerson featured ambassador july 2017 blog 300px width"I joke that before joining the GSBA, I had no social life. But now, 6 years later, some of my closest friendships are a direct result of the contacts made through this tremendous organization. I joined GSBA to increase business, and becoming an Ambassador to help connect people to other GSBA members, falls right in line with my love for making connections and building relationships. When I joined First Financial Northwest Bank, the very first thing I did was make sure we became GSBA members. The value membership brings to your business, and to your life, is so much more than the cost of joining.

    I have more than 25 years of banking experience. I have served in many facets of banking, from teller to commercial real estate associate, but found my true passion to be business banking. First Financial Northwest Bank is a great fit for me. We are about delivering personalized service and innovative solutions. Headquartered in Renton, WA, we have been a fixture in the community since 1923. Residents and businesses alike have relied on us, not just as a bank, but also as a promoter and sponsor of scores of non-profit, civic and social groups. From smaller things like food drives, to big events, festivals, fundraisers, and helping those in need. Our goal is to bring a little more happiness into everyone’s life. For over 93 years, we've built our reputation as a provider of financial solutions, a concierge of professional connections, and a partner in community service.

    I have lived in Snohomish County with my family since 1999. We share our home with our cat and two dogs. Some interesting facts about me include: I was raised on a horse farm. I trained and showed All American Quarter Horses and won my first trophy at age two! My parents tell me I learned to ride horses before I could walk. I have two rescued pit bulls that have no idea they are dogs; they think they are cats! I almost got tackled by the Secret Service at a University of Delaware football game for climbing across the bleachers to ask Vice President Biden to take a picture with me—which he did! I am a huge Baltimore Ravens fan. I cheer for the Seahawks too, except when they play the Ravens.

    If you see me at a GSBA Event, please come and say hello! I love making new friends!

  • Featured Member: Sugarpill, Karyn Schwarz

    by Karyn Schwarz, July 2017 Featured Member
    | Jul 22, 2017

    karyn schwarz sugarpill featured member july 2017 300width blog“The other day, I received a postcard in the mail from a person who lives and works in the neighborhood, and who walks past my door almost every day. The last line of the notes reads: ‘It makes me feel so safe just knowing that you are on the block.’

    My grandmother knew everyone on the block in her small, mostly immigrant town. We’d walk into shops where she would say hello and catch up on news or gossip, and then just let herself behind the counter, gather what she needed and scratch a note in the shopkeeper’s ledger books to let them know what she was taking, and then ask if that person needed anything before we went on our way. Rarely was any money exchanged, and if it was, there would first be a great fuss about how unnecessary payment was. Everyone owed everyone a favor, which made currency less something that could be counted or accumulated, and more a constant tide of connection, flowing out and returning again as needed. People took care of each other because they had to, and because that is what we are supposed to do.

    When I was a kid, I was very likely to be found dreaming on a low branch of a low tree, or making ink from the chokecherries that vexed my mom every summer, or playing “store” by constructing elaborate displays of mysterious goods made from whatever I could find and arranging them on tiny shelves that a person could inspect, choose from and trade for whatever random treasure they might have in their pocket. Turns out, this would all become the basis for what I have found myself doing now.

    I got lucky. I had some big challenges in life that forced me to seek out help in ways that I did not know were available. As is generally true of real healing, these new possibilities led me in directions I had not planned to go, and required me to let go of things that I thought I wanted in order to find what I really needed. I never set out to do what I do; it just happened as I followed the path of my own interests over many years, and scrapped together a living as I sought out a deeper understanding of what it means to heal, what it means to take care of yourself and of others, and what it means to create resilience personally as well as collectively.

    SugarPill is my best attempt at creating a job for myself that utilizes all of my fairly disparate and not particularly marketable skills, but more than that, it is my own public gesture of fostering community in a city that has increasingly buckled under development strategies that favor only a very few, and which seems to cherish technology over everyday humanity.

    We need connection. This tiny shop is just one tiny place on one block where you can find that, and so much more, when you walk in the door.

    SugarPill a member of the GSBA because they don’t just understand that; they champion it. No other agency has done more to support me in the nearly 7 years since the inception of my business than the GSBA, and I am not certain I would have made it this far without their guidance, appreciation and love for me and for all of their members.”

  • Member Candidate: Sara Nelson for Seattle City Council

    by Sara Nelson
    | Jul 21, 2017

    GSBA has several members on the ballot this year. GSBA does not endorse candidates for elected office, but we are pleased to offer them a chance to speak to their fellow members.

    Nelson2017My name is Sara Nelson.  I’m a small business owner, a parent, a sustainability freak, and a candidate for Seattle City Council Position 8.

    As co-founder of Fremont Brewing, I learned about business on the job and on the fly.  We’ve grown our little craft brewery from three full-time employees to over 50.  In the process, I’ve learned how deeply I value my relationships with both my employees and the community.

    It’s no secret I’m more of a policy wonk than a beer geek and my true love is public service. I come to this race with extensive public policy background.  I served as a Legislative Aide for Councilmember Richard Conlin for over 11 years and worked on landmark bills on economic development, the environment, and social justice.  This deep background of experience and willingness to get things done has earned me the endorsement of The Seattle Times in this race.

    Business backgrounds are often negatively portrayed when you run for public office, but I hold mine proudly.  That’s not only because we strive to be good to our staff.  It’s also because we strive to be good to our community.  As a small business owner, I’m a little part of a lot of lives and that’s one of my favorite things of owning Fremont Brewing.  Every night, hundreds of Seattleites come to our tasting room to laugh, talk, and even fall in love.  I’ve witnessed two proposals, a pop-up wedding, and was honored to host the wedding of my sister, Joanna, to her partner Karen.

    As members of the GSBA since 2014, I’m also proud that Fremont Brewing, like the neighborhood that surrounds it, has always embraced the LGBTQ community. We sent over 30 cases of beer across the state during the R-74 campaign to refresh volunteers after canvassing and phone banking. I’d like to think we were part of a few marriage proposals that time, too. We made over $1,500 of in-kind donations to LGBTQ non-profits in the region over the last two years and we donate all proceeds of our Pride Kolsch to local LGBTQ non-profits ($3,000 last year to the GSBA Scholarship Fund and the Rainbow Center in Tacoma).

    This year, our LGBTQ staff, led by Nik Hagen, chose the recipients (Ingersoll Gender Center and Lambert House), helped brew the beer, and promoted its release. We don’t know final sales numbers yet but this year’s cash donation amount will likely be higher.

    During this campaign, I’m talking to a lot of groups, and I’m always honest about where I stand.  I consider myself a progressive with a deep passion for social and environmental justice.  But I also wear the badge of “small business candidate” proudly.  In fact, I wear it so proudly I even write a guest editorial in The Stranger about it.  You can read it over at Slog.

    If I’m saying the same thing to business owners as I am to The Seattle Times and The Stranger, you can trust that what you see is what you get. You’ll get a Councilmember who is an ally to the LGBTQ business community. And I promise you’ll get an advocate who understands that local business is a partner, not an antagonist, in building a better, more progressive Seattle.

    I would be honored by your support, and I ask for your vote.

  • Member Candidate: Ryan Calkins for Port Commission

    by Ryan Calkins
    | Jul 21, 2017

    GSBA has several members on the ballot this year. GSBA does not endorse candidates for elected office, but we are pleased to offer them a chance to speak to their fellow members.

    Ryan CalkinsWith just two weeks remaining before the August primary election, most people are busy with summer activities and don't have much time to consider local races. In particular, the Port of Seattle Commission races--three of the five seats are up this cycle--rank low on voters' priority list. I want to make a case for why the Port races deserve your attention. The Commission plays a critical role in Seattle's economy both in terms of the direct impact of nearly $1 billion dollars in annual revenue, and also in terms of the indirect benefits of a vibrant airport, healthy seaport, and booming tourism industry.
    The Port is at an important crossroads. With the departure of its CEO earlier this year, the search is on for a new executive. And the incoming Port Commission has a responsibility to ensure that problems of the past (ethical transgressions, wrongful termination lawsuits, opaque contracting decisions) do not continue under new leadership. The Port of Seattle is a public agency, which requires a higher level of transparency and ethical standards than private enterprise.
    At a time when the federal government is going backward on accessibility and inclusion, it's even more important for the Port of Seattle to be a safe and inclusive space. SeaTac airport is our region's front porch, and people of every race, nationality, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation must feel welcomed. As the regional nexus of immigration, SeaTac should be a sanctuary for immigrants and refugees, rather than one more obstacle to safety for those fleeing persecution, war, and famine. 
    Finally, the Port of Seattle should be a key driver of small business development in the Greater Seattle area. With hundreds of retail opportunities, ongoing large-scale construction projects, and resources to support the training of the next generation of business leaders, the Port of Seattle has an obligation to ensure that the LGBTQ community has at least proportional representation in contracting and hiring. As a small business owner in the Georgetown neighborhood, I understand the challenges of securing work with large government agencies. The Port needs to expand its efforts to make sure that contracts are awarded to local small businesses, not just large, out-of-state conglomerates. 
    As the recipient of more than $70 million dollars in property tax funds each year, the Port needs ethical and experienced leadership. During this election cycle, we have the opportunity to elect a commission with the integrity and background to carry the Port into the next generation. 
    Ryan Calkins is a small business owner, GSBA member, and candidate for Position 1 of the Port of Seattle Commission. Learn more at

  • Travis Goes to Denmark!

    by Cody Chapin, Marketing & Communications Coordinator
    | Jul 21, 2017

    unleash un 2017 blog 300 widthTravis Mears, GSBA's Director of Development & Scholarship Programs, was selected as one of Microsoft's sponsored talents to participate in UNLEASH, a global innovation lab that brings together people from all over the world to transform 1,000 personal insights into hundreds of ideas and build lasting global networks around the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This year, the event takes place in and near Copenhagen, August 13-21.

    UNLEASH accepts top talents aged 20-35 who demonstrate commitment to solving the world’s most pressing challenges, possess a creative and innovative mindset, have a proven track record of making contributions to solving social causes, willingness to engage in co-creation with peers and experts, and have the language proficiency needed to engage in complex discussions.

    UNLEASH chooses different themes annually within the SDGs to work on. This year, seven themes have been chosen: Education & ICT, Energy, Food, Health, Sustainable Consumption and Production, Urban Sustainability, and Water. Travis has been chosen as part of Microsoft's Business and Corporate Responsibility organization's efforts to sponsor the Education/ICT/Accessibility track.

    The Sustainable Development Goals are part of the largest global partnership agreement and development plan for the planet ever made. It was agreed upon by all UN member states in September 2015 and consist of 17 goals and 169 targets. The goals ultimately aspire to create a better, more inclusive and more prosperous world by 2030.

    Congratulations Travis for being selected to be part of this monumental global initiative! Stay tuned to GSBA's social media feeds in August, where he will be posting from Denmark! Visit to learn more about the program.

  • This Year's Civic Engagement a Big Success!

    by Matt Landers and Bryan Adamson
    | Jul 21, 2017

    071817_GSBA Power Connect at Amazon (Credit- Nate Gowdy)-017The 2017 Civic Engagement event was the largest and best we have ever organized! Nearly 50 candidates and elected officials and over 325 guests packed the Meeting Center at Doppler for a successful mixer. We loved seeing so many people come prepared with a list of candidates to seek out and questions to ask.

    A huge thank you to our hosts at Amazon and Glamazon for bringing us to such a fantastic space and providing delicious food and drinks. And thank you to our sponsors at DML Insurance and Whitepages for their support of this event.

    Part of the success of this event was the participation of 21 organizations representing many different parts of the LGBT community. We are proud to have our members join us every year to show that the voice of the LGBT community is a powerful voice that must be listened to. Thank you to our partners at API Chaya, Center for Multicultural Health, Emerald City Black Pride, Entre Hermanos, Equal Rights Washington, Gay City, Gender Justice League, Ingersoll Gender Center, Legal Voice, Out for Sustainability, POCAAN, Pride Foundation, QLaw GLBT Bar Association, Seattle Area Support Groups & Community Center, Seattle Counseling Service, SEAMEC, U.T.O.P.I.A Seattle, Victory Fund, Seattle Gay News, Seattle Gay Scene, and the Seattle Lesbian. These are the groups making a difference in our region - find out what they are doing and how you can contribute.

    If you attended the event, we'd love your feedback! You can email your thoughts or suggestions to

    Remember to return your ballots by August 1!

  • 11th Annual LGBT Community Survey report

    by Jason Dittmer, Director of Marketing & Communications, GSBA
    | Jul 11, 2017

    Over 41,000 respondents from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities in 131 countries participated in the 11th annual survey. 180+ LGBT media, events and organizations worldwide partnered with CMI in this year’s study, helping to gain wide representation from across the community.

    A sample of 2017 key findings of 17,300 LGBTs living in the United States:

    LGBT-friendly Perceptions of Country, State and Community: 56% of LGBT community members living the United States consider the United States to be LGBT-friendly, compared to 98% of Canadians who consider Canada to be LGBT-friendly. However, most LGBT-participants in the United States considered their local community to be LGBT-friendly (82%), which may be an indication that LGBTs move to places where they feel more welcome. This has important implications for local communities in attracting employees and tax dollars. The state-by-state analysis was most fascinating, as people living in “blue” states had high praise for their state and local community, and those living in deep “red” states had negative perceptions of their state, but more positive perceptions of their local community.

    LGBT Rights, Safety, and Equality: With the changing political environment in the United States, the LGBT community may feel less secure than it did in the recent past. 82% indicated that they fear the loss of LGBT civil rights recently gained.

    Overall, LGBT community members are negative about the political and social direction of the country across every indicator tested, with 85% indicating that the country is heading in the wrong direction, and 85% reporting increased fear of hate crime violence.

    Top LGBT-Friendly Corporations: Every year, CMI asks an unaided “write-in” recall question about brands that participants make a conscious decision to purchase from, because of their pro-LGBT policies or practices in the past 12 months. In 2017, we saw Target, Apple, Starbucks and Amazon retain their top four rankings. New to the top 12 rankings are Disney, Nike, and Ben & Jerry’s.

    Supporting LGBT-friendly companies: 88% of LGBT participants indicated that corporations that support LGBT equality are more important than ever, and 77% indicated that companies that support LGBT equality “will get more of my business this year.”

    Power of LGBT Business Spending: Many studies have focused on the power of LGBT consumer spending. This study looks at LGBT spending from a different perspective: CMI estimates that there are about 3.5 million LGBT Americans who work for corporations or own their own businesses, and control at least some part of their business spending budget. Of these workers, 58% said that they at least sometimes decide to purchase from known LGBT-friendly companies on behalf of their employers or their own companies. Through an analysis of the study data, CMI estimates that the value of “LGBT consumer loyalty-influenced business purchases” spending to be about U.S. $18.8 billion dollars, annually.

    Positive Economic Outlook: The LGBT community generally has a positive economic outlook, with 51% viewing their economic situation favorably, 34% neutrally, and 15% negatively. There was not a significant overall index change in economic outlook since 2016, but there was a small downgrade of those who felt “very positive,” moving to just “positive.”

    LGBT vs. LGBTQ: One of the most common questions that CMI has received from clients over the past several years is whether corporations should move from addressing the community as “LGBT” to “LGBTQ.” Based on recent data, CMI believes that both can now be used safely. The advantages of “LGBT” are that the term is more favored across the diversity of the community, has higher favorable rates among Baby Boomers, and the term is often perceived as being “safer” by corporations. However, we have tracked “LGBTQ” as making significant gains in the past few years, has the most support among Millennials, and now has minimal negatives across any demographic group. The big shift from last year is that for the first time, LGBTQ now has an over 50% approval rating among Baby Boomers.

    Use of “Gay-friendly” as a term: “LGBT-friendly” is far more popular than the historical term of “gay-friendly”, which can now be seen as exclusionary of the L, B and T. Importantly, the term “gay-friendly” now has a non-positive rating among Millennials, who prefer “LGBT-friendly.” CMI advises corporation to use care in the use of terminology, which means avoiding terms such as, “gay-friendly,” or “gay neighborhoods,” and instead using “LGBT-friendly” and “LGBT neighborhoods.”

    Relationship Trends: Marketers should not assume that gay men and lesbians are “in relationships” in the same proportion. The study clearly shows major differences between genders when it comes to relationship status, which has important implications for marketers. 42% of gay and bisexual men consider themselves single, compared to 27% of lesbian and bisexual women, and 38% of gender expansive* research participants.

    * The survey’s Gender Expansive category includes participants who identify as transgender, trans men, trans women, genderqueer, gender fluid, non-binary (gender), and/or intersex.

    Click here to request a FREE copy of CMI’s 11 Annual LGBT Community Survey report download. You will immediately receive a link to a pdf copy.

  • Equality Under the Law Wins!

    by Louise Chernin, President & CEO
    | Jul 08, 2017

    On behalf of the membership, we thank you for your continued vigilance to secure and maintain equal rights under the law for all. For over 36 years, GSBA member businesses have stood up, spoken out, donated and organized to support the equal rights for the LGBT community and other communities who have been the target of bigotry and discrimination. This win today, is because of all of you and the many other businesses,  nonprofits and community members who again when challenged, said no to bigotry. 


    WWD Fails Image We have been proud to be one of the leading organizations in the Washington Won’t Discriminate Campaign and, although we have won this recent battle, we know all too well, that the fight for equality for all is far from over. Today, let us celebrate this important victory but also recommit ourselves to continue to work for equality, most especially for our transgender community, communities of color and immigrant communities who still are subjected to intolerable bigotry and discrimination. Our work is not done until we are all treated with dignity and respect and have equal access to protection under the law.

    For equality,

    Louise Chernin, GSBA President & CEO
    Drew Ness, GSBA Board Chair


  • Business Income ≠ Wages

    | Jul 06, 2017

    This letter was sent to the Seattle City Council on July 6, 2017. GSBA encourages its members to contact the Council (click here to find your councilmembers) before the final vote on Monday, July 10.

    Honorable members of the Seattle City Council,

    The Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA) has had tax reform as a priority in our legislative agenda for many years. Historically we have proudly supported the imposition of an income tax, including the unsuccessful Initiative 1098. We also deeply appreciate the attempt to address the crushing regressivity of our current tax structure (reliant on sales, property, and B&O taxes), which we are well aware is the worst in the nation.

    Regarding the current proposal from City Council, we have heightened concern that we hope you will address before finalizing the ordinance – namely the adverse impact on a large number of small businesses using pass-through entities such as limited liability companies (LLCs), partnerships, S-corporations, and sole proprietorships. GSBA’s membership included hundreds of these businesses. The current proposal treats business income for LLCs, S-Corporations, and sole proprietorships as personal income. Specifically, the bill uses “total income” as defined by line 22 of IRS Form 1040 (and equivalents), which includes all income before adjustments, deductions, and credits. Most income taxes imposed by other states and cities around the country start with federal net taxable income. While the City Council’s stated goal is to tax the wealthiest Seattleites, you are inadvertently going after many of our city’s small business owners who are anything but wealthy.

    Income reported by a LLC, S-Corp, or sole proprietorship is not the same as wages. Wages are commonly understood as a measure of cash amount actually received by an individual. The income of these small businesses is simply the measure of the business’ income but does not reflect how much of that profit is being reinvested in the business. Taxing the income of these entities will reduce the amount available for reinvestment, as well as unfairly target small business owners.

    This provision taxes businesses organized as LLCs, S-Corps, or sole proprietorships but not corporations. It is not equitable to tax one type of business but not another. The small businesses using these forms of ownership are put at a disadvantage to what are usually much larger businesses.

    Due to the “total income” target by City Council, retirement savings of LLCs, S-Corps, and sole proprietorships will be taxed twice. Business income is included in line 22, but retirement contributions are deducted on line 28. When that person retires and starts taking their retirement distributions, that income is reported on line 15, so therefore is also included in line 22 and in Seattle will then be taxed for a second time. For a person with W-2 income, the retirement contribution is deducted from their gross wages and is not included in line 22. Therefore, if you have two people (one self-employed, the other with wages) who earn the exactly same amount of income and have the same retirement deduction, the self-employed person ends up paying more taxes.

    We hope that the City Council will hear our concerns and act to ensure that the proposed income tax is properly targeting the wealthiest of our residents and not those who are ostensibly supposed to be finding relief from regressive taxation.

  • Why You Should Start Holiday Marketing Now

    Put down the leftover hot dogs, sparklers, and souvenir American flags. Yes, summer has barely started—but if you’re a small business owner whose profitability depends on the holiday shopping season, it’s time to start planning your marketing strategy now.

    Here are three reasons you should start thinking about holiday marketing:

    1. Everyone else is doing it. Many retailers launch holiday marketing campaigns in October, and you'll need to create your strategic marketing plan well in advance of October to be ready in time.

    2. Americans shop all the time. Remember when your aunt who started shopping for Christmas on December 26 was considered a kook? Now she’s just average. Forbes recently reported as many as 40 percent of Americans start their holiday shopping well before Halloween.

    3. You might miss the boat. Even if your customers aren’t early bird shoppers, deadlines for advertising - especially print campaigns, direct mail or getting listed in holiday gift guides - will sneak up sooner than you think. Do you want to miss out on a great opportunity to advertise in the December issue of a magazine?

    Now that you know why you should be thinking about holiday marketing in July, read these seven marketing tips to get ahead of your competition.

  • Paid Family Leave a Victory for All

    by Matt Landers, Public Policy & Communications Manager
    | Jul 03, 2017

    Last Friday the Legislature passed paid family and medical leave. 

    Beginning in 2020, employees will be able to take paid time off for the birth or adoption of a child, to take care of an ill family member, when a family member is deployed or wounded in military service, or for their own serious health condition.

    This is a big victory for everyone in our state - families and businesses alike.

    GSBA has been working with legislators all year to share the voice of our membership. In a survey we did of our members earlier in the year, 82% supported a statewide paid family leave policy. Major concerns raised by our members included impacts on unemployment insurance, the ability of small businesses to pay for this new system, the portability of the benefit, and the length of the benefit. Other points that GSBA pushed for included:
    • a social insurance model
    • a consistent statewide policy
    • consistent definitions with existing policies, including full coverage for LGBT families
    • preserving the ability of employers to provide additional benefits
    • a progressive benefit model allowing low-income employees to receive a higher level of support so that taking leave is a viable option
    The final negotiated plans takes all these concerns into account and small businesses should feel confident that their voice was both heard and taken into account in a process that so often does not. 

    Highlights of the bill include:
    • 12 weeks of family leave and 12 weeks of medical leave (can be combined for up to 16 weeks of total leave per year)
    • Provides a uniform statewide system that follows employees when they change jobs or move locations. Local governments cannot pass their own leave laws.
    • Workers receive up to 90% of wages, to a maximum of $1,000/week
    • Employees and employees share the funding, with employee premiums covering 100% of the family leave and a joint 55% employer and 45% employee funding of the medical leave portion.
    • Companies with a more generous plan can apply for a waiver
    • Small businesses under 50 employees will not pay premiums at all
    • Employers with 150 or fewer employees are eligible for grants up to $3,000 for the hiring of temporary workers to replace an employee on leave for 7 or more days, or up to $1,000 for reimbursement for significant additional wage-related costs.
    • An employer can request relief of unemployment insurance benefits charges that result from temporary replacement hires being laid off.

    The United States remains one of the only industrialized economies without a nationwide paid family leave program. GSBA believes that no one should face economic insecurity due to a medical situation or welcoming a new child to the family. Washington's plan offers the highest wage replacement plan in the country, and one that is fully portable between employers and locations. These benefits are proven to improve employee retention and reduce working training and turnover costs. This bill was a fair and reasonable negotiation between employee and employer groups, and represents a significantly better option than potential initiatives that were discussed. The plan appropriately recognizes the realities of small business and find a way for their employees to participate without crippling them, including by offering grants to train temporary workers filling in for those on leave. It maintains federal Family Medical Leave Act job protections to avoid costly duplicative standards and to ease administration and predictability of program for employers.

    GSBA would like to thank Senators Karen Keiser and Joe Fain in particular for leading on this issue throughout the session.

  • An authentic life of service to the LGBT community and beyond

    | Jun 27, 2017

    McDevitt_300x200In every life story, there is a defining moment, an event that forms character, shapes values and establishes the purpose by which one lives.

    For RBC Wealth Management financial advisor, Neil McDevitt of Seattle, WA, that defining moment was the deadly AIDS epidemic of the 1980s.

    “When I was in my early 20s, my partner of 31 years and now husband, Richard, and I were going to a funeral at least once a month. We lost so many friends – so many amazing, talented people were taken away from us,” McDevitt says. “I have to make up for what we lost.”

    And that life purpose is service. For more than 20 years, McDevitt has felt a strong compulsion to donate countless hours annually to causes serving the LGBTQ community.

    “Sometimes I feel like I do not do enough,” he quickly adds.

    What may sometimes not feel like enough to McDevitt is actually quite a lot when you break it down.

    Serving the community
    One of the organizations that has benefited from McDevitt’s personal and professional attention is the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA). Through his efforts serving on the board and as a consultant – and McDevitt credits the work of other committed volunteers like him – the GSBA has grown to the largest LGBT and allied chamber of commerce in North America.

    “I thought it would be a great way to be an ‘out’ financial advisor, and be of service to LGBTQ people and businesses,” McDevitt says.

    GBSA is known nationally for its effectiveness in marketing and providing business development for small business, connecting the community through business, advocating for civil rights and business, promoting LGBT travel and investing in the next generation of leaders. Indeed, one of the programs of the GSBA that McDevitt is most passionate about is its scholarship fund.

    The scholarship fund provides financial resources and role modeling to outstanding LGBTQ and allied students, many of whom have no traditional means of support. Over time, it has given more than $3 million to eligible students and this year alone has provided $400,000 in scholarships.

    McDevitt is considered a major fundraiser for the fund. It had no endowment when he became involved with it. And true to his humble nature, he gives credit to many others he has recruited to the cause over the years who also contributed to its success. Perhaps others have found inspiration in his enthusiasm for the subject, and this fact should not be overlooked.

    “Some people have accused me of being Tom Sawyer, you know, getting others to do your work for you” McDevitt says with a laugh.

    Louise Chernin, chief executive officer of GSBA says McDevitt’s passion, leadership abilities and commitment to equality help ensure both the chamber and scholarship fund are strong and sustainable.

    “Neil cares about people and relationships,” Chernin says. “He is always ready to listen, bring people together and find ways to constructively address challenges. Neil is one of the most positive people I know and his leadership style is one that is inclusive and respectful.”

    Another LGBTQ organization that benefits from a significant investment of McDevitt’s time and talent is the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). He has long been a member of its corporate advisory board and he is responsible for RBC Wealth Management’s sponsorship of this national coordinator of resources and programs to help promote pro-business and pro-LGBTQ policies.

    The NGLCC is currently focused on setting LGBTQ supplier diversity certification standards and McDevitt is playing a key role in lobbying the governments of both Seattle and King County, WA to adopt procedures for doing business with of certified LGBTQ suppliers.

    “Neil sees how the LGBTQ community and the business community can work together to achieve their goals – and he has advocated for their interests at the local, regional and national level for many years,” says David Moskovitz, Seattle complex director at RBC Wealth Management-U.S. “He truly cares about helping people. It shows in his service, as both financial advisor and volunteer. His example inspires me to do my best and I am honored to work with him.”

    Other worthy causes that McDevitt contributes to include the Lifelong AIDS Alliance, Habitat for Humanity and the Houlahan Foundation, which empowers people with developmental disabilities to live fulfilled lives. He is a founding member of the foundation, because of his interest in calling attention to the needs of a group of people who have historically been overlooked in terms of inclusion and human rights.

    “As a young gay man, I felt like I did not have a voice,” McDevitt says. “So I have always tried to speak up for people who are voiceless.”

    Read the entire article here.

  • Ambassador Profile: Meridian Mayer

    | Jun 27, 2017
    Edit, August 27, 2018: Since the publication of this Ambassador Profile, Meridian Mayer has joined the GSBA staff as our Sr. Membership Services Manager. We spoke with them for an update on their role here at GSBA!

    What is your role at GSBA?
    I help lead several programs and initiatives including membership development, ambassadors, OUTLeads program, Travel Out Seattle – program of GSBA dedicated to LGBTQ inbound tourism, and all volunteer coordination.

    What is your favorite part about being involved with GSBA?

    Contributing to work that is much bigger than me, and experiencing that impact firsthand.

    How can somebody get involved with GSBA or contact you?
    We are always looking for new members, ambassadors, and volunteers! To learn more, contact me at or


    For more about Meridian, visit their staff profile.


    Original post from August 2017

    2018GSBAStaff-MeridianMeridian Mayer, Sr. Manager, Membership Development & Premium Seating with the Seattle Storm

    I am originally from Cleveland, OH (go Cavs!) and have been in Seattle for 7 years. When I initially moved to Seattle I was in search of wonderful, dedicated, cause-oriented people. 
    I’ve always had a passion for connecting people and engaging communities, with the intent of bringing out the very best in both. Fueled by this, I’ve spent the past 5 years doing exactly that in my work with Seattle’s two-time WNBA Championship team, the Seattle Storm. 
    After starting my work with the Storm, I met Louise and BOOM – I was a GSBA member (we all know how that goes)! I’ve remained active and engaged in the GSBA simply because of the people. I am grateful for who I’ve found through the GSBA, because the people make the GSBA community wonderful, impactful, and inspiring. 
    Being an Ambassador is great, because we’ve all, at some point, felt like the new person at a networking event. You know the time – when you “check your emails” or pretend to accept a phone call just so that awkward feeling dissipates. Well, as an Ambassador, it’s our mission to make you feel welcomed, included, engaged, and comfortable. 
    So, if you ever find yourself “checking your emails” in a room full of people at a GSBA event, look for me – I’ll be happy to help connect you!

  • Featured Member: Rubicon Float Studio

    | Jun 27, 2017

    Robert BarrMy name is Robert Barr and I am the founder and owner of Rubicon Float Studio. I am a graduate of the University of Washington. Go Huskies! I graduated with a BFA in Photography from the University of Washington in 2009. After school, I founded the successful real estate photography company, Washington Home Tours LLC. While I loved my business, I knew I wanted to help others as part of my life’s mission. I started an existential journey looking at careers and businesses I could start that would help the greater good and improve people's lives.

    Eventually, I found float therapy. I first found out about floating in 2013 from some news articles about the art of floating and how it can improve your life. It intrigued me, not only for what it could do to my own health and well being but what it could do for others. What is floating? Simply put, floating is laying on a bed of warm Epsom salt water and floating with ease, in a calming chamber, away from stress and distraction. Allowing you to spend a few moments with yourself, relaxing, repairing, and rejuvenating.

    At the start of 2014 I decided to change my path in life. I started to focus full time on getting a Float Studio up and running. I found other successful float centers around the country and started visiting them to learn as much as I could about the industry. What I thought would be an easy to achieve goal, turned into a long journey. I did not realize how difficult starting and operating a Float Studio would be. I spent three years researching and learning best practices and trying to improve and iterate on what the industry has achieved up to this point.

    Fuji RoomI am very proud to offer floating to the community at large, but particularly proud to be an LGBTQ owned and operated business. Floating offers a wide range of benefits to our community both mental and physical. Many of us deal with the struggles of acceptance in a large community, and floating allows you time to shift your perspective. Floating gives you and others the opportunity to see the world from a new vantage point.  It is my hope that through the practice of floating, we will all evolve to become better humans. Float therapy also aids in stress reduction, pain management, creative ideation, and a multitude of other aspects of our lives.

    At Rubicon Float Studio, we challenge our guests to make life-changing investments for their health & wellness, and see regular floating as key to unlocking your true potential. We are located at 9715 NE 119th Way in Kirkland, WA. Rubicon Float Studio is in Juanita Bay area just north of Kirkland.  You can reach us by calling 1-866-356-2888 or visit us online at We look forward to seeing you at our Studio and guiding your through your journey to better health and wellness!

  • Seattle embraces LGBT businesses

    by Amy Moreno
    | Jun 24, 2017

    Seattle’s Pride Celebration may only last a few days, but some say the city’s thriving LGBT business community is something that should be celebrated year round. Some of the community’s favorite businesses are owned by members of the gay community.

    Seattle boasts the largest LGBT Chamber of Commerce, and some of the city’s most popular businesses are members.  Cupcake Royale, Fuel Coffee, and Tutta Bella Restaurants are just a few of the 1,200 businesses that belong to the Greater Seattle Business Association.

    Tutta Bella owner Joe Fugere takes a lot of pride in every aspect of his business.  It starts with his food.

    "Our pizza doesn't travel long distances. It's like a great cup of espresso it needs to be consumed almost immediately,” he explains.  It’s the reason they invested in a pizza truck with its own wood oven so they could take their pizza on the road.

    Fugere even takes pride in the tomatoes that go into his food.

    “The tomatoes are grown in the volcanic soil of Mt Vesuvius” he explained.  “They’re handpicked and hand sorted and canned in Italy.”

    Fugere recently partnered with PCC markets to sell the canned tomatoes in their stores.

    “If you had asked me 13 years ago, when I started this business, would I be in the retail business, in the food truck business and the restaurant business, I would have said you're crazy.”

    What makes his journey even more remarkable is Joe has done it as an openly gay businessman - one of many embraced by the Seattle community.

    “I think we have a responsibility, here in Seattle, as LGBT business owners, to set an example for the rest of the country for those areas that feel some discomfort around this,” he said.

    “I think, if they can look at a city that has fully embraced it and supported it, you become a role model and there is a sense of responsibility for those of us in Seattle who feel so fortunate to be in the situation that we're in.”

  • The GSBA Pride Business Luncheon

    by Louise Chernin, President & CEO
    | Jun 16, 2017

    CHERNIN,LOUISE_2017_blog_217x202What a great way to launch Pride month. Our June 14 GSBA Pride Business Luncheon was the best! There was such great energy during the Business Expo, outstanding presentations and the unveiling of our 2017/2018 GSBA Guide & Directory.

    Just the mention of Attorney General Bob Ferguson caused the room to erupt in applause with a warm standing ovation to the person who has provided national leadership in challenging the travel ban. AG Ferguson's presentation on the background and status of Washington State's lawsuit against the federal travel ban was not only informative but made us all proud to have an AG with such courage and commitment to uphold the law and the US Constitution. Of course, hearing the step by step drama that unfolded when Port Commissioner Courtney Gregoire literally stopped a plane already on the tarmac, preventing the deportation of two people, added to the drama that is hard to believe we are all living with in our state and country. It is because of their leadership that Washington State is leading and inspiring the nation in challenging this discriminatory ban.

    A highlight of the afternoon was welcoming Vincent Yao, Director General of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Seattle, to GSBA and his announcement of the first-ever LGBT Cultural Mission to Taiwan and Hong Kong that  is being sponsored by GSBA and the Seattle Chinese Chamber of Commerce. The mission will leave Seattle on October 26 and return on Nov 4. There are up to 50 spots available for those wanting to be part of history and I encourage you to not miss out on this lifetime opportunity.

    Special thanks to our emcee, Bryan Adamson, for so eloquently introducing our guests and leading our Q&A session, and to Rob Hampton and the Visit Seattle team for sharing the impact that the travel ban is already having on international travel to Seattle.

    Of course, I'd be remiss in not acknowledging the 21 businesses representing the travel, tourism, hospitality, media, and cannabis industries during the Business Expo. The displays were fun and interactive and businesses made some great connections. Big thanks to the luncheon sponsors and to Malcolm Smith, our photographer for always doing such a great job.

    Now that Pride is kicked off, there are tons of events to attend and GSBA will be at most of them. If you wish to staff a booth or walk in the parade with GSBA, please contact our office at 206-363-9188. If you'd like some 2017/2018 GSBA Guides for your own booth (they are a great draw)or some to distribute from your business, let us know.

    Happy Pride!
    Louise Chernin,
    President & CEO

  • Pride Events Expected to Attract Significant Increases in Attendance in 2017

    by Jason Dittmer, Director of Marketing & Communications
    | Jun 16, 2017

    Greg Phelps at PrideThe Community Marketing & Insights (CMI) 11th Annual LGBT Community Survey®, fielded in April/May 2017, drew participation from 17,300 LGBTQ Americans across the spectrum of sexual orientations, gender identities, generations and ethnicities. It is the largest, longest-running study of its kind; a profile of community members involved in hundreds of LGBTQ media, websites, blogs, social media, apps, organizations and events. 

    Among the survey questions, it was found that 63% of LGBTQ Americans surveyed said that that they will (or already did) attend their hometown Pride in 2017. This is compared to 47% having attended their hometown Pride events last year, representing a 34% increase in interest and participation for 2017

    Further, 84% reported that Pride events across the United States are as important as ever, and 82% indicated that they feared rollbacks of recent LGBTQ equality gains. With recent political changes and uncertainty, LGBTQ Pride events are taking on a renewed importance in 2017, and CMI anticipates record attendance this year.

    Full results from the Community Marketing & Insights 11th Annual LGBT Community Survey® will be released July 5, 2017. Click here to register to receive a free copy of the report when it is released.

    Community Marketing & Insights, founded in 1992, is a full service, LGBTQ-dedicated market research firm. CMI serves a wide range of clients including Aetna Insurance, Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate, DirecTV, Target Brands and Wells Fargo Bank, and produces LGBTQ studies for corporations, universities, non-profits and government institutions, including the U.S. Census. CMI is a GSBA member and a certified LGBT Business Enterprise. Learn more about CMI here.

  • The GSBA Scholarship Fund Founders Brunch

    by Mark Rosén, VP of Development & External Relations
    | Jun 05, 2017

    founders brunch perspective q3 2017 600x337Yesterday, past Board Chair Kevin Gaspari and his husband Kent Thoelke opened their beautiful home to a gathering of the Scholarship Fund founders, visionaries, and Scholarship alums. What began, in true Seattle fashion as a slightly cool day, turned into one of the warmest gatherings of kindred spirits who all shared the common history of support for the GSBA Scholarship Fund. As stories were shared around the room, we were reminded of the very first days of the Scholarship Fund and what it meant to connect as community around the mission to help those who had very little or no family support. Founder Bob Dlugosh shared the story of C. Wight Reade writing the very first check to the Scholarship Fund, and Louise Chernin spoke about his legacy gift at his passing many years later.

    Dave Brown and Josie Gardner both told tales of the true spirit of “roll your sleeves up and mop floors until midnight” that went into the very early Scholars Dinners. One of the very earliest scholars, Chris Kuhel (1995) shared how he has come full circle from a young, closeted, boy in suburban King County to a Scholarship volunteer, mentor, donor, and inspiration. Eric King (2013, 2015, 2016) reminded everyone that LGBTQ scholars today need the support every bit as much as they needed it in 1991. The kinds of accomplishments GSBA scholars are achieving are demonstrated by the fact that Eric has been named as a Husky 100 Scholar and sits on UW President Ana Mari Cauce’s Population Health Executive Council.

    As each individual shared their personal story of involvement and dedication, the word “family” was often repeated and, even 27 years later, the power of connections was evident. The vision and foresight of those few who were present in the early days provided the solid foundation that the Scholarship Fund needed to grow. The goals they set and surpassed raised the bar high for what is now one of the largest LGBTQ Scholarship Funds in the country. From $5,000 in 1991 to awarding the three millionth dollar in 2017, the GSBA Scholarship Fund could not have done it without the dedication and will power of those who were there at the beginning and the succession of generous individuals inspired by them, who have continued to go further in the mission “To invest in the education of a diverse group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and allied students who have the capacity and vision to be the next generation of leaders working to create a better world for all.” At a time where so much once again seems at risk, the importance of coming together cannot be underestimated, so we look forward to making this an annual event.

  • Featured Member: Hot Diggity! Dog Walking + Pet Sitting

    | May 29, 2017
    By Jill Nelson, owner of hot diggity! dog walking + pet sitting.

    Jill Nelson_27I am the proud owner of Hot Diggity! Dog Walking and Pet Sitting in Seattle, but walking dogs for a living was never one of my aspirations growing up.  As early as high school I knew I wanted to be in business. That said, I have always loved animals. Growing up we had dogs, cats, goats, chickens and ducks on our 10-acre home in Iowa.

    After earning both an undergraduate degree in Business Management and an MBA I built my career running several different types of retail businesses and then working for a while as a business consultant. Buying Hot Diggity a couple years ago brought me back to the many of my roots, it gave me the opportunity to work with animals and actively running a business instead of advising other business owners and I am loving it!

    Hot Diggity! was started in Portland OR in 2001 and has expanded to Vancouver, WA, and Seattle, WA, over the last 5 years.  The company offers a wide range of services, most provided in the clients home where their pets enjoy familiar surroundings and reduced stress.  From dog walking, to drop-in and overnight pet care, and even taxi services, Hot Diggity! Provides premium service at an affordable rate. We pride ourselves on great service to all our clients, two-legged and four-legged! I have a great team of around a dozen walkers who cover most of the Seattle Metro area.  A list of all the zip codes we cover is on our website. We also offer an availability guarantee for our regular clients, which is above and beyond in this industry.

    As soon as I acquired the Seattle location I knew I needed to join the GSBA. I have long been active in the Portland OR Chamber, PABA, and Hot Diggity! Seattle is an LGBTBE certified business. When running a consulting company a majority of my referrals came through my chamber and NGLCC connections. As a small business owner I know the value of networking and building relationships.  I also know how much the LGBT communities love their pets, so joining was a no-brainer.  Being a part of GSBA has already had a positive impact on my business both from the people I have met and the marketing opportunities has provided. I also appreciate the voice in the community that the chamber give to its members. Especially in this political climate we need to work together and make sure our voices are heard. As far as I am concerned, if you are an LGBT business owner, being a member of GSBA is just good business!