The GSBA Blog

  • Your Voice in Olympia: Defending Our Anti-Discrimination Laws

    | Feb 17, 2016

    Sen. Liias speaking against SB 6443Your GSBA advocacy team has had a busy winter. With the short session in Olympia, there is a lot to do but not much time. If you have been following us on Facebook, Twitter or in your email inbox, you know that GSBA has been very involved with the Washington Safety & Access For Everyone (SAFE) Alliance over the last few months. There is a national backlash against LGBT after an unprecented streak of victories for our community, and our opponents are attempting to unravel our hard-fought civil rights.

    There were seven anti-LGBT bills proposed in the Legislature this year, six of which specifically aimed to rollback civil rights protections for transgender Washingtonians that have been law for over a decade (read more about the bills). Senate Bill 6443 would repeal a regulation allowing transgender people to access facilities according to their gender identity and would forbids the Washington State Human Rights Commission from making any more regulations about access to single-sex facilities. SB 6443 was brought up for a floor vote on February 10, and in a nail-biting fifteen minutes we watched as this awful bill failed by the closest of margins (24-25). The remaining anti-LGBT bills in the Legislature are unlikely to be brought up for a vote after SB 6443 failed. However, we are preparing for the eventuality that our familiar opponents will try to file a ballot initiative.

    The collective effort of all the organizations supporting the Washington SAFE Alliance made a difference - including many GSBA-member businesses and nonprofits. Many legislators said that these issues were the ones they heard about most frequently in January. A strong showing of strength from equality-minded Washingtonians carried the day, including three Republicans who listened to the calls and emails from their constituents to oppose SB 6443.

    We are proud of all of you who joined us to defend basic and necessary civil rights in Washington. We aren’t done yet! As we move into the next steps of the coalition, please make sure that your business has endorsed the Washington SAFE Alliance.

  • Gina Grahame

    | Feb 16, 2016

    GSBA is proud to welcome Gina Grahame as the keynote speaker for our Business & Humanitarian Awards Dinner on February 23.

    Gina Grahame exemplifies the indomitable spirit that lives in us all. With courage and determination, Gina envisioned and built the life that she wanted and deserved. How she did it and what she learned along the way - about others and herself – is a powerful lesson in rising above obstacles and being true to who you are.

    Gina is an award-winning speaker, coach, and consultant on how to “Be Authentacious!”™ Her clients include companies of all sizes, corporate executives and politicians.

    Gina Grahame is the Vice President of Corporate Partnerships for GaymerX and the founder of She is very active in the San Francisco LGBT community as board member and Vice President of Membership and Outreach for the Golden Gate Business Association (GGBA), the Bay Area’s LGBT chamber of commerce, and as Vice President of Public Relations for Rainbow Toastmasters.

    Learn more about the Business & Humanitarian Awards and register.
  • The 2015 GSBA Business & Humanitarian Awards

    | Jan 11, 2016


    The GSBA Business & Humanitarian Awards honor top businesses and business leaders each year, recognizing business performance and contributions to the community. GSBA will honor eight individuals and businesses at our annual Business & Humanitarian Awards dinner on Tuesday, February 23, 2016 at the Seattle Marriott Waterfront, 2100 Alaskan Way.

    The keynote speaker will be Gina Grahame, VP of GaymerX. Ms. Grahame is a highly successful professional and a member of and an advocate for the Transgender Community. She will talk about “The Power of Authenticity, the Process of Overcoming Adversity, and the Transgender Experience."

    The 2015 Business & Humanitarian Award recipients are:

    Business of the Year: Tuxedos & Tennis Shoes, David Meckstroth and David Haggarty, Co-Owners
    Business Leader of the Year: Mona Smith, Attorney At Law
    Corporate Leader of the Year: Kevin Baldwin, Northwest Managing Partner, PwC
    Community Leaders of the Year: Tamara Murphy and Linda Di Lello Morton, Terra Plata
    New Business of the Year:  Bulk Fr8, Wayne Levinson, Owner
    Non Profit of the Year: Ventures, Beto Yarce, Executive Director
    Special Recognition - Voice for Social Justice: Ana Mari Cauce, President of University of Washington
    President’s Award: Kent Thoelke, Executive Vice President of Scientific & Medical Affairs, PRA

    Event Emcee: Sally Clark, Director of Regional and Community Relations, University of Washington

    “Being recognized for business success is not new, but being honored for
    understanding that success in the 21st century must also include a commitment to equality, philanthropy, and sustainable business practices, is definitely unique,” said Louise Chernin, GSBA President and CEO. “For 35 years, GSBA has stood out among business organizations, often as the lone voice for its commitment to advancing equality in business. Over 80% of GSBA members are small businesses, but the important role they play in keeping our local economy strong is huge. They are employers committed to equality, volunteers, and philanthropists, often using the limited resources they have to give back to their community. The impact of GSBA’s work has never been more evident as a growing number of businesses strive to create inclusive work places in order to attract diverse talent and a changing customer base.”

    Title Sponsor: Wells Fargo | Presenting Sponsor: Vulcan
    Dinner Sponsors: RBC Wealth Management, Seattle Goodwill
    Award Sponsors: BECU, Pride Foundation
    Supporting Sponsors: Girlie Press, Team Photogenic, Sal Floral Design

    Purchase your tickets here.

  • A Message from Louise Chernin, GSBA President & CEO

    | Dec 30, 2015


    Dear GSBA Members,

    You are the best!

    As we come to the close of 2015, we want you to know we remain steadfast in our commitment to your success. We will continue to offer you top quality opportunities to reach the LGBT and allied market; provide you with important business and community information; showcase your business as one which supports equality; connect you with outstanding like-minded business leaders, and be your voice on the city, state, and federal level as we advocate for small business, and continue our unwavering commitment to advance equality and diversity in the workplace; and, of course, ensure a better future for all by investing in the next generation of leaders through our Scholarship Fund.

    Thank you for choosing to be a GSBA member.

    Some of GSBA's 2015 proudest moments:

    * Launched a new GSBA website
    * Created GSBA's first Small Business Council
    * Filmed by Logo TV for a video about the GSBA Scholarship Fund
    * Had a leadership role in advancing trans-inclusive health care policies
    * Participated on the Mayor's Hate Crime Task Force
    * Received a $10k grant from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in partnership with Wells Fargo to promote LGBT Certification
    * Raised over $750,000 at a sold-out TASTE of GSBA
    * Awarded $350,000 in scholarships to 48 students

    Before we say goodbye to 2015, please take 3 very important steps:

    Renew your 2016 GSBA membership

    Make a difference in the life of an LGBTQ student by making that important and very feel good donation to the GSBA Scholarship Fund

    Start 2016 by registering for our January programs

    Have a safe, happy, and prosperous New Year,
    Louise Chernin, President & CEO

  • Intentional Economic Development

    | Dec 18, 2015

    “A good economy and good development do not happen by accident.”

    Bellevue Mayor Claudia Balducci kicked off GSBA’s economic forecast panel stating the importance of intentional action by government to spur and foster the kind of economy that benefits everyone. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray continued by observing that the Puget Sound region is experiencing its greatest growth since the gold rush and that “This is an incredible moment in our history, so how do we do it right? We must work with businesses to build on those successes!”

    Gladys Gillis, panel facilitator and Principal of Starline Luxury Coaches, asked about the spike of both high-wage and low-wage jobs across the country, at the expense of critical middle-wage jobs. The new Seaport Alliance between Seattle and Tacoma is now the third largest container port in North America, and was given as an example of the kind of generator for those middle-wage jobs. Gillis asked the mayors what role they saw for small business in the economic development of their cities. 

    Balducci expects the number of Bellevue small businesses to double by 2019, while Murray stated that over 63,000 new jobs were created in Seattle in the last five years. This is largely driven by the tech sector, with an estimated seven jobs created for every new tech job generated. Working together for regional solutions was seen as a necessity, whether for transit, homelessness or affordability. The recent Restaurant Success Initiative between Seattle, King County and Washington State was mentioned as a model to replicate. However, Murray did concede that the rapid development of the Pike/Pine corridor on Capitol Hill did not take the neighborhood small businesses into account and that the City needed to do more to hear their concerns.

    Attracting international investors is both a priority and an area where our region has lagged behind as cities like San Francisco have offices abroad devoted to attracting direct foreign investment. Nonetheless, these international investors – particularly from China – have been active in our area, notably with the groundbreaking Global Innovation Exchange partnership in Bellevue between the University of Washington, Tsinghua University and Microsoft. Murray and Balducci pointed to this as a model of success for the region – increasing outside investment, building on our strengths and expanding opportunities for the whole region.

    A functioning transportation network was named by both mayors as the top priority for Puget Sound. Neither city has it easy though, with Bellevue (incorporated only in 1953) as a 20th century car-centric city with superblocks and Seattle as dense urban center platted out in the 19th century with aging infrastructure that cannot always accommodate the sheer volume of personal vehicles on its roads. Mayor Murray touted the recent passage of the GSBA-endorsed Move Seattle levy, which will provide a desperately needed investment in Seattle’s transportation network. 

    Businesses need people to be able to live near where they work to prevent gridlock, so concerns of affordability are of paramount importance as well. Murry touted Seattle’s leadership on what he calls “the most aggressive housing affordability program in the United States.” Balducci was proud of Bellevue’s leading on environmental innovations, particularly related to water quality and shoreline stewardship.

    Facilitator Kevin Baldwin of PwC concluded by mentioning that in 1800 only two percent of the world’s population lived in cities, but now over half do. As presented in a study for APEC, this sets the stage for the importance of leadership of our mayors as the pressing issues we face are increasingly at the city level rather than state or federal.

  • Meet Jason

    | Dec 17, 2015

    DITTMER, JASON_headshotMeet Jason Dittmer, GSBA's Director of Marketing & Communications.We sat down with him and asked him our customary introductory questions:

    Welcome Jason! Tell us a little bit about yourself.

    I am from Montana and moved to Seattle in the early 1990s. I was drawn to the city because of its theatre scene and worked onstage and off at many fringe theatres during their infancies. I love a great story whether its told onstage, on screen, or in print – and am currently consuming  a lot of documentaries, histories, and biographies.

    What did you do before coming to GSBA?

    Prior to GSBA, I was the Director of Marketing at Seattle International Film Festival and Whidbey Island Center for the Arts (Langley, WA) and worked for a number of nonprofit organizations including United Way, Washington Works, Open Circle Theater, and Williamstown Theatre Festival.

    What are you looking forward to doing in your new job?

    GSBA is marking its 35th year in 2016. I am honored to be part of the team that celebrates our organization’s past and that is looking toward its future. I’m looking forward to exploring how we can better celebrate our community’s successes, be a stronger voice in advocacy for business and social issues, and provide even more support for LGBTQ scholars. 

    Now that you’ve gone pro and will be working all throughout Pride weekend, what will you be doing to relax the week after?

    For the last few years, work commitments have kept me from fully enjoying the glory of a Seattle Summer. This year, I plan on finishing my garden, floating on Lake Washington, reconnecting with old pals, and treasure hunting (I have a vintage problem).
    You can reach Jason at JasonD [at]
  • Walk Me to the Car: IT Security

    | Dec 17, 2015

    Amit SharmaBy Amit Sharma, CenturyLink IT Security Advisor

    IT Security is not novel.  Security concerns are ubiquitous.  Yet, it’s the very breadth and depth of IT security that makes it challenging for business managers.  There’s a mind-numbing amount of information out there about the very topic.  In this post, we will focus on a few simple ideas that will keep you on top of IT security discussions from the perspective of business leadership and outcomes.

    The top 3 things I need to know about security.

    • The goal is resilience, not perfection – You are going to get attacked. (The bad guys are probably probing your network even as you read this.)  The goal should be resilience – making sure that your business is able to defend itself well, understand the vulnerabilities and recover quickly should a security breach occur.
    • Your focus should be on business impact – Though there are a million questions and concerns about your company’s exposure to security risks, there is really only one question to ask: “What is the business impact of an incident for the information or assets in question?” E.g. what’s worse – the network going down for an hour or the business brand credibility being bruised in the eye of the consumer? The security risks with the highest potential business impact should be first in line for risk assessment and IT security resources.
    • Security is technical, but also people-centric – Conversations about security can get bewilderingly technical, even for IT professionals.  But, becoming secure has a lot to do with people and the security policies that govern their interactions with your information, apps, and customers.  Many security breaches result from poor oversight, such as sharing passwords and neglecting to apply security patches to old software.

    Give me two good reasons to pay more/better attention to IT security.

    • There is potential for serious trouble – This is not big news, but a major security incident can be a career-ending or stock-price destroying event. Being knowledgeable about what really matters in security has become an essential executive skill. If you can’t afford the cost of a breach – make sure you’re protected.
    • You can likely get better protection for the same level of spending – ITSecurity is not cheap, but what’s more expensive is the cost of a breach – a single incident in 2014 cost one major retailer nearly $165,000,000. If you understand how security truly relates to the business and to the bottom line, you will be poised to make better security investments.

    Where are the risks?

    • Missing the complete IT security picture – Adversaries  look for vulnerabilities across a wide spectrum of IT and business processes, and the worst breaches often occur in the little areas where few people thought to focus, like the memory cache on a credit-card terminal. This is where a risk assessment is key! If you don’t know where you’re vulnerabilities are how are you expected to plug the holes?
    • Misallocation of IT security resources – If you don’t understand the business impact of a security breach, you may allocate resources in the wrong place. For example, if your network is vulnerable and exposes you to a high-impact incident, you need to invest in securing your network. This may sound obvious, but some organizations attempt to secure everything at the same high level and wind up under-securing the assets that potentially affect their businesses the most.

    What is the takeaway idea for me?

    IT Security is a broad and extremely complex subject that can be effectively managed through a disciplined focus on building resilience and securing assets with the highest business impact vulnerability.  By balancing the people and technical aspects of you IT security strategy with a firm grasp of business impact, it is possible to improve security without necessarily raising the level of spending.

    Amit Sharma can be reached at for any questions about how to protect your business and mission-critical assets.
  • 4 Things Small Businesses Need to Know About EMV Chips

    | Dec 17, 2015

    Frank Sena squareBy Frank Sena, Capital BankCard

    If your small business isn’t yet prepared to accept EMV chips, you’re not alone. Capitol Bankcard recently surveyed small businesses and found that over half of respondents were not EMV-ready by October 1, 2015, the date when businesses that had not upgraded their payment terminals became liable for fraud. Another 37 percent of respondents don’t even plan to upgrade in the near future, despite the liability shift.

    That said, 63 percent of survey respondents also revealed that experiencing the effects of fraud liability might get them on board with EMV, and 47 percent of those respondents would be swayed if it cost $100 or less. No matter where you stand as a small business, here are five things you need to know about EMV—including why making the switch to EMV processing is so important.


    1. What the Heck is an EMV card?

    EMV stands for Europay, MasterCard, and Visa, the three companies that originally created the standard. If you’ve traveled internationally you’ve probably noticed that EMV chip cards are widely accepted outside of the United States. Unlike magnetic-stripe cards used to make credit card payments until now, EMV cards contain an embedded chip that communicates with payment terminals, using a unique code each time and offering higher standards for authentication, so hackers can’t access cardholders’ data.  This makes each transaction more secure and resistant to fraud. As of October 1, 2015 merchants are now liable for fraudulent credit card charges moving forward.

    2. EMV Isn’t Just a Solution for Large Retailers

    The most recent edition of the National Small Business Association’s technology survey shows that almost half of survey participants had been targeted by hackers. The average cost to those small businesses was $8,700. Bigger businesses might make headlines when a breach occurs, but that doesn’t mean they’re the only companies cyber criminals are after, and it certainly doesn’t mean they’re the only retailers that should upgrade to EMV terminals.

    3. Be Ready for Some Changes at the Checkout 

    EMV ReaderWhen it comes to processing EMV transactions, cashiers should be prepared to answer some common customer questions and recognize when a shopper is paying with a chip card. The most obvious change is the need to dip a card into a slot at the bottom of the payment terminal, not swipe it. Another thing to note: processing EMV transactions takes a few seconds longer than purchases via magnetic stripe. Cashiers should be ready for questions about this extra time and ensure customers that this new, more secure payment method is worth the wait.

    4. Being EMV-Ready Can Also Mean Being Mobile-Ready

    Adding new technology to your retail repertoire might feel like a big undertaking, but EMV presents an opportunity to get even more out of that upgrade decision. Retailers can switch to an EMV-ready terminal that also accepts NFC payments like Apple Pay and Android Pay. These “tap to pay” platforms are growing in popularity, and a recent report from Deloitte predicts in-store mobile payment usage will have increased 100-fold by the end of 2015. If you’re not convinced of the EMV benefits just yet, upgrade for the benefits of accepting mobile payments. Consider the extra peace of mind each time a customer dips their card instead of swiping to be a bonus.
    Frank Sena ( has been working in technology since 2006 and is a self-taught payments expert. Contact him if you have any questions about EMV or how to upgrade.
  • Introducing the 2016 GSBA Board of Directors

    | Dec 04, 2015

    The following is the 2016 slate of Directors approved by the GSBA Board at their December 2, 2015 meeting:

    2016 OFFICERS:
    Chair: Kevin Gaspari (Real Estate Broker, Windermere)
    Vice Chair: Drew Ness (COO, 1st Security Bank)
    Secretary: Brandon Chun (Director of Human Resources, MDC)
    Treasurer: Marci Flanery (CPA)
    Scholarship Chair: Stephanie Dallas (Vice President, Morgan Stanley)
    Public Affairs Chair: Jay Petterson (Principal, Blue Wave Political Partners)

    2016 INCOMING BOARD MEMBERS (see below for bios)
    Chris Befumo (Region Operations Manager, US Bank)
    Rob Hampton (Senior Vice President, Visit Seattle)
    Gladys Gillis (Principal, Starline Luxury Coaches)
    Linda Marzano (CEO, Pacific Medical Centers)
    Beto Yarce (Executive Director, Ventures)

    Calvin Goings
    (US Small Business Administration*)
    Jenny Harding (New Chapter Weddings & Events)
    David Hernandez (New York Life)
    Dena Levine (DML Insurance Services)
    Jay Petterson (Blue Wave Political Partners)
    Paul Villa

    BefumoOriginally from New Jersey, Chris graduated with a BA in Economics from the University of Rhode Island in 1992.  He currently serves as the Region Operations Manager for Washington Metro Branches for US Bank. Chris has worked in the financial industry for 21 years, starting as a personal banker, Assistant Manager, Branch Manager and then 10 years as a District Manager in Minneapolis, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Reno.

    He moved to the Pacific Northwest in August of 2014 and fell in love with the region.  An avid runner, Chris has completed 6 half marathons this year.  He was joined the GSBA Corporate Advisory Board in March, 2015 and is now very excited to join the Board of Directors in 2016.  

    Gladys Gillis, native to Seattle, started her career in the engineering department at Boeing where she worked for 13 years.

    GillisIn 1998, she founded Starline Luxury Coaches with a vision and a limited fleet of three shuttle buses.  Over the years, she has become a respected leader in the national transportation industry.  She has served on the board of World Affairs Council of Seattle since 2010 and just recently finished her term as Chairman of that Board.  
    In 2012, she expanded her operation to the Pullman and Spokane markets through the purchase of Wheatland Express bus company.  She currently serves on the GSBA Corporate Advisory Board and is recognized as the CEO of the largest, women-owned fleet in the Pacific Northwest.  She believes in community involvement and enjoys consulting with other enterprising business people to develop their financial management skills.

    HamptonRob Hampton is Senior Vice President Convention Sales and Services at Visit Seattle, the private, nonprofit marketing organization that promotes Seattle as a destination for international and domestic leisure travel, meetings and conventions. Rob oversees Visit Seattle’s Convention Sales and Services departments, including 25 employees in the organization’s main Seattle office as well as sales offices in Washington, D.C. and Chicago.

    Hampton has more than 25 years of progressive sales leadership experience in the convention and meeting industry, including at the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau, Visit Jacksonville and Experience Columbus. Hampton is an active member of several meeting industry organizations, including the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) and PCMA.  

    Hampton and his husband, Mark, enjoy their new home in Seattle, as well as traveling and having new experiences in unique destinations. 

    Linda currently is Chief Executive Officer of Pacific Medical Centers at Providence Health & Services, responsible for oversight of the nine-clinic system serving the Puget Sound region. She also serves as the Executive Director of the US Family Health Plan, a Department of Defense health plan for retired military at Pacific Medical Centers.

    Linda has over 25 years of healthcare experience in a variety of settings. Linda is a founding member of Project Access Northwest, a ground breaking non-profit that has significantly improved access to healthcare for underserved populations in the region. Under her leadership, Project Access brought together the major providers of care in the region to develop solutions to the challenges of providing specialty care to the underinsured and uninsured populations in the community.

    Linda is Past Board President and current member of the Policy Committee for the Women's Funding Alliance. In 2014, she was recognized by GSBA as Corporate Leader of the Year for her leadership role in promoting equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace. She also volunteers for Year-Up, supporting urban young adults for their future careers. Linda holds a B.S. in Nursing from University of Miami and an M.H.A. from Barry University.

    Beto joined Ventures in March 2008 and serves as its Executive Director. Beto is passionate and inspired to support other entrepreneurs with their dreams and helping them realize their vision in a business. When Beto started his own business in Seattle, he did not have all the business support that he needed to navigate the system and that was the reason he decided to join Ventures (then Washington C.A.S.H.).

    Beto led Venture’s Latino Business Program for seven years, growing a fledgling training course into a thriving model for Latino small business success around the country. An aspiring businessman since the age of 8, Beto is also the founder and owner of Cintli, an upscale Mexican art and retail store in Pike Place Market. These experiences give him unique insight into the challenges faced by aspiring entrepreneurs as they work to increase their financial self-sufficiency through small business ownership.

    He received a degree in International Business from the Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Occidente (ITESO) in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.
  • Take Ten

    | Nov 30, 2015
    10percentThis year, any GSBA member that refers a new member to GSBA will get 10% off their dues!

    But why stop there? Our members are our best ambassadors and we want to reward you for expanding our network of small businesses. Each member who brings a new member into our organization will be able to "take ten" percent off their membership dues. If you bring in 10 new members, your own dues are fully paid for one year!

    Our membership application includes a "referred by" spot. Be sure to tell your colleauge to put your name there so that you get the credit. Or email Ari and let them know who you referred.

    Referrals must be completed by February 1, 2016 to be credited to 2016 membership. All small business members are eligible to participate. Please contact Membership Services Manager Ari Rosen to share details about a referral.
  • $775,000 raised to send our LGBTQ and allied students to college!

    | Nov 24, 2015


    TASTE of GSBA co-chairs Kevin Gaspari and Kent Thoelke.

    You did it. Congratulations!

    The TASTE of GSBA is all about a community coming together for its own. How thrilling to see over 800 guests enjoying each other, wonderful food created by GSBA member restaurants and caterers; incredible wine tastes from the 12 wineries featured in the Wine Lounge; outstanding entertainment by Robbie Turner and company; our celebrity chefs: Maria Hines, Agrodolce, Golden Beetle and Tilth; Leslie Mackie, Macrina; Tamara Murphy, Terra Plata; and Jerry Traunfeld, Poppy, Lionhead; a sit-down dinner; and a silent and live auction featuring wine, chef experiences and travel.

    Robbie Turner and his dancers set the tone for a night of Cabaret fun and glamour while our extraordinary auctioneer, Laura Michalek and the very talented and delightful Emcee, Amanda Westbrooke kept us engaged and bidding. Speaking of bidding, thank you to Glenn Johnson and Michael Melancon for leading the Fund-A-Scholar with a $25k gift, followed by another amazing $20k gift from Microsoft and from there, the magic spread. Announcing the $100k Leadership Match, the room went into action and that match and more was met in minutes resulting in over $310k raised just during Fund-A-Scholar. Breathtaking!

    None of this would be possible without you, our guests and our wonderful sponsors. A big shout out to our Title Sponsor, 1st Security Bank; our Presenting Sponsor, Nesteggg and our Marquee Sponsors: AHF, Alaska Airlines, Carter Subaru, Gordon Biersch, Holland America, JPMorgan Chase, Safeco, Starline, Svedka Vodka and UW Medicine; TASTE Premier Sponsors: The Sheraton and Hogue Cellars and generous support from: Aria Style, Girlie Press, Reliable Movers, Team Photogenic and Village Theatre. We are especially appreciative of our Jewel Sponsors who invest in both the Chamber and the Scholarship Fund -- Diamond: Microsoft; Emerald: Alaska Airlines and 1st Security; Ruby: PwC and RBC Wealth Management. And, what would TASTE be without our wonderful restaurant, catering, and wine sponsors: Barrio, Sur 16, Hi Life, Two Tartes, Hook & Plow, Tuxedoes and Tennis Shoes, Café Yumm!, Ernest Loves Agnes, Gordon Biersch, Bartholomew Winery, Browne Family, Canoe Ridge, Elsom Cellars, Fidelitas Winery, Five Star Cellars, Good Ridge Estate Winery, Laurelhurst Cellars, Nota Bene Cellars, Structure Cellars, Va Piano Vineyards, and Waterbrook.

    We are overwhelmed by your generosity and commitment to our current and future Scholars!

    A huge thank you to Kevin Gaspari and Kent Thoelke, our dream Chairs who for the past two years have led an outstanding TASTE Committee and provided leadership and vision for the TASTE; our incredible Board of Directors, led by Board Chair, Martha Davis and Scholarship Chair, Stephanie Dallas. With their leadership and the support of our stellar staff, led by Director of Programs and Development, Mark Rosen; Program Manager, Mandy Domer and Scholarship Director, Jessica Wootten as well as Ari, Jason, Rachel, Matt and Victoria, we knew we were in for a spectacular evening. And finally, no "thank you" is complete without recognizing the ongoing generosity of our Annual Sponsors -- Platinum: US Bank; Gold: American Family Insurance, Outerwall, Pacific Medical Centers, Wells Fargo; Silver: Boeing, Carter Subaru, Goodwill, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Precision Garage Door, Safeco Insurance, Starbucks, UW Medicine; Bronze: Amazon, Argosy Cruises, Carpet Liquidators, CenturyLink, DML Insurance, Group Health, Irons Brothers Construction, Mona Davis, PLLC, Nesteggg, Overlake Reproductive Health, Whitepages, Verity Credit Union, and Vulcan; Guide Sponsor: BECU; Travel Partners: Alaska Airlines, Sheraton Hotel, Space Needle, VisitSeattle; Travel Sponsors: Amtrak, King County, Port of Seattle, Renaissance Hotel, and Sound Transit. 

    Truly a moment for which to be thankful.

    If you were not at the TASTE, there is still time to be part of the magic of giving. We invite you to make a year-end gift to your GSBA Scholarship Fund here.

    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving,
    Louise Chernin

  • Small Business Saturday - Deals from GSBA Members

    | Nov 24, 2015
    SmBizSatDon't forget to shop at the businesses that support your communities and neighborhoods this holiday season! Several GSBA members have specials for Small Business Saturday.

    • Timothy De Clue Collection Holiday Trunk Show. There will be free grab-bags for the first 15 people and a free set of designer Christmas lights with a $50 purchase. (1307 1st Ave, Seattle |
    • Loft 63. 12% off a purchase of $299+ at full retail price. Offer valid on purchase amount before tax, excludes delivery fee, original wall art and floor lamps. See store for full details. Valid Friday, Nov. 27 - Sunday, Nov. 29. (1205 E Pike St, Suite 1F, Seattle |
    • Two Big Blondes Plus Size Consignment. From November 26-30, all items 25% off on eBay and 15% off on Etsy online stores. Seattle storewide holiday sale is December 1-5, with discounts on every single item - 10-90% off (2501 S Jackson St, Seattle |
    • SugarPill. Pop-up shop with Grace Gow Jewelry (900 E Pine St, Seattle |
    • Café Yumm. $8 bowl and brew - any medium Yumm bowl and a 12oz bottle of beer. (717 Pine St |
    • Brian Knecht, Caliber Home Loans - $500 off closing costs to anyone who completes an online application on Saturday, November 28 or Sunday, November 29.
  • Trans Day of Remembrance

    | Nov 19, 2015
    Trans FlagHere is a list of events around the Puget Sound region marking Trans Day of Remembrance. We encourage all members of our community to attend and remember those whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender acts of violence. Learn more at and GLAAD.

    North Seattle College
    9600 College Way North Seattle, WA 98103
    Baxter Center (CC building) 11am-1pm & The Grove (HSSR building) 1-3pm
    11/19/2015 @ 11:00am & 1pm

    Gender Alliance of South Sound / Immanuel Presbyterian Church
    901 N J St, Tacoma, WA 98403
    11/20/2015 @ 6:30pm

    Seattle City Hall

    600 Fourth Ave. Seattle, WA 98104
    11/20/2015 @ 7pm 

    GenderFierce: Transcendance
    The Vera Project
    Seattle Center West (Corner of Republican & Warren) Seattle, WA 98109
    11/20/2015 @ 7:30pm

    Unity of Whidbey Island
    Corner of SR-525 at Crawford Road
    5671 Crawford Road, Langley, WA 98260
    11/20/2015 @ 7pm

    Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
    2333 San Juan Avenue, Port Townsend, WA 98368
    11/20/2015 @ 7pm

    St. Hilda/St. Patrick Episcopalian Church
    15224 52nd Ave. W. Edmonds, WA 98026
    11/20/2015 @ 7pm

    Ravenna United Methodist Church
    5751 33rd Ave. NE Seattle, WA. 98105
    11/21/2015 @ 7pm 

    Bellevue First United Methodist Church
    1934 108th Ave. NE Bellevue, WA 98004
    11/21/2015 @ 7pm
  • Skip the Mall and Shop Small

    | Nov 18, 2015

    Calvin GoingsSmall businesses have the power to propel the local economy and uplift the community. When our small businesses do well, our community does well too.  Please join thousands of your neighbors and “shop small” on Small Business Saturday®, Nov. 28, to support your local business owners and support the local economy.  With the holiday season upon us, I cannot think of a better time to recommit in honoring our neighborhood champions.

    You can do your part with these five simple steps:

    • If you are a business owner, make sure that you are prepared for the holiday season by checking out helpful advice from the Small Business Administration.
    • If you are a customer, commit to making at least one purchase from a locally-owned small business retailer. You can also dine small at your local restaurant to usher in the new tradition of supporting local eateries too.
    • Enjoy the experience. Travel outside your comfort zone -- and away from your computer screen -- to discover a unique neighborhood shopping district with some trendy local stores.
    • Take part in Small Business Saturday on social media, using the hashtag #SmallBizSat to amplify your support. If you can find a great small business retailer with unique products, tweet or Facebook your find so other can enjoy it too.
    • When you open your gifts, start a conversation about which one came from the most distinctive and creative sellers. This can make for great family debate over eggnog.
    I know I'll be shopping small with my friends and family on Saturday, November 28. I encourage you to do the same -and remember that "shop small" refers to whom you buy from, and not how much you buy!

    For more information, check out


    Calvin W. Goings
    Regional Administrator
    U.S. Small Business Administrator
  • Seattle Prop. 1 Wins at the Ballot Box

    | Nov 09, 2015

    Dear GSBA members,

    Seattle Proposition 1 has won a resounding victory at the ballot box!

    GSBA was proud to partner with a broad coalition of groups, including the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, OneAmerica Votes, Transportation Choices Coalition, Puget Sound Sage, the Cascade Bicycle Club, King County Labor Council and many more in advocating on behalf of this measure. Your support made a difference!

    Over 80% of GSBA’s membership supports increased investments in our public transportation and infrastructure according to the fall membership survey. Once again, Seattle voters have decided that these investments must be made to keep pace with the rapid growth that our city is undergoing. Last year the city voted to pass the largest increase in transit service, and the Let’s Move Seattle levy will build upon those efforts with a measure that will expand commuting options and enhance safety.

    Too often in our country and in our state we have expectations of the level of services we want, but have been reluctant to increase our taxes to pay for those important services. We are proud that our membership and our city recognize that significant funding is needed to seriously address issues such as our transportation network.

    GSBA pledges to monitor SDOT’s performance with Move Seattle over the next decade to ensure that the levy is being implemented according to how it was passed and in the best interests of the city.

    Thank you for your support. 

    For equality,
    Louise Chernin, President & CEO
    Jay Petterson, Public Affairs Chair
    Matt Landers, Public Policy & Communications Manager
  • Your Investment at Work: Greg Phelps, Superhero

    | Oct 29, 2015
    Greg Phelps at Pride
    At this year’s Pride Parade there was a familiar face marching with our Scholarship Fund contingent and sporting a rainbow flag cape. Greg Phelps’s smile and easygoing demeanor may not be the things that would make you immediately think “superhero,” but if you read the definition as one who “is a type of heroic character often possessing extraordinary talents, and is dedicated to a moral goal,” he certainly fits the description.

    Greg grew up in Pullman, where he keenly felt the constraints of living in a small town and yearned to expand his horizons. He and his parents did not always see eye to eye, and after many personal and familial struggles, he decided to study computer science at Western Washington University in Bellingham, where he was a strong student. 

    Greg also wanted to make movies and perform improv comedy, so he joined the school’s nationally recognized improv group, the Dead Parrots Society. He began performing regularly in front of large audiences across the Northwest, including at the Chicago Improv Festival. 

    A four-time recipient of a GSBA scholarship, Greg completed his studies in business administration with a concentration in management information systems in 2014 and moved to Seattle. He currently works at Tableau Software as a service operations center analyst. 

    His dream to use his unique combination of skills—working in the tech industry by day and doing comedy by night, all while promoting LGBTQ equality—is becoming a reality with his work at Tableau and as an ensemble member with Jet City Improv. Throughout his work and personal life, sharing his experiences and perspective through comedy and art, Greg shows courage in his convictions and dedication to helping others understand that sexuality doesn’t define character. 

    During his four years as a GSBA scholar, Greg made it a point to attend GSBA functions whenever possible, including regularly volunteering at events. His commitment to give back to the community was apparent when he was asked to be the featured scholar speaker at the 2015 TASTE of GSBA. He revealed that he had been working on a speech for two years, prior to ever having been asked. 

    Asked why he wanted to share his story at TASTE, Greg responded, “I want to let people know how much it meant to me to receive a GSBA scholarship. Growing up LGBT is better now than ever, but still hard. I want people to know that they are doing important work cultivating our community and investing in future leaders.”

  • Conversation with an Entrepreneur

    | Oct 29, 2015
    WayneBy John Wong

    My assignment was to interview Wayne Levinson, a new GSBA member who runs Bulk FR8 LLC, a large chemical logistics company that moves liquids across the United States, Canada and Mexico.

    After doing a thorough Google cyberstalking of Wayne, I wasn’t sure if I found the right person: a 27-year-old yoga master, snowboarder, Ferrari enthusiast, and all-around thrill seeker? Could this be the same Wayne Levinson who started a company in his early 20s and quickly grew it to the $20 million leader in the industry?

    We met for lunch at his favorite pasta joint, and the online Wayne was in fact the real Wayne, down to the casual sweatpants and T-shirt and seemingly carefree smile.

    After a few minutes, however, it was clear that Wayne is like no millennial I’ve ever met. Though being smart, driven, and risk-taking are common traits in entrepreneurs, there is something more to Wayne. Here are a few factors that he thinks contributed to his success:

    VISION: Wayne identified an unfulfilled need and had a vision of what he could do to meet that need by starting his own business, borrowing $10,000 from his parents. Wayne stressed the importance of repaying your debts as soon as possible: it builds trust in those who can (and likely will) support you in the future.

    NETWORKS: Strong professional and mentoring networks are key factors in his success, as Wayne continually consults with others to get the best advice before making key decisions. In return, he also mentors six young entrepreneurs (aged 13–25). 

    TEAM: Wayne surrounds himself with smart, motivated and passionate people who help him manage his growing business and other ventures. Building the right team is the only path to success.

    FLEXIBILITY: No two days are ever the same for Wayne. In fact, he has a desk in every department because he is everywhere during a typical workday, interacting with everybody in his company to solve problems. The same applies to his employees: they are all cross-trained to perform all functions in the company.

    NIMBLENESS: Though he makes quick, informed decisions, Wayne is willing to evaluate those decisions and change course if needed.

    OPTIMISM: Wayne says that there is opportunity to be found in whatever happens, good or bad. While he doesn’t believe that the only way to learn is through mistakes, he loves being wrong because it prevents potentially larger ramifications in the future. 

    STUDY: When you stop learning, you become stagnant and less productive, says Wayne, so he offers all Bulk FR8 employees the opportunity to continue their industry knowledge and personal growth by encouraging them to seek (and covering the costs of) degrees and industry certifications. He himself begins his first master’s program (in civil engineering with a focus on supply chain transportation and logistics) this fall at UW.

    One that we didn’t talk about is worth mentioning: ENERGY. If you want to become a successful entrepreneur like Wayne Levinson, you better have a lot of energy. He’s in overdrive most of the time and he’s passing everybody in the fast lanes. 
  • It's All Here

    | Oct 15, 2015

    Sunset Olympics crop

    Last week your GBSA staff got up early to catch the ferry from Edmonds to Kingston en route to a few days in Port Ludlow. After a foggy 20 minutes crossing the tip of the Kitsap Peninsula and the Hood Canal bridge, we arrived to the glowing smile of Susan Windle, Senior Sales Manager at the Inn at Port Ludlow.

    IPL - StrategySusan had helped arrange a staff retreat for us, offering a perfect opportunity to get out of the city for a night and decompress after a long (but rewarding!) season of renewals, the next edition of the Guide, two galas, and more. She set us up in the Olympic Room and Andrew Suite, a separate area designed to hold small conferences and comfortable retreats like ours. Led by the esteemed and fabulous Barbara Grant, we spent the next day and a half strategizing and developing plans for the coming year. Our meeting space had everything we could want (including some tremendous views) and Steven took care of us every step of the way. 

    Of course, as much as we all love staff retreats, the best part came after the work was done. Some of us chose to quietly relax on our balconies overlooking Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains, watching the river otters scamper down the banks into Ludlow Bay and bald eagles swoop down just feet away. Others enjoyed very refreshing happy hour cocktails on the sunny porch of the Fireside Restaurant

    IPL - Dinner Collage

    However it was the incredible dinner that was the crowning event of the evening - we were treated to a seven-course feast with wine pairings, presented to us by Anne Sackett, Inn at Port Ludlow’s highly acclaimed Cellar Master who is currently studying for the level 2 sommelier. Curated by Anne, Fireside's wine list received the 2014 Washington State Grand Wine Award. From crostini, soup, salmon, blueberry granita, asparagus with egg mimosa, the tenderest beef, and a heavenly chocolate mousse, each course was a pure delight. And considering the sheer number and variety of allergies across the staff, it was nearly a miracle that the kitchen under Chef Dan Ratigan was able to sate us all. The menu was a bounty of locally sourced riches and was a unique experience for many of us around the table.

    IPL - Balcony ViewThe rooms, too, were beyond compare. With some of the most comfortable mattresses we have ever slept on, not to mention the fireplaces in every room. A coworker adds “My favorite thing was the fireplace in the rooms and the HUGE tub with bath salts! For a high-strung person who isn’t usually able to relax, I was able to do so in just one day there.” Coffee makers in each room, and small private balconies to read the paper (or check Facebook) in the morning as the early morning mist clears to reveal the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. And, really, we’re all Northwesterners here… a day of fog can soothe our souls, and there is no better place to experience it than along Ludlow Bay. 

    And, we’re almost ashamed to admit it, but if you just can’t quite unplug while away for the weekend, the wireless connection was excellent.

    The Inn at Port Ludlow is a luxurious place to rest at the end of the day, but also offers convenient access to many other attractions of the Olympic and Kitsap peninsulas. From the Resort at Port Ludlow’s famous golf course (named “Most Scenic in the World” by Esquire) and 300-slip marina (including kayak and skiff rentals), to the abundant hiking opportunities around the eastern slopes of the Olympic Mountains, to the exceptional wildlife viewing, there is no shortage of options for any taste. Several members of the GSBA staff were able to extend their stays into the holiday weekend and enjoyed visiting nearby Port Hadlock and Port Angeles, as well as the wineries on Bainbridge Island.

    For both a fabulous work retreat and a relaxing personal getaway, it’s safe to say that the GSBA staff unanimously and enthusiastically recommends the Inn at Port Ludlow.

    IPL - Dinner
  • On a Mission to Walla Walla

    by Mark Rosén, Director of Programs & Fund Development
    | Oct 15, 2015

    Walla Walla Vineyard

    Four years ago there was a notable change at the TASTE of GSBA when we switched our beverage focus to world-class Washington wines. Previously we had served an assortment of wine, but 2011 was the first time we featured local wineries and had several wine makers in attendance. This year we will have our biggest wine district ever, with wines from across our state and winemakers hosting tables for an upgraded wine experience.  With that in mind, a small group from the GSBA including CEO Louise Chernin and partner Mary, Director of Programs & Fund Development Mark Rosén and husband Matt, and Board Member Dena Levine and husband Ron, took some vacation time and traveled to eastern Washington to thank some of our far-flung sponsors and donors and to make new connections with more wine and tourism resources.

    Our stay Walla Walla Groupbegan in the birthplace of Washington wine, Prosser. Longtime supporter Debbie Haggerty Augustavo welcomed us at her lovely guest house, the Seven Gables, just a  stone’s throw from the  Vintner’s Village, where you can walk between over half a dozen wineries. We started our day with a visit to Pontin del Roza where we met with  winemaker Scott Pontin and his husband and enjoyed the view from his patio and bocce court. Next we visited the Walter Clore Center which honors one of the founders of the Washington wine industry and features tastings from our unique AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) on a rotating basis. Tasting room manager April Reddout made sure we had a great experience and we left not only with wine, but also with a generous donation to the TASTE auction. We ended our day basking in the warmth of the sunset reflecting off the Horse Heaven Hills as we dined on superb food at Wine O’clock, paired with some outstanding Bunnell wines.  Watch for a package at TASTE featuring a stay at Seven Gables, bocce ball and tastings at Pontin del Roza and the Clore Center and more!

    Our second day brought us to the world-renowned Red Mountain AVA with stunning views and unique growing conditions. Hightower, Fidelitas, and Kiona were on our list and none disappointed. Look for Fidelitas pouring in our Wine District at TASTE. From the sunny slopes of Red Mountain we headed to what some call the “Napa of Washington” – Walla Walla. Waterbrook Winery, located  just east of Walla Walla, is one of the most beautiful settings you can imagine. We dined on the patio, sipping rosé, admiring the architecture, and appreciating the wonderful service as the guests of Precept Brands, one of our new TASTE sponsors. Waterbrook, Brown and Canoe Ridge will all be at the TASTE and we have a fabulous stay at the Waterbrook bungalows to auction off as well.
    Walla Walla Wine
    Saturday was devoted entirely to Walla Walla! With our great drivers from Whitman College – Phil and Bri – at the helm, we were free to enjoy all that Walla Walla has to offer. Beginning with a visit to Tranche, we knew we were in for some of the best. Va Piano, with its beautiful setting so evocative of Tuscany, served some of the outstanding wines they are so well known for. Sleight of Hand offered the perfect setting for a little picnic break and more rosé and then it was off to a private tour and tasting at Corliss that blew us away the moment we walked into the restored warehouse which has been transformed into a luxurious tasting room, production facility, and private residence. I couldn’t resist purchasing a large-format bottle to donate to our wine auction, so some lucky wine lover will be very happy!

    So much wine, so many wineries, but most importantly so many friends, old and new (Tamara at Owen Roe, Two Mountain, Clore Center) who were all generous when they heard about our mission to support our Scholarship Fund, including so many  recipients from eastern Washington. We now know for certain that when we say Greater” Seattle Business Association, the “Greater” means our family, friends, donors, and supporters from all over the state who we had the pleasure to meet over the weekend. We are already planning next year’s trade mission, so if you love travel and love wine and food (who doesn’t!) then ask about joining us in 2016.

  • Set a Course for Adventure

    by By Barbara Joseph, Evergreen Escapes
    | Oct 15, 2015

    Evergreen EscapesEnvisioned as a kind of “pre-departure lounge” for travelers, the unique and creative Adventure Hub debuted this spring in a converted car mechanic’s shop on Fourth Avenue South in SoDo. 

    A place to connect with knowledgeable guides and other excited travelers and plan future adventures—as well as enjoy some fine wine—it’s the joint effort of Jake Haupert of the EverGreen Escapes travel and tour agency and Mick Pearson’s Kaf Adventures, a training and information center for hikers and climbers. 

    “There is only so much you can experience through your research online. At some point you want to talk to other people. The goal of the hub is be a gathering place to share and inspire each other to keep on exploring,” says Haupert.

    After a chance meeting with Haupert at the Taste of Washington revealed their shared vision of creating a special gathering place, Jody Elsom relocated her Elsom Cellars winery into the space, which now houses its production facility, a barrel room, and a tasting room. Says Haupert, “All of our trips . . . focus on food as an incredibly important part of the travel experience. So it made sense to include a partner like Elsom Cellars in our travel community space.”

    The synergy of the three businesses has given rise to a singular kind of venue with an array of resources and services. 

    At EverGreen Escapes, travelers can do research, get personal consultations, and attend presentations about fascinating and emerging destinations. Their “Escape Artists,” a community of travel professionals, naturalists and wine guides, lead half-, full- and multi-day educational and immersive small group tours that “blend nature, adventure and local epicurean indulgences”—in the Northwest and internationally—for “curious, sophisticated and responsible” travelers. 

    They can also help plan custom-crafted private travel, family adventures, self-drive itineraries, and corporate escapes. Says Haupert, “Having that personal engagement . . . helps us understand who the client is and what they’re looking for.” 

    At Kaf Adventures, professional mountain guides and educators help adventurers rent the equipment they need for hiking, backpacking, mountaineering, and backcountry winter travel, and offer training for all skill levels. Of course, they also provide trips: rock climbing, ice climbing, mountaineering, backcountry skiing, and adventure travel abroad. Some adventures even combine yoga with hiking, rock climbing, backpacking—and wine. 

    Evergreen ElsomElsom Cellars allows visitors to sample the latest wine, from the bottle or barrel; participate in the winery’s production; or just relax after work on the outdoor patio. 

    This community-minded venue is also available for private events, special celebrations, or large tourism- or wine-related meetings of 50-100 people. The Seattle-based Adventure Travel Trade Association says it will partner with EverGreen Escapes to offer travel seminars and industry updates on policies, tips, and trends, such as sustainable tourism.

    The three CEOs report that they are learning from each other. “It’s like our own little CEO group,” Haupert says. 

    And in good news for our West Coast neighbors, there are plans to open more Adventure Hubs in Portland, San Francisco and Vancouver, BC.

    Ready to plan your escape? Call EverGreen Escapes at 866-203-7603 or email

    Visit the Adventure Hub at 2960 Fourth Ave. S. #115, Seattle, WA 98134. It is open Monday–Wednesday 9 a.m.–5 p.m. and Thursday–Friday 9 a.m.–7 p.m. Private travel consultations are by appointment only.

    Elsom Cellars is open Thursday–Friday 3 p.m. – 7p.m., Saturday 1 p.m. –6 p.m. and by private appointment.