• 5 Questions with Travis Mears

    by Matt Landers | Jun 29, 2016


    We are so excited to welcome Travis Mears as our new Director of Development & Scholarship Programs. He kicked off his job at GSBA by joining Roger Levesque and several GSBA Scholars on CenturyLink Field to accept a generous check from Seattle Sounders FC during their Pride Match.

    Travis Headshot

    1. Welcome Travis! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
    Hailing from the Green Mountain State of Vermont, I moved to Washington for work in 2009. Since moving across the country, I have circumnavigated the globe after being recruited by Semester at Sea to sail for 106 days to 16 cities in 12 different countries throughout Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America. In my role as one of the Student Life Administrators, I supported a shipboard community comprised of 800+ international students and community members from institutions around the world. After disembarking from the ship, I still had an urge to globe trot and was not ready to be back in the U.S. so I decided to take a job living in Central London for six months as the Director of the N.U. in England Program through Northeastern University. At the conclusion of my yearlong adventure abroad, I moved to Seattle in 2014 and have come to call the Pacific Northwest home. Personal wellness is a big passion of mine, outside of work I am a part-time Crossfit Coach at Emerald City Crossfit and enjoy feeding my soul and stomach by experiencing the endless options in the Seattle culinary scene.

    2. What did you do before coming to GSBA?
    Prior to joining The GSBA team I spent the past 10 years working in student services on college and university campuses both nationally and internationally. Most recently, I served as the Associate Program Director of College Access Now (CAN), a Seattle based non-profit organization supporting students from low-income families as they enroll, persist and graduate from college. I received my Bachelor's Degree in Public Relations from Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont and my Master's Degree in Student Affairs in Higher Education from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado.

    3. What are you most excited about in your new role?
    Everything about my new role excites me...cliché, I know. The combination of supporting student success while working with an organization that is promoting diversity and equality in business is a dream come true.

    4. How do you see the role of a business organization running a scholarship fund?
    We are educating students to be future leaders for jobs that have not yet been created. The role GSBA plays within the student's experience is critical. As a Chamber of Commerce we have our finger on the pulse of the business community. We have the ability to engage members of GSBA in critical dialogues about the needs of the Greater Seattle economy to support the continued growth and development of our scholarship programs enhancing our students ability to obtain a degree of market value upon graduation.

    5. Do you have any favorite arts/theater/culture experiences in the Puget Sound region?
    I love experiencing and seeing new things, nothing is off limits in my opinion when it comes to the arts, theater or culture. For me these opportunities play a large role in keeping me connected to the greater Seattle community. One of my favorite things to do is stroll through the various art walks throughout the neighborhoods in Seattle, experiencing the city through the eyes of local artists is truly moving and always memorable.

    Sounders Pride
  • Welcoming Taryn & Carlos

    by Matt Landers | May 26, 2016

    Taryn Nielsen, Graphic Designer


    What did you do before coming to GSBA?
    I moved to Washington in 2015 from Salt Lake City, where I was born and raised. I’ve worked in publishing and advertising and I’m excited to put my artistic talents to use for GSBA.
    What are you favorite things about living in the Puget Sound region?
    As a PNW newbie (and a mountain-lover), I’m smart to have picked a new home so close to beautiful water AND majestic mountains.

    What are you most excited about in your new role?
    GSBA hosts so many fun events and I can’t wait to get creative with design elements to support and emphasize the great work we do.

    CarlosTarynWith all the resources in the world, what would you like to create for GSBA?
    Is there a restriction on how big a banner can be at CenturyLink Field? I’d love to challenge the dimensions of a large-format printer and make an enormous GSBA tifo for a Sounders game.

    What is your favorite vacation destination or experience you’ve had?
    My father worked for Delta Airlines when I was in high school, and at 17-years of age, the day before spring break, a friend and I wanted to travel as cheaply as possible. I got us some inexpensive airfare, she called her college-age cousin attending Hawaii
    Pacific University, and the next day we were on Waikiki Beach. I’ve never enjoyed a spontaneous trip more and it’s probably because Matsumoto Shave Ice was on the menu every day!

    Carlos Chavez, Program & Events Manager


    What did you do before coming to GSBA?
    For the past 15 years, I worked in multiple capacities for the Metropolitan Community Churches which is the world’s largest LGBT Christian denomination. I had the opportunity to meet and work with wonderful people from all around the world and learn about different cultures and traditions which have enriched my life in so many ways.

    You’ve been here for nearly a decade. What keeps you in Seattle?
    I love the weather believe it or not. I grew up in Los Angeles where the weather varies
    from warm to really-hot, living here where we experience all four seasons and no
    real extreme temperatures, except for the occasional snowmageddon, is really refreshing. We get to see plants and trees renew themselves every year and I see this as a reminder from Mother Nature, that we too are part of this cycle which makes us stronger and more colorful each year.

    What are you most excited about in your new role?
    Everyone at GSBA has been strongly committed to the values of the organization. Meeting new colleagues, making new connections and new friends as we come together to collaborate on projects is what I am really excited about and looking
    forward to.

    What kinds of new event programming would you like to start at GSBA?
    In the 9 years that I’ve lived in Seattle, I have seen how the racial diversity has been steadily increasing in the city. I would love to create programs that reach out to these growing communities so that they can take advantage of the huge business network GSBA has to offer.

    What is your favorite vacation destination or experience you’ve had?
    I love visiting Latin America. It doesn’t matter which country, there is something about the warmth and hospitality of the people in Latin America that simply feels good to me. My family immigrated to the United States from Peru when I was 8 years old and as much as I am an American culturally, I am also very aware that my roots are very Peruvian.
  • GSBA Launches New Group for Seattle Entrepreneurial Women

    by Matt Landers | May 26, 2016

    SEW 1Several years ago, GSBA member Laura Culberg (Sweatbox Yoga) had a vision to connect women small business owners of Capitol Hill, and founded a group called Capitol Hill Entrepreneurial Women (CHEW).  The group provided a safe space for entrepreneurial women to meet and share the unique challenges facing their businesses, and offer one another support. The group’s goal was to “make a difference, make a living, make it better.”

    While there was great demand and interest for such a group, there was sadly not enough infrastructure or support to sustain this effort. Until now!

    nder the guidance of GSBA member Dani Cone (High Five Pie, Fuel Coffee and Cone & Steiner), a new and expanded version of this group has begun. Seattle Entrepreneurial Women (SEW) is GSBA’s latest initiative to bring women business owners together to find out what they need and how GSBA can best support them. The focus would be around business resource and skill-sharing, advocacy and representation of women small business owners, mentorship opportunities for aspiring women entrepreneurs and visibility within the community.

    To ensure the success of this important group, GSBA will provide administrative and logistical support. As issues and concerns are raised, GSBA’s Public Policy Task Force and Small Business Council will ensure these issues are brought before appropriate elected officials and government agencies. Given GSBA’s  vast nonprofit, government and small business networks, we are excited to be able to provide speakers, support and resources to SEWgsba, our newest affinity group.

    At our most recent meeting, 22 local women business owners showed up to learn more about upcoming legislation, discuss the start of a mentorship program for new entrepreneurs and offer resources to support one another.

    EWgsba is open to all women who independently own their own business and are current GSBA members. SEWgsba generally meets on the last Monday of the month from 9 AM to 10:30 AM but next month we will be meeting on Monday, June 20.

    Participants include: Christy Lillard (Laughing Buddha Tattoo), Cherri Trusheim (Urban Animal), Diane Skwiercz (Street Treats), Grace Schlitt (Illuminarrative), Cat Wilcox (Velouria), Karyn Schwartz (SugarPill), Linda Morgan (Terra Plata), Laura Culberg (SweatBox Yoga), Malia Keene (Magpie), Danielle Hulton (Ada’s Technical Books & Café), Francine Moo-Young (Moo-Young), Donna Larson (Stuffed Cakes), Erin Krohn (Hammer and Awl), Jenny Harding (New Chapter Events and Weddings), Jessamy Whitsitt (Pie), Lisa Michaud (Two Big Blondes Plus Size Consignment), Mariana Martos (Sur 16 Restaurant), Amanda Bedell (Nuflours Bakery), Dani Cone (Cone & Steiner, High 5 Pie, Fuel), and Louise Chernin (GSBA).

    For more information, please contact GSBA Membership Services Manager Ari Rosen.

  • GSBA Endorses I-1491

    by Matt Landers | May 18, 2016

    GSBA is proud to support Initiative 1491, to help prevent gun violence tragedies in our community. Past violence is the best indicator of future violence. I-1491 will give families and law enforcement an important tool to break that chain by allowing them to petition a court for an “Extreme Risk Protection Order,” which temporarily restricts a person’s access to firearms if the court finds that they are a danger to themselves or others. More than half of mass shooters and 80% of suicide victims show signs of dangerous behavioral changes before acting. Family members and law enforcement are the best-placed to see these signs and take action, preventing a crisis from becoming a tragic statistic. 

    GSBA is committed to building a safe, prosperous state for the LGBT community and those who support equality for all. Passing I-1491 into law will help to do just that for small business owners, our families, children, friends, and neighbors. 

    For more information, visit: http://gunresponsibility.org/solution/extreme-risk-protection-orders/

    Full text of I-1491 
  • GSBA Staff Appointed to Mayor's Affordability Committee

    by Matt Landers | May 06, 2016

    GSBA Public Policy & Communications Manager Matt Landers has been appointed to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s Commercial Affordability Advisory Committee. This committee will make recommendations on addressing the rising cost of commercial space for small businesses, develop opportunities to activate public spaces for entrepreneurs, and identify strategies to expand economic development throughout Seattle.

    “Small businesses are essential to the economy our city,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “Many of Seattle’s greatest companies got their start in small, affordable storefronts, garages, food trucks, or as simple coffee shops. We will work with the small business community to encourage affordable spaces for existing businesses and develop new opportunities for those ready to launch their dream.”

    During the current period of economic growth, new commercial space in Seattle often is dedicated for larger tenants, real estate values have increased commercial rents, and existing commercial properties have been redeveloped, displacing smaller businesses. The committee will review existing City policies and recommend steps to encourage development and preservation of commercial spaces. Recommendations will be made to the Mayor by September of this year.

    “We have a business climate that is the envy of cities around the world,” said Brian Surratt, Director of the Office of Economic Development. “We cannot take today’s economic success for granted. By ensuring that the entrepreneurs of tomorrow have affordable options today to start businesses, we can be a city of opportunities and a world-class startup hub for all.”

    The group will consider a broad range of solutions to commercial affordability, including incentivizing the construction of smaller commercial spaces, further activation of public spaces to the benefit of food trucks and other small businesses, and inclusion of affordable commercial storefronts in more affordable housing projects.

    The committee includes business owners, commercial real estate stakeholders, and business development advocates. Members include:

    • Liz Dunn, Dunn & Hobbes
    • Maiko Winkler-Chin, Seattle Chinatown International District PDA
    • Sam Farrazaino, Equinox Development Unlimited
    • John Chelico, JSH Properties
    • Don Blakeney, Downtown Seattle Association
    • Frank Gross, Thunder Road Guitars
    • Solomon Dubie, Café Avole
    • Susanna Tran, West Coast Commercial Realty
    • Dennis Comer, Brown Sugar Baking
    • Mariela Fletcher, MANILA MANILA Asian Retail Store and Food to Go
    • Mark Morel, Morel Industries
    • Tam Nguyen, Tamarind Tree and Long Provincial
    • Karen True, Alliance for Pioneer Square
    • Shanti Breznau, independent retail recruitment consultant
    • Megan Jasper, Sup Pop Records
    • Matt Landers, Greater Seattle Business Association
  • Discrimination Is Not a Washington Value

    by Matt Landers | Apr 29, 2016

    Discrimination is not a Washington value.

    For more than 10 years our laws have prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. But now, signature gatherers are gathering voter signatures on I-1515, a ballot initiative to repeal Washington's legal protections for our transgender neighbors, family and friends.

    Under no circumstances can we let a discriminatory, anti-LGBT initiative like I-1515 undermine the values that make Washington such a great place to live, work, and raise a family. 

    That's why, today, GSBA is proud to help launch Washington Won't Discriminate-the broad-based coalition of law enforcement officers, clergy, sexual assault prevention groups, businesses and many others in opposing I-1515 and protecting freedom, equality, and respect for everyone. 
    If you agree that discrimination has no place in Washington, add your name now to stand with the the No On I-1515 campaign.

    Opponents of LGBT rights are spinning the same tired lies that have been peddled elsewhere-from North Carolina to Mississippi-that non-discrimination laws threaten privacy and safety, but the truth is I-1515 will do nothing to make us safer. We've protected gay and transgender people from discrimination in Washington for 10 years, with no increase in public safety incidents as a result. 

    Unfortunately, I-1515 could make things worse for everyone by encouraging strangers to confront and challenge each other in public facilities, increasing safety and privacy violations.

    WWD LogoWhile their claims may be baseless, if opponents of transgender rights can wrangle 246,372 valid petition signatures by July 8th, then the discriminatory I-1515 will be sent to the November ballot for a public vote.

    That's why we've got to mobilize a groundswell of grassroots supporters-and fast-to keep discrimination off of Washington's ballot. And that's why we need you to stand up and join this campaign today.

    INDIVIDUALS: Click here to add your name to Washington Won't Discriminate's campaign to stop I-1515 before opponents can put it on the ballot this November!

    BUSINESSES: Click here to show that Washington businesses will not discriminate!

    In 2016, LGBT rights should be non-negotiable. Thanks for standing with Washington Won't Discriminate.

    Let's keep Washington a great place for everyone.

    For more information on how your business can take action, contact Matt Landers, GSBA Public Policy & Communications Manager.
  • State Tourism Funding: Steps in the Right Direction

    by Matt Landers | Apr 29, 2016
    by Louise Stanton-Masten, Executive Director, Washington Tourism Alliance

    Since its founding four years ago, the Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA) has focused on maintaining vital tourism initiatives on behalf of our members and the industry while also laying the groundwork for a transformative long-term, statewide tourism funding plan. 

    As legislators continue to work toward a new budget and grapple with many competing priorities, the importance of tourism to our economy cannot be overstated. Annually, visitors to Washington State spend $19 billion, generate $1.1 billion in local and state tax revenues and support more than 163,400 jobs.

    Robust worldwide travel, combined with the individual tourism marketing investments of the state’s major cities, port districts and private sector companies, have helped buoy our industry since the state tourism office closed. 

    However, Washington remains the only state in the U.S. without a state-funded tourism office and our current returns cannot be assumed on a competitive landscape where Oregon, Idaho, California, British Columbia, Alaska are investing millions of dollars in destination marketing.

    The WTA is grateful for some interim funding from the legislature for two years which went to enhance the tourism website, ExperienceWA.com, provide postage for mailing the Washington State Visitors’ Guide, fund the operation of a call center and support international tourism marketing. 

    This biennium the WTA requested additional interim funding to support these efforts. Currently, $198,000 is in the House version of the 2015-17 supplemental budget for further enhancement of the website. As of press time for this article, the House and Senate continue budget negotiations and we remain hopeful that the two parties will agree to include this funding in the final state budget. It represents an important statement about the value of the tourism industry.

    Compared to competing state tourism budgets, the WTA is an underdog. We’re doing a lot with a little. And as we continue to work toward a long-term, industry led and funded tourism marketing program, our current marketing and visitor service programs must continue. 

    In addition to our destination website, the Washington State Visitors’ Guide (a partnership with the Washington Lodging Association and Saga City Media) is distributed to 375,000 visitors and potential visitors. Other vital programs keep Washington State in baseline domestic and international marketing arenas, LGBTQ destination promotion and working in tandem with statewide destination marketing organizations, port districts and private sector tourism businesses for the benefit of all. 

    Yet another step was taken towards long term funding during this session. Four legislators – one from each caucus – wrote to their legislative leadership to indicate they will be working on a solution for long term tourism funding. These include Sens. Sharon Brown and Dean Takko and Reps. Cindy Ryu and Cary Condotta.

    All are particularly well situated to help solve this problem. Sen. Brown is the chair of the Senate Trade and Economic Development Committee, the committee that will consider proposed legislation. Rep. Ryu is the chair of the House Community Development, Housing and Tribal Affairs Committee. This is the House committee that will consider proposed legislation. Sen. Takko represents one of the most tourism-dependent legislative districts and Rep. Condotta is the author of legislation offering a different funding mechanism for tourism.

    In their letter, these members said “It is imperative that we find a solution so that Washington State will not be the only state in the nation without a robust statewide tourism marketing program. We see the impacts of closing the state tourism office in 2011, particularly in the rural areas of our state. We have so much to offer in Washington State that it is a tragedy we cannot let the rest of the nation and the world know why they should come visit.”

    As soon as the legislature ends, these members will be working with WTA and representatives from its member organizations to forge a solution to the funding issue. 

    We look forward to continuing to work with each of you as well as we work toward long-term, sustainable tourism funding in Washington State. GSBA member response to our calls to action were critical in getting our message to the legislature about the importance of supporting tourism funding both now and in the future.
  • Transgender in the Workplace

    by Matt Landers | Feb 24, 2016

    ElayneWylie_large_flipcropBy Elayne Wylie, Gender Justice League


    Transgender people in Washington State are facing the biggest battle our community has seen in a long time.  While there are protections for transgender people to use public accommodations already on the books, and despite the fact that the state Human Rights Commission has offered up rules clarifications on those protections, both lawmakers and extreme right-wing groups in the state are seeking to roll back protections for transgender people to use bathrooms and locker rooms in Washington State. The newly-launched Washington SAFE Alliance (Safety & Access For Everyone) seeks to educate lawmakers and state residents alike in why those protections exist in the first place, and how everyone can be safe.


    What does that mean for workplace equality? How do current provisions in state law, as well as federal law, affect the rights and freedoms of transgender people?


    As the media has offered up numerous times in 2015, the decision to transition and live authentically in the gender of one’s true self is not an easy process. Nevertheless, more than 700,000 people in the United States identify as transgender, and a new generation of young people have access to new channels for learning, new language and new understanding about themselves, and are coming out at younger and younger ages. Workers in Seattle, Washington are among those in 200 cities and 17 states in the U.S. that enjoy specific protections for transgender people. So why do many transgender people in this region complain that they were fired, passed over for promotion or opportunity at work, or simply unable to find equitable work at their experience level?


    However, there exists a lack of institutional structure, both at the federal level and at state and municipal levels, that contributes significantly to the disparity in employment equality for transgender people. This void also undermines the social structural inequalities that LGBTQ people have faced. This is evident in the 2015 finalization of a 3-year rules clarification process for the 2006 Anderson-Murray Anti-Discrimination law for Washington State.


    In short, transgender people should be protected by law and by practice from prejudicial attitudes and discriminatory actions from coworkers and employers, but they are often not.  A staggering 90% of transgender people report, in a 2008 nationwide survey by the National Center for Trans Equality, experiencing harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job, or felt forced to take actions to hide their identity from coworkers to avoid negative behaviors from others. Nearly half of all transgender people report being fired, not hired or denied a promotion due to them identifying as openly trans. And specific protections in Washington State often fall far short of extending any real protection for workers.


    The Human Rights Commission publishes the corporate equality index, which charts companies on the Fortune 1000 on the depth and breadth of their non-discrimination policies, as well as pro-employee measures and inclusive benefits. To receive a 100 score, companies must annually demonstrate a commitment to and the implementation of seven major criteria, some of which is of specific relevance to transgender workers. A frequent problem, however, is how many companies choose to put a queer veneer on their diversity efforts without providing realistic and practical methodologies in-house to diversity solutions that actually work. Such corporate healthcare policies contain enough inclusive language to garner a good score on the Index, but fall short in meeting transgender people where they are at, often leaving employees paying hefty fees for essential but non-covered services, or forcing them to pay up front and be reimbursed. This often leaves those employees on the outside of a glass door, able to see inside, but unable to gain access. Some employees are often terminated for their status as a transgender person, despite the company’s Index score, and even public outcry against such actions aren’t a guarantee that those people have legal recourse, or even to be rehired.


    More importantly for small and medium-sized companies in Washington, human resources employees are facing the same questions as their bigger corporate counterparts, but likely without the resources to devote to solving those issues. How do we train our employees to understand key concepts that relate to both transgender employees and transgender customers? Do we have structures in place to address a new hire who is transgender, or to accommodate an existing employee as they choose to transition?


    Another key breakdown is how businesses and organizations view cultural competency training with regard to the transgender community. Despite the legal and fiscal ramifications of how transgender employees and customers are engaged with in the workplace, training on these issues is typically given so little regard that training and consulting is often requested without a line item in the budget, and thus is regarded as a low priority.  Employees receive, on average, two hours of instruction in a group setting, with little or no follow-up measures, skill building, or accountability for the knowledge received.


    Gender Justice League, one organization that provides workplace competency training, fields questions from both individuals and organizations about workplace best practices regarding employees and customers, and has been adapting existing educational modules for use in providing in-depth workplace training, with a provision for long-term workplace competency. Many calls that come in seek to schedule trainers for one to two hours at most, with no follow-up or more in-depth work.


    The stakes have never been higher. Despite state laws being on the books for more than nine years, recent proposals from conservative, anti-transgender organizations are spurring lawmakers to revisit critical protections for transgender people. The Washington SAFE Alliance offers hope and accurate information to prevent those protections from being removed.  Public accommodations, essentially all of the spaces outside our front door, are under attack. By recognizing now the dangers in rolling back those protections, we may be able to make a difference for not only the transgender people in our community, but for everyone in the state.

  • President's Award: Kent Thoelke

    by Matt Landers | Feb 17, 2016


    Kent Thoelke is a passionate crusader for all he believes in and the GSBA has been blessed that he believes whole heartedly in the mission of the Scholarship Fund. When Kent first learned about the Scholarship Fund, it quickly became a family project for him, along with his husband Kevin Gaspari, his parents, Rich and Shay, and sister Richelle. Both of Kent’s parents became interviewers and when Rich passed away, Kent and family created the Rich Thoelke memorial scholarship. Kent’s involvement has been at every level from volunteer, to co-chair of TASTE.

    Kent is a tireless ambassador for the Scholarship and in his role as co-chair helped raise the bar for the event to record high levels of participation and fundraising resulting in over $775,000 raised in 2015. With a work schedule that has him traveling over 260 days a year, Kent’s dedication to the cause is a testament to his belief in the power of the Scholarship Fund to change lives. Traveling around the globe, Kent never hesitates to share the story of GSBA and has truly become an international spokesperson for the work of GSBA. Kent is the perfect example of the power of belief and dedication to change the world and make it a better place.

  • Business Leader of the Year: Mona Smith

    by Matt Landers | Feb 17, 2016

    Mona Smith
    has served her community in monumental ways and has had an outsized impact on some of our communities’ major issues. Inspired by John F. Kennedy, her community involvement started at a very early age and she has never stopped. Mona has been a steadfast advocate for LGBT civil rights, taking key roles in the effort to gain marriage equality in both Washington and nationally. In numerous leadership positions with GSBA, including two-term President and Public Policy Task Force Chair, she oversaw key policy work that strengthened the sustainability of GSBA and the GSBA Scholarship Fund, while expanding the role of GSBA in advocating for both civil rights and business issues.

    One cannot talk of GSBA and Public Affairs without talking about the role Mona has played in the past decade in leading our policy efforts. GSBA now has both a seat and a voice at the table. As the National Chair of the Victory Fund Campaign Board, Mona leads efforts to elect LGBT people to public office across the country. She actively supports many local organizations including Legal Voice and Q Law, and is tireless in her support of GSBA (Bronze Sponsor) and the GSBA Scholarship Fund (Emerald Jewel Club). All of this, while she takes care of her personal clients and enjoys family life with her wife Natalie and their dog Cocoa. Integrating philanthropy and social justice into her business, Mona is a true business and community leader.

  • Business of the Year: Tuxedos & Tennis Shoes

    by Matt Landers | Feb 17, 2016

    Tuxedos and Tennis Shoes Catering and Events
    has been in operation in Seattle since 1986. Their name reflects the range of services they offer, from elegant formal affairs to casual events. Founder David Haggerty was joined by David Meckstroth in 1989 as co-owner and partner in the business. Together they have run the Hall at Fauntleroy in West Seattle for 20 years and are the exclusive catering partners with ACT Theatre, Cornish Playhouse, and Benaroya Hall in addition to running the restaurant and café at Benaroya. They attribute much of their success to their entire team of amazing people. Their love of supporting the community is clearly evident.

    Like many catering companies, Tuxedos & Tennis Shoes gets constant requests for donations and support for causes. They are committed to organizations focusing on LGBT youth, kids and education and cancer research and have supported a myriad of organizations including West Seattle Helpline, Lambda Legal, Fred Hutch Obliteride, Harborview/UW Medicine, YouthCare, the Trevor Project and the Seattle Men’s Chorus and Seattle Women’s Chorus. Tuxedos & Tennis Shoes is also a regular caterer at GSBA networking events and joins us every year at the TASTE. They host an annual Thanksgiving community meal for 400 people, open to anyone in need. Not content to rest on their laurels, they continue to grow and are forming a new brand – D2 – launching in 2016.

  • Voice for Social Justice: Ana Mari Cauce

    by Matt Landers | Feb 17, 2016

    Ana Mari Cauce
    is the first woman, Latina, and lesbian to serve as permanent President of the University of Washington. Born in Cuba, where her father was the Minister of Education, Cauce’s family escaped the political turmoil there by moving to Miami when she was three years old. To support the family, her parents took jobs in shoe factories. They instilled in their children the importance of education, which has been in Ana Mari’s DNA ever since.

    She joined the University of Washington faculty in 1986 as an assistant professor of psychology, researching mental-health interventions for at-risk youth. She has held numerous leadership positions at the University of Washington, including heading multiple departments, Provost, and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. She has received numerous awards for her scholarship, teaching and activism, including the much-prized Distinguished Teaching Award. As interim President, Ana Mari launched the Race & Equity Initiative, bringing together faculty, staff, and students to address issues around inequity and social justice. She has spoken publicly about her own experiences with prejudice as an immigrant and a lesbian. Her devotion to fighting social inequity runs deep, she says, in part because her older brother Cesar, a civil-rights activist, was killed in 1979 by members of the Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina.

    She has also come out of the closet in another way: she is a proud member of the tribe of “nerds and geeks.” As she says, “Geek is the new chic.” Whether geeks or students of color, young women, LGBTQ, or all of the above, the students at the UW can count on President Cauce encouraging them to reach for their dreams and making them proud they all belong to the tribe of Purple and Gold.


  • Nonprofit of the Year: Ventures

    by Matt Landers | Feb 17, 2016


    empowers aspiring entrepreneurs with limited resources and unlimited potential to improve their lives through small business ownership. Their focus is empowering "unbankable" individuals, often experiencing generational poverty, to start their own businesses. They partner with organizations such as Entre Hermanos to provide culturally appropriate training to immigrant communities. Their particular focus on low-income individuals means that their success rate has that much more power - lifting up entire communities with the success of each small business. An astounding 80% of Ventures clients are still in business and making a profit after 2 years. Through their retail incubator in Pike Place market and their rentable food truck, Ventures has a visible presence in our city and a way for the general public to discover the great new businesses fostered though their programs. GSBA members who have gotten their feet on the ground thanks to Ventures include Repair Revolution, our 2013 New Business of the Year, and Sal Floral Design, now one of the top florists in Seattle.

    When Executive Director Beto Yarce started his own small business in Seattle he didn’t have all the support he needed to navigate the system. Experiencing these challenges firsthand gave him the unique perspective to understand the hurdles faced by Ventures’ clients. He has overseen the tremendous growth of the organization, including receiving a major grant from the Small Business Administration to expand its services. Beto is passionate and inspired by Ventures’ mission and the opportunity to support other entrepreneurs by helping them realize their business visions.

  • Corporate Leader of the Year: Kevin Baldwin

    by Matt Landers | Feb 17, 2016

    Under the leadership of Kevin Baldwin since 2001, PwC’s Pacific Northwest office has grown from 400 employees to over 700 and doubled its revenues. Kevin believes strongly in building diversity at all levels, from PwC’s leadership team to new recruits fresh out of college. Kevin wants to make sure their employees are a reflection of the entire community PwC serves. He is the Partner Champion for PwC’s LGBT Open Affinity Group, and has pushed the company on LGBT inclusion issues. PwC has become a sponsor of the Seattle Pride Parade and contributes a large contingent every year. In part due to his efforts, PwC was one of Diversity Inc.’s top ten companies for LGBT employees in 2015 and top three in overall diversity. They have had a 100% corporate equality index rating from HRC every year since 2006, and won the 2009 Point Inspiration Award for LGBT inclusion, for being a company that champions respect and includes LGBTQ people at every level.

    Kevin helped bring PwC on as GSBA’s first Ruby Jewel Sponsor, committed to investing significantly in both the Chamber and the Scholarship Fund. He sits on the GSBA Corporate Advisory Board, the Executive Committee of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and is a board member of the Washington Biotechnology & Biomedical Association. Currently he is co-chairing former Governor Gregoire's Challenge Seattle Partnership to work with government and business to improve our region's transportation, education and affordable housing and to tell Seattle’s success stories around the world.

  • New Business of the Year: Bulk FR8

    by Matt Landers | Feb 17, 2016

    Bulk FR8
    is a business on the move in every way. As a domestic leader in liquid bulk logistics and freight management, Bulk FR8 provides safe and innovative freight brokerage solutions for chemical companies across the United States and Canada. Wayne Levinson’s vision to fill an industry need and create a dynamic and diverse team is what has created the incredibly rapid success of his company. In just a few short years, Bulk FR8 is now a $20 million enterprise. The have built their company around their values of communication excellence, integrity, breakthrough market knowledge, and steadfast dependability.

    A yoga master, snowboarder, and ardent traveler, Wayne has relied on strong professional and mentoring networks to help him with the best advice before making key decisions. He took this to heart and has devoted himself to doing the same for others. Wayne mentors a group of young entrepreneurs ranging in age from 13-25. Stressing the importance of education, Bulk FR8 offers their team of smart, motivated and passionate people the opportunity to continue their industry knowledge by encouraging and covering the costs for them to seek degrees and industry certifications. Wayne himself is currently in his master’s program in civil engineering at the University of Washington. When Bulk FR8 first joined GSBA, they were asked why a trucking company wanted to join our chamber. The answer they gave was simple – “We wanted folks to know that there are gay truckers out there.”

  • Community Leaders of the Year: Tamara Murphy & Linda Di Lello Morton

    by Matt Landers | Feb 17, 2016

    Tamara Murphy and Linda Di Lello Morton say that when they open the doors of their restaurant, Terra Plata, they are welcoming the community to their dinner table. The truth of this is borne out by the sheer number of fundraisers they have hosted for local nonprofits such as Mary’s Place, Legal Voice, Seattle Culinary Academy, Country Doctor, Fare Start, LifeLong, and GSBA. Linda and Tamara’s generosity is not limited to within the walls of their restaurant. Linda has scaled the highest peaks of the Cascades and raised over $250,000 in support of the Breast Cancer Fund. One of Tamara’s first community support efforts involved cooking meals for Babes with AIDS at Fort Worden.

    Both Linda and Tamara are ardent believers in teaching the importance of sustainability. They have created some of our region’s defining culinary events to fund their favorite organizations - Burning Beast (in support of the educational work of the Rubicon Foundation) and the Incredible Feast for the Good Farmer Fund (helping local farmers with unexpected expenses such as last summer’s drought). Other nonprofits they support include Big Table which exists to see the lives of those working in the restaurant industry transformed by building relationships around shared meals and caring for those in crisis, transition or falling through the cracks. They say that “Success comes from being an active participant in our community.” Linda and Tamara understand the value of civic activism, and for being a small business voice working hard to make our home a better place for all.

  • Your Voice in Olympia: Youth & Economic Opportunities

    by Matt Landers | Feb 17, 2016

    Olympia CampusAddressing the homeless youth crisis in our region, which has a disproportionate impact on the LGBT community, has long been a stated priority of GSBA. As our community’s business organization, we have focused our efforts on economic approaches such as last year’s Youth Equality and Reinvestment (YEAR) Act. There are several bills in Olympia that seek to make it easier for homeless youth to receive critical services and for those exiting the criminal justice system to successfully reintegrate into society.

    For the third year running, GSBA reiterates its support for the Certificate of Restoration of Opportunity (CROP) bill, which could allow persons who have committed certain non-violence offenses to appeal to a judge for a certificate stating that they have paid all their debts to society. This lowers the barriers for employment for people with criminal records, giving them a greater chance of successfully reentering society. GSBA joined with the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce to encourage state senators to support the CROP bill.

    New in 2016, the GSBA Board of Directors has unanimously endorsed the Supporting Opportunities & Rehabilitation (SOAR) act, which seeks to provided increased rehabilitation measures for juvenile offenders. Proposed items include: adding rehabilitation as an express intent of Juvenile Justice, mandating deferred disposition for qualifying juveniles, eliminating mandatory minimums for juvenile automobile crimes, providing more discretion around specific kinds of domestic violence cases and eliminating mandatory arrest for offenses between minor child and parent/step/grandparent, and removing license revocation for non-driving drug/alcohol/firearm offenses. Additionally, our friend and partner Rep. Joan McBride has proposed HB 2396, a bill that would allow a school nurse or guidance counselor to provide informed consent for health care decisions for a minor in the case that a student is homeless and without a legal parent or guardian.

    Finally, with our Travel Gay Seattle initiative, GSBA is also committed to building Washington State’s tourism industry. As the only state without a dedicated tourism bureau, Washington is missing out on an obvious engine of economic vitality and revenue growth. Fully supportive of the Washington Tourism Alliance’s goals of a self-assessed state tourism fund, GSBA advocates in the meantime for bridge funding of the group as it continues to bring inbound tourism dollars into our state.

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

    by Matt Landers | 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

    by Matt Landers | 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 G2Consulting.biz. 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

    by Jason Dittmer | 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.

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