• Building Businesses, Changing Lives

    by Matt Landers | Oct 09, 2015

    Who can say that in 20 years they have launched over 2,000 small businesses? 

    Ventures LogoThere are many initiatives, groups and government agencies working on economic development, but one stands out for its mission and impact on the lives of its clients: Ventures (formerly known as Washington CASH), which serves people in the Puget Sound region for whom traditional business education and financing are out of reach. 

    Ventures is committed to empowering low-income individuals. Its clients are often considered “unbankable” and cannot get loans or other funding from traditional financial institutions. The average client supports a family of 2.6 on an income of just $24,124 per year. 

    “Imagine living in Seattle on that and trying to start a business,” remarks Resource Development Manager Anjali Englund. “Folks with the entrepreneurial spirit that we all celebrate can still be held back by so many barriers."

    Ventures - Business Lab 3Despite the significant structural hurdles faced by its clients, Ventures’ success rate is very high. 80% of Ventures clients are still in business after 18 months, significantly higher than the national average. Their clients are able to break the cycle of poverty, not only enjoying their success personally but also extending those benefits to their families and outward into their communities.

    “Success means a lot of things, not just having $1 million in sales,” says Executive Director Beto Yarce. “It means having entrepreneurs get on their feet, become sustainable.” For families experiencing generational poverty, establishing a stable business not only creates economic security but also dramatically improves educational attainment and health outcomes.

    Free “Get Ready for Business” workshops introduce potential clients to the organization and offer the opportunity for Ventures staff to review a business idea. From there, clients move into business development training, covering the basics of how to start and grow a small business. Then they complete a feasibility plan and begin to create a community of entrepreneurs alongside whom they can build both competence and confidence. They are then eligible for more advanced services, including financial trainings, a matched savings program and credit counseling.

    Moreover, clients are also given access to Ventures’ commercial enterprises. Its retail incubator shop in Pike Place Market allows entrepreneurs to sell their products on a commission basis in one of the busiest commercial centers in Seattle before branching out on their own. And because the food industry has a relatively low barrier to entry, Ventures offers food business incubator programs that build on the skills its clients learn in training, giving them access to a below-market-rate commercial kitchen and to markets. Most notably, they also have the option of renting Ventures’ Word of Mouth food truck for just $30 per four-hour shift.

    A Ventures client, Eli Allison of Repair Revolution (2013 GSBA New Business of the Year), attests to the help he received. “I was skeptical at first, but I realized very quickly that these guys were different. They were really in touch with what small business owners actually needed, and they had a very holistic approach with lots of offerings for small business owners. 

    “The thing that sticks out the most for me is having a community of business owners, mentors and small business advocates around me when I was taking the biggest risk of my life, cheering me on and giving me meaningful tools and connections to take on this journey. It is so refreshing to be a part of an organization that is so in touch with their client’s needs and an organization that truly walks their talk.”

    For 20 years Ventures has been building business and changing lives. The greatest part, according to Beto, is seeing former clients become donors and give back to the community that supported them. With startups, incubators and enterprise zones all the rage now, Ventures’ established record of creating prosperity speaks for itself.

    Visit the Ventures shop below the main arcade at Pike Place Market. Keep an eye out for the Word of Mouth food truck around Seattle. Personal donations help support clients’ education and training. Learn more about Ventures’ programs at www.venturesnonprofit.org
  • NGLCC Business Certification is Good for Business!

    by Matt Landers | Oct 09, 2015
    by Elise Lindborg, co-owner, ZippyDogs

    Red Carpet KissZippyDogs is a West Seattle–based promotional products distributor (and GSBA member) now celebrating 15 years in business. In 2010 we became a certified National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) Business Enterprise, and ever since then, only good things have come to ZippyDogs. Numerous far-reaching opportunities provided by the NGLCC have allowed us to grow our business, increase our professional expertise, expand our customer base and meet fellow LGBT business owners from all over the country. 

    Over the past five years, ZippyDogs has participated in four national conferences. We have listened to Ivy League professors and learned business tips from million- and billion-dollar business owners, such as Marcus Lemonis, Barbara Corcoran, Shaun T and many others. At each conference we have had the opportunity to sit down with several Fortune 500 companies (Kellogg’s, Target, IBM, AT&T, Sodexo, and Office Depot, to name a few) and learn about potential business opportunities. ZippyDogs is proud to say that because of the NGLCC, we have done business with Southern California Edison, Bristol-Meyers Squibb and even Cracker Barrel (which has come a long way toward LGBT equality). All three of these companies are committed to LGBT supplier diversity. 

    In 2013, I applied for and received an NGLCC scholarship to attend the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, and just last year I applied for and was assigned a business mentor from the Chevron Corporation to help ZippyDogs build on our already successful business. Even more notable is that ZippyDogs was named the 2013-2014 NGLCC Supplier of the Year!

    Because of the amazing work of the NGLCC, hundreds of their corporate partners have made a steadfast commitment specifically to support LGBT business owners and have set aside millions of dollars to spend with certified LGBT businesses. The only way they can meet their diversity and spending goals is to procure goods and services from a certified LGBT Business Enterprise. 

    So the time is now for LGBT-owned businesses to become certified! Doing so has opened many doors for ZippyDogs, as described. New business doesn’t just come with certification, though. As with any new endeavor, newly certified businesses need to participate in NGLCC events (such as the National Business Conference) and learn how to work within the Fortune 500 procurement system. 

    Not only has the NGLCC helped ZippyDogs find a business family, it has proven to be fun and refreshing to attend events specifically for LGBT business owners. This allows ZippyDogs to bring our authentic selves to the business table.

    A special thank-you goes to George Pieper of OutSmart Office Solutions, who approached these skeptical dogs to become a certified LGBT business five years ago. It has been one of the best business decisions we have ever made! 

    Get certified and grow your business! The time is now! WOOF!
  • Speaking of Women's Rights: Inextricable from LGBT Rights

    by Matt Landers | Oct 09, 2015

    By David Ward, Legal & Legislative Council with Legal Voice and Chair of the GSBA Public Policy Task Force.

    LegalVoice2

    I’m a gay man who works for Legal Voice, a non-profit organization in Seattle that advances women’s rights in the Northwest.  The issues I focus on include gender-based violence, family law, and LGBT rights.  Sometimes, I’m asked why a women’s rights organization would make LGBT rights a core part of its mission, which Legal Voice has done since the 1980s.  And the answers show how closely intersected the women’s rights and LGBT rights movements are – or should be. 

    First, both movements challenge gender stereotypes.  The women’s rights movement fights the idea that women and men should act in certain ways based on their gender and that their roles in society should be defined (and limited) by their gender.  The LGBT rights movement challenges the same gender stereotypes – like the idea that a marriage should only be between a man and a woman, or that men should be “masculine” and women should be “feminine.”  Because such gender stereotypes often find their origins in religious doctrine, both movements must fight against allowing religion to be used as a license to discriminate under the law.

    Both movements also must focus on ending gender-based violence and harassment.  Violence against woman and violence against LGBT people are both the result of a culture that permits violence against “others” to be normalized.  When a trans woman is murdered or a gay man is attacked on the street, it is often because the attacker feels a privilege over a person who is marginalized in our society. The same is often true when women are harassed on the street, sexually assaulted, or victimized by domestic violence.

    The two movements are also linked in our efforts to protect bodily autonomy – the right to control your own body.  In the women’s rights movement, this includes the right to decide whether to have an abortion.  In the LGBT rights movement, bodily autonomy includes the right to decide how to express oneself sexually, as well as the right to have a body that matches your gender identity.  To achieve bodily autonomy, the women’s rights movement must fight for insurance coverage for abortion care, while the LGBT rights movement must fight for insurance coverage for transition-related care for transgender community members.

    These are just some of the reasons why the women’s rights and LGBT rights movements are so closely linked – and why both movements should support each other and work closely together in our common fight for equality.
    LV_Blog_Header

  • CB 118455 – All-Gender Restrooms Ordinance

    by Matt Landers | Oct 09, 2015

    This letter was submitted to the Seattle City Council on August 10. The bill passed unanimously.

    Dear Councilmembers:

    On behalf of the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA), we are writing to express our strong support for CB 118455.  This important legislation will help ensure that transgender and gender nonconforming people have safe and equal access to restroom facilities in City buildings and other places of public accommodation in Seattle.

    CB 118455 will advance this goal in a cost-effective manner by:

    • Providing that single-occupant restrooms in City buildings and places of public accommodation may not be restricted to a specific sex or gender identity, and must use appropriate signage to indicate that such facilities are designated for use by any person.
    • Explicitly specifying that when places of public accommodation have gender-specific restrooms or other gender-specific facilities, individuals have the right to use the facilities that are consistent with their gender identity or expression
    • Updating and clarifying the definition of the term “gender identity” in the Seattle Municipal Code.

    As the nation’s largest LGBT and allied chamber of commerce, GSBA strongly supports this effort to protect the civil rights of transgender and gender nonconforming individuals.  These protections are also good for Seattle businesses.  They will help ensure that transgender and gender nonconforming people – a large and growing community in the Seattle area – will be able to patronize Seattle businesses without fear that they will be denied access to appropriate restroom facilities.  As a result, we would expect this ordinance will promote increased patronage of Seattle businesses by transgender and gender nonconforming customers.

    Thank you for your consideration of our views and for the Council’s leadership on this important issue.

    Sincerely,

    Jay Petterson, Public Policy Chair, GSBA Board of Directors
    David Ward, Chair, Public Policy Task Force

  • GSBA Takes NGLCC Conference by Storm!

    by Rachael Brister | Oct 03, 2015

    GSBA Checkby Rachael Brister, VP of Marketing & Tourism

    From August 11-14, over 800 LGBT and allied entrepreneurs, business owners, corporate representatives and LGBT chamber leaders from across the country and around the globe descended upon Ft. Lauderdale Florida for the NGLCC International Business & Leadership Conference.

    Attendees take part in three days of symposia, panel discussions, development seminars and special events designed to generate business opportunities and build strong relationships with corporate champions and one another. 

    I was fortunate enough to be one of those attendees along with GSBA President & CEO Louise Chernin and GSBA Board members Drew Ness and Jenny Harding. GSBA is a founding member of the NGLCC and we have sent representatives to this conference almost every year and even hosted it in Seattle in 2009. 

    We were not the only GSBA representatives at the conference. Some of our small business members are very active with NGLCC including George Pieper of OutSmart Office Solutions and Elise Lindborg of ZippyDogs, both of whom are certified LGBT businesses. Both have been named Supplier of the Year by NGLCC, in 2012 and 2013, respectively. It was great to see them around the conference and watch them in action as they presented in breakout sessions, were matched with corporate procurement officers to discuss potential business or exhibiting in the marketplace.

    IMG_8896 - TomboyX

    Another GSBA member took center stage….literally. TomboyX was a contestant in the LGBT Biz Pitch, a fast-paced competition among three LGBT entrepreneurs selected to give their best 10-minute presentations on their company. They gain valuable feedback from an expert panel of angel investors, venture capitalists, and other business experts. Participants have the potential to continue their dialogue with the judges, and one lucky winner is awarded a $10,000 cash prize as well as a brand positioning package valued at $20,000. Co-Founder and CEO of TomboyX, Fran Dunaway, delivered a fantastic presentation complete with models showing of their top selling product, the boxer brief. Her knowledge, enthusiasm and overall great line of products paid off because TomboyX won the competition! Congratulations to Fran and her team for a great pitch.

    Throughout the conference the breakout sessions are categorized for the different types of attendees. One of these tracts is for LGBT chamber leaders from across the country. Earlier this year, I submitted a proposal, along with the Co-Founders of Travel Gay Canada, to present one of these sessions on Tourism. Our proposal was accepted and along the way we added an additional presenter: the President & Co-Founder of the Argentina Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

    Driving Economic Growth Through Tourism

    Tourism plays an important economic driver for many communities and LGBTBEs. This session will highlight the importance LGBT tourism can have on a community, and how local and international LGBT Chambers of Commerce can work with their members, their tourism industry, and their destination marketing organizations to create value through increased visitation and tourism receipts. From the session, participants will receive concrete takeaways that they can use to grow business for their own Chambers, LGBTBEs, and communities.

    I focused on what GSBA has been able to accomplish in the LGBT Tourism realm, how we promote our members in this industry and the successes and challenges of a Chamber-based Tourism initiative.  I was proud to highlight the diverse and generous support we receive from our Tourism sponsors and I emphasized the importance of creating strong partnerships with sponsors -- that our Tourism sponsors offer so much more than just a signed check.

     

    Suze

    And speaking of checks, a major highlight of the week was the $10,000 grant GSBA received from NGLCC and Wells Fargo. GSBA was awarded a grant to increase our efforts around LGBTBE certification. Read more about that here.

    And on a personal note, in addition to thoroughly enjoying my experience presenting at the conference, I was a giggly fangirl for the keynote plenary on the 1st day of the conference. The one and only Suze Orman told her story of being an out lesbian in the world of finance and her rise to become one of the world’s leading authorities on the subject. She also spent time answering questions from the audience, often with no-hold-barred answers. Before she spoke, she took the time to pose for selfies. This fangirl, unfortunately, did not make it to the front of the ballroom fast enough. But it was such a thrill to hear her speak, I can overlook the fact that I did not get to post a #SuzeSelfie.

  • New Board Member: John Sternlicht

    by Rachael Brister | Oct 03, 2015


    John SternlichtJohn Sternlicht was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA) at the August meeting.

    John is the Executive Director of the Economic Development Association of Skagit County (EDASC), a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to promoting and enhancing the economic vitality of Skagit County. He also currently serves on the international Economic Development Council's Board of Directors. He previously served as Economic Development Advisor to King County Executive Dow Constantine, Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Trade for the Commonwealth of Virginia and as the first General Counsel and Policy and Legislative Director of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.

    John spent his childhood in Rhode Island and North Carolina, and has a B.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University, focusing on Western Europe and Latin America, and studied journalism and communications at the Université de Fribourg before earning a law degree from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. He practiced law in North Carolina and Virginia and earned his certification in economic development from the International Economic Development Council in 2001.

    Sternlicht has been married to James Finley, Seattle University’s head volleyball coach, since 2010. Together they have three grown sons.

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