The GSBA Blog

  • 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.

  • Traveling while Transgender

    by Gunner Scott, Director of Programs, Pride Foundation
    | Oct 15, 2015
    Gunner Betty
    I love to travel. I have been able to visit 45 states and four European countries, and I now have the opportunity to travel across the Northwest for my job at the Pride Foundation.

    However, as a transgender traveler, I also encounter discrimination—especially with TSA. On multiple occasions since the Automated Target Recognition (ATR) body scanners were installed, TSA agents have demanded that I remove my dress shirt and expose my skin or else be denied access to my flight, a request that is against their own policies.

    Discrimination in travel happens too often. The 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 53% of transgender respondents were verbally harassed in places like hotels, restaurants, buses, airports and government agencies; 15% were denied service and 3% were physically assaulted. Those percentages significantly increase for transgender travelers that are disabled and/or of color.

    While work is being done to educate agencies like TSA, for the time being it may take transgender travelers a little more planning to have the best experience possible. For example, the standards for changing your name or gender marker on your US passport have become much more accessible. If you not able to update your state ID, using your passport might be easier.

    TSA has a specific transgender traveler webpage explaining their policies and your rights. I would also recommend applying for TSA Pre-Check status. There is a fee, but it expedites screening and often allows you to go through metal detectors instead of the ATR scanners. If you should encounter discrimination, stay calm, ask to speak with a supervisor, and remember to file a civil rights complaint with TSA. 

    While not all transgender people identify with the LGB community, in general, hotels and tours that advertise to or are LGBTQ businesses are more likely to have nondiscrimination policies. Websites and organizations like GSBA, Tagapproved and Purple Roofs are great places to start.

    There are guides and vacation packages for lesbian and gay travelers, but few for transgender travelers. This is slowly changing; recently the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association began outreach to transgender-owned travel businesses to help promote them. The “World’s First Transgender Oceanic Cruise,” hosted by Transgender Vacations and Royal Caribbean, as well as the Kalani resort on Hawaii’s Big Island both specifically welcome transgender travelers with dedicated vacation packages.

    As Maya Angelou once said, “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” I hope you find many friends on your next travel adventure!

  • Saving an Entire Species: InterChange Media’s Campaign for Sea Turtles

    | Oct 09, 2015
    InterChange - Baby Turtle

    Michele Gomes and Jenny Ting were standing on a beach on Cape Cod on a wet and cold November day, looking for stranded sea turtles, with a looming nor’easter on the horizon. The coordinator had told them that it was unlikely they would find any that day—most volunteers never come across one. But fairly early into their shift, the pair found their first cold-stunned turtle. And then another. And another. By the end of the day, they had rescued 21 hypothermic turtles and even ran out of space in their car, with Jenny forced to carry two on her lap.

    This extraordinary day was the crux of why they spent several wintery weeks in coastal New England. As the duo behind InterChange Media Art Productions, Jenny and Michele were in the process of documenting an increasingly common phenomenon: juvenile Kemp’s ridley sea turtles (the smallest and most endangered sea turtles) getting trapped by the hook of Cape Cod in the early winter months. While an average of 90 turtles wash up each year, the rate has been swiftly accelerating, with 413 in 2013 and over 1,200 in 2014. The BP oil spill severely affected their breeding grounds, and climate change is causing dangerous shifts in their migratory patterns. 

    InterChange - Michele with TurtleWhat started as a short news story has turned into a passion project with vital significance to the survival of an entire species. With the turtles falling (or rather, placed carefully) right into their laps, it was a story that they just couldn’t walk away from. 

    So InterChange’s Emmy-winning crew is creating Saving Sea Turtles: Rescuing the Rare Kemp’s Ridley to highlight the critical threat to this species and how whole communities up and down the Atlantic Coast are working together to save them.

    But Jenny and Michele never thought that they would be making documentary about sea turtles. In fact, Jenny says that she only started making films as a joke. Her interest quickly turned serious when she found success with the award-winning Straight Into Gay America, which followed a straight pastor unicycling from Vermont to Washington, DC, in support of LGBT rights. She reached out to Michele, an established fine art dealer and curator of multimedia exhibits in downtown Seattle, and they decided to create a production company.

    “We wanted to put the eye of the camera on life-saving values,” says Michele. “It’s so important to align your business with your values.” Their clients have been primarily women-owned businesses, LGBT people, people of color and organizations such as Tabor 100, Fuel Coffee and Pinchot University. InterChange Media has also produced videos for GSBA’s gala events, beautifully conveying the scholars’ stories and helping raise over $200,000 for the GSBA Scholarship Fund.

    Their passion for environmental issues is an “essential core value” of their business. They have documented the Beacon Food Forest, and their series The Legend of Mick Dodge (about an ex-Marine living in the Hoh Rainforest) aired for three seasons on the National Geographic Channel. 

    Right now Michele and Jenny are working on completing postproduction on Saving Sea Turtles, with the goal of releasing it in the first quarter of 2016. They are about to launch a Kickstarter campaign to help finish the animations, graphics, titling, narration, score and translations. 

    About the project, Michele says, “We don’t want to live in a world where the extinction of an entire species is seen as the norm. We want to take a stand.”

    Learn more about Jenny & Michele’s work at and how to support their documentary at
  • Building Businesses, Changing Lives

    | 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
  • NGLCC Business Certification is Good for Business!

    by Elise Lindborg
    | Oct 09, 2015

    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

    | Oct 09, 2015

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


    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.

  • CB 118455 – All-Gender Restrooms Ordinance

    | 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.


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

  • The most successful GSBA Scholarship Dinner ever!

    | Oct 06, 2015

    Celebrating 25 years
    Two million dollars in scholarships awarded since 1990
    $350,000 presented to 48 outstanding students
    Raising a record $200,000

    It all made for a truly amazing evening!  We heard stories from our  scholarship Founders and early champions in a moving video created by InterChange Media. We brought this visionary group on stage for Michael Auch to present the Richard C. Rolfs Scholarship and Bob Dlugosh & Don McKee to present the Founders' scholarships. Mayor Ed Murray welcomed our guests and touchingly reminded us of other early scholarship champions who have passed. During the evening, we were saddened to hear of the continuing challenges of poverty, violence, and lack of family support which so many of our scholars face. Our keynote address, given by GSBA's first four-year Scholar, Laramie Smith, was incredible. Laramie shared the story of her journey, from being disowned by her family as a teenager, leaving her with no hope of being able to attend college, to the difference that four years of scholarship support from GSBA meant to her, knowing she had the backing of an entire community. Today Laramie has a PhD and just last week was appointed Assistant Professor at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine. There was not a dry eye in the room when Scholarship Chair Stephanie Dallas came on stage with an impassioned plea that opened our hearts and compelled us to give generously.

    Thank you to all of our table captains who brought wonderful guests to fill the room at the Waterfront Marriott. Chaired by Allan Aquila and Scholarship Dinner volunteers Ryan Digges and Steve Gunn and our Scholarship Fund staff led by Mark Rosén and Jessica Wootten, we were able to create an evening that powerfully connected our past to our future. Other highlights of the evening included two announcements from Board Chair Martha Davis: the first about the launching a new Leadership Matching Fund, and the exciting news that GSBA has committed to fund every returning undergraduate scholar. With your continued support, both of these commitments will make a huge difference in the lives of LGBTQ and allied students.

    How wonderful it was to hear about the scholars who received our named scholarships this year. Bob Rhodehamel & Dana Snyder presented a Future Ribbons Scholarship to Kelly Hill who is pursuing her graduate degree in AIDS Research; Glenn Johnson & Michael Melancon presented the Bright Horizon Scholarship to Jazmine Perez; and Linda Barzalai spoke eloquently and poignantly about the "still small voice" inside all of us and how this voice honors the memory of her son David. The connection between past and future was everywhere; with past scholars seated around the room, including past Chester Podlodowski Scholars at Tina's table. A wonderful video with four past scholars -- Ryan, Arianna, Morgan, and Linda -- talked about the impact receiving a scholarship had on their lives, which made us all reach for the tissues. Kent and Shay Thoelke shared connections they have made with their new scholars demonstrating the joy and fulfillment their family has gotten by establishing a scholarship in memory of their father and husband, Rich Thoelke.

    A very special thank you to PwC, our Title Sponsor, and RBC Wealth Management, our presenting sponsor, as well as our evening's sponsors: Alaska Airlines, Carter Subaru, Microsoft and Seattle Goodwill. Thank you also to Team Photogenic for capturing the evening through photographs, Girlie Press for all the print collateral, and to FunFrames Photo for adding a bit more fun. Big thanks also to the Marriott Waterfront for all the support they gave to this event and to Janiece Haug for her donation of wine.

    Demonstrating their continued support of the GSBA Scholarship Fund, our annual sponsors were well represented, including our Jewels, the businesses which invest in both the Chamber and the Scholarship Fund. Our Diamond Jewel Sponsor: Microsoft; Emerald Jewels: 1st Security Bank and Alaska Airlines; Ruby Jewels: PwC and RBC Wealth Management. And our Annual Sponsors: Platinum: US Bank;  Gold sponsors: American Family Insurance, Outerwall, Pacific Medical Centers and Wells Fargo; Silver sponsors: Boeing, Carter Subaru, Safeco, Liberty Mutual, Seattle Goodwill, Starbucks and UW Medicine; and, our Bronze sponsors: Argosy Cruises, Carpet Liquidators, CenturyLink, DML Insurance, Google, Group Health, Irons Brothers Construction, Mona Smith, Attorney at Law, Overlake Reproductive Health, Verity Credit Union, Vulcan and Whitepages. We are so grateful for all their support.

    Also, how exciting to see so many guests ready to sign up as table captains for our over-the-top Scholarship fundraising gala, the TASTE of GSBA on November 21, 2015. Given, this event has sold out for the past four years, it is a good reminder to reserve your TASTE table now.

    If you were unable to attend this powerfully moving 25th Anniversary Scholarship Dinner celebration, it's not too late to join the celebration and invest in the next generation of leaders by making a donation online today. If you are already a donor, we hope you'll consider giving another 25% this year, in recognition of our 25 years of supporting the education of our students.

    For the future,

    Louise Chernin
    President & CEO

  • Your Investment at Work: Dr. Laramie Smith

    | Oct 06, 2015
    In 1999, Laramie Smith had lost her determination to go to college. She wondered what college would look like, how she would get there, how she could pay for it and what doors it could open. “They were mysteries I couldn't even begin to comprehend. I just knew I could do better with my life,” remembers the Lacey native. As she was looking into her options, Laramie applied for and received a GSBA scholarship. “I found myself without parents who could embody unconditional love and support, but I was suddenly and unexpectedly embraced by the LGBTQ community.”

    Fast-forward 15 years: Laramie R. Smith, PhD, is a behavioral health scientist whose research is devoted to the prevention and treatment needs of HIV-affected and medically underserved communities. 

    Laramie received her bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in American cultural studies from Western Washington University. She worked on the Centers for Disease Control’s National HIV/AIDS Behavioral Surveillance study in conjunction with the Seattle–King County Department of Public Health’s HIV/AIDS Program, examining the intersection of substance use and housing vulnerabilities among adolescent and adult populations at the University of Washington.

    She earned her doctorate in social psychology from the University of Connecticut. During her doctoral training, she received a National Research Service Award from the National Institute of Health to develop and evaluate a theory-based approach to retention in HIV care in the Bronx. Through a complementary line of research, Laramie continues to investigate mechanisms through which HIV, drug use and methadone maintenance-related stigmas disrupt individuals’ prevention and treatment behaviors. 

    She worked at the Center for Health, Intervention, and Prevention (CHIP) on a large project in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. As an extension of this trial, she integrated her work in HIV care with her investigation and support of the needs of newly diagnosed patients who were not yet eligible for antiretroviral therapy. 

    Dissertaiton DefenseLaramie is currently a postdoctoral fellow at University of California San Diego School of Medicine’s Division of Global Public Health. Her research interests include infectious disease prevention, treatment and care; health disparities; medically vulnerable and underserved populations; LGBTQ health; health behavior theory; intervention development and evaluation; and structural equation modeling. 

    As the first GSBA scholar to receive four years of consecutive funding, Laramie gained just as much, if not more, from the knowledge that an entire community believed in her ability to thrive and provide leadership in the face of adversity. “This personal connection gave me strength and resolve to attain my education and invest my efforts back into in the health of the LGBTQ and other marginalized communities,” she says. “This support is more than I could have ever expected when I opened my first scholarship award letter in 1999. It has laid a solid foundation from which I continue to approach life's challenges and value my successes.”

  • Your Investment At Work: Anthony Yun

    | Oct 06, 2015
    As driven as they come, three-time GSBA Scholarship awardee Anthony Yun has already accomplished some lofty goals. Having been directly admitted to University of Washington’s Foster School of Business, he will complete his degree this June—in just three years—with concentrations in Information Systems and Operations Supply Chain Management. “The GSBA has provided a close-knit community that has supported me in college,” he says.

    Anthony has made the most of his short time in college. Each year he has been selected to attend the Out for Undergrad Conference, a national program dedicated to helping high-achieving LGBT undergraduates reach their full career potential. No stranger to leadership, Anthony has also served as the chapter president of Phi Beta Lambda and Washington State vice president of the Future Business Leaders of America, placing first in several categories of its state competition. Not to mention, he has received countless awards from major corporations such as Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, KPMG and Ernst & Young.

    Not only has Anthony proven himself a strategic thinker and future business leader though volunteer activities, he has also held several jobs and internships, including at Habitat for Humanity, Boeing and the Associated Students of the University of Washington. 

    Currently a data analyst at PanAm (a travel management, aircraft and risk solutions company for state and federal government and universities), he is responsible for building reporting tools to help universities and government organizations track their travel purchases, identify trends and highlight cost-saving opportunities. “It’s exciting to know that publicly funded organizations will be using these tools to be more transparent and make better travel purchases,” says Anthony.

    Anthony is also currently volunteering as a GSBA Scholarship interviewer: “I wanted to give back to the scholarship program that has helped pave the way for my education and career.” After graduation, Anthony will make the move to San Francisco to start his new position with KPMG in its procurement advisory division. In the future he hopes to work in fields where he can use technology to build sustainable access to healthcare.

    Anthony sums it up best: “The experiences GSBA donors have given me are a strong foundation for whatever I want to do in the future. I know this will include giving back to our communities.”

    In His Own Words
    Being a GSBA scholar allowed me to maximize my opportunities on campus. This included volunteering on consulting projects for local small and minority-owned businesses. I wanted to spread opportunities like this to other students, so I got to work on the Outreach Committee for Out for Undergrad, an organization that connects LGBTQ students to networking opportunities interested in technology, business and engineering. I am also currently a peer ambassador for the Foster School, which lets me share my experiences in and out of the classroom to help prospective students evaluate whether business school is right for them. This includes giving a couple tours, where I like to tell parents that “I walk backwards to help their students move forward in their education.”

  • Scholarship Supporter: Tom Yetman

    | Oct 06, 2015
    TJY Photo 012012Dr. Thomas Yetman delivered babies in Michigan before moving to Seattle in 2006 to work for PacMed. Currently the CEO for Providence Medical Group NW Washington, Tom is passionate about education and supporting LGBTQ students.

    When and why did you start donating to the GSBA Scholarship Fund?
    PacMed was a Gold Sponsor of GSBA, and I was asked to host a table at the 2007 Taste of GSBA. I was struck by the mission of the Scholarship Fund and moved by the scholars’ stories, and began giving immediately. Education has been such a large part of my life and so essential to my career success. I believe that our community will succeed by helping all of our members to achieve their maximum potential. Helping our youth to complete their education is essential to this work.

    Are there any particular scholar stories you found inspirational?
    I am totally entranced by the stories of transgender people who I have met and in the media. As hard as it is to be gay or lesbian, I can only imagine the strength required to face the adversity that so many transgender people confront every day. I have so much admiration for those members of our community who have been able to be true to who they are and come out in this way. We have so much to learn from our transgender brothers and sisters.

    Do you think LGBTQ students face more challenges to success in school/life than their heterosexual counterparts?
    I do think that LGBTQ students face more challenges, because we have to deal with the world’s opinion of who we are and how we love. Being judged by a large portion of society has to affect one’s ability to learn and focus. Some parts of society are so ugly that it feels personal and that has to hurt at times. That is why it is so important to constantly send messages of love and support to our LGBTQ youth. They need to know that their family has their back and will always be there for them.

    What would you say to someone is the most compelling reason to give to the GSBA Scholarship Fund?
    Because the need is so great. And perhaps we have the chance to supporting the next Maya Angelou, the next Albert Einstein, the future Barack Obama when we support the GSBA Scholarship Fund. Who knows the wonderful things that society has been robbed of by not supporting some students in their educational aspirations?  Shame on us if we allow even one person with potential to wither and wilt for lack of education and opportunity.

    Why do you continue to donate?
    Because the need continues to be there. I will do what I can as long as there is even one LGBTQ student who needs to complete their education.

    Your story is one of coming out later in life. You've seen a lot of scholars in their teens and early 20s come out as LGBTQ. What message do you have for them? 
    Be true to yourself. You are supported by a large crowd of LGBTQ family members who love and support you. Never be afraid of owning your truth. There is great power in your truth. Your honesty and integrity will be a beacon to the world that LGBTQ is only one aspect of who you are. Your success in your career and your relationships will be the sign to the rest of the world that we are to be taken seriously and that our contributions are just as important and valued as any other member of society. When our culture sees people as people and not in terms of “gay” or “straight” we will have arrived at the society that we are meant to have. You are making that day closer by your proud and honest lives.

    As a donor and philanthropist, what would you like your legacy to be?
    He gave when the need was there. He supported for his family and community by loving and caring for them. He worked hard to be true to who he was and his life enriched those around him. In every way he endeavored to be honest and embraced his truth with vigor and enthusiasm. He made a difference.

  • CWU and GSBA Partnership Invests in the Education of LGBTQ and Allied Students

    | Oct 05, 2015
    CWUMarch 17, 2015

    ELLENSBURG, Wash. — Central Washington University and the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA) have established a new waiver match agreement that invests in the education of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and allied students.

    Under the new partnership, every GSBA Scholarship Fund recipient who enrolls at CWU will receive a tuition waiver match up to $2,500 from the university. The tuition waiver is renewable each year a student attends CWU and continues to receive scholarship support from GSBA.

    “The partnership between CWU and GSBA is an important step in closing the opportunity gap in higher education for LGBTQ and allied students—a group who are all too often underserved by traditional support systems,” said Louise Chernin, GSBA President and CEO. “GSBA applauds CWU for taking a leadership role in breaking down barriers for LGBT and allied students to be able to attend college.”

    CWU is among the top 50 LGBT-friendly universities in the nation as recognized by Campus Pride, a leading nonprofit that encourages safe campuses for LGBT students. And in 2014 CWU was a recipient of the INSIGHT Into Diversity Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award. The HEED Award recognizes colleges that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion. Only 83 institutions were honored nationwide, and CWU is the only four-year university in Washington to receive the award.

    GSBA scholarships support a diverse group of students who have the capacity and vision to be the next generation of leaders and create a better world. Over the past 24 years, the GSBA Scholarship Fund has awarded $1.9 million to more than 300 LGBTQ and allied students from Washington. The fund is poised to award its two millionth dollar and celebrate its 25th anniversary when it presents $350,000 to 44 students at its annual awards dinner in May.

    GSBA scholarship applications are online in October and are due in January. A team of business and nonprofit leaders, former scholars and community members choose the award recipients.
    GSBA is the largest business chamber of its kind in the United States. With more than 1,100 members, it has been advocating for equality in business for nearly 34 years.
  • GSBA Takes NGLCC Conference by Storm!

    | 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.



    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.