The GSBA Blog


  • Member Spotlight: EnviroStars

    by Alyssa Rodriguez, EnviroStars Project Coordinator
    | Apr 12, 2021
     

    The Pacific Northwest is famous both for its natural landscapes as well as its residents’ green leanings. The same is true for our small businesses - it is no longer exceptional for small businesses to implement green practices, it is considered the norm. Consumers - especially PNW consumers - buy green, want corporate responsibility, and want to be able to clearly understand which brands are green. More than 70% percent of Puget Sound residents think it’s important to buy from environmentally-minded businesses But it is not always easy for entrepreneurs to know what beneficial changes they can make in their business and at what cost. That’s where EnviroStars comes in.

    EnviroStars is a statewide green business recognition program that offers free assistance and resources for implementing green business practices. This includes reducing waste, conserving water, spill kits, and technical assistance. Over 500 businesses are recognized so far as part of the program, including GSBA members like Fremont Brewing, UW Medicine, and Clearwater Casino Resort. 

    Indi chocolate, both a GSBA member and EnviroStars recognized business, is a small, woman-owned business located in Pike Place Market. Indi chocolate makes delicious, all natural, responsibly sourced, single origin, small batch chocolates. They also produce other cacao based products, and offers chocolate making classes. Indi chocolate works directly with farmers and cooperatives to source their cacao beans, supporting farms that practice traditional, sustainable farming and harvesting practices and paying farmers higher than fair trade standard premiums and directly. EnviroStars recently conducted an interview with the founder and owner of indi chocolate, Erin Andrews, about what it means to be a part of the small business community and promote sustainability throughout the pandemic. Andrews says collaboration within the small business community is a great resource for helping and supporting one another, but also because we have more to gain by working together. Andrews views sustainability as a goal that you never really reach, but rather a goal you should always be striving for and improving upon together. Interested in learning more about what a green, small business looks like in practice? Check out EnviroStars’ full interview with indi chocolate and additional interviews with other featured EnviroStars businesses to see what it’s like to be EnviroStars recognized!

    The program is open to Washington businesses from any sector, whether restaurant or dentist, manufacturer or retailer, hotel or auto repair shop. The program is especially designed to help small, local businesses and organizations. You don’t need to own your building for your business to go green – making operational and purchasing changes is a great way for your business to reduce its impact.

    The EnviroStars team can provide your business with free technical assistance and materials to protect the environment and save money. To learn more, contact the EnviroStars team at info@envirostars.org or call 206-705-3986.


  • Say Hello to Bite Society

    by GSBA Staff
    | Apr 12, 2021

    A former catering business takes a bite out of the word "pivot" 

    City Catering was a thriving catering business that had been in business for 20 years providing creative and unique menus for nonprofit and corporate events, weddings, and the four cafés it operated, including the café at the newly remodeled Nordic Museum in Ballard. But like so many small businesses, the pandemic forced City Catering to halt all of its operations. On March 13, 2020, City Catering donated the large volume of food they had in inventory and temporarily closed their doors. Just a few weeks later, Lendy Hensley, owner of City Catering, knew this was not going to be a temporary shutdown. She laid off all but one chef and helped the rest of her employees get on unemployment.

    LendyFaced with mounting uncertainty, Lendy, her wife, Katy Carroll, and Director of Catering Shana Hicks asked themselves what do we like about City Catering? What would we miss if City Catering was gone? The answer? They would miss bringing people together to share an experience with great food. Knowing this and that the three enjoyed working together, they then looked to harness their over 30 years in the food industry and their desire to work together to reinvent their business. They spent hours in the kitchen revisiting cherished and well-used recipes and reviewed the many commodified foods they had been producing for years at City Catering, from house-made potato chips to cookies.

    They then researched other Pacific Northwest culinary creatives who shared theirFeb15__33859.1611709390.386.513 mission of bringing people together with food and explored various types of marketplaces they could employ. Bite Society was born, the cool gift basket company.

    Armed with a great concept, the team set out to brand it. They wanted to do it in a way that was thematically interesting and would survive beyond the pandemic. After all, this was not a temporary pivot.

    “I started thinking about what it means to be American,” said Hensley. “I am an American, too. How do we reclaim a symbol like the American flag and all it stands for from the MAGA contingent? Katy had a great idea. What if we look at American flash tattoo artwork as a jumping-off point?”

    bs_logo1_color_blackred2Work with a branding company began, but it was not going in the right direction. They knew they wanted to stick with the flash tattoo concept, so why not go straight to the source? Lendy thought, there are unemployed tattoo artists all over the country – a veritable treasure trove of talent that could potentially help bring their ideas to fruition. Tattoo artists are used to working collaboratively with their clients, so it was a perfect match.

    The research continued to try products they could source for their gift baskets, but the pandemic made this a much more complicated endeavor than they had expected. Lendy and the team realized they needed to produce more of their own products, so they got certified to produce food for consumer retail, and soon they had 38 products plus some very cool merchandise to start stuffing those gift baskets. And not just any run-of-the-mill basket or box. Most of Bite Society’s gift baskets are made of sturdy grey felt with wooden handles that can be reused countless ways. And many of their products come in reusable or recyclable packaging.

    Bite Society officially launched late at night on December 16, 2020. By the following day,DSC00474-2(1) they already had orders to fulfill. Support from former catering clients yielded larger orders, and pretty soon, the Bite Society team refined their process, including honing their gift basket and box packing skills to just four minutes each.

    “We are modernizing the gift basket,” said Hensley. “We want everyone to feel proud to send someone a Bite Society gift basket. Ultimately, we want our gifts to spark a conversation and have people saying, let’s see if this stuff tastes as good as it looks.”

    Bite Society unites good company with good food, no matter the distance. In addition to their curated gift baskets, GSBA recommends shopping their online Food Hall and trying their salsa macha, Bite Society’s spin on a traditional Asian chile crisp. You can truly put it on anything. Add their pickled fennel to your next cheese plate and Sister Carol’s Mustard is not to be missed.

    And if you plan to watch the Academy Awards with your quarantine pod order one of these cleverly-named Oscars gift baskets. Or send one to your favorite movie-loving friend.

    For more information check out their website and follow them on Facebook and Instagram @hellobitesociety.


  • All GSBA-Endorsed Bills Pass WA Legislature!

    by Matt Landers, Director of Public Policy & Government Relations
    | Apr 12, 2021
     

    As the state legislature wraps up, we are thrilled to announce that every GSBA-endorsed bill that got a hearing in both houses has now passed the Legislature. Some of these were signed into law as emergency legislation earlier in the year. Others have differences between the versions passed in the House and Senate and must still be reconciled before heading to Governor Inslee for his signature. GSBA advocacy staff are still going over any amendments that may have changed the final bill text, but overall we are very pleased to see so many of our priorities address this session.


    GENDER AFFIRMING TREATMENT ACT

    As states around the country are attacking and outlawing healthcare for transgender and gender-diverse children, Washington State is moving in the opposite direction to better provide medically necessary care. SB 5313 prevents insurance carriers in Washington from being able to classify medically necessary care as “cosmetic” in order to categorically deny or limit access to gender-affirming services. The bill maintains that healthcare determinations by insurance carriers must be made in consultation with medical providers who are experienced in administering gender-affirming care or treatment. It asserts that gender affirming care can be prescribed to two spirit, binary and nonbinary transgender, intersex, and other gender diverse individuals.


    BUSINESS

    There were multiple emergency bills that were enacted in February to bring quick assistance to small businesses, including making COVID grants tax exempt and repairing parts of the unemployment insurance system (including preventing $1.7 billion in new tax increases on businesses). HB 1368 provided $2.2 billion in COVID relief funding to those who needed it most. This funding effort included additional $240 million for Working Washington’s business assistance grants.


    There are also a number of business-related bills that have passed in recent days. HB 1332 sets up a system for property tax deferrals during the pandemic. HB 1399 reduces barriers to professional licenses for formerly incarcerated people. HB 1504 expands the Workforce Education Investment Act to support demographically underrepresented students, establish a behavioral health workforce pilot program, increases the cap on state match dollars, and supports workforce development and career connected learning. HB 1073 creates flexibility in the Paid Family Medical Leave Act to acknowledge the difficult circumstances during the pandemic for many workers when original definitions made it difficult to access the program as intended.


    EDUCATION & EQUITY

    The Fair Start for Kids bill (SB 5237) expands eligibility, funding, and services for child care and early learning programs. Two bills will build on efforts around diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism in our K-12 schools (SB 5044) and in higher education (SB 5227).


    HB 1078 provides for automatic restoration of voting rights to a person convicted of a felony when they leave prison. This helps formerly incarcerated people reintegrate into society once their time has been served, and also recognizes that disproportionate incarceration of people of color and those with mental illness has led to their corresponding and disproportionate disenfranchisement.


    While a bill regarding the state’s Office of Equity Task Force did not make it out of committee this year, GSBA is happy to learn that the Office of Equity itself will be fully funded this year. Established last spring, the Office’s funding was cut alongside most new 2020 spending in the early days of the pandemic. 


    POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY & SAFETY

    Eight police accountability bills that GSBA has been following have all passed. This includes limits on police tactics (HB 1054), requirements around impeachment disclosures (HB 1088), compliance audits (HB 1089), independent investigations of police conduct (HB 1267), use of force policies (HB 1310), de-certification procedures (SB 5051), an officer’s duty to intervene (SB 5066), and requirements around law enforcement data collection (SB 5259). Several of these bills are being reconciled between House and Senate versions to come to agreement on amendments offered during the legislative process.


    Additionally, the Legislature approved a bill harmonizing and updating the various policies on civil protection orders. HB 1320 creates a uniform rules and procedures for the six protection order policies on domestic violence, vulnerable adults, anti-harassment, sexual assault, stalking, and extreme risk. 


    BUDGET

    As budget negotiations continue between the caucuses, GSBA is strong in our support for an appropriation for $1 million towards GenPRIDE’s LGBTQ senior services to be located in their future housing project on Broadway.

  • Everybody eats at Carnella's table

    by GSBA Staff
    | Mar 19, 2021

    You Only Live Once. Live Right! This phrase is Carnella Linder’s motto. After the last year we have all experienced, this phrase resonates now more than ever. Carnella is a two-time GSBA Scholar who grew up in the Rainier Beach neighborhood. Her business, YOLO West Coast, was born to help fund Carnella’s ultimate goal of starting a non-profit that would address the sheer lack of resources for homeless youth and young adults in South King County. Of the six emergency shelters for young adults in King County, only one is located in South King County and has the smallest number of beds—just 12. Carnella seeks to increase this number and provide emergency night shelter and other support services from case management to financial advice, mental health and substance abuse counseling, and GED prep.

    CarnellaWhat year did you open YOLO?

    Yolo West Coast has been a dream of mine for over 12 years. I was finally able to get the business established in March of 2019.

    The objective, work, and goals of YOLO are unique and innovative. How did you come up with the idea?

    When I became homeless at age 17, I had to travel from South Seattle to North Seattle just to receive the proper housing resources to keep me off the streets and get me into college while also trying to work. These resources should have been in my backyard or at least closer than 20+ miles away. I am the only one of my close friends that went to college, has stable housing or consistent income. I’m also the first in my family to go to college. I feel like more of my peers and people of color across King County could benefit from the opportunities I was given up north. Although I made many accomplishments, I was stripped of my culture, and I felt isolated. It was rather depressing at times. Why weren’t these services in my neighborhood?

    I realized I wanted to bring these resources to my neighborhood, and I have been on a mission ever since. I went to college to gain the knowledge and tools to provide the best quality of care as a social service worker and open my own young adult night shelter and performing arts center in South King County. But I started thinking about how I didn’t have any seed money to start a non-profit. I’m actually very poor. How could I raise money? Then I asked myself, how do I keep money coming in once I raise enough money to open?

    I looked at my program goals and thought, what if I could provide job training and jobs through my business, in addition to helping people find long-term stable employment? And that’s when my short-term fundraising strategy of YOLO West Coast turned into a long-term for-profit business idea.

    YOLO West Coast will provide delicious soul food for the community, seasonal events, employment, on-the-job training, life skills, and one-day housing.

    I started YOLO West Coast catering and event service to generate sustainableScreenshot 2021-03-19 130658 revenue to open and operate my future non-profit: The Amazing Grace Center, a young adult housing shelter and performing arts center. The performing arts center and its events will offer the community a safe space to gather for culture, creative expression, and experiences through the arts. Most shelters and resource or community centers rely on government funding that is rarely guaranteed or easily accessible. I don’t want to offer people life-changing opportunities and then have it disappear due to lack of consistent funding so, I created my own funding source with YOLO WEST COAST.

    Have you always wanted to be a business owner?

    Yes. I have always wanted to be my own boss and own my own business.

    How have you pivoted your businesses to meet the challenges and obstacles brought on by the pandemic?

    I have not been able to produce events or cater big gatherings because of the COVID-19 regulations. It has made the expansion of my business very difficult. I can still sell individual orders in a restaurant/fast food fashion by using a delivery service.

    How has being a Ready for Business grant recipient helped you and your business?

    The Ready for Business grant helped me expand my storage and cooking space to prepare more orders, more frequently for deliveries during COVID.

    Screenshot 2021-03-19 130255These days, what keeps you going?

    My twin boys are my biggest motivation. Knowing how poor I grew up, going without meals, heat, hot water, or shelter some days and what I went through to survive the streets. I don’t want my kids ever to have to suffer as I did. I won’t let them. My dreams and passions keep me motivated. I’m not going to be satisfied until I make it to where I want to be. I love helping people. And I want to make a difference in peoples’ lives, not just a profit.

    What’s next for YOLO?

    To keep promoting and working on staying afloat during COVID. My main goal is to start throwing and catering events again soon so I can hire more employees, expand products and services, and raise the seed money I need for my long-term goal of opening the Amazing Grace Center.

  • Halfway Through the 2021 Legislative Session

    by Matt Landers, Director of Public Policy & Government Relations
    | Mar 15, 2021
     
    Last week the 2021 Washington State legislative session reached its halfway point. At this point, all bills must have been passed out of their house of origin and now go to the oppose house for consideration. GSBA's endorsed bills have largely been successful so far.

    You can look up the full bill text and summaries of any of this legislation here.

    The Gender Affirming Treatment Act (SB 5315) to prevent discrimination against transgender and gender-diverse Washingtonians passed the Senate with a vote of 30-17, and moves on the House!

    Several business-related bills are now on track in the Senate, including efforts to defer property taxes during the pandemic (HB 1332), reduce barriers to professional licenses (HB 1399), and supporting the Workforce Education Investment Act (HB 1504).

    Most, though not all, of the police legislation has passed out of its house of origin. Some of the bills have been amended from their original form. This story in the Seattle Times details some of that progress. GSBA continues our support of HB 1089 (compliance audits), HB 1267 (independent investigations), HB 1310 (use of force), SB 5051 (de-certification of police), SB 5066 (duty to intervene), and SB 5259 (law enforcement data collection).

    GSBA is also supporting the Fair Start for Kids bill (HB 1213), which would support childcare and early learning providers and the families who need to access their services. HB 1320 modernizes domestic violence protection orders, which GSBA has supported in the past. Two bills focused on equity and anti-racism in K-12 schools (SB 5044) and higher education (SB 5227) have both moved on to the House with bipartisan majorities.


  • What do burgers and Dolly Parton have in common?

    by GSBA Staff
    | Mar 12, 2021

    Meet Two Doors Down, GSBA Member and Ready for Business grant recipient

    Two Doors Down is a family-friendly beer and burger bar with two locations. One with five years under its belt and the other scheduled to open in Pioneer Square on April 1, 2020, just a few weeks after the onset of the pandemic. We asked Ready for Business grant recipient Erin Nestor, co-owner of Two Doors Down and The BottleNeck Lounge, some questions about her history as a small business owner, her motivation this past year, and that intriguing Dolly Parton question.

    Two Doors Down Madison Tap Wall[2]GSBA: What year did you open Two Doors Down? And what’s the origin of the name?

    Erin: We opened in August of 2015 and were truly at a loss for the name. A good friend suggested Two Doors Down because the space itself is located just two doors down from The BottleNeck Lounge. However, the name also references the Dolly Parton song by the same title, wherein folks are “laughing and drinking and have a party just two doors down.” At the same time, poor Dolly is at home shedding “useless tears” of loneliness. We took things one step further and named our holding company Useless Tears LLC because any restaurant owner knows that tears have no place in this industry.

    GSBA: Why burgers?

    Erin: The immediate neighborhood lacked a casual restaurant, and burgers seemed a perfect choice – the price point is affordable, and burgers can be easily adapted to the customer's taste. We intentionally focus on both the vegetarian and gluten-free audiences – most don’t realize that our deep fryers are dedicated gluten-free – and we promote plant-based alternatives alongside our hormone antibiotic-free beef products. From day one, the neighborhood let it be known that they are here for the burgers, though everyone does seem to appreciate our curated tap selection.

    GSBA: This is not your first (or your second) business. Have you always wanted to be a business owner?

    Erin and Rebecca[2]Erin: I worked in advertising and non-profit arts administration until I was forty. Although I always touted my desire to own a bar (usually while sitting at one), it was truly nothing more than fantasy. But then I found myself out of a job and couldn’t bear the thought of returning to the nine-to-five routine, so with the strong support of my wife, I took the plunge into the hospitality industry. Fourteen years and four establishments later, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Except for perhaps this past year – this past year has been tough.

    GSBA: You opened a second location during the pandemic. Many would call this a brave and bold move. Did you consider not moving forward, or was that not an option?

    Erin: Oh, it wasn’t bold – I just ran out of road. We purchased an existing business in mid-January of 2020, sank thousands of dollars into the renovation, and were on schedule to open April 1, but the pandemic hit, and all hell broke loose. Opening budgets always have wiggle room for setbacks, but I was not prepared to pay rent and the fixed costs associated with the second space (including a loan) in what appeared-to-be perpetuity. For months, Pioneer Square was a ghost town – there weren’t even cars on the street – but we opened in August nonetheless hoping that some revenue – any revenue – would save us from going under. Thankfully the strong support we’ve experienced at the Madison location has helped cover some costs while the Pioneer Square workforce slowly returns to the office spaces. It’s been a harrowing ordeal.

    GSBA: How have you pivoted your businesses to meet the challenges and obstacles brought on by the pandemic?

    IMG_9506_edit.0Erin: Generally speaking, we’ve gone from being a community-based third space to a hamburger delivery operation. We’ve reduced our hours, created and implemented an online ordering system, adapted to running our product out to cars waiting curbside, and spent countless hours honing our relationship with third party-delivery platforms, which require no shortage of management. The interior of the restaurants have been adapted to meet the challenges of the times: plexiglass encased booths, contactless payment systems, and the elimination of stools and some tables. It’s an entirely different way of doing business, and all of the restaurants and bars in Seattle have suffered for it.

    GSBA: How has being a Ready for Business grant recipient helped you and your business?

    cold beer[2]

    Erin: The grant has literally helped defray the costs associated with operating a to-go only business. The expense was unforeseen and continues as demand for specific items exceeds supply. For example, one year ago, latex gloves cost $55 a case, and today that same case costs $147 – the price increase is staggering. However, the Ready for Business grant carries with it more than financial assistance and access to resources. As a member of the LGBTQ community, I’ve always actively catered to my community. Though I no longer see my people in the seats at my restaurant, it’s nice to know that my community is still here. It means a lot.

    GSBA: These days, what keeps you motivated?

    Erin: Hope that this will end motivates me, as does the enduring support of my family and friends; they’ve been spectacular. Our customers motivate me. They show up weekly, filling their growlers and buying burgers to go -- some tip the staff so generously it makes me tear up. But I think my team motivates me the most. They show up day-in and day-out, though the rules of engagement have changed, and their job responsibilities have all shifted. I had to lay off about ten people this time last year, and it was devastating. I feel a real responsibility to bring the people I have left through this.


    Two Doors Down's flagship location is located at 2332 E. Madison, next door to The Bottleneck Lounge, . Pickup and delivery options are available on UberEats, DoorDash, Caviar, and Square. Two Doors Down's second location, 200 S. Jackson St, is open Tuesday through Saturday.


  • Incubator: Winter 2021 Cohort

    by Levi Coffin, Business Training Specialist & Grant Manager
    | Mar 10, 2021
     
    AJ Gearheart (they, them)
    AJ moved with their son to Snohomish County from Spokane in 2010 to take a job at Boeing after years of working in pizza places, sandwich shops, and retail stores. As an asexual transgender parent in Snohomish County, and while running the local PFLAG chapter for 3 years, they have felt firsthand how isolated members of the LGBTQ+ community can feel here.

    Their business has not opened yet, however, the goal is to open a healthy café in Snohomish County (preferably Everett) that sources ingredients from minority-owned suppliers and provides space for the local LGBTQ+ community to meaningfully connect with other members of their community and enjoy a meal with their families without the pressure of alcohol.


    CJ Linder (she/her/they)
    Y.O.L.O. West Coast
    CJ is a woman of color, a proud lesbian, and a dedicated single mother of twins. Her non-profit will be a big asset to the community. The biggest part of her struggle through poverty is trying to overcome it. But the journey doesn’t just end with her: she has to and wants to save her people. So many troubled youth of color could benefit from the opportunities she plans to provide through her catering service.

    Y.O.L.O West Coast is a community merchandise franchiser, catering service, and seasonal event service. Y.O.L.O. West Coast is a family-run business dedicated to providing well-rounded entertainment, clothing and accessories, exquisite food products, and other products made by community members. They cater food to local businesses and their own events. Y.O.L.O. West Coast was created to help raise money for the start-up of the Amazing Grace Center (a young adult housing shelter and performing arts center), providing jobs to the community, and employment training services.

  • Workplace Study at the intersection of DEI and Wellbeing

    by Aparna Rae and Nicole DeKay, Moving Beyond
    | Mar 04, 2021
     
    GSBA members Aparna Rae and Nicole DeKay of Moving Beyond are launching a series of surveys as part of a larger workplace study at the intersection of psychological well-being, adverse workplace impacts and diversity, equity, and inclusion. The goal is to include a large sample of entrepreneurs, small/mid-sized business owners, and startup founders - a group that is under-indexed in workplace studies. Data will be analyzed intersectionally, looking across race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, geography, disability, and more.

    ---

    In the past year, we have experienced unprecedented shifts at work. COVID19 has shifted the landscape beneath us, with impacts on emotional, physical, and other forms of health still occurring. The negative impacts are exacerbated for LGBTQIA, BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color)  and other historically marginalized communities. According to the Human Rights Commission, LGBTQ people are more likely to have experienced a cut in work hours, are more likely to feel that their personal finances are in worse shape and are more likely to be taking steps to actively prepare for the virus (HRC, 2020). Communities of color, in particular womxn of color have borne the brunt of the job losses during 2020. For individuals with intersecting identities, the challenges multiply.

    We are witness to history being made and we, honestly, have no idea how this will impact us and our communities in the long term. Collectively, these experiences, in particular that of the global COVID-19 pandemic has been categorized as a new type of stressor called compressed cultural trauma: for almost a year now, we’ve been living outside the normal in ways that are chronically stressful. All of these chronic stressors (both small and large) are like taking its toll on people’s health. Trauma researchers have known for decades that repeated, chronic stressors are much more complex to manage and harder to heal from than single highly stressful events. 

    We have had a front row seat to watching companies scramble to adapt to these new changes, making public statements on Diversity, Equit, and Inclusion (DE&I) goals, hiring expert consultants, and implementing change. At the same time, we can’t ignore the skepticism around real and lasting change, given companies’ history of episodic and training-based approaches to DE&I that don’t deliver on the goal of a more inclusive workforce.

    For companies to change in ways that help establish new norms and catalyze workplace transformation, they need to see compelling data. Since it’s often seen as a competitive advantage inside of companies, it’s hard for employees in HR, let alone researchers outside to get data needed to understand how our complex workplaces impact people. To truly understand the employee experience using a DE&I lens, an intersectional model that combines several well studied business outcomes with other socially conscious ones that promote human thriving can help inform the way work changes in the future. 

    As we sought to add to the field in ways that promote a more informed workplace, we found that companies are offering to measure the “employee experience” without taking into account all the multiple facets that create an employee’s experience. 

    This pilot program will help us build up the science behind what it looks like to have a data driven agenda in the hands of teams and employees who can use the information to take action. If employees have a place they can share information about their workplaces, they can drive policies at the early stages of company development that put human well-being at the center of the conversation.

    Benefits to GSBA Members 

    Members who sign up as a team - will get a profile FREE of charge at the end of the study period (as long as a minimum of 3 people from a team or company take the survey). https://www.movingbeyond.co/2021-workplace-study.html 


    All individual participants will get the first copy of our report. Skip the sign-up to take the first study today - https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/GSBA_ITW 


    During the study period, we are going to release a number of short surveys, and participants will receive one each month between February and May 2021. All data will be held confidentially and will not be shared or used for any other purpose other than the study -- you will not get marketing emails.

     

  • March 1 Legislative Update

    by Matt Landers, Director of Public Policy & Government Relations
    | Mar 01, 2021
     
    The Washington State Legislature has now passed several cutoff dates for legislation. The next major cutoff is Tuesday March 9, when all bills must pass out of their house of origin by 5pm. Here is where a number of our priority bills stand as of Monday, March 1:

    Signed by the Governor
    HB 1095 - Tax exemptions on COVID-19 grants
    HB 1368 - $2.2 billion in COVID-19 relief funding
    HB 5061 - Unemployment insurance fixes

    Passed House of Origin, Moves to Opposite House
    HB 1054 - Police tactics bill
    HB 1078 - Restoration of voter eligibility to felons
    HB 1088 - Impeachment disclosures for police
    HB 1089 - Compliance audits for police
    SB 5044 - Equity, cultural competency, and dismantling racism in public schools
    SB 5051 - Decertification of police
    SB 5066 - Police duty to intervene
    SB 5313 - Transgender healthcare protections

    Passed Out of Committee, Awaiting Vote in House of Origin
    HB 1213 - Fair Start for Kids
    HB 1332 - Property Tax Deferrals during COVID-19
    HB 1399 - Reducing barriers to professional licenses
    SB 5089 - Certification of police
    SB 5227 - Diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism in higher education

    As a reminder, you can look up the details and progress of any bill on the Legislature's website, and review GSBA's positions on some of these bills in previous blog posts:

  • Get to know Veritas Electric, GSBA New Business of the Year

    by GSBA Staff
    | Feb 26, 2021

    GSBA’s New Business of the Year recipient, Veritas Electric, is a woman-owned and operated electrical contractor that handles the gamut of commercial and residential jobs. We asked owner, Deb McGowan, some questions about her company and her experience working in the traditionally male-dominated field of electricians.

    GSBA: How did you get started with Veritas?

    8Deb: I started Veritas for many reasons. To reach my full potential, I needed to be out on my own. I was frustrated with not being heard or taken seriously. I saw the need for a business that could serve the LGTBQIA+ community as home/business customers as well as an employer. Throughout my career, I have talked with many home and business owners who appreciated the respect and care I took while working on their spaces. I wanted to create a company where this was the norm, not the exception.

    GSBA: What is your experience working in what has typically been viewed as a male-dominated industry?

    Deb
    : Overall, I have had a great experience and worked with some amazing electricians who have provided me with reliable guidance during my journey. I have had my share of unsavory encounters, including men letting me know I was not welcome in the industry, being talked over, and belittled. It became more prevalent as I advanced into higher positions. But that may just be because I have become more intolerant of it as I get older. I am hopeful that with women gaining more visibility in the trades, more women will be attracted to this industry and view it as a viable career option. This is how the culture will change. We have a long way to go toward full equality, but with the shift in gender dynamics that I see happening amongst younger generations, I am hopeful.

    GSBA: What are you most passionate about in your work?20_12_01_Veritas_0058_RF

    Deb: I love that I have a skill that is so useful! I am grateful that I can use this skill to earn a living and help out my community. What I love about the work itself are the challenges I face every day; figuring out how to overcome obstacles, solving puzzles, and walking into a chaotic jumble of wires and creating a beautifully organized, safe, and functional electrical system

    GSBA: Why did you decide to join GSBA?

    Deb: It was a good way for me to connect with other businesses and clients who share my values. I love working for LGTBQIA+ people! I use the directory all the time when looking for companies to hire. GSBA does awesome work, and I am proud to support the organization that continually supports our community.

    GSBA: What does Equality is Good Business mean to you?

    Deb: Only good things can come from creating an open and inclusive business environment. This makes everyone you come in contact with feel part of your community.


  • GSBA Scholars explore mental health, identity, and systems of oppression with Lindsey T.H. Jackson

    by Taylor Briggs (he/him), GSBA Scholarship Program Manager
    | Feb 26, 2021

    Since the start of the GSBA Scholarship Fund's formal commitment to ongoing leadership development work with scholars more than six years ago, our definition of what "leadership development" looks like has continued to evolve. One of the challenges to developing leadership development programming is that the very definition of leadership is somewhat objective. Each of us have a personal perspective of what qualities are important in a leader. Depending on our context, the qualities we look for in a leader might be: someone who is inspiring, confident, accountable, empathetic, a good decision maker, creative, a good communicator, honest, loyal, humble, a team player, and the list goes on and on.

    At GSBA, it has been important for us to question who has historically crafted these definitions and qualities of leadership and who has been left out. How has a culture of white supremacy shaped our definition of leadership and the qualities we look for in a leader?
     
    GSBA Scholar Workshop with Lindsey T.H. Jackson (Horizontal)With that in mind, the focus of this month's leadership development programming was Exploring the Intersections of Mental Health, Identity, and Systems of Oppression facilitated by Lindsey T.H. Jackson. As the CEO of LTHJ Global, Lindsey leverages cutting edge research on Inclusive Culture Design + Leadership principles, teaching methodologies, and human potential design to work with thought-leaders across various industries, cultures, and continents to re-imagine the future of leadership, work and community.
     
    In this workshop, scholars were invited to:

    - Reflect on their earliest memories of becoming aware of being asked to adapt to assimilationist culture

    - Explore the strategies that they took on at an early age for 'survival', using the
    Enneagram of Personalities as a guide for their work

    -Identify the subtle ways that they unknowingly internalize the attributes of white supremacy culture and carry these into their families, workplaces, and broader society

    -Discuss the individual work necessary to begin dismantling systems of oppression internally, at work, and in our broader society (including the often unnamed fears that lead 'good people' to prop up their privilege)

    - Explore how systems of oppression are carried into their relationships, work, study, and communities, and why this negatively impacts their health and well-being

    - And develop strategies for promoting self-healing, managing anxiety, and empowering the next generation of social reform and justice

    At the core of this workshop was developing an understanding of the many ways that marginalized people are asked to carry the burden of a building a double consciousness - constantly working twice as hard to prove that they are just as good in a society rooted in white heteropatriarchal supremacy culture.

    Scholars were asked to explore how the attributes of white supremacy culture identified by Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun (2001) - perfectionism, sense of urgency, defensiveness, quantity over quality, worship of the written word, paternalism, either/or thinking, fear of open conflict, individualism, worship of unlimited growth, objectivity, and avoidance of discomfort - have shown up for them. In relation to these qualities of a white supremacist culture - what aspects of their personal identities were valued, cultivated and rewarded and what aspects were not rewarded?
     
    To say that these conversations were heavy would be an understatement. Many scholars expressed feeling exhausted and overextended not only because of this constant extra work of making themselves palatable within white supremacy culture, but to then also have the added layer of COVID-related stress - it's no wonder so many of us are at our breaking point.

    One scholar shared, "Having some room for giving ourselves a break is hard to come by these days. My therapist says take a rest, but don't they always? All my professors are talking about how these are extraordinary times and that we should show ourselves compassion because nothing is business as usual - right before they assign 100 pages of reading and a five-page research paper due in a few days with inflexible deadlines! There were some pretty impactful things said tonight that I really needed to hear. The energy of the event was on point, and I was actively engaged with the content. Thanks for holding space for all of us to let out a heavy sigh."
     
    So today we are sighing and leaning into the reality that while each of us as marginalized people may be having these same or similar experiences, one way to fight the system is naming these realities and coming together as a community to hold space for us all to heal. We look forward to being able to provide more spaces like this in the future for our scholars to hold community and foster these critical conversations about dismantling the systems which hold us all back.

    Lindsey T.H. Jackson is a GSBA member, artist, storyteller, and social scientist who works to empower individuals to reach their fullest potentials across all areas of their lives. Last year, GSBA and Lindsey came together to create the webinar series Keeping It Real with Lindsey T.H. Jackson, which explores critical issues to help conscious business leaders reach their fullest potential. Click here to watch past episodes.


  • Business Police Reform Letter

    by Matt Landers, Director of Public Policy & Government Relations
    | Feb 25, 2021
     
    This letter was sent to the Washington State Legislature on February 25, 2021.

    Dear Leader Billig and Speaker Jinkins, Our businesses employ thousands of people who work and live across Washington state, creating the fabric of our communities. We are thankful to enjoy strong relationships with members of law enforcement who work tirelessly to keep our communities safe. We also stand forcefully against racism, violence, and hatred – and stand with Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities and groups that work toward justice and equality for all Washingtonians.

    We recognize that bias – implicit and explicit – as well as institutional racism in the criminal justice system impact Black, Brown, and Indigenous people nationwide. Inadequate resources in public health and social services have no doubt become compounding factors that complicate policing today. While we need to address these larger systemic issues, there is an immediate need to reform policing in an effort to build trust amongst community members. In our own state we have witnessed police misconduct that has led to the unnecessary loss of life. From these horrors, national and local, historic protests brought thousands of people together to demand that our leaders reform policing so that all people can feel safe and protected.

    The 2021 legislative session provides us with a critical opportunity for every stakeholder – elected officials, advocacy groups, businesses, our employees, law enforcement, and community members – to come together to reform our criminal justice system, keep our communities and our police safe, and to improve law enforcement-community relations in Washington. We urge the Washington Legislature to take decisive action in 2021 to reform policing in our state. This is a necessary step in achieving systemic change. 

    We support policies that include:
    ● Addressing law enforcement accountability and consequences of misconduct;
    ● Transparency through data collection and making that data publicly available - including the data on use-of-force incidents and police misconduct;
    ● Providing appropriate and robust oversight of policing;
    ● Providing community participation in policing;
    ● Standards-based best practices in law enforcement recruitment, training, and education;
    ● Evaluating and eliminating all discriminatory practices. 

    We believe such policies will improve the culture and support of policing, boost community confidence in policing and public safety, and advance positive outcomes across our criminal justice system.

    Sincerely,

    Beyond Thinking
    Cake Skincare
    Capitol Hill Business Alliance
    Emerald Coast Venture Capital
    Emerson Salon
    Expedia Group
    Facebook
    FlowPlay
    GSBA - Washington's LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce
    Inland Northwest Business Alliance
    Resourcing Growing Consulting Firm
    Salesforce
    Schemata Workshop
    Symetra Life Insurance Company
    Tableau
    Terra Plata
    Seattle Latino Chamber of Commerce
    Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce
    Valdemar Estates
    Washington Technology Industry Association (WTIA)
  • GSBA Scholars share favorite Black artists, thought-leaders, and more

    by GSBA Staff
    | Feb 22, 2021

    Black History Month is a great opportunity to introduce yourself to Black thought-leaders, artists, authors, and creators. We asked a couple of our scholars to share some of their favorite Black artists and thought leaders: 

    foushee_zttsxpFousheé is a seriously underrated artist, but she makes beautiful music about evolving, being, and owning yourself and your passions, and creating your own world. She's been a powerful force for me in this new year. - Lash O'Cain (she/her) 2nd Year GSBA Scholar


    Rc31W2rRWaIDmjjAhvxV_2020-10-25_10.37.22_1Grow Your Lovespace by Melanie Holst-Collins
    This is a platform that has allowed me to see myself in my most natural of forms, and be real with myself. It has shown me that it is more than ok to be a black, it’s more than ok to be trans, and it is more than ok to be the woman I am, especially in a world that is adamant on me not existing. She has an excellent exercise where you write a letter to yourself, and heal through movement of your body, self love. And I did just that. It was a very emotional, yet empowering moment for me. My dream that once brought shame, is now shameless. - Ro Boyce (she/her) 2nd Year GSBA Scholar


    Ro's letter: 

    Dear Beautiful Black Girl

    Let me start off by saying, I love you. I used the word beautiful because I know that isn’t a word you would call yourself. I look into your eyes and I see the hope and dream of myself. You look happy and scared, relax baby, it’s gonna be alright. You see yourself through the eyes of him, that’s a lesson you will have to learn over and over. To see yourself and love yourself through your own eyes. 

    My darling, never forget who you were before the world told you who to be. I understand how and why that happened now, the wounds of your past, you will ALWAYS BE a survivor, yet through it all you managed to hold on to a belief that someday it will get better. That, baby girl, will be your single greatest gift, to see through a foggy mirror. Hold your head up my beautiful black girl, we don’t want your crown to fall. #BlackHerStory 

    doja-cat-say-so-live-vevo-may-2020Doja Cat
    I get a lot of confidence boosts from her unorthodox style of rap, her goofiness, and straight-up blunt-being.







    2019 Scholars Dinner_Photo Credit Malcolm Smith Photography_ (140)Ro Boyce grew up in Miami, FL and is now living in Lynnwood, attending the University of Washington, pursuing an undergraduate degree in Speech and Hearing Sciences. Her hope is to continue the conversation and inspire LGBTQ youth, especially QTPOC to recognize their own power, to learn and be the transformation the world needs. Ro has made becoming a Speech and Language Pathologist her long term goal. She will continue working with communities that are frequently marginalized and denied access to medical resources due to their identities.

    20190201_AmberZbitnoffPhotography_TotemStar_LIO12_0029_hiresLash O'Cain is a queer film and art history buff born in Renton, WA. After growing up in South Park, WA she is currently living in Mount Vernon to attend Cornell College for the rest of this academic school year, intending to transfer to California for Sophomore year to study film in a more opportunistic atmosphere. She has many goals, one now being to get closer to the entertainment industry where she plans to execute incorporating more queer identities of color in stories untold. Lash has decided that art is a passion she cannot step away from, and intends to graduate with a Bachelors in Film Study or Acting by using connections made through the poetry and music communities where she's been involved for several years.


     

  • Police Legislation in Olympia

    by Matt Landers, Director of Public Policy & Government Relations
    | Feb 16, 2021
     

    There are over a dozen bills dealing with many different aspects of policing in Washington State this session. Here are some of the bills that GSBA has actively endorsed:

    * denotes which of the bills is advancing if companion bills were offered in both chambers


    Tactics & Equipment (SHB 1054)

    Rep. Johnson of Federal Way is leading this omnibus effort that encompasses a long list of reforms on what tactics and equipment are permissible for use by police. It would prohibit the use of chokeholds, neck restraints, no-knock warrants, using dogs to arrest or apprehend suspects, and the acquiring or using of tear gas and certain types of military equipment. The bill requires law enforcement agencies to adopt policies and procedures to ensure officers are reasonably identifiable. Restrictions would be placed on certain vehicular pursuits. Status: passed out of committee in the House, awaiting House floor vote.


    Impeachment Disclosures (SHB 1088* / SB 5067)

    Requires law enforcement agencies to report an officer’s misconduct that would affect their credibility or any act that may be potentially exculpatory to a defendant. The WA Association of Prosecuting Attorneys would be required to update their policies and develop online training consistent with that policy. Law enforcement agencies will be required to inquire where an applicant has ever been subject to impeachment disclosure. Status: passed House, in Senate Law & Justice Committee.


    Law Enforcement Audits - (E2HSB 1089* / SB 5069)

    Authorizes the State Auditor to review a deadly force investigations to determine whether the involved actors complied with all applicable rules and procedures. Status: passed the House, in Senate Law & Justice Committee.


    Duty to Intervene - (SSB 5066)

    Requires an officer to intervene when witnessing a fellow officer engaging in the use of excessive force. Requires an officer observing wrongdoing by a fellow officer to report the wrongdoing to the officer’s supervisor. Requires law enforcement agencies to adopt written policies on the duty to intervene and ensure that all officers are trained on the policy. Status: passed Senate committee, awaiting Senate floor vote.


    Certification of Police Officers (SB 5089)

    Like many other professions in Washington, police officers are required to hold professional certification from the state. This bill requires applicants for a city or county police officer to be at least 23 years old and to have either an AA/AS degree or have two years relevant experience. It requires a 24-month probationary period for newly hired officers, and awards applicants for certain specific skills or experience (language proficiency other than English; Peace Corps or Americorps experience; professional experience with domestic violence counseling, mental/behavioral health care, homelessness programs, or other social services). Status: passed Senate committee, awaiting Senate floor vote.


    De-Certification of Police Officers (HB 1082 / SB 5051*)

    Like other professional certifications in Washington, the state can revoke an officer’s professional certification in certain circumstances. This bill expands background investigation requirements for applicants for police, reserve officers, and corrections officers, and expands the conduct for which the certification of an officer may be revoked. It requires agencies to report all separation and disciplinary matters regarding certified officers to the Criminal Justice Training Commission. It removes confidentiality of complaints, investigations, and disciplinary actions for certified officers and requires information be maintained on a publicly searchable database. Status: passed Senate committee, awaiting Senate floor vote. 


    There are other bills that GSBA is still monitoring, including SB 5055 which deals with the arbitration process for disciplining officers. This bill is less strong than SB 5134, which would have prohibited collective bargaining agreements from overturning disciplinary decisions, but which did not make it out of the Senate committee.


  • The Passing of Charlie Brydon

    by Louise Chernin, Former GSBA President & CEO
    | Feb 12, 2021
     
    Charlie Brydon, long time Seattle LGBTQ activist and business leader, passed away on February 9th. We asked our past CEO, Louise Chernin, to share more about Charlie:
     
     
    This week we lost a great leader, mentor and friend. A founder of most of our early LGBTQ organizations and leader in the fight for LGBTQ equality, Charlie Brydon, is considered to be the “father of the LGBTQ Civil Rights Movement” in Washington State. Others called him the “un-elected or self-appointed tribal leader of the gay community”. Charlie worked to bring gay rights to the forefront of Seattle and Washington politics. Charlie Brydon was instrumental in founding Seattle’s first gay organization, the Dorian Society, a loose organization of prominent gay businessman and activists, formed in 1967 to serve the gay (as it was referred to at that time) community and educate mainstream Seattleites about the community. Always at the forefront for LGBTQ rights, Charlie led the community in gaining a major legal victory with the passage of city ordinances banning employment and housing discrimination against sexual minorities in 1973 and 1975. However, in 1978, those rights were challenged by Initiative 13, but with Charlie at the forefront and other activists including Anne Levinson, Tom Rasmussen, Don Moreland, Jim Reid, Cal Anderson, Mary Kay Wright, Jan Bianci, Laurie Jinkins, Tim Bradbury, Lonnie Lusardo and others, the initiative was soundly defeated by Seattle voters.
     
    By 1975, activist groups were continuing to press for legal protections similar to those in the Fair Employment Practices Ordinance. It was The Dorian Group, under Charlie’s leadership that proposed a revision of the city's Open Housing Ordinance that would make it illegal for landlords and home sellers to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. In 1977, Brydon persuaded then Mayor Wes Uhlman to commemorate Seattle’s first Gay Pride Week and in 1978 Brydon rallied activists to join Citizens to Retain Fair Employment, which organized fundraising and educational activities to push back at national efforts to roll-back employment protections. Understanding the importance of an national gay liberation movement, in 1979 Charlie joined the Board of Directors of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. But what most defines Charlie was his work with Hands Off Washington and the Privacy Fund, organizations created in his living room to fight against statewide anti-gay legislation, successfully stop discriminatory state ballot initiatives, establish chapters across the state, and laying the very foundation of many of today’s LGBTQ political organizations, initiatives, campaigns and public officials.
     
    In addition to being an activist, Charlie was a highly successful business person. As an out and proud business owner of Brydon Insurance, Charlie joined GSBA in 1982. Many may still remember the announcements that Brydon Insurance took out on KUOW, in which it proclaimed that Brydon Insurance was a gay-owned business. Charlie took out an ad in each GSBA Guide & Directory and was the go-to gay insurance agent in our community. After selling Brydon Insurance, Charlie was appointed by the Governor to the Liquor Control Board and after that the Board of Tax Appeal. Charlie remained active in GSBA throughout the years, attending our events, donating to the Scholarship Fund, and often dropping in at the GSBA office. He especially loved the GSBA Scholarship Fund and a number of years ago, went up to Vancouver British Columbia to help their LGBTQ Chamber create their own LGBTQ Scholarship Fund.
     
    We finally got to honor Charlie in 2005, when he was presented with a Special Recognition award, the Voice for Social Justice at GSBA’s Annual Business & Humanitarian Awards dinner. GSBA brought Charlie to the dinner under the ruse that he was going to present an award to our LGBTQ Legislative Caucus for their huge victory of finally, after 29 years, passing a bill to include sexual orientation and gender identity in the Washington Law Against Discrimination. He was thrilled to present that award, not knowing that the award was actually being presented to him by Anne Levinson and the LGBTQ Legislative Caucus for his decades of work in advancing LGBTQ equality. Charlie was speechless and deeply moved, not only by the award but by seeing his beloved niece who had flown up to share this night with him. It was an evening we will all remember and Charlie is someone we should never forget.
     
    Whether you knew him or not, your life has forever been changed because Charlie Brydon spent most of his adult life fighting for LGBTQ equality. Thank you, dear leader and friend.

    Louise Chernin
  • February Olympia Update

    by Matt Landers, Director of Public Policy & Government Relations
    | Feb 08, 2021
     
    The Washington State Legislature has now been in session for a month. As we approach the first round of deadlines for bills to be heard in committee, here is a look at some of the bills that GSBA is watching so far:

    Pandemic Relief
    With a few emergency bills sailing through both chambers of the Legislature, GSBA is still supporting efforts to get the most needed supports in the hands of small businesses. Most notably is the $2.2 billion COVID relief bill funded by federal supports. This bill includes $714M for K-12 schools; $618M for public health; $365M for housing-related items like rental assistance; $240M for small business assistance grants; $100M for epidemiology, laboratory grants, and vaccines; $91M for other income assistance; $50M for childcare; and more.

    Other business-related relief efforts include making pandemic-related assistance grants tax exempt (HB 1095). GSBA is also monitoring SB 5251 regarding business interruption insurance claims.

    Education

    With the nation's first LGBTQ scholarship fund, equity in education has always been a focus for GSBA. In the state legislative session, there are a number of efforts to specifically increase diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism efforts in public schools. GSBA has endorsed both SB 5044 and SB 5227, which provide guidance for these efforts at the K-12 and higher education institutions respectively. GSBA has also endorsed the Fair Start for Kids bill (HB 1213), which gives significant support to childcare programs and expands eligibility for early childhood education and assistance programs.

    Equity
    GSBA has participated in the Coalition for Inclusive Healthcare for many years, focusing on the access and available of medically necessary healthcare for transgender and gender-diverse Washingtonians. Parallel with our ongoing efforts at the Washington Healthcare Authority, GSBA has joined the Coalition in endorsing SB 5313, which closes loopholes and makes it clear to insurers that they may not deny coverage for medically necessary gender affirming treatment or apply blanket exclusions to that treatment.

    Continuing our support for the establishment of the Washington State Office of Equity in last year's session, we support efforts to fully fund that office (cut due to the pandemic) and SB 5105 which would implement the recommendations of the Office of Equity Task Force. Additionally, we are supporting GenPRIDE's request for a $1 million budget appropriation to fund LGBTQ senior services at the future LGBTQ senior housing development in Capitol Hill.

    There are many other issues that GSBA is monitoring during this session, including various proposals for progressive taxation. Tune in to our February 22 Civic Engagement Series to learn more about those efforts. Next week we will be writing about the many police accountability bills that the legislature is considering this year. If you have any questions about GSBA's legislative work, please reach out to MattL@thegsba.org



  • It's a beautiful day in the Gayborhood

    by GSBA Staff
    | Feb 05, 2021

    As a creative agency and content production company, Gaybors Agency brings together LGBTQ+ creators (also called Gaybors) and brands to create content for and with the LGBTQ+ community. Gaybors engage their social media audience and are an essential part of moving equality forward and creating visibility.

    We spoke to new GSBA member, Todd Murray, Founder and President of Gaybors Agency, to find out more.

    GSBA: Tell me about the Gaybors Agency and how you started working in this space?

    _MG_7990x1200x836 (1)[1]Todd: I got my start in marketing and specifically influencer marketing working for the United Nations in South Africa, Swaziland, Thailand, and Mexico. I worked with minority populations within the LGBTQ+ community: young people living with HIV, trans people, and sex workers. The campaigns we worked on promoted community kindness and, frankly, helped young LGBTQ+ people get home at night without being killed.

    Fast forward 20 years, and the influencer category had become an integral part of marketing campaigns across every industry. I would see marketing agencies and influencer agencies bill themselves as diverse and authentic, but they had one LGBTQ+ influencer on their roster. Why are we asking people who don’t understand our community to speak for us? We can help brands better understand how to talk to and reach the LGBTQ+ community, but there needed to be an agency to do that, so I started one.

    Our community deserves better; we deserve better. This is why I did not just launch a website with a bunch of influencer pictures. I worked on building the agency, building a group of people that would generate content for the LGBTQ+ community, but that also felt like a family. The Gaybors could learn from each other, build their own personal brands, and be better creators. So I worked on the Gaybors Agency for over a year. And then we launched... 45 days before the start of the pandemic.

    GSBA: What brought you to Seattle?

    Todd: I grew up in the Pacific Northwest. I lived in Phoenix at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and decided I wanted to be closer to my family, so I moved back to the Pacific Northwest and settled in Seattle. I remembered it as a city that showed kindness to strangers, and I knew I wanted to live in a place where people would be kind to each other. I also wanted to be in a place where I could grow this new agency while keeping the people I love alive and safe.

    GSBA: Why did you decide to join GSBA?
    Mesa+de+trabajo+1-8+(3) Todd: I want Seattle to know what's in their backyard. That the Gaybors Agency is part of their community. I know that GSBA members are some of the most forward-thinking, articulate, and front-leading companies in the country. Many have shown up even when they did not have to. I wanted to be among small and large businesses that repeatedly demonstrate their commitment to the LGBTQ+ community and engage in authentic and meaningful marketing practices. I also wanted Gaybors Agency to be able to help companies engage with the LGBTQ+ audience. We are here and are a resource, even if it’s just for a conversation.

    GSBA: What is your favorite thing about working with LGBTQ content creators?

    Todd: I admire LGBTQ+ content creators’ commitment to live their lives unapologetically. I remember going into corporate board rooms and begging them to include the queer community in their marketing campaigns and was told we [LGBTQ+ people] are a liability. And 20 years later, to see these fearless creators be so open, honest, and unapologetic is inspiring and exhilarating. Every day I work with humans who embody the message of openness and honesty, promote that message, and they are never deterred. When I go to work, I have a front-row seat to see the work of so many fearless people in our community. And I am forever grateful for that.

    GSBA: Has the pandemic affected your work? Any pivots you needed to make?

    101395832_301103564221035_6939389853743238582_nTodd: The majority of our work is in the travel industry, and for Pride-related events, so the pandemic hit us very hard. Within two weeks of the start of the pandemic, we lost 98% of our contracts. I did not have the will to continue. I had built the agency up over a year but was feeling so defeated. I publicly said to my team and the Gaybors: “I think I am done. I don’t think I can do this.” And they said "no, we believe in the value of this company."

    I was quickly reminded that LGBTQ+ people had put community over themselves time and time again, and it was my turn. I took a week off and decided this was not an, “I am tired, I can't do this anymore” situation, but that the Gaybors Agency needed to show up, especially for the election of our lifetimes. We pivoted all of our campaigns and quickly learned the new world of online events. When I started the agency, I knew influencers were valuable, but I had no idea that when the pandemic started that influencer content would become 10x more valuable than before. We secured more revenue in the first three weeks than we had projected for the whole first quarter of 2020.

    GSBA: What is one thing that would surprise people about you or your agency?

    Todd: I work really hard and have a public persona as part of this community, but on a personal level, as a gay man, I have to fight with myself to find my own value. Gay men have a lot of work to do around giving and receiving love. I am around Snapchat filters and Instagram personas all the time. I am hyper-aware that things are not always what they seem, but I have to work hard to find my self-worth and self-esteem. I am a product of a community that has not prioritized giving love to each other in a meaningful way. People see the glitz and glamour on the outside because of who I work with, but I am not an influencer or a public person. I rarely post on social media. I hate being in front of the camera. That stems from a lack of self-worth—something I have to work every day to find. There is power in saying this publicly, to show vulnerability.

    GSBA: What's next for the Gaybors Agency? 

    Todd: We just launched an app and are looking at opening offices in the UK and Canada. We know that what we do is applicable in the US, but also in so many locations around the globe.

    We launched the largest agency for LGBTQ+ creators in the world. Executed hundreds of campaigns and put over half-a-million dollars into the pockets of LGBTQ+ content creators during a pandemic. In one of the most challenging economic years of our lifetimes, we were successful, so I am not stopping now. I hope we will have offices around the globe that will work with their communities. I should not be working in South Africa or Mexico; there should be another Todd in those countries to leverage their knowledge of their communities and their country's influencers. We are also looking into a Gaybors studio for creators to use when it is 100% safe to do so. It will be a safe space for queer creators to do their work without worryingπ about any homophobic eyes or ears on their content.

    And more margaritas.


  • Incubator: Fall 2020 Cohort

    by Levi Coffin, Business Training Specialist & Grant Manager
    | Feb 03, 2021
     

    Felix Blanco (he/him)
    Evolving Paths

    Felix worked in the technology industry for 25+ years, developing engaging experiences for customers in the entertainment, automotive, and medical imaging fields. After completing his master’s degree in Computer Graphics, Felix’s career included working with Fortune 500 companies. His career quickly evolved and started managing people, and he found an interest on collaborating with teams and individuals to reach their goals. This new interest aligned with his value system, propelling him to start his own coaching practice. After obtaining his certification as a Professional Coach, Felix took his professional practice to the next level, where technology meets human needs.

    As a professional coach with Evolving Paths, LLC, Felix empathetically and intuitively listen to his clients needs, helping them to identify potential limiting beliefs that are impacting their lives. His product technology background enables him to listen to unmet needs, as well as to create the coaching tools that are in planning stage.
      

    Danielle Morales (she/her)
    Digital Management LLC

    Danielle is the first entrepreneur of her family and just getting out of corporate life. She is looking to help others with her knowledge to develop their business growth.

    Digital Management LLC helps businesses market on their social media. They partner with their clients to find a strategy that works for their business!

     

    Alanna Francis (she/her)
    Alanna Francis Events & Consulting

    Alanna follows her passion and her greatest impact. To evolve communities, people, and organizations past their plateau of checking diversity boxes to infiltrating with *holistic intentions integrations of systems meant to retain folx and create change. She is invested in bettering our communities through authentic intentional relationships and aligned values & morals. She is invested in seeing a world where people can live and be themselves free of the societal pressures and implications. Where they can be aligned within themselves and their businesses with a connection to who they strive to be. Our magic is always within, so what narrative is preventing you from swirling in it?

    Do you envision a more connected colorful empowered educated world? So does Alanna. By connecting with her clients through holistic event planning and developmental magic she creates inclusively exclusive experiences. She is for you, are you for everybody? Holistically inclusive events with an atmosphere of exclusivity. Serving individuals and organizations rooted in creating change, invested in representation and building community. Fundraising. Diversity Equity and Inclusion. Transforming the norms of an organization to an evolution

     

    Shaun Glaze (they/them)
    Inclusive Data

    Shaun Glaze is the Chief Consulting Officer for Inclusive Data. You may know them as the Research Director for the Black Brilliance Research Project - the nation's largest Black community-led research. Their company Inclusive Data helps people do research that creates true community safety, health, and thriving. But that's not all they do. They help you save money and generate wealth by teaching you the secret sauce that large companies use to create their success. They teach you how to secure grants, how to cut costs, and how to make more money. Basically, they help you turn data into dollars.

     
  • Legislature Passes Unemployment Insurance Fixes

    by Matt Landers, Director of Public Policy & Government Relations
    | Feb 01, 2021
     
    On Friday night, the Washington State Legislature passed ESSB 5061, an emergency bill to address the significant increases in unemployment insurance faced by businesses at the start of this year. GSBA supported these efforts and will continue to advocate for continued support of small businesses in the management of the unemployment system as well as efforts to keep the program fully funded so that it can continue its essential role for workers. This bill reduces the various automatic formulas that determine unemployment insurance rates, as well as increases the benefits for the neediest workers. In total, this bill represents over $1 billion in taxes that are being waived or delayed.


    What will ESSB 5061 do for employers?
    - Experience rate: the benefit ratio calculation period is extended from 4 to 5 years, resulting in a lower average experience rate
    - Social tax: maximum lowered from 1.22% currently to 0.5% in 2021, gradually increasing to 0.9% in 2025
    - Solvency surcharge: suspended for 5 years. This is an automatic surcharge that typically kicks in when the fund is below a certain level, to a maximum of 0.2%
    - Voluntary Contribution surcharge: will not be charged through May 2026
    - Shared Work programs: now 100% reimbursed by federal CARES Act through March 14, 2021 and will not be charged to employers
    - Makes certain unemployment insurance benefits non-chargeable to employers' experience rates, including all weeks between March 21 and May 30, 2020.

    What will ESSB 5061 do for employees?
    - Expands eligibility for those in high-risk households, particularly in instances where someone in a high-risk household leaves work voluntarily
    - Waives waiting period when federally reimbursed
    - Increases weekly benefit threshold by increasing minimum from 15% to 20% of average weekly wage (maximum remains the same)
    - Ends deduction of lump sum pensions from weekly benefit amounts

    You can read the full bill here, or the Legislature's 6-page summary here.

    This bill now heads to the Governor's desk for final signature. As it is designated emergency legislation, it will take effect immediately.

    Later this week there will be additional emergency bills that impact small businesses, including HB 1095 which makes certain COVID relief grants tax-exempt, and a new $2.2 billion COVID relief bill.

    Please reach out to GSBA staff if you have any questions about ongoing legislative work (MattL@thegsba.org) or how these new rules might impact your business (biztech@thegsba.org).


  • Over twenty-three years of dance and counting at Century Ballroom

    by GSBA Staff
    | Jan 22, 2021

    From gentrification to a pandemic, Century Ballroom & The Tin Table have survived the odds

    Hallie Kuperman and her staff at Century Ballroom and The Tin Table have seen more than their fair share of change from the second floor of Capitol Hill’s Oddfellows Building at the corner of 10th and E. Pine streets. From parking changes and the addition of the streetcar and light rail to Cal Anderson Park's many transformations to massive residential and commercial development, for almost 24 years, Hallie has watched her professional home change on every level that a neighborhood can change.

    sMeCVPEQShe opened Century Ballroom in 1997, a business with a mission: “To promote social dancing of all kinds, Century Ballroom encourages a diverse community that includes your gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, race, age, and religion. As a DJ and dance instructor herself, dancing is in Hallie’s DNA.

    In 2009, she opened The Tin Table across the hall from Century Ballroom. A warm, cozy restaurant with an eclectic menu of Pacific Northwest dishes, cocktails, and an expansive list of bubbles. Hallie felt that every meal out should feel like a celebration and wanted her customers to feel the same when dining at The Tin Table.

    With two businesses rooted in gathering and community, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected Hallie on all fronts. We asked Hallie how she and her team have been coping this past year and what is on the horizon for her businesses.

    GSBA: How have you pivoted both of your businesses to meet the challenges and obstacles brought on by the pandemic?

    Hallie: We made a choice early on not to teach dance online. Century Ballroom is somk6_FRgg steeped in social and partner dancing that it didn’t feel right to take that dancing online. We also knew the internet would be inundated with classes.

    We waited to offer take out for the Tin Table since it wasn’t something we had offered pre-pandemic, and we wanted to make sure we got it right. When restaurants could re-open indoor dining at 25 percent capacity, we transformed Century Ballroom into a restaurant to have ample space for tables. It was The Tin Table at Century Ballroom. We spent many, many months going with the flow of the neighborhood, the city, and the country in terms of staying open on any given day or choosing to close. It was unpredictable, at best.

    One new idea we launched was “to-go” baskets or bags with themes including Fancy Picnic, Glamping, and date night. And, of course, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and NYE dinners. The latter included candles, glitter, balloons, and fake snow.

    zHxkCUewGSBA: How has being a Ready for Business grant recipient helped you and your business?

    Hallie: We recognize that both of our particular businesses will be some of the last to open. We have been able to keep operating because of the generous support we have received. Rent and payroll are the obvious significant expenses, but there are so many more expenses beyond those two that need to be paid as well.

    GSBA: These days, what keeps you going?

    Hallie: Knowing how vital Century Ballroom has been to the community over the last (almost) 24 years and the outpouring of support we have received makes fighting for the business’ survival all worthwhile.

    GSBA: What’s next for Century Ballroom and The Tin Table?

    Hallie: We’re starting a weekend takeout series called “The Tin Table Travels.” Each week we offer a themed three-course meal highlighting cuisines of various countries, including Germany, Italy, France (for Valentine’s Day, of course), and more. We will resume indoor dining once we are allowed to do so. Right before the indoor dining ban, we had started dinner and a movie night in the Ballroom. I am excited to start that up again. As for dancing, once we can have up to 10 people in a class, we will resume teaching classes again. I know large public dances or 70-person classes, which are our bread and butter, won’t be happening for quite some time. But I sure look forward to that first dance, whether it’s OutDancing for the LGBTQ+ community, Swing, Salsa, Kizomba, Bachata, Tango, Waltz…I know it will be epic!


    Century Ballroom is one of the 65 BIPOC, LGBTQ, or women-owned small businesses in the Seattle Metropolitan Seattle area who received a grant from the Ready for Business Fund in the fall of 2020. Co-founded by GSBA and Comcast Washington, the Ready for Business Fund provides $2,500 grants and wrap-around support services to minority-owned small businesses most impacted by the economic downturn due to COVID-19. The program's next application will open in March, with a $100,000 fundraising goal. Click here to donate or learn more about the Ready for Business Fund.