The GSBA Blog

  • Member-Candidate Profile: Lacrecia "Lu" Hill

    by Lacrecia "Lu" Hill
    | Jul 16, 2021
    As a membership organization, we invite all our members running for elected office each year to submit a statement to their fellow members. GSBA is a nonpartisan organization and does not endorse candidates, and this statement should not be construed as an endorsement by GSBA, its Board, or its staff.

    Lacrecia "Lu" Hill, running for Spokane City Council, District 3

    I am Lacrecia “Lu” Hill (she/her) I am a lightly melanated mixed race, Black and white, queer, able-bodied human living in the inland Northwest, Spokane, WA. This region is the traditional ancestral unceded territory of the Spokane and First Nations that have and continue to be stewards and protectors of the land and water. 

    I love Spokane, four generations of my family have called Spokane home. I was born into the most economically depressed zip code in the state 99207. This experience deeply shaped my belief in economic opportunity for all. I am running for Spokane City Council District 3, because the path I was able to access for opportunity is becoming more narrow and for some in our community is nonexistent. We have to have humans able to address our housing crisis, public safety, and the economy. 
    I have spent my career being a servant leader and ensuring others see the leader in themselves. I am committed to the growth of a regional-based economy and the significant role small businesses play. I believe that we must implement the quadruple bottom line; people, planet, policy, and profit. As we strengthen our regional economy we must ensure that folks are not left behind and more LGBTQIA2+ and BIPOC humans are guiding these policies and conversations.

    I have served Spokane through the non-profit, philanthropic, and business sectors. I worked for Boys & Girls Clubs for over 7 years,  in Vegas, Rural Oregan, and right back home to Spokane. I have raised millions of dollars and engaged families to create health and safety through programs and community initiatives. In 2014, I was recruited by Empire Health Foundation. I worked closely with Better Health Together to addressing houselessness through low barrier supportive housing and community health workers. In the last four years, I became an entrepreneur in the Cannabis industry and built out a production & extraction facility, developing top brands in the state, and annual revenue of $3 million. I know it will take public/private partnerships to address our housing, economic, and public safety realities here in Spokane. I am here for it! 

    I have spent my career Listening, Facilitating & Educating. I enjoy bringing diverse stakeholders together, reviewing data, developing budgets, listening to find solutions, and making hard decisions. I could not think of a better use of my experience, time, and skills than to serve my neighbors and extended neighbors in district 3. 

    I own a consulting business (Wake the Culture/LMH Consulting) and I am a Yoga Teacher (The Wake Yoga). I have a BA in Psychology and an MBA. I currently serve as board president of Spectrum LGBTQIA2+ Center, I also represent Spectrum on the Spokane Regional Domestic Violence Coalition. I am on the INBA (Inland Northwest Business Alliance) board, as well as the WA State LGBTQ+ Commission’s economic development committee. Most recently, I have worked with a group of humans to establish the first Black chamber of commerce in Spokane. I have the lived and professional experience that Spokane City Council needs!

  • GSBA Endorses Best Starts For Kids Levy Renewal

    by Matt Landers, Director of Public Policy & Government Relations
    | Jul 12, 2021
    The GBSA Board of Directors has endorsed King County Proposition 1 (Best Starts for Kids), and encourages GSBA members to vote YES on the upcoming August ballot.

    Learn more about the levy and its programs.

    This is a renewal of an expiring levy passed in 2015, also endorsed by GSBA. This measure maintains and expands programs that support kids as they grow with high quality childcare, homelessness prevention, and social and emotional youth development programs. Prevention and early engagement is the most effective, and least expensive way, to ensure positive outcomes for our kids and community. We also must support children and youth of color to overcome racial injustice and have the best opportunity to thrive.

    The renewal of this levy will allow King County to maintain and expand effective programs that put children and youth on a path toward lifelong success. Investments include Prenatal-5 family support, preventing youth and family homelessness, and community-driven partnerships through Communities of Opportunity that address emotional growth, early engagement with youth, and racial and social equity priorities.

    The levy invests in out-of-school time programs for ages 5-12, transitions to adulthood for teens 14-24, and builds up to four school-based health centers across the county. It also creates a new child care subsidy to make child care more affordable for more than 3,000 low-income families and ensures that child care workers, through a Wage Project, earn a living wage for their essential work.

    The levy imposes a property tax of 19-cents per $1,000 assessed value (up from 14-cents in the expiring levy). 

    GSBA strongly supports this ballot measure because of the proven success of the previous effort, and the strong and transparent tracking provided by King County. The strong emphasis on equity in education match core values of GSBA. Additionally, GSBA has been the recipient of funding from the Communities of Opportunity program (as part of the Transgender Economic Empowerment Coalition) and we understand the significance and importance of these social equity programs.

    Other supporters of the levy renewal include a unanimous vote by the King County Council, the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, King County Labor Council, El Centro de la Raza, API Chaya, Seattle Children's Hospital, Legal Counsel for Youth and Children, CISC, Washington Association for Infant Mental Health, West Side Baby, Treehouse, Moms Rising, and more.

  • Member-Candidate Profile: Andrew Grant Houston

    by Andrew Grant Houston
    | Jul 08, 2021
    As a membership organization, we invite all our members running for elected office each year to submit a statement to their fellow members. GSBA is a nonpartisan organization and does not endorse candidates, and this statement should not be construed as an endorsement by GSBA, its Board, or its staff.

    Andrew Grant Houston, running for Seattle Mayor

    I’m Andrew Grant Houston (he/him), also known as “Ace”. I am a queer, Black and Latino architect, environmental advocate, and housing activist living on Seattle’s Capitol Hill.

    I am running for Mayor of Seattle because, after years of advocating for more housing at all income levels, we’ve seen little change while worsening wildfires highlight the urgency of our homelessness, housing, and climate crises. We need action, and we need it now. 

    I am an entrepreneur with my own architecture practice, House Cosmopolitan, focused on creating places where people belong. This, along with my membership in the GSBA, are important to me as I have always had to fight to make space for myself in an industry dominated by straight, white men. So now, through my work and my advocacy, I make space for others where none was made for me.

    Over the years, we’ve watched Seattle’s historically LGBTQ+ Capitol Hill price out so many in our community. Often, that means that all of the creativity and uniqueness that we bring to the city, through our small businesses and our art, are pushed out. That’s why I will invest additional funds and resources into building more subsidized cultural spaces, including music venues and art galleries—and, of course, housing. When we build more permanently affordable housing, artists and creatives are able to afford to live in our city and contribute more of their time and energy into making Seattle a truly unique place. To be sure our small businesses can not only stay but thrive, I will implement commercial rent control. We know it works. Rent control protects small businesses from rental price gouging by scheduling reasonable and gradual increases, promotes neighborhood stability, and makes sure Seattleites can stay in Seattle.

    But we need to make sure that everyday people, customers, are taken care of, too. Prioritizing people and economic vitality are not at odds. I will pay people a living wage, build affordable housing across every area of the city, and make it easier for people to reach what they want and need through transportation improvements, so everybody wins.

    At the end of the day, we need transformative change. As a project manager with experience leading multimillion-dollar jobs, I have the knowledge necessary to get things done. My vision of Seattle makes it one of the most vibrant, sustainable cities in the world; a city where no one has to sleep outside, where local businesses and culture thrive, and where orcas start to visit once again. In order to do that, we must center our most marginalized first and, with my experience and background in mind, we will do just that.  No more empty promises.

    Seattle, I will act. And I would be honored to have your support in this race for Mayor of Seattle.

    Andrew Grant Houston (“Ace”)

  • SCOTUS Rejects Arlene's Flowers Appeal

    by Matt Landers, Director of Public Policy & Government Relations
    | Jul 07, 2021
    On July 2, the Supreme Court of the United States denied review of the Arlene's Flowers case involving a same-sex couple turned away from a flower shop because they are part of the LGBTQ+ community. This decision lets stand the Washington State Supreme Court's unanimous ruling that there is no license to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people.

    Read more from ACLU, who represented Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed in their suit.

    GSBA joined amicus briefs with several of our member businesses and business associations both for the original case in 2015 and then again in 2019.

    A big thanks to our members and partners who helped organize these briefs and who signed on to oppose discrimination, including:

    Attorneys: Davis Wright Tremaine, Perkin Coie, and ACLU of Washington

    Associations: Broadway Business Improvement Area, Economic Development Alliance of Skagit County, Inland Northwest Business Alliance, Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, Tabor 100

    Businesses: Adrift Hotel, Amazon, Brooks Sports, Inc., Chachalounge LLC, Elliott Bay Book Company, Expedia Group, Group Health Cooperative, JOWW LLC (dba Percy's Co), Kaiser Permanente Washington, Microsoft, Modern Housing LLC (dba Ace Hotel Seattle), Molly Moon's Homemade Ice Cream LLC, Northwest Polite Society LLC, Pike Pine Diner LLC, RealNetworks, Inc., Recreational Equipment Inc, Salesforce, Shafty's LLC (dba Grims), Sugar Pill Inc, Wide Open Inc, Zillow Group, 98point6 Inc.

  • Member-Candidate Profile: Ryan Calkins

    by Ryan Calkins
    | Jul 07, 2021
    As a membership organization, we invite all our members running for elected office each year to submit a statement to their fellow members. GSBA is a nonpartisan organization and does not endorse candidates, and this statement should not be construed as an endorsement by GSBA, its Board, or its staff.

    Ryan Calkins, running for Seattle Port Commission

    In my first term on the Seattle Port Commission, I’m proud to have led with the priorities and values that align and expand the Port’s mission as one of our region’s key economic development drivers. Through inclusion, opportunity, and bold innovation, we’ve created jobs, supported local businesses and workers, as well as made significant strides in the battle against climate change.

    The Port of Seattle has a huge impact on Seattle's economy, including nearly $1 billion dollars in annual revenue, a vibrant airport, healthy seaport, and booming tourism industry. With this economic influence, the Port has the power to support communities and essential workers most impacted by the pandemic and be a key driver of small business development in the Greater Seattle area. We need leaders committed to those goals.

    Through ongoing large-scale construction projects, hundreds of retail opportunities, and resources to support the training of the next generation of business leaders, the Port of Seattle can and must work to ensure that the Seattle community is employed and moving forward coming out of the pandemic.

    Additionally, I’m working so many of these new and high-paying jobs – in maritime, aviation, clean energy, and more – are available and marketed toward those who have been left out in the past, especially communities of color, LGBTQ+ communities, and low-income communities. To meet those goals, I have worked tirelessly to launch and promote our region’s new Maritime High School, connecting students to new opportunities in Port-aligned industries.

    As someone who works directly with small businesses now, I understand the challenges facing new entrepreneurs and difficulty in securing work with large government agencies. That is why I’ll continue to work to expand the Port’s efforts to make sure contracts are awarded to local small businesses, not just large, out-of-state conglomerates.

    Beyond just economic development, the Port of Seattle is also in a unique position to help tackle climate change. Since I was elected, I have acted on the belief that Ports can do more to improve sustainability, serving on the Port’s Energy and Sustainability Committee and leading efforts to make the Port of Seattle the nation’s most environmentally sustainable port.

    Our investment in sustainable aviation fuels at SEA and for complete decarbonization of the Seattle central waterfront are truly innovative. We have also become leading advocates for important ideas like the statewide Low Carbon Fuel Standard. We must continue this nation-leading work.

    As the Greater Seattle area continues to grow, the importance and relevance of our Port will continue to expand. During this coming election cycle, we have the opportunity to elect leaders with the integrity and experience to hold the Ports true to the interests of Seattle citizens. I hope to earn your vote.


    Ryan Calkins is a Seattle Port Commissioner, GSBA member, and consultant and coach at Ventures, a charitable organization that supports low-income entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses in the Puget Sound area. Learn more at

  • Community reactions to Fulton v. City of Philadelphia decision

    by Matt Landers (he/him), Director of Public Policy & Government Affairs
    | Jun 17, 2021

    This morning the Supreme Court of the United State unanimously decided in favor of Catholic Social Services in the Fulton v. City of Philadelphia case.

    While this decision is a disappointment, interpretations from LGBTQ+ legal experts are relieved that it appears to be a relatively narrow ruling that is hopefully limited to some of the specific circumstances of this one case, rather than a blanket ruling in favor of anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination.

    The case originated when Catholic Social Services sued Philadelphia for refusing to give an exemption that would allow it to deny same-sex couples applying to be foster and adoptive parents. Philadelphia argued that an agency contracting for public services must comply with the city’s anti-discrimination laws. The Supreme Court’s ruling was decided based on the finding that Philadelphia’s contract did authorize an exemption and also the that the City had granted exemptions to other providers in the past.

    Regardless of the interpretation of this ruling, it reinforces the urgency of passing the federal Equality Act to ensure that strong anti-discrimination protections are available for LGBTQ+ people across the United States. You can learn more about the Equality Act in this community event organized by QLaw Association, QLaw Foundation, the Washington State LGBTQ Commission, and GSBA.

    Some of the reactions to today’s ruling from LGBTQ+ legal experts include:

    Lambda Legal
    “Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court is troubling but, importantly, it refused to give a free pass to people or agencies that want to discriminate against LGBTQ people for religious reasons and is limited to the specifics of Philadelphia’s foster care system. Instead, the Court validated the City’s ‘weighty’ interest in the equal treatment of LGBTQ prospective foster parents and foster children. The only reason those interests did not carry the day was due to the specifics of the City’s contract. Because the Court decided the case on contract-specific grounds, the City can address the situation by rewriting its contracts.”

    “Any rationales that allow contract agencies to discriminate harm all children in care who need family foster homes if they cannot safely return to their parent or parents. LGBTQ foster children, the data shows, constitute almost one-third of all children in the foster care system and are over-represented in group homes and facilities because of a lack of foster homes. These children have a critical need for a foster care licensing system that welcomes everyone. Today’s ruling is concerning because it may give governments pause or cause confusion regarding nondiscrimination requirements in contracts.” 

    National Center for Lesbian Rights
    “Properly understood, today’s decision is a significant victory for LGBTQ people,” said Shannon Minter, NCLR Legal Director. “The Court ruled in favor of Catholic Social Services, but on the narrowest possible ground, based on language in the City of Philadelphia’s contract that authorized individualized exemptions for any provider. The Court did not change the current constitutional framework, which permits governments to enforce antidiscrimination laws that prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people even when doing so may have a disparate burden on those who hold certain religious beliefs. As a result of today’s decision, those who feared the Court might create a sweeping new religious exemption to such laws can breathe a sigh of relief.”

    “This narrow ruling allows governments to continue to prohibit discrimination not only against LGBTQ foster and adoptive parents but also against LGBTQ parents who are often wrongfully separated from their children by discriminatory child welfare practices that unfairly target parents who are poor, LGBTQ, disabled, or people of color,” said Cathy Sakimura, NCLR Deputy Director and Family Law Director. “Today’s decision preserves the critical ability of governments to prohibit such rampant discrimination, which is an urgent need.”

    Transgender Law Center
    #SCOTUS decided in favor of Catholic Social Services because Philadelphia allowed for exceptions to non-discrimination provisions in the City’s contracts, not because the Court believes that the City does not have the right to enforce their non-discrimination laws. This is a win.

    We know that the foster care system has never been safe for many of us, especially Black people, people of color & TGNC people. We must ground this decision and impacts in the racist history of the child welfare system that has long been used as a tool to enforce White Supremacy.

    We will continue to fight back against any harms committed by the state and organizations using public money to discriminate. But we know that the State will not save us. As we fight constant attacks from the religious right, we know that true power exists within our community.

    “This case is an important reminder of the countless ways that LGBTQ Americans, people of color, women, people of minority faiths and others still face discrimination across our country,” said CenterLink CEO Denise Spivak.  “That’s why CenterLink is calling on Congress to pass federal nondiscrimination protections such as the ones outlined in the Equality Act. Because no one should have to live in fear of discrimination simply because of who they are."

  • Senator Maria Cantwell Talks Economic Recovery With GSBA Members

    by Matt Landers, Director of Public Policy & Government Relations
    | Jun 07, 2021

    You can watch the recorded video of this roundtable here.

    On Thursday, June 3 ten GSBA small business members participated in a roundtable discussion with Senator Maria Cantwell, moderated by GSBA Board Member Linda Di Lello Morton of Terra Plata. Representing Washington State since 2000, Senator Cantwell is currently the Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and she also serves on the committees for Small Business & Entrepreneurship, Energy, Finance, and Indian Affairs. This means that the input of Washington small business is particularly important to her position.

    Senator Cantwell started off the meeting reiterating her focus over the last year - getting dollars out the door to help small businesses weather and emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. She touted two of the most important federal programs this spring - the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant and the Restaurant Revitalization Fund - that dealt with two of the sectors most severely impacted by the pandemic. She mentioned that she hopes to get Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg out to Washington in the near future to talk about infrastructure, which is critical to our fast-growing region. Senator Cantwell acknowledged that one of the critical bills that the Senate had not yet passed was the federal Equality Act, and she expressed hope that it would soon follow in the footsteps of the legislation on anti-Asian hate crimes that was passed last month.

    When the discussion was turned over to the panelists, Eli Allison of Repair Revolution kicked off the group sharing how their business brings rare diversity to the automotive sector, and how any recovery must include underrepresented groups like women, LGBTQ+ people, and BIPOC individuals. Eli stressed how we cannot have infrastructure without a representative workforce in the trades, and shared how there is a severe shortage of qualified workers in many trade sectors. 

    Sean Brownlee of Mount Vernon-based rope manufacturer Ravenox elaborated on the similar issues for manufacturers, compounded by rising costs and inflation. Over the last year, his raw materials have had a 25% increase in cost, a 40% increase in shipping costs, and faced significant delays in shipping due to a shortage of shipping pallets and containers. He had founded his company with the goal of bringing manufacturing back to America, but the turmoil in the global economy is threatening his business. Dani Cone of Cone & Steiner reiterated the challenges with supply chain logistics at the moment and how she has seen the impact on her small vendors.

    Both Nicole Johnson of Sound Therapeutic Acupuncture and Jordie Neth of Rain City CPAs warned about the crushing effect of educational debt on small business owners. Nicole talked about how high interest loans prevent her from reinvesting back into her practice and hiring new employees, while Jordie shared how high debt scares away those who might otherwise be interested in careers that require professional degrees like CPAs, attorneys, and auto technicians. Senator Cantwell shared how she was working with Senator Elizabeth Warren to cancel federal student debt, cracking down on predatory for-profit financing, and how understanding the impacts on small businesses was critical in how the federal government should address the problem.

    Reflecting a common concern that GSBA has heard across our membership, Danielle Hulton of Ada’s Technical Books and Fuel Coffee in Seattle shared how her employees have been able to take advantage of Washington State’s great paid family leave program, but that they end up not returning to work because of the inability to find affordable childcare. Senator Cantwell said that this is one of the many examples of how the pandemic exposed a number of pre-existing crises across our society, and that the federal government needed to do more to keep parents in the workforce and have opportunities, whether through tax incentives or ways to drive down the costs of childcare.

    Omari Salisbury of Converge Media shared his experiences as a Black-owned small media business, saying the adage “when America sneezes, the Black community catches a cold.” The pandemic laid bare a lot of huge disparities that already existed, particularly in healthcare and business outcomes. When trying to stay afloat during 2020, Converge Media like many small businesses, applied for grants and loan programs, but was denied or found the application process was too onerous for a struggling entrepreneur. Luckily, he did receive a GSBA Ready for Business grant this spring. Senator Cantwell responded saying that COVID also showed us how we need to have a diversity of representative local media voices like Converge who can provide trusted and accurate information. She expressed an interest in expanding the pandemic programs to support diverse media and to build what Omari referred to as a level playing field for all small businesses.

    With his perspective as a certified public accountant, Jordie Neth also shared concerns about staffing levels at the IRS not keeping pace with the increasing complexity of the federal tax code. Numerous tax credits, loan forgiveness, employee retention credits, and other incentives are important, but difficulties arise when there is no one to answer the phones and take questions on how to correctly implement them.

    Ashley Martinez of Ashley’s Pub in Bremerton ended the discussion on a positive note. While she was wary of PPP loans at the start of the pandemic, she ended up receiving support from the City of Bremerton as well as GSBA’s Ready for Business fund, and then from the federal Restaurant Revitalization Fund. She particularly wanted to acknowledge the importance of the ability for women, minority, and veteran owned businesses to apply first to the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. With these grants, her business is looking optimistically to the summer as Washington State continues its reopening plan.

  • Get Loud and Proud with Broadcast’s Specialty Pride-Themed Coffee

    by Mark Van Streefkerk for Broadcast Coffee
    | Jun 01, 2021

    thumbnail_Photo May 25, 6 23 44 PM

    GSBA Member Broadcast Coffee, a proudly Gay-owned cafe and coffee roster, has some special Pride-themed offerings coming soon. The company recently added special T-shirt and sweatshirt options to their retail selection. Printed on a rosy-pink 100% organic cotton garment, the shirts and sweatshirts feature a bold rainbow above their recognizable triangle logo. But the real treat is on its way. (Photos by Jesse Penico)

    Slated to debut in June, Broadcast has a limited supply of Loud and Proud coffee, an Anaerobic Zambian Natural coffee that packs a powerful fruity punch. Broadcast owner Barry Faught doesn’t mince words. “It’s a gigantic strawberry bomb in your mouth,” he said. 

    The Loud and Proud coffee is sourced from Zambia, an underrepresented country in specialty coffee. The anaerobic process means the coffee is processed in  a similar manner to wine—”Much like wine, they put the coffee into a vat and suck out all the oxygen which gives it dimensions and flavors that not a lot of coffees have right now,” Faught explained. “It’s a natural process, so it uses a lot less water. It’s more sustainable.”

    For every bag of Loud and Proud sold, Broadcast will make a $3 donation split betweenthumbnail_Photo May 25, 6 05 57 PM two LGBTQ+ organizations: the Lambert House, a non-profit that offers support and programming for LGBTQ+ youth in Seattle, and The Community Center in Boise, where a new Broadcast cafe will open later in June. Also coming in June is a limited run of Broadcast Pride stickers. Sold for $2 each, all profits from the stickers will be split between the two organizations. Throughout the Broadcast’s 13-year history, they’ve donated to many other LGBTQ+ organizations, including Camp Ten Trees, Seattle Counseling Service, Seattle Frontrunners, GSBA, and more. 

    “I think what the Lambert House does is awesome,” Faught said. “The Lambert house has been an underdog as far as where folks donate money to. Sometimes [I think it] is overlooked. I really think it’s important to bring some focus to them.”

    Loud and Proud is ideal for a pour-over, or brewed with a home coffee maker. It’s perfect on its own, or with milk or plant-based alternatives like oat milk. Expect to see it featured as batch brew at any of Broadcast’s Seattle locations, where you can also purchase it by the bag—on Roosevelt Way in the University District, at Yesler Way in the Central District, and at Temple Pastries on S. Jackson St.—as well as through their online store

    thumbnail_Photo May 25, 5 53 58 PMThis isn’t the first time Broadcast released a designated coffee to raise funds. At the onset of the pandemic last year, $5 from every sale of Broadcast’s Gimmie Shelter blend went to an employee fund. Staff could request funds for financial emergencies, or to help offset reduced hours during that challenging time. “That was really successful, we were able to take care of our staff in a time of need,” Faught reflected. 

    As a Gay-owned company with a significant number of LGBTQ+ staff and management, Broadcast is known for being an inclusive work environment for queer, transgender and nonbinary individuals. Faught and management make it a point to ask for pronouns, and use gender-neutral language when addressing customers. This inclusive environment is baked-in to the culture at Broadcast, and Faught said it’s simply because they hire LGBTQ+ people who bring those values with them. 

    At the end of June, Broadcast will bring that same inclusivity to a new cafe in Faught’s hometown of Boise, opening right across from a new city park.

    “We are a mission-driven company, and our mission is to better the lives of people in the world,” Faught emphasized. “It’s something that we’ll never stop working for.”

    Follow Broadcast Coffee on Instagram at @broadcastcoffee, and be on the lookout for the Loud and Proud debut at the beginning of June. 

  • Redefining the barbering & salon industry with Shear We Go

    by GSBA Staff
    | May 14, 2021

    As the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in the early spring of 2020, “the haircut” became a political rallying point at re-opening protests across the country as most salon and barbering businesses were unable to safely operate under new health regulations. But for GSBA Member and Ready for Business Fund - Round 2 grant recipient Dawa Goes-Behind, owner of Shear We Go, the donning of gloves, aprons, masks, and meticulous sanitizing was an easy adjustment.

    rs=w_1300,h_800“I think COVID-19 is going to change barbering, tattooing, and the nail industry. It’s gonna change the way we care for each other, and I’m excited about that, because I’ve always been approaching it like this,” said Dawa. “I’ve always worn gloves and my suspenders. I want my service to be comfortable for people, where you’re safe and in your own world, and I’m almost in the background.”

    Established in 2016, Shear We Go is an on-demand mobile barbering service based in Bellevue and operating across the greater Seattle area. Since Shear We Go is a mobile business, it’s one that’s particularly accessible, as many elderly, disAbled, and immuno-compromised customers have found in-home barbering safer during the pandemic.

    “Even as barber shops began reopening across our region, my dad was weighing the decision to go out for this service. Was it worth the increased risk? With my Dad's age and health in mind, I was concerned as well. Lucky for us, we found Shear We Go,” reads one Yelp review. “Shear We Go is all that is advertised and more. We were able to easily book an appointment (haircut and beard trim) online. Dawa traveled to my dad's home, set-up everything up, took proper precautions, and gave my dad awesome service.”

    Not only does Shear We Go meet the customer at their home, but the business servicesrs=w_1300,h_800 (2) all genders, hair textures, and folks of all backgrounds and ages - from three years old to 93. Shear We Go can also provide group cuts and trims for the whole family. Shear We Go’s mission of accessibility comes from Dawa’s love of connecting with folks from all walks of life, a practice he honed during his eight-year military career which was then followed by five years as a social worker, serving as a high school counselor and case worker for unhoused veterans.

    “I love being around people and learning from them,” he said. “Coming into barbering, I was like ‘Wow, you can really get to know people on a personal level.’ In business, there’s also a level of social engagement and organizing that I learned as a social worker... And to be a Queer, Indigenous, Black man, there’s a lot there that I can bring to the table for my business, and culturally, in connecting with people. It allows me to have what I like to call a ‘social satellite,’ to be able to tune-in to people’s frequencies and see where they’re coming from.”

    rs=w_1300,h_800 (3)Though Dawa provides cuts for everyone, one group that commonly uses his services tends to be elderly white cisgender men. While Dawa says he and these clients might not always have much in common culturally or politically, he says they share an appreciation for the craftsmanship and attention to detail of the traditional barbering services Shear We Go provides - and that his tactical attire is always a great ice-breaker for these clients, often also military veterans themselves.

    “When folks see the tactical gear, the shiny clippers, and gold sheers, and how I clean up - there’s a respect that comes with that,” he said. “It’s this DIY experience that people respect, but it has to be visceral, so everyone sees what’s happening in the background. When these guys see the attention to detail, it really relaxes them.”

    As a vigorous goal-setter, with Dawa’s lofty 100-year business plan, he’s looking to scale Shear We Go into a franchise with several barbers across the region - eventually operating with an app similar to Uber or DoorDash where users can hail a barber to their home or office, similar to how one would hail a ride or order delivery. He’s also continuing to bake his own values into the foundation of his business having recently connected with Cocoon House, a Snohomish County-based nonprofit that provides shelter for unhoused youth and works to end the cycle of homelessness. Dawa is interested in creating an apprentice program for unhoused or at-risk youth to learn barbering, various employment skills, and grow financial and social stability - a program which would allow him to use his experience in social work.

    For now, Dawa is most focused on getting the word out about Shear We Go, especially to those who still would benefit from a safer grooming experience, such as people living in senior and assisted living communities. As one of the 66 BIPOC-, LGBTQ-, and/or women-owned small businesses to receive a grant from the second round of the Ready for Business Fund, Dawa plans on using his grant to help market his business.

    You can learn more about Shear We Go and book a cut here. You can also follow Shear We Go on Facebook and Instagram.

  • 16 volunteers read nearly 3,000 Ready for Business Fund applications

    by GSBA Staff
    | May 06, 2021

    When GSBA and Comcast Washington expanded the Ready for Business Fund's footprint across the state by opening eligibility to BIPOC, LGBTQ, and/or women-owned small businesses across Washington with the program's second round of funding, we knew we would receive a sizable number of applicants. But as the application period came to a close, we couldn't help but pick our jaws up off the floor with the 2,994 business owners who submitted applications. These businesses were considered for a grant alongside the 400 applicants who previously applied during the program's first round of funding last summer. 

    Thankfully, we had 16 community leaders and small business advocates step up to the plate to serve on our selection committee. Each volunteer reviewed over 100 applications and made the truly difficult decisions in selecting our 66 grant recipients. GSBA thanks each member of the selection committee who donated their time and skills to this effort.

    Meet the members of the Ready for Business Fund, Round 2, Selection Committee:

    selection committee headshots_joseJosé Vazquez (he/him)
    Director of Programs for Ventures Nonprofit

    Born and raised in a small town in Zacatecas, Mexico, Jose is a graduate of the University of Missouri-KC where he holds a B.A. in premedical studies and an M.Ed. in Educational Administration. He is a Board of Directors member at Entre Hermanos Seattle where he has served as President and Vice President. He also serves as Diversity and Inclusion Director for the Emerald City Softball Association. His passion for education drives his need to help others, especially BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities. He is very involved with the Seattle LGBTQIA+ volleyball, softball, and kickball leagues and uses those opportunities to connect players to resources in the area.

    selection committee headshots_tylerTyler Mesman (he/him)
    Coordinator – Board and Special Projects at Forterra
    At Forterra, Tyler works with the Board of Directors to coordinate organizational strategy, manage work plans and execute special projects across the organization. Prior to Forterra, Tyler worked as a fundraiser and consultant for Democratic campaigns and progressive ballot initiatives across Washington. His proudest achievements were helping approve comprehensive, inclusive sex education for Washington’s youth and working with a historic BIPOC-led coalition to pass statewide police reform and accountability measures. Outside of work, you can find him testing new recipes in the kitchen, checking a book off his list, camping near an alpine lake, or showering affection on his two flat faced kitties.

    selection committee headshots_toniToni Baumann (she/her)
    Volunteer / Senior Marketing Professional
    A Seattle area resident since 1998, Toni has volunteer experience with Habitat for Humanity, United Way, and Big Brothers / Big Sisters. Expanding to work with LGBTQ organizations is a purposeful step during this time of social unrest and injustice; she is excited to help organizations access needed capital through the Ready for Business program.

    selection committee headshots_aliciaAlicia Crank (she/her)
    Chief Development Officer for AtWork!

    Alicia Crank is the Chief Development Officer at AtWork!, a highly supportive and innovative conduit between people with disabilities and employers in the community. Prior to this role, she was a leader in major fundraising and partnership roles at YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish, CityYear Seattle and Washington Business Week. A Detroit native, Alicia held several leadership positions in corporate banking, education, business and the nonprofit sector in Silicon Valley. Having moved to Greater Seattle in 2014, she is now one of only a few women of color in corporate philanthropy. Alicia has served on several boards and commissions centered around equity and inclusion, and currently serves on City of Edmonds Planning Board as well as Vice Chair of the Snohomish County / Paine Field Airport Commission.

    2018GSBAStaff-EliLevi Coffin (they/them)
    Business Training Specialist and Grant Manager at GSBA

    They received their BA from the University of Minnesota in Political Science and Gender, Women, Sexuality Studies. As young, white, queer & trans professional they strive to show up as a resource and advocate for their community supporting QTBIPOC entrepreneurs and business owners. Levi has a deep passion for creating engaging, transformative, and educational spaces that center BIPOC, Queer, and Trans equity.

    selection committee headshots_zenoviaZenovia Harris (she/her)
    Chief Executive Officer at Kent Chamber of Commerce

    In 2019 Zenovia was appointed as the Chief Executive Officer for the Kent Chamber of Commerce, becoming the first African American CEO to lead the chamber in its 70+years. Her role serves as the spokesperson for the business community in Washington's sixth largest and one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the country. Zenovia is a certified diversity professional who served as the President for the Washington Diversity Council Advisory Board. She also currently serves on the Board of Directors for Goodwill of the Olympics & Rainier Region. In the last decade, Zenovia has worked in higher education, sales and marketing, and has owned her own businesses.

    selection committee headshots_alyssaAlyssa Pizarro (she/her)
    Strategic Partner & Diversity Officer, Business Impact NW

    “I believe we are stronger together. Coming from an organization that provides training and lending to small businesses, it is an honor to be part of a community process that uplifts businesses, particularly those most impacted by COVID, putting BIPOC, LGBTQ and women-led businesses first, with the GSBA.”

    Laura CliseLaura Clise (she/her)
    Founder & CEO of Intentionalist

    Laura is the founder and CEO of Intentionalist, a Seattle-based social enterprise that makes it easy to #SpendLikeItMatters and support small businesses and diverse communities through everyday decisions about where we eat, drink and shop. Laura can sing and/or order ice cream in more than ten languages, and proudly serves on the IslandWood and Athlete Ally board of directors.

    selection committee headshots_johnJohn Matthews (he/him)
    Co-Founder of Oak Fern Web Development

    John is a Seattle-based entrepreneur with nine years of local startup experience. He lives in North Seattle with his husband Roan. John co-founded Oak Fern Web Development in 2015 to make intuitive, unique, and intelligent digital magic a reality for local business owners.

    julioJulio Cortes (he/him)

    Senior Communications Officer at City of Everett  
    "I'm the Senior Communications Officer at the City of Everett and also manage our City marketing efforts. The pandemic has had a devastating effect on our economies and businesses of all kinds are feeling the impact. Now more than ever we must come together and show empathy and support to our business community. I look forward to playing a role in the economic recovery efforts led by this team." 

    crystalCrystal Gamon (she/her)
    Senior Property Manager at Urban Renaissance Group
    Born and raised in Seattle, Crystal has an emotional connection to the community and deep desire to help it thrive. Crystal can often be found volunteering her time with several local organizations and lending her voice to advocate for those in need. Crystal and her wife currently reside in Mill Creek with their three daughters.

    deaunteDeaunte Damper (he/him, they/them)
    NAACP King County LGBTQ Chair

    "With so many things impacting our community I’m honored to be joining GSBA and Comcast stepping forward to provide the Community with this resource."

    lizLiz Dunn (she/her)
    Owner of Dunn & Hobbes, LLC

    Liz is the owner of Dunn & Hobbes LLC, a local real estate development and property management company. Liz is passionate about supporting other entrepreneurs; more than half of her retail and restaurant tenants are women-owned, BIPOC-owned, or both, and she is an active angel investor in tech, alternative energy, cannabis and consumer-facing companies.

    dominique_28Dominique Stephens (she/her)
    City of Seattle

    "Native of Seattle, ensuring all I do is for the growth and honor of BIPOC LGBTQ communities."

    rozRoz Edison (she/her)
    Owner of Marination/Super Six 

    Roz is the co-owner of Marination and Super Six. When she is not serving as the "Director of Many Things" for her company, she enjoys travel, spicy food, and a nice, long Law and Order marathon.

    selection committee headshots_taraTara Jensen (She/Her)
    Data Operations Manager at Quantum3 Group, LLC 

    "I have been wanting to get more involved in the LGBTQ community and luckily I have a great contact in Ilona Lohrey (GSBA VP of Membership & Programs) to get me started. I work in Kirkland at Quantum3 Group, LLC, and play softball with Rain(bow) City Softball. I am involved in the LGBTQ community in a limited way and given our current climate, I would love to do more!"
  • Meet the 66 recipients of the second round of the Ready for Business Fund

    by GSBA Staff
    | May 03, 2021

    Sixty-six extraordinary BIPOC, LGBTQ, and women-owned small businesses across Washington have received $2,500 grants from the Ready for Business Fund, GSBA's small business recovery fund co-founded with Comcast Washington. In addition to the financial support, these businesses will also receive a complementary first-year GSBA Membership, free consulting, and support services. 

    GSBA extends a heartfelt thank you to all the organizations and generous individuals who contributed to the program's second round of funding, including Comcast Washington, - who contributed $100,000 - T-Mobile, BECU, DoorDash, 1st Security Bank, Harborstone Credit Union, Puget Sound Energy, Seattle Foundation, Symetra, and Verity Credit Union.

    The recipients of the grants are:

    - A Clear View (Spokane)
    - A Step Ahead Bilingual Learning Center (Bellingham)
    - Abundant Living Senior Services (Marysville)
    - Adra Boo, LLC (Seattle)
    - Anywhere But Here Travel, Inc. (Lynnwood)
    - Ashley's Pub (Bremerton)
    - Avant Gardenz (Port Angeles)
    - Blue Cactus Press (Tacoma)
    - Bluebird Coffee (Lynnwood)
    - Booltina II (Lynnwood)
    - Cafe Argento (Seattle)
    - Chubby Bunny Farm (Arlington)
    - Community Acupuncture Project (Seattle)
    - Compass Acupuncture Tacoma (Tacoma)
    - Conscious Eatery (Seattle)
    - Converge Media (Seattle)
    - Distant Worlds Coffeehouse (Seattle)
    - Eli's House Cleaning (Walla Walla)
    - Fabulous Nails Spa (Tacoma)
    - Family 1st Consulting Services, PLLC (Tacoma)
    - Family Home Childcare (Seattle)
    - Funtastic (Seattle)
    - Guerrilla Films, LLC (Seattle)
    - Hunniwater, LLC (Edmonds)
    - Inclusive Data, LLC (Seattle)
    - Intersections Festival (Burien)
    - Inter-Tribal Beauty (Spokane)
    - Intrigue Chocolate Co. (Seattle)
    - JAMIL (Seattle)
    - Kalkaal Childcare (Burien)
    - Keysight Consulting (Everett)
    - Kiddie Cover Daycare (Everett)
    - King's Books (Tacoma)
    - Latin Market (Renton)
    - Lia's Garden (Snohomish)
    - Lil Red's Takeout & Catering (Seattle)
    - Lucky Teriyaki (Seattle)
    - Mac Fashion House (Seattle) 
    - MBG Unlimited (Seattle)
    - MEND Seattle (Seattle)
    - My Sweet Little Cakes (Seattle)
    - Off the Rez (Seattle)
    - Olympic Cleaning & Beyond (Olalla)
    - Open Arms (Seattle)
    - Pink Moon Farm (Eatonville)
    - PointOneNorth Consulting, LLC (Burien)
    - Ravenox (Mount Vernon)
    - Ritual (Seattle)
    - Roda Food, LLC (Snohomish)
    - Satisfied Palate (Seattle)
    - Northwest Relationships (Tacoma)
    - Seattle Spartans (Everett)
    - Shear We Go, LLC (Bellevue)
    - Skeleton Coast (Seattle)
    - Spotlight Dance Center (Renton)
    - Sundus Family Childcare (Seattle)
    - Sunny Days Childcare (Kent)
    - Sure to Rise Bakery (Cashmere)
    - Sweet Krazy Corn (Seattle)
    - Taste of Peru (Gig Harbor)
    - The Barber Lounge (Fife)
    - The Confectional, LLC (Seattle)
    - West Coast Prep Basketball Academy (Kent)
    - Yang Farm (Mountlake Terrace)
    - YAY NOVELTY, LLC (Sedro-Woolley)

  • Commitment to equity represented in diversity of GSBA Scholarship Fund cohort

    by Jeff Boyer (he/him), Sr. Development Officer, GSBA Scholarship Fund
    | Apr 26, 2021

    Not everyone loves to see stats and numbers, but they are an important marker to makeed63b4e6-75f2-4728-ab1f-c0402284b0e4 sure we are truly meeting our mission of advancing equity for all. Here are some important pieces of data from your newly selected 2021-2022 GSBA Scholar Cohort:

    • 240 eligible applicants applied
    • 55 applicants were interviewed for 17 open cohort spots
    • Average scholar age is 23
    • Average GPA is 3.62
    • Average award amount is $8,333 per year, renewable up to four years through the GSBA Guarantee
    • 52% are the first in their family to attend college
    • 44% are second-generation Americans
    • 33% have lived below the federal poverty level
    • 31% have experienced homelessness
    • 26% are from a rural town in Washington
    • 20% have a disability

    Screen Shot 2021-04-23 at 9.10.41 AMThese numbers represent our efforts to level the playing field for students with marginalized backgrounds and identities, ensuring that LGBTQ future leaders from all walks of life receive the support they need to obtain an education.

    Are you ready to meet them?! We look forward to introducing them to you at our second virtual Scholars Celebration at noon on Friday, May 21st where we will officially award $500,000 in scholarships; taking us over $5 million invested in LGBTQ and allied students since the GSBA Scholarship Fund was founded in 1991. 

  • Welcome Ahi Martin-McSweeney, Capitol Hill Business Alliance Program Manager

    by GSBA Staff
    | Apr 21, 2021

    AHIHaving worked parallel to GSBA for years, Ahi Martin-McSweeney (they/them) is excited to join the team as the Capitol Hill Business Alliance (CHBA) Program Manager. Ahi first encountered GSBA from behind the oyster bar their former employer, Taylor Shellfish, had donated to EQUALUX – Taste of GSBA a few years ago, and was intrigued by the organization’s role within the LGBTQ community. From that moment forward, they knew GSBA was an organization they would continue to engage with, and began serving on GSBA’s Young Professionals Advisory Council.

    Ahi is thrilled to begin this transition from a career in hospitality operations, to a new chapter in community-focused work and business development. Looking forward to leveraging their skills and experiences to further the goals of the Capitol Hill business community, Ahi is driven to help revitalize the neighborhood’s economic landscape in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    After graduating from San Jose University in 2007 with a BA in Child & Adolescent Development, Ahi became the “dreaded California transplant” and relocated to Seattle. They briefly explored creative work in graphic design, before focusing on career development with Starbucks. Through several years of supervisory and management roles, they were given the opportunity to participate in Starbucks community engagement events such as Bumbershoot, UW Husky games, and the annual shareholders conference.

    It was through these large-scale events that Ahi discovered their love for catering and special event management, which led them to join the Taylor Shellfish team as Catering Manager. Over their time in this role, they fostered relationships with local communities, and oversaw the catering operations expansion and the opening of three new restaurant locations.

    Having lived in Seattle for 14 years, Ahi has strong ties to the city’s unique neighborhoods. They perceive the city, and particularly Capitol Hill, as being instrumental in their personal development, and are proud that their career path has remained closely intertwined with the neighborhood.

    Ahi is a devoted mother to a rambunctious preschooler, and spends as much time as possible encouraging her to take life by the horns. Ahi and their child enjoy adventuring through Seattle’s park system, dipping into Lake Washington and the Puget Sound, and frequenting (pre-pandemic) their local eateries. Through it all, Ahi still finds spare time for other extracurricular activities and activism; including presiding over the Camp Ten Trees Board of Directors and participating as an owner/member of Rat City Roller Derby. 

    GSBA members and Capitol Hill community members can reach Ahi here.

  • 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 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.


    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.


    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.


    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. 


    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. 


    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.