The GSBA Blog

  • For Us, By Us - Keegan Samaniego on Reclaiming the Narrative: Transgender Day of Visibility

    by GSBA
    | Mar 28, 2019

    Keegan Samaniego became a GSBA Scholar the spring of 2017 just before they were set to graduate from Marysville Getchell High School. With an early start to college, Keegan achieved a General Associates of Arts and Sciences degree the same year from Everett Community College and then transferred to Portland’s Reed College, where they will receive a GSBA scholarship for every year they attend for up to four years, because of the GSBA Four-Year Guarantee.

    keegan_2019At Reed, Keegan studies music and social sciences, with a particular focus in music history and ethnomusicology (the study of the music across cultures), and is a member a newly formed all-trans punk band. Although the band is still unnamed, they write their own music about queer experiences and social action, play house-shows across Portland, and are keen on the name, “Make-Out with Your Friends.”

    “I really love writing, thinking, and talking about music and music theory,” said Keegan. “It’s a really cool thing to study. I really love the music department here.”

    Aside from their studies, Keegan is a heavily involved student activist. The second-year student has partaken in efforts to encourage Reed College to divest from fossil fuels and also volunteers for advocacy work regarding the prison industrial complex. Most recently, Keegan received a summer fellowship through Reed College, funding their work to collect and publish the stories of intersex people. Beginning early this June, Keegan will travel via train to major cities across the US and record oral histories from people who identify as intersex.

    “A lot of the narratives that exist out there are not controlled by intersex people. Intersex activism kind of came to a head in the 90’s, so it’s kind of recent that this has become a little more mainstream,” they said. “I just want to be a part of taking back that narrative. I don’t want non-intersex people to tell me about what it’s like to be intersex. I want to hear these things from intersex people. I want to be able to help [them] tell these stories in their own words.”keegan (5)

    For Keegan, who identifies as queer, non-binary, and intersex, visibility is wrapped up in privilege – the privilege of being in an environment where you are safe to be your full, authentic self.

    “Visibility is really hard and tied up with so much stigma and so many taboos. The fundamental core of who I am, is considered unacceptable in this society. Being able to be out and proud is something that I worked really hard to be able to do, and I still work on to this day – so there’s a lot of power in that. Because regardless of those taboos, I’m still here," they said.

    While non-binary identity still falls underneath a trans umbrella, being non-binary is different from other forms of trans-identity where someone might align more with male or female-identity, Keegan explains.

    keegan (4)“I have to do a certain amount of emotional labor with pretty much every person I meet. People will always try to place me into some kind of cisgender category,” they said. “When I tell people that I’m non-binary and that my gender isn’t reflected on any spectrum that people are used to, a lot of people just can’t compute it. [When I came out] there was a lot of teaching and patience with the people around me, because I had to explain to people that when they called me by a pronoun that wasn’t ‘they/them’ it was harming me.”

    Even though the stories and experiences of non-binary people are historically not as well-known as other trans narratives, Keegan finds empowerment in educating the wider LGBTQ community about non-binary identity and is unapologetically themselves.

    “I want people to understand that I’m not confused. I’m not making this up. It’s not a joke, it’s not a phase, it’s not something that’s going to change,” they said. “I’m real, I exist. I don’t really need someone to understand me to be valid. I will still continue to exist in the way I do regardless of how people want me to be.”

    After graduation, Keegan would like to continue making music, as well as their work of collecting histories of the intersex community, and slowly but surely, dismantling the gender-binary.

    “Number one, I think people can start noticing the things that they apply gender to,” they said. “I think people should recognize where in their life they use gender and where they even use their gender as a form of power.”056A8664

    GSBA community members can follow Keegan’s fellowship work by following The Intersex History Project on Facebook and Instagram, and can continue to support Keegan as well as their fellow future LGBTQ+ leaders by investing in the GSBA Scholarship Fund.

    Ingersoll Gender Center offers a “Trans 101” and general trans competency training for anyone who would like to better understand non-binary identity and trans experiences. Employers can also utilize Ingersoll’s workplace trainings as guidance for implementing inclusive practices.

    Including GSBA and Ingersoll Gender Center, eight local organizations have come together to form the Transgender Economic Empowerment Coalition (TEEC), a group working to survey and address systematic disparities among trans and gender-diverse people living and working in King County. The TEEC currently has two active surveys to help guide their scope of practice, including a survey for employers about trans-inclusive policies and a survey for trans and gender-diverse people living in King County about their experiences.
  • Cafe Flora's Nat Stratton-Clarke on Building an Inclusive Workplace: Transgender Day of Visibility

    by GSBA
    | Mar 22, 2019

    In September of 2008, Nat Stratton-Clarke had already been working as the Café Flora’s general manager for two years when he took over its ownership. A month into owning a restaurant for the first time, the economy shifted and he found himself fighting to keep the vibrant, daylight-filled Madison Valley hot-spot afloat.

    Over ten years later, Café Flora survived the recession and remains as one of the oldest vegetarian restaurants in the country. Celebrated for its locally-sourced menu, full bar, and bustling weekend brunch, the café is also the workplace of several employees who’ve remained on staff ever since Nat took over as owner.

    IMG_7828“For me, what we do here is about serving great food which happens to be vegetarian or vegan,” said Nat. “It’s such a great sign when a [non-vegetarian] person leaves and they loved everything they had, they’re full, and then they might end up being some of our biggest fans - because they’re like, ‘Wait a minute – I never knew I could eat a meal without meat that’s delicious, filling, looks beautiful, and tasted great.’ I would say, the majority of our guests are not vegetarian. They’re just people who love our food.”

    For 29 years, Café Flora has stocked its kitchen with produce from local, small organic farms and other small businesses. Currently, the café fills its menu by working with 18 different farms year-round. Its bar features craft beer and wines from across Washington and Oregon, as well as spirits from regional small-batch distilleries.

    Nat supported himself through college by peeling potatoes and washing dishes, but he had his eyes set on a legal career in social justice. As he got closer to applying to law school, he realized how a career in the kitchen could be equally as impactful, by connecting communities through food and leading by example.

    “One of the reasons why I do what I do is to not only help Café Flora, but to also talk to other restaurant owners and businesses about what it means to create a safe work environment for everyone to come to work and do their job, but also feel safe, and like they can bring their whole selves to work,” said Nat. 

    As an openly transgender man, Nat’s personal experiences have allowed him unique insight to build a safer and more affirming space for both his employees and customers. “As somebody who’s white and presents as male, I have a lot of privilege in that. I choose to share my story, but that doesn’t mean that other people have to. It’s not necessarily safe for everyone,” he said. “Because I employ myself, nobody can fire me for being trans. If somebody doesn’t want to eat here because I’m trans, fine. Then don’t. If you have a problem with one of my employees and their pronouns or gender-presentation, that’s okay. But I’m going to stand behind my staff 100 percent. I’m going to protect their ability to come to work as their authentic selves every day, because so many trans people don’t get that and don’t feel comfortable or safe at work.”

    Employees of Café Flora always have their pronouns listed next to their names on staff lists. The café’s employment application also has a section for prospective employees to list their preferred name next to their legal one, so new team-members are referred to by their authentic names starting on their first day on the job, and the cafe’s dress code is not 

    “As a business owner, it’s your job to create a supportive work environment for everyone. There’s a lot business owners can do to create (inclusive policies) so their employees who have marginalized identities don’t have to do that work of educating people,” said Nat.

    With having a diverse workplace, Nat also speaks with his managers about the personal questions employees might tend to ask each other about their identities, including gender. He empowers his managers to walk employees through sensitive questions employees might have, rather than leave it to coworkers to educate each other about their own identities, and in turn, feel obligated to divulge personal details.

    Nat chooses to be out because he believes being visible as a successful entrepreneur who’s trans, will not only help empower his employees who identify as transgender or gender-diverse, but open doors to conversations about the nuances of identity and privilege in business.

    “There a lot of little things that people often wouldn’t think of. Like applying for a business loan, it will pull your entire credit history and every name change you’ve ever had,” said Nat. “So I’ve been in a bank, looking for a loan, and somebody’s pulling up my credit history and saying, ‘This is so strange, do you have a sister?’ So I’m having to sit in a bank branch and come out to somebody, which has nothing to do with how I run business.”

    Even though Nat chooses to be out as trans, his expertise still lies within the service industry, not the nuances of gender-identity. “Sometimes, I’ll be in a conversation with someone about something totally food-related, and then they shift gears and want to talk about me being trans,” he said. “I’m only an expert on my personal experience – that’s all I can speak to. I’m not going to go around and do trans-sensitivity trainings. Some of the best trainings I’ve had have been led by people who aren’t trans and there are so many great trainings here in Seattle people can use.”

    Currently, Nat is focused on what he does best: food. With the changing season, he’s excited for a change-up in Café Flora’s menu. “Right now, it’s exciting to start to see nettles, fiddlehead ferns, asparagus, and rhubarb. I love a root vegetable just as much as the next person, but it’s nice to have that transition into spring,” he said. “We’re lucky to live in a region that has some of the best produce in the world.” 

    Ingersoll Gender Center offers a variety of comprehensive trainings employers can utilize to better understand trans and gender-diverse identity and how to implement inclusive practices. Including GSBA and Ingersoll Gender Center, eight local organizations have come together to form the Transgender Economic Empowerment Coalition (TEEC), a group working to survey and address systematic disparities among trans and gender-diverse people living and working in King County. The TEEC currently has two active surveys to help guide their scope of practice, including a survey for employers about trans-inclusive policies and a survey for trans and gender-diverse people living in King County about their experiences.

  • 2019 Legislative Update: Advancing Your Agenda

    by Matt Landers, Public Policy Manager
    | Mar 08, 2019

    It has been a busy winter for GSBA's advocacy team. The board, Policy Council, GSBA members, and staff have been working hard to advance our agenda at the local, state, and federal levels. We want to share with you the progress we are making, the victories we have already achieved, and the issues where your support can get us across the line.


    • Establishing the LGBTQ Commission - PASSED THE SENATE! GSBA has led the effort to create a recognized and official voice for our community in Olympia, and we were excited that the bill received a strong bipartisan vote in the Senate last week! As one of the few protected classes without a commission, LGBTQ people are left out of government programs, data gathering, and policymaking arenas. Please contact your Representatives and urge them to support HB 2065 / E2SSB 5356 as it moves to the House for consideration!
    • Supporting anti-bullying efforts for trans students - PASSED THE SENATE! Requires public schools to develop a policy and procedure that prohibits harassment, intimidation, and bullying, and a model policy for transgender students. This bill did not make it out of the Legislature last year, and we still need support to be heard by our Representatives. (SB 5689)
    • Strengthening hate crimes laws - PASSED THE HOUSE! Waiting for a floor vote in the Senate, this bill explicitly adds gender identity and expression, expands language on religious bias crimes, and officially re-names "malicious harassment" as "hate crimes". (HB 1732 / SB 5850)
    • Preventing salary history from being used to determine future salary - Waiting for a floor vote in the House, this would prevent past salary from being a determinant of salary in a future job, preventing a major cause of wage disparities for women and minority communities. (HB 1696)
    • Passing a small business bill of rights - GSBA testified in favor of this effort to protect small businesses out of committee. (HB 2093)
    • Banning gay- and trans-panic defenses - Prevent affirmative defenses based on the discovery, knowledge, or potential disclosure of a victim's gender, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation. Waiting for a floor vote in the House (HB 1687)
    • Supporting reproductive healthcare access for trans and nonbinary people and immigrants - PASSED THE SENATE! (SB 5602)
    • Modernizing laws around HIV/AIDS - (HB 1551)
    • Updating the Vital Statistics act to include our community - PASSED THE SENATE! (SB 5332)
    • Defending independent contractors - Several bills this session have threatened the existence of various forms of independent contractors. GSBA has defended the legitimacy of business owners who operate as independent contractors, while also supporting clarifications to regulation that help businesses properly classify their employees and contractors. (HB 1515, SB 5513, SB 5326)
    • Initiative 1000 - we are waiting for this initiative to the Legislature to be scheduled for a hearing. I-1000 would re-establish affirmative action in Washington State and work for greater diversity in public education, hiring, and contracting.
    • De-Escalate Washington / Initiative 940 - PASSED INTO LAW! The amendments to voter-approved I-940 were quickly approved by both chambers of the Legislature and have already been signed by the Governor!
    To learn more about each of these bill, click here and enter the bill number.
    To find your legislators and contact them about any of these issues, click here. GSBA urges you to be clear, respectful, and to thank legislators who support our issues.


    GSBA regularly signs on to amicus briefs in court cases involving our community. In the last two weeks GSBA has been proud to add our name to a pair of friend-of-the-court briefs:

    • Arlene's Flowers: GSBA joins several small businesses, corporations, and business associations in urging the Washington State Supreme Court not to carve out an exception to the Washington Law Against Discrimination that would allow an employee of a business to refuse service to someone based on their personal beliefs. Read the press release
      Thank you to GSBA members Amazon, Brooks Sports Inc, Elliott Bay Book Co, Expedia, Kaiser Permanente, Microsoft, Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, EDA of Skagit County, and the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce for joining us.
    • GSBA joined the ADL and numerous nonprofit organizations in a brief supporting the Dallas, OR school district’s policy permitting transgender students to access the restroom and locker rooms consistent with their gender identities. This policy was challenged by a group similar to those who led the I-1515 and I-1552 campaigns that we opposed a few years ago. GSBA strongly supports the right of all people to access the facilities that fit their identity.
    • Welcome Joey Chapman to the GSBA Family!

      by GSBA
      | Mar 01, 2019

      Earlier this year, GSBA welcomed Joey Chapman to the team as its Membership Development Manager. In his new role, Joey will help cultivate and grow GSBA’s membership across the Pacific Northwest, build community relationships, and strengthen the organization’s impact.

      joeyA longtime friend of the chamber, Joey served as a liaison to GSBA for over ten years through his previous positions with the 5th Avenue Theatre and Encore Media Group. Joey achieved his Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre Arts at Western Washington University and has remained involved in the arts ever since. While he has years of experience managing sales in the arts industry, he’s also overseen sales in travel and tourism, health, media, and sponsorship. From his history in these areas, Joey has built a fierce dedication to customer service and relationship building, and is especially excited to broaden GSBA’s reach through LGBTQ travel and hospitality.

      Joey grew up just north of Seattle in Mukilteo and now lives in Seattle with his husband of nearly 15 years. He’s been a stage performer for almost 30 years and frequently takes to the stage at his home theatre at Bainbridge Performing Arts, and is in the theatre’s upcoming production of Mamma Mia. He also serves on the board of GSBA member production company A Sensible Theatre Co., is a dedicated fan of GSBA members Sounders FC, and always sports his rainbow scarf at every match he attends.

    • Member Spotlight: Butler Seattle

      by GSBA
      | Mar 01, 2019

      Butler Seattle is a valet, transportation and event service founded in 1994 by two brothers, Jeremy and Stuart Butler. The Butler’s worked together as valets at an iconic Seattle seafood restaurant to pay their way through college. The restaurant was tired of managing the Valet portion of their business so Jeremy and Stuart decided to bid for the work and they won!  The Butler’s have a deep connection to Seattle, and to what makes the Pacific Northwest such a special place. The brothers were born and raised in the region and have a passion to share the best of the PNW with locals and visitors alike.

      After finishing their education, Jeremy and Stuart decided to grow their business to become an all-encompassing transportation, valet service for private events, event planning resources, and personalized Woodinville wine tours. The Butlers are dedicated to being the HUB for unforgettable experiences in the Pacific Northwest.

      wlzM6sb8Qv+qD+HODD9%AA_thumb_21c - Julie CampbellJulie Campbell, Sales Manager for Butler Seattle describes the approach of the Butler brothers. “They are passionate in building community to influence travel and tourism throughout the Pacific Northwest and tailor each customer’s experience to their own unique wants and needs”, say Campbell. She gives an example of a recent guest from Texas, where the Butler Seattle team approached it as “Southern Hospitality, in a Pacific Northwest style.”

      Butler Seattle became a GSBA member in 2012 after finding that the GSBA mission greatly aligned with their own, especially with their support of marriage equality. Butler Seattle has always been honored to be a part of couples’ special days, whether the couple is of the same gender or not. For Butler Seattle, ‘Equality is Good Business’ means being a company that their families, employees, and customers can be proud of. For them, it means doing their best to support everyone they meet and do business with. “We work to not just meet our guests expectations, but to always exceed them”, says Campbell.

      Butler Weddings is Butler’s vendor hub, which gathers the best of the region’s event planning resources all in one place. Weddings in Woodinville is our showcase wedding event More information about Butler’s transportation & Valet services can be found at

    • Meet Barry Faught: GSBA's 2018 Board Chair's Award Recipient

      by GSBA
      | Feb 22, 2019

      During last night’s program of Justice for All: 38th Annual Business & Humanitarian Awards Dinner, GSBA Member Barry Faught had no idea he was in for one of the evening's recognitions: the Board Chair’s Award, which recognizes an individual who serves the GSBA community behind the scenes.


      As Immediate Past Board Chair Drew Ness took to the stage and delivered his remarks about a nationally-recognized coffee aficionado who equipped the GSBA office with professional-grade brewing equipment, the shocked owner of Broadcast Coffee Roasters was met by tumultuous applause by the GSBA community and a standing ovation from his surprised staff.

      Hailing from Boise, Idaho, Barry fell in love with Seattle’s food scene during weekend-trips to the Pacific Northwest. After he relocated to Seattle, Barry opened Broadcast’s first location at Yesler Way and 20th Ave. in 2008. Today, Broadcast spans across the city at three different locations, including shops on Roosevelt Way and 65th Ave. and Jackson St. and 24th Ave., where the company roasts its signature coffee.

      “You come into our stores and they’re bright, because Seattle is so dark. We kind of wanted to give people an airy feeling of some lightness,” said Barry. “But also, our baristas are super nice. You can ask us questions, we’re not going to talk to you like, ‘Why don’t you know the difference between a mocha and a cappuccino?’ We’re going to be nice to you. We’re here to educate if you want to learn.”

      As a lifelong coffee-lover, it was chilly customer service experiences in coffeehouses from which Barry built Broadcast’s foundation of community and kindness.  

      “I would visit coffee shops and I didn’t know much about coffee at the time. So whenever I would ask questions about drinks, I would get met with resistance and some cold reactions,” said Barry. “It kind of made me feel really dumb. I just thought that there has to be a better way. There has to be a coffee company in Seattle that’s more customer-focused and serves really good coffee. I just couldn’t really find one.”

      So he made that coffee company himself, starting with making his own roasts and hiring great people.

      “When we hire people, we don’t look at all the skills they have at making drinks,” said Barry. “We look for the skills they have in providing good customer service. Because you can teach people how to make drinks, but you can't teach people how to be a people kind of person. That’s something that you just have.”

      IMG_6924 Of those drinks, Broadcast’s famous Sparkle Pony and Disco Pony have received national attention. This past fall, Buzzfeed’s food channel Tasty featured the Disco Pony - espresso with sparkling water, half-and-half, vanilla syrup, and lemon zest – in its feature, “Six Coffee Shops to Check Out the Next Time You’re In Seattle.”

      As his company has grown, so have Barry’s community contributions. Broadcast became a GSBA member in 2012, and Barry supports Lambda Legal, Pratt Fine Arts Center and the Odessa Brown Children's Clinic, among other nonprofits and community organizations.

      “I can go on and on about how awesome GSBA is. I’ve been introduced to so many business leaders in Seattle, and I’ve gotten coaching advice and was able to meet the bank that I bank with now, who’ve helped finance my expansion,” said Barry. “Plus (GSBA) gives me the opportunity to find out where else I could be doing good.”

      Thanks to Barry, meetings and workshops at the GSBA office always have freshly brewed Broadcast Coffee for attendees, as well as a large set of branded diner mugs.

      "Of course I want to give back to the community, but I just feel like it’s the right thing to do," said Barry. “That’s why I really got into this business. I love coffee, but I love working with people more. Coffee was the whole conduit of getting to work with everybody.”

      GSBA thanks Barry for his incredibly generous contributions to GSBA and his ongoing work across community organizations.

    • Meet Justice Mary Yu & Her Commitment to Justice For All

      by GSBA
      | Feb 21, 2019

      Growing up in Chicago’s Southside to immigrant parents, Justice Mary Yu could have never imagined her future would entail serving on the Washington State Supreme Court.

      Schenker_Yu_Mary_Justice_3final“Some kids might dream about it all their lives, but given how I grew up and where I grew up, that just wasn’t really within my vision,” said Justice Yu. “My parents were very simple, in terms of our life. They knew that education was important, but they never dreamed that their kids would go to college.”

      Justice Yu has excelled far beyond her childhood dreams, with a passion for advancing justice carrying her throughout a long and successful career in law. Justice Yu began her tenure in the Pacific Northwest as deputy chief of staff to King County Prosecuting Attorney Norm Maleng in 1999. A year later, then Governor Gary Locke appointed Justice Yu as a judge of the King County Superior Court. After 14 years of presiding over various civil, juvenile, and criminal cases, Justice Yu was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2014 by Governor Jay Inslee.

      Her appointment signaled a watershed moment as the first Latina, Asian, and LGBTQ-identified justice took her place on the court. She was then elected by the public in 2014, again in 2016, and remains just as strong of an advocate for justice as ever.

      “For me, the justice system is an avenue that ensures everyone has the opportunity to be heard – no matter how small or how large the issue is. Our system guarantees everyone due process, equal protection, and the right to be heard,” said Justice Yu. “So when I look at what system or institution in our society has the best opportunity to ensure justice for all, it’s the court system. It’s the only place that can treat individuals as individuals and (can) secure rights which belong to each one of us.”

      When she’s not hearing cases, Justice Yu serves as a co-chair on the Supreme Court’s Minority and Justice Commission, is the chair of the Board for Judicial Administration’s Public Trust and Confidence Committee, and also teaches at Seattle University School of Law.

      However, one of Justice Yu’s most well-known roles has been as the officiant of one of the first same-sex marriages in Washington after the passage of Referendum 74 in 2012.

      “Presiding over the first same-sex marriage was probably one of the most magical moments in my whole career,” said Justice Yu. “It’s sort of a double-edged sword, because I’m not persuaded that civil rights ought to be put up for a vote. But the fact is, the people of Washington decided to recognize that we did have the right to marry the person that we loved. My staff came to me and said, ‘Look judge, this is the day that the law is effective and why should people have to wait one more minute? Let’s do the first marriage at midnight, and then we’ll finish at 12:01?’ The more that we thought about it, the more we thought, ‘Let’s just keep going. Let’s just do it at 12:00 and just keep going until the next morning,’ which is what we did. It was extraordinary to witness people coming together and finally be able to profess their love for one another, and to have the state recognize it.”

      justice mary yu

      While marriage equality is now law across the United States, Justice Yu encourages all Washington state residents to remain aware of potential threats to civil rights.

      “I think that no matter what, we need to be vigilant,” said Justice Yu. “I think we’ve got to pay attention, especially in the areas of housing and healthcare. I worry very much that there’s still a license to discriminate against members of our community. So I would say that people need to be engaged in a civic manner, politically, and (also) to be visible at every point. I know that visibility sometimes invites bullying, and yet at the same time, what I would like everybody to do is to make sure that we’re visible and that people know that we’re present, we care, and this matters.”

      Join us tonight as we give special recognition for Justice Yu’s commitment to justice and equality during Justice For All: 38th Annual Business & Humanitarian Awards Dinner at the Seattle Waterfront Marriott:

    • Meet Stephen Black: GSBA Corporate Leader of the Year

      by GSBA
      | Feb 20, 2019

      When Stephen Black first came into his position with Washington’s largest credit union, BECU, he found himself searching for ways for the member-owned organization to build bridges across the communities of the Pacific Northwest.

      Schenker_Black_Stephen 001_final“It was uncommon at that time to get involved with LGBTQ community organizations and pride parades – no one had ever considered that,” said Stephen. “But I felt completely at ease representing our gay and lesbian members, and putting ourselves front and center at the pride parade. I can’t tell you the level of support we received (from doing that). It went all the way to the top from the board (at BECU) to people who called us up in tears, saying ‘my son saw your billboard and said that was the first time he felt represented there.’”

      Stephen, GSBA’s Corporate Leader of the Year, began his career at BECU in 2006. Ever since, the credit union’s membership growth and asset size have increased by 300 percent, with a current membership of over 1.1 million members. In his role as Vice President of Marketing, Stephen is the “head ambassador” for the BECU brand.

      “It’s my responsibility to communicate what BECU is, what we stand for, and to really educate the public as to the differences (in services) we offer and how we’re able to fulfill the needs they have,” said Stephen. “We also educate people about financial health, as well as spread our roots through the community, and find opportunities to fulfill our mission there. BECU is a member-owned not-for-profit cooperative. It’s a lot of words, but what it means is that the members of BECU are a collective of owners. They are the top consideration for every decision that we make. So when you see us out in the community getting involved, it’s really for the benefit of our members to celebrate them.”

      As part of his position, Stephen coordinates the credit union’s June celebrations of Pride, including event sponsorships, campaigns, swag, and the company’s parade presence. This past June, BECU passed out free crimson capes emblazoned with the slogan “Free to Be” to Seattle PrideFest attendees. With BECU now having a presence at Seattle Pride for a decade, Stephen has helped steer the credit union to make a regional impact at Pride celebrations across the state including Tacoma, Burien, and Spokane.

      Stephen remembers when he first arrived in Seattle in the late 1990’s and coming across the GSBA Guide & Directory for the first time.

      “Finding that guide book when I was a young person on Capitol Hill, seeing the businesses who were either a part of or supportive of the community was a big deal,” he said. “I still have the same dentist, I still use a lot of the same businesses.”

      IMG_7489While Stephen has worked with GSBA several times over the years, he also contributes to other nonprofits in the area such as Three Dollar Bill Cinema and Human Rights Campaign Seattle, and served as a board member for Lifelong AIDS Alliance for several years. But what makes him most excited about his current community involvement projects, is seeing young members of BECU’s staff take up the “Pride parade mantle” and turn out for the credit union’s Pride events.

      “I’ve sort of been the catalyst to get that started, but I know that once I leave, I’m going to leave BECU in amazing hands to propel us into the future,” he said. “It’s super gratifying and that’s what I feel is most special about winning this award.”

      Join us in honoring Stephen during Justice For All: 38th Annual Business & Humanitarian Awards Dinner on Thursday, Feb 21 at the Seattle Waterfront Marriott:

    • GSBA Reflects on Black History Month

      by Louise Chernin
      | Feb 18, 2019

      It’s Black History Month: how are you using this time to honor black lives?
      Facing discrimination and being invisible in history books is not new to black and LGBTQ people. To address the egregious omission of our histories, marginalized communities have collectively demonstrated, gone on strike, been arrested and incarcerated, and lost lives. We've changed laws, created organizations, and advocated for a more inclusive educational system. We have used our own personal resources by making intentional decisions on how and where we spend our money and time.
      Let’s continue this movement of righting history during Black History Month by learning about the intersections of identity, supporting our local black and African-American owned businesses, and hearing the truths of black LGBTQ experiences which have been historically persecuted and silenced, and still are to this day. Take time to be intentional not only where you spend your money, but where you get your news, where you donate your time, and which organizations you will make a gift to - not only during February, but every month, all year.
      GSBA members can check-out this list of black-owned businesses in Seattle put together by GSBA fellow member, Intentionalist. To learn more about the incredible, often unacknowledged, contributions and history of our local black community, enjoy a visit to our Northwest African American Museum.
      A month is just a start. A lifetime commitment is what we need to address racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, ableism, ageism and xenophobia faced by marginalized communities who have been silenced through invisibility, bias, and discrimination. Let’s celebrate Black History Month by taking personal responsibility to seek out truth, honor black lives, listen and act in solidarity, and make a difference.
      For Equality,
      Louise Chernin
      President & CEO

    • Meet Monisha Harrell: GSBA Community Leader of the Year

      by GSBA
      | Feb 18, 2019

      Monisha Harrell never set out to be an activist. She registered to vote on her eighteenth birthday, fulfilling her own personal obligation for civic duty. But as Washington State’s fight for marriage equality drew to a close in 2012 with the success of Referendum 74, Monisha saw a unique need in the community – a need to maintain the fight for LGBTQ rights after a long and hard-fought battle for marriage was won.

      Schenker_Harrell_Monisha_Final“My interest wasn’t actually in the marriage campaign, it was what comes after marriage,” said Monisha, GSBA’s 2018 Community Leader of the Year. “There’s always something that we can do to improve the world we live in. That’s how I really got involved. It wasn’t a set mission, I just knew that there were places where I could support and I could help.”

      Since 2012, Monisha has served on the Board of Directors at Equal Rights Washington (ERW) and now serves as the organization’s Board Chair, spearheading advocacy work on issues like trans healthcare, anti-bullying programs in schools, and various campaigns tearing down anti-LGBTQ practices and replacing them with inclusive policies.

      “Post-marriage equality, a lot of people thought that Equal Rights Washington didn’t have any work left to do. But the reality of it is that marriage is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Monisha. “Marriage was the thing that got us to the table to be able to talk about the other issues that are really important. There’s a lot of work left to do… Every year, the board gets together and we talk about our priorities for that upcoming year. The list is always longer than the (amount of) resources we have to do them with, so we have to prioritize, and we know the most important thing for our community is to get ‘wins.’ We make sure that every single year we are advancing the rights of LGBTQ people across Washington State."

      During Washington State’s 2018 legislative session, Monisha’s work with ERW helped ban conversion therapy for minors and pass the Uniform Parentage Act. Both pieces of legislation were also supported by GSBA.

      Yet while Washington’s progressive momentum continues, the peeling-back of human rights protections by the current administration has made Monisha’s work even more critical.

      “The current federal administration has been a tremendous speed bump for LGBTQ rights across the country. But what we know for Washington State is that there are a number of LGBTQ people who moved here specifically for the rights that we have,” said Monisha. “So what we don’t want, is we don’t want the community to feel like they don’t have a home. Washington is our home. We will protect it with everything we have. So what that means is that first we play good defense, and second, we play really good offense.”

      In 2019, Equal Rights Washington’s offense is its work to ban legal gay and trans-panic defenses across Washington, a campaign also supported by GSBA. 

      “That should not be an affirmative defense for harming somebody and causing violence to our community,” said Monisha. “There’s so much work to do, and we’re not going to let this current administration stop us from doing it.”

      Join us in honoring Monisha during Justice For All: 38th Annual Business & Humanitarian Awards Dinner on Thursday, Feb 21 at the Seattle Waterfront Marriott:

    • Meet InterChange Media Art Productions: GSBA's Green/Sustainable Business of the Year

      by GSBA
      | Feb 14, 2019

      In 2010, Jenny Ting approached Michele Gomes with an idea to launch a video production company. Working fulltime at her corporate job, Michele was wary about investing so much time into the project.

      Schenker_Interchange Media_Final“I thought, if it’s not meaningful, it’s not worth it,” said Michele. “I’m not going to waste my time and my life working for anyone else or any other thing if it’s not meaningful and if it’s not helping other people.”

      With those guiding principles locked into place, Jenny and Michele then set out on building GSBA’s 2018 Green/Sustainable Business of the Year, a video production company built around highlighting critical environmental and social issues. But first, they had to come up with a name for their company.

      “Jenny used to be a transportation engineer. She is the only person I know when driving down a highway and passing exits, instead of saying, ‘Let’s get off at this exit,’ she’ll say, ‘Let’s get off at this interchange,’” said Michele. “I thought, ‘That has an interesting ring to it. That has a lot of energy, I like the sound of that. Well, let’s merge our paths.’ She was an engineer, and I had worked in the arts industry, so we called it InterChange Media Art Productions.”

      Over the past eight years, Jenny and Michele’s work has seen them travel across the country providing pre-production, production, and post-production editing services for everything from the National Geographic Channel, or the Liberian Medical Association USA, to the City of Tacoma, or the Pacific Science Center.

      “Our clients range from everyone from the nonprofit world, to television shows, to those in the legal field, and in construction as well,” said Jenny. “We’ve worked with the Brainerd Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, the Washington State Bar Association, the Legal Foundation of Washington, and the Greater Seattle Business Association. Our videos have helped raise over $4 million (for nonprofits) since 2011.”

      While Michele and Jenny’s involvement with GSBA dates back to InterChange’s first year in business, they’ve worked closely with the GSBA Scholarship Fund for the last five years, telling the stories of our scholars through feature videos. 056A8573

      “Just the other day we were walking down Broadway and we ran into one of the scholars,” said Michele. “We’re grateful to be able to witness the generosity in the community. It’s a model organization and we’re really very happy to be a part of it.”

      Through GSBA, InterChange became members of the NGLCC which has connected them with several of their largest clients.

      “Because the mission of our company is to focus on life-sustaining values, we have focused on working with organizations who are trying to do good,” said Jenny. “There’s a lot of divisiveness right now in the world we live in and in our country. But because of the work we’ve done, we realize there are people in our communities and country who are doing the best they can. They see a problem, and they bring their communities together and solve the problems of today. So we actually have a lot of hope for the future that things will get better.”

      An overarching theme across InterChange’s body of work is their focus on environmental topics and sustainability. Aside from their creative endeavors, Jenny and Michele’s offices are located in the Bullitt Center on Madison St., the greenest commercial building in the world.

      “We do what we can on our part to be as carbon-free as possible. We work with conservation organizations which focus on conserving land or endangered species… Coming from the east coast originally, moving to the Pacific Northwest was so amazing to see that ‘sustainability’ is an everyday word here,” said Michele. “In other places where we’ve travelled for film festivals and such, it’s not really the case. It’s very exciting that there’s so much initiative that’s being taken here.”

      Join us in honoring InterChange Media Art Productions during Justice for All: 38th Annual Business & Humanitarian Awards Dinner on Thursday, February 21 at Seattle Marriott Waterfront:
    • Meet Justice Bobbe Bridge & Her Lifetime of Achievements

      by GSBA
      | Feb 13, 2019

      Justice Bobbe Bridge (Ret.) has not only spent a career in and out of courtrooms advocating for children and youth, but she’s spent a lifetime listening and learning from young people.

      IMG_7024“I think what it comes down to, is just the sheer rage in me about the way we as a public and we as individuals treat children,” said Bridge. “They are probably one of the last vestiges of people being treated as property. They are not listened to and not respected. In family law, it comes out most clearly as an attitude that children are to be seen and not heard, and that they are to be bargained for in the context of a divorce. I think it’s outrageous.”  

      Before she built Center for Children & Youth Justice (CCYJ), Justice Bridge worked in as an attorney at a private practice for fourteen years before entering public service. She served as King County Juvenile Court’s Chief Judge from 1994 to 1997 and eventually was appointed to the Washington State Supreme Court in 1999 by Governor Gary Locke, where she served before resigning her judgeship in 2007. Throughout Justice Bridge’s long and storied career in law, she’s consistently volunteered her time to youth welfare and justice programs.

      “My father-in-law really summed it all up the most,” reflected Bridge. “He’s been one of my strongest mentors and he holds a blessed memory, he just died last year. He referred to public service, community service, and volunteer activity as the rent we pay for the space that we occupy on earth. I really believe that.”

      In 2006, Bridge founded the Center for Children & Youth Justice, a one-of-a-kind agency which advocates for greater systems reform to benefit young people across Washington State by working directly between children and youth, the juvenile justice system, and child welfare programs.

      “In our work at CCYJ, in every project that we do, we listen to the voices of children and youth,” said Bridge. “Granted that we believe that sometimes that voice might need guidance… We know that from adolescent brain development, they tend to be impetuous and impulsive. But that doesn’t mean they need to be ignored. We need to respect those voices and learn from them.”

      CCYJ takes a pioneering approach to pilot new projects which analyze research on childhood development, canvas feedback from young people in those systems, and then develop collaborative solutions.

      “We spend billions of tax-payer dollars every year and loads of private money from foundations and individuals in order to provide good service for these kids who come to these systems because they have been abused, neglected, or otherwise gone astray. But mostly, they come to these places because they have been failed by the adults in their lives in one sense or form,” said Bridge. “They need assistance and (our government) has erected systems in order to do that. But they’re failing miserably. We bring people together in a collaborative and respectful form. Together, we can make a more powerful impact in a young person’s life.”

      It’s through these collaborative projects and work with at-risk youth, that CCYJ observed the gross over-representation of LGBTQ-identified youth within these systems and homeless populations. With this information, CCYJ launched the eQuality Project in 2013, the first statewide effort to address these disparities. The multi-phase project is designed to provide professionals who work with LGBTQ youth the knowledge and tools to address their unique needs and implement lasting change across government systems, forging pathways to a healthy adulthood.

      “We started out by listening to the voices of LGBTQ youth who had experiences in one or both of the systems, and most of them had some experience of being homeless too” said Bridge. “We’ve launched data collections and trainings in both Spokane and King County. We’re trying to bring it to three other counties, hopefully, within this next coming year.”

      As her career and personal impact now spans decades, Justice Bridge has come out of retirement twice to continue her work fighting for children and youth. She is now retiring for the third time and thinks, “The third time’s the charm.”

      GSBA solutes Justice Bridge for her tireless commitment to Washington State’s at-risk youth and being a champion for young LBGTQ people.

      Join us in honoring Justice Bridge’s lifetime of achievements during Justice for All: 38th Annual Business & Humanitarian Awards Dinner on Thursday, February 21 at Seattle Marriott Waterfront:

    • Meet Kate Beck: GSBA's Business Leader of the Year

      by GSBA
      | Feb 08, 2019

      Even before she relocated from the Midwest to Seattle in 2003, Kate Beck decided to become a member of GSBA.

      Schenker_Beck_Kate 012Final“A friend of mine in Kansas City was like, ‘If you’re moving to Seattle, the first thing you need to do is join GSBA.’ So I took her word for it, immediately joined, and became a volunteer,” said Kate.

      “I picked my real estate agent, my home insurance, my healthcare - I picked everybody out of the (GSBA) guide. I was so excited to be in a gay community, moving from the Midwest where there wasn’t that kind of community available with professionals who were out.”

      Fifteen years later, Kate has become not only a familiar face at GSBA functions across the city, but a pillar of her community as GSBA’s 2018 Business Leader of the Year. While she served on the GSBA Board of Directors from 2004 to 2008, Kate expanded her network as a home mortgage consultant through connections she built with other chamber members. Now at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage in Northgate, Kate leads a team of loan processors and underwriters, and a full-time assistant as they guide future home-owners through the many intricacies of buying a house.

      “I make myself available evenings and weekends because that’s when real estate happens,” said Beck. “I follow my clients all the way through to the finish line and make sure they know what’s going on, because buying a house is such a stressful time in a person’s life, and they need someone there to shepherd them, and be warm and available throughout the process. Even after closing, it’s nice to have someone to follow up with as well.”

      IMG_6998Besides her work with GSBA, Kate also volunteers across King and Snohomish Counties with Mary’s Place, Cacoon House, Ronald Commons, and the YMCA. It’s through these organizations where she not only finds fulfilment in helping communities thrive, but meets people where she can help secure their own homes.

      “The more people I meet, the more people I’m able to help. So I’m able to combine my philanthropy as a way to network,” she said. “I’m a true believer in ‘win-win.’ I truly want the best for my clients, their (real estate) agents, and the company that I work for. I will work so hard to advocate for people. I’m a problem solver. I want the end result to be the best for everybody.”

      As a longtime member of GSBA, Kate finds herself emotional when she contemplates the impact of being honored at Justice for All: 38th Annual Business & Humanitarian Awards Dinner.

      “I grew up in the Midwest and my formative years were during the seventies and early eighties. I was very much in the closet,” she said. “Being able to be in a big city and be honored by my peers is just so impactful. It’s so healing (considering) all I went through in my childhood and teens. It’s a little overwhelming, in a good way.”

      Join us in honoring Kate during Justice For All: 38th Annual Business & Humanitarian Awards Dinner on Thursday, Feb 21 at Seattle Marriott Waterfront:

    • Meet Aluel Cellars: GSBA's New Business of the Year

      by GSBA
      | Feb 06, 2019

      Nearly ten years ago, Alex Oh arrived at Golden Gardens Park with a bottle Entre-deux-Mers to see that his future life and business partner Samuel Hilbert had also brought a bottle of rare wine to their first date. 

      IMG_6584“We really bonded over wine,” said Alex. “Ever since then, wine has been in our lives. It’s a joint passion for both of us. It’s something that we love deeply and want to share with the rest of the world.”

      In 2012, Alex and Samuel forged their names together to lay the groundwork for GSBA’s 2018 New Business of the Year, Aluel Cellars, with “Al” standing for Alex and “-uel” for Samuel. That same year, they produced their first vintage and began the process of creating their signature line of wines. Four years later, the couple opened their tasting room nestled on Thomas St. in the bustling core of Capitol Hill, and began selling bottles to the public.

      While Samuel and Alex pour and sell in one of the most modern neighborhoods in the city, Aluel’s wines thrive on an old-world approach to winemaking, incorporating fruits made from some of the finest vineyards in the state.

      “When a lot of people think about winetasting, they think about going out to wine country,” said Samuel. “But we wanted to bring our wines to one of the most urban, hip locations in the city where it’s very accessible to the everyday person.”

      Even before opening their tasting room in December of 2016, Samuel and Alex became GSBA members and have been heavily involved with the community since, partnering with GSBA to provide wine at events such as EQUALUX: Taste of GSBA.

      “GSBA represents to us a community of like-minded individuals who believe in equality and diversity, and that (those things) are good for business,” said Alex. “Equality is really important to Aluel because it means that we can bring our whole, authentic selves into everything that we do." 

      Samuel points towards a lack of diversity within the wine industry as an opportunity for Aluel to champion representation not only as an LGBTQ-owned business, but as one co-owned by one of the Pacific Northwest’s only Asian-American winemakers. 

      “As a minority-owned winery, we really think it’s important for us to be out in front and to pave the way for the many other LGBTQ winemakers that come after us. We want to share that with our community,” said Alex.

      Join us in honoring Aluel Cellars during Justice For All: 38th Annual Business & Humanitarian Awards Dinner on Thursday, Feb 21 at Seattle Marriott Waterfront:

    • How to Prepare in Case of Another Government Shutdown

      by by Caron Beesley,
      | Jan 31, 2019

      With the federal government having reopened on Jan 25 following the longest government shutdown in US history, yet another government shutdown still looms for mid-February if Congress and the Trump Administration fail to reach an agreement about border security. Whether you're a federal employee or a small business, there are ways you can prepare for how another shutdown might impact you.

      Originally published on, an online small business loan and finance company.

      When the federal government shuts down, even far outside Washington, D.C., small business suffers. Government contractors lose money (nearly 25% of whom are small businesses), the SBA stops processing loans, tourism takes a hit (national parks and monuments close), and more.

      Unlike federal employees who receive back pay when they return to work, America’s small business owners are on their own when it comes to recovering costs, accessing much-needed financing, and in many cases, re-building their businesses.

      In this article, the second in a two-part series on government shutdowns and their effect on small business (catch up on part one here), we take a look at how business owners can prepare for a potential shutdown and mitigate the impact.

      Here’s what you need to know to prepare for and mitigate the impact of government shutdowns on your business.

      If You’re a Government Contractor

      Contractors who depend on federal government business are perhaps the hardest hit by shutdowns. But there are some steps they can take to prepare and recover once Uncle Sam gets back to work. Below are a few questions to ask and best practices to pursue:

      • Can you continue to work on a contract?
        If you’re working on a government contract, find out how any imminent shutdown may affect the job. Will a “stop work” order be issued by the agency? If so, all work must cease. Whatever happens, do not stop working until you receive an explicit notification to stop work from the agency.
      • Get organized, fast
        Even if a stop work order isn’t issued, contractors face another challenge – access to resources. A shutdown means that agency personnel are furloughed, facilities are closed, and access to data is denied, making any continuation of work impossible. Try to prepare for this eventuality by getting as much information about the project as you can before government employees are furloughed. This is also the time to chase and resolve any unpaid bills.
      • Request a contract extension
        In the event of a shutdown, you may be entitled to an excusable delay which extends the contract until the work is performed, if one isn’t forthcoming, press for one.
      • Getting paid
        The next big question is whether you’ll get paid. There’s no clear answer here. It all depends on the type of contract (fixed price or cost reimbursement), what type of work is being performed, and where the money’s coming from. If you’ve received a stop work order, refer to your contract. Is there an option to recover any lost costs for fixed-price contracts or those that have already been funded? Get in touch with your procurement contracting officer to find out what’s involved. If you struggle financially during a shutdown, consider invoice financing. Fundbox lets you draw funds based on your outstanding accounts receivables, register in seconds and get access to cash as early as the next business day.
      • Consult with a lawyer
        Since the threat of shutdowns seems to have become a part of contracting life, it’s a good idea to consult with legal counsel who specializes in federal procurement law to understand your rights.
      • Keep a paper trail
        Whatever happens, keep stringent records of costs incurred because of the shutdown and document all communications you’ve had with the government so you can support any case you make to recover costs.

      If You’re Applying for an SBA Loan

      The SBA closes its doors completely during a shutdown, delaying the processing of hundreds if not thousands of SBA loan applications. Shutdowns are unpredictable: they may last days or weeks.

      You might not have that long to wait. If you need financing faster, consider alternative options like Fundbox. We offer financing without the lengthy wait, paperwork, and look beyond your credit score to help you get funding decisions. Check outFundbox Credit™, and see for yourself.

      If You’re in the Tourism Business

      Shutdowns can have a devastating effect on tourism, particularly for small businesses located in or near national parks and monuments.

      If you own a business that relies on tourist, what are your options during a shutdown?

      Before a shutdown, think about how you can appeal to customers to keep their travel plans. Hotels and B&Bs can offer “shutdown specials” during a closure and “back in business” incentives post-shutdown. Others may be able to diversify or suggest other sightseeing alternatives that don’t involve affected parks.

      Make a point of communicating regularly with your customers. Let them know how, and if, the shutdown will affect your business, what you’re offering instead, and give them a reason to come back when it’s all over.

      Keep an eye on yourcash flow forecast, and be prepared to mitigate any potential impacts.

      If Military Personnel are Your Customers

      Is your business close to a military base or located within a base? If DoD employees are furloughed, this could have a knock-on effect on the money they spend with your business. Show that you are with them, offer promotions or other incentives to drive foot traffic. Many bases don’t let you advertise on-site, so you need to rely on word-of-mouth.

      Depending on your business, and if it makes financial sense, you might also consider offering services for free or at a discount during the shutdown, then recoup it later when retroactive pay kicks in.

      If You’re Hiring

      E-Verify, the federal government’s employment eligibility verification system stops working during a shutdown. Even if the system is down, employers must still complete Form I-9 for all new hires. However, you won’t be able to create a case in the E-Verify system (which you’re required to do within three days of the employee starting work).

      During recent shutdowns, USCIS suspended this three-day rule, but employers are required to submit I-9s once the system comes back online.

      Keep good records of new hires made during a shutdown and find out what the time frame is to enter and create cases in the system once the shutdown ends.

    • GSBA lobbies for statewide LGBTQ Commission

      by Matt Landers, Public Policy Manager
      | Jan 30, 2019
      After five years of advocacy, GSBA’s work on creating Washington State’s first LGBTQ Commission may soon become a reality. Working with newly elected Senator Claire Wilson (District 30, Federal Way) and GSBA Lobbyist Susie Tracy, Washington is poised to establish a LGBTQ commission this year. 

      Closely modeled after the Washington State Women’s Commission established in 2018, the LGBTQ Commission would consist of 15 members appointed by the Governor for 3-year terms. Importantly it would have a paid executive director to help administer and coordinate the commission.

      Like the minority and women’s commissions, the LGBTQ commission would be charged with several roles around state governance:

      • Monitor legislation affecting LGBTQ people
      • Work with state agencies to assess programs and policies affecting LGBTQ people, and consult with them on the effectiveness of policies and rules on the particular issues facing LGBTQ people
      • Review best practices for anti-discrimination and harassment policies and training, and provide recommendation to state agencies
      • Work to eliminate barriers for LGBTQ people in all areas of state governance
      • Hold public hearings to gather input from the community

      Additionally, the bill establishing the commission would also formally recognize June as LGBTQ Pride Month, with the fourth week of the month (the traditional time for most Pride celebrations across the country) being especially designated “a time for people of this state to celebrate the contributions to the state by LGBTQ people in the arts, sciences, commerce, and education”.

      GSBA, working together with community partners, is excited that the LGBTQ community, with passage of SB 5356, will finally be provided similar opportunities and benefits enjoyed by other protected classes, all of which have statewide commissions. Without a statewide commission, the LGBTQ community has been excluded from many economic opportunities offered to other protected classes, including the most basic benefit of ensuring our community is identified and counted in disparity studies, which is absolutely essential for receiving state funding. When you are not counted, you are invisible and often excluded from having a seat at the table. For example, without a LGBTQ Commission, our community does not have a seat on the Minority Business Roundtable nor is LGBTBE certification recognized, resulting in fewer opportunities for our small businesses to be able to compete for government contracts. A Commission does not fix everything, but it is important if we are to break down the economic barriers still faced by our community, most especially our trans and LGBTQ communities of color.

      We urge you to contact your legislators and ask them to support SB 5356 and the creation of a Washington State LGBTQ Commssion.

    • Meet Northwest Immigrant Rights Project: GSBA's Nonprofit of the Year

      by GSBA
      | Jan 28, 2019

      In the midst of a turbulent political climate where immigration rights have become a divisive hot-button issue, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project Executive Director Jorge Barón chooses to take the high road.

      Schenker_Baron_Jorge 008Final“We try to focus on the things we can change, like getting people released from detention and helping people who are navigating this crazy system,” said Barón. “Then we try to focus on those victories, because we could go nuts otherwise.”

      GSBA’s Nonprofit of the Year, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP), provides immigration legal services to low-income people across Washington State. Barón and his team work out of their bustling Pioneer Square office, providing direct legal services to individuals navigating naturalization, asylum, deportation, or other aspects of the US immigration system.

      “We also do a lot of work with survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and other crimes. Other aspects of our work involves systemic advocacy, (such as) impact litigation where we’re challenging unjust policies that are affecting immigrants and refugees,” said Barón. “We also engage in community education, which involves trying to inform both immigrant community members, as well as the broader community about the realities of immigration law.”

      Barón first found himself with NWIRP in 2006 as a staff attorney. Two years later, he became the organization’s executive director, and has steered the organization ever since. At 13, Barón emigrated from Colombia, and it was his experiences as an immigrant which sparked his commitment to human rights.

      “While I had a much easier path in the immigration system because I came with more resources than most of our clients have, I still remember starting eighth grade and I didn’t speak English,” said Barón.  “It was the first time that I felt a sense of being ‘the other.’ Over the years I’ve started to recognize how painful that rejection and treatment was. That inspired me to work on human rights issues, and immigrant rights is just a part of that.”

      NWIRP sees many cases which share intersectionalities within the LGBTQ community, and often involve LGBTQ individuals who’ve experience persecution seeking asylum in the US, said Barón.

      “We had a client who fled Pakistan because of attacks he suffered just because he happened to be gay. He had to leave his country because he didn’t feel safe there and he had actually been severely beaten because of his identity,” said Barón. “He came to the United States and tried to seek asylum… and he just so happened to be transferred to the Northwest Detention Center where he was going to have to make his claim before an immigration judge. But there’s no right to an appointed attorney for someone who doesn’t have the resources. So he was going to have to present his case on his own with no English experience while trying to navigate our complex system, in particular, the asylum statutes. So thanks to the community support here locally, we were able to take on his case and represent him. I’m pleased to say that he was released from detention and ultimately granted asylum.”

      Barón said the man, who happens to be an artist, is now living and working in Seattle, having been welcomed into the local arts and LGBTQ communities. When it comes to how the current political climate impacts his work however, Barón said that while policy changes have made this more difficult, an increase in community engagement has helped NWIRP gain momentum.

      “I think the past two years have been pretty interesting. Because on the one hand, we’re having to deal with these really negative situations where a lot of our clients are very afraid of what’s coming and the uncertainty of what’s going to happen to them,” said Baron. “But on the flip side of that, there’s also been a tremendous positive reaction from the community. I think the moment we saw that crystallize was with the ‘Muslim ban’ right at the beginning of the administration when people went to the airport (to protest). Despite the fear and the rhetoric of the administration, and their own personal risk, people have spoken out against this and been incredibly brave in fighting against the administration’s policies. So that gives me hope.”

      Join us in honoring Northwest Immigrant Rights Project during Justice For All: 38th Annual Business & Humanitarian Awards Dinner on Thursday, Feb 21 at Seattle Marriott Waterfront:

      Photo by Meryl Schenker

    • Meet TomboyX: GSBA's 2018 Business of the Year

      by GSBA
      | Jan 23, 2019

      IMG_6624GSBA’s Business of the Year, TomboyX, is far more than just a company that makes underwear. Now surpassing its sixth year as a business, the fashion innovators make “the most comfortable gender-neutral underwear, swimwear, loungewear, and activewear on the market,” according to Co-Founder and Chief Operations Officer Naomi Gonzalez. Gonzalez and her wife, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Fran Dunaway, first launched TomboyX after Dunaway struggled to find a masculine-styled shirt fit for a feminine physique.

      “I wanted a beautiful button-up shirt like a Robert Graham or a Ben Sherman, but made for a woman’s body,” said Dunaway. “We chose the name TomboyX because we just thought it was a cute name. But about a week into our Kickstarter campaign, we realized the name was resonating in a such a big way that we had an instant brand. We started doing some research to try to start building a brand, and we needed a ‘hero’ product. So Naomi said, ‘Hey, there’s a lot of customers looking for boxer-briefs. So off we went.”

      IMG_6622-2As the company’s growth has ballooned over the past six years, taking in $5.4 million of revenue in 2017, its tenants of body-positivity and empowerment have remained steady. This philosophy and annual revenue have landed TomboyX on the Puget Sound Business Journal list of Largest LGBTQ-Owned Companies, since 2015, coming in at number 10 in 2018.

      “We stepped into a wide space that no one in the fashion industry has been addressing. We have a very loud and vocal community that we feel personally responsible to and for. As members of the LGBTQ community, we know what it’s like to have been outsiders or have not been in the mainstream... So when we say we have a human agenda, that’s about being unapologetically ‘you’ all day, every day, and feeling comfortable in your own skin,” said Dunaway.

      Nestled into their new headquarters above Krispy Kreme in SODO, Dunaway and Gonzalez built out an open-office workspace for their 25 employees, including quality assurance staff, customer service representatives, a marketing team, and more. Dunaway and Gonzalez expect to grow the team by at least ten more staff-members in 2019.

      “GSBA has been a great supporter of TomboyX from the beginning,” said Dunaway. “(Through GSBA) we’ve not only found people to be vendors for us and help with our bookkeeping, but we’ve also done a lot of networking. GSBA has been a great home for us.”

      Join us in honoring TomboyX during Justice For All: 38th Annual Business & Humanitarian Awards Dinner on Thursday, Feb 21 at Seattle Marriott Waterfront:

    • GSBA Condemns Reinstatement of Transgender Military Ban

      by GSBA
      | Jan 22, 2019
      Discrimination, bias, harassment and hate against people for who they are is wrong. Today, the US Supreme Court was wrong in continuing to block the participation in our military by transgender Americans. This harms not only our transgender and gender-diverse community, but makes America complicit in perpetuating hate and fear as a result of this decision. When we marginalize and deny full equality under the law to anyone, we all lose. The principles which guide our judicial decision-making are clearly broken, and the result is to not only demoralize one group of people, but it moves to silence the talent and perspectives of transgender and gender-diverse Americans in spaces where they have every right to be.
      GSBA, Washington State’s LGBTQ chamber of commerce will not sit silently by and accept a decision that goes against our most fundamental belief in justice for all. Today, GSBA affirms our ongoing commitment to fight for the equality and inclusion of our trans and gender-diverse community, as well as any marginalized community whose rights are being denied, threatened, and revoked. Our heartfelt gratitude is with the estimated 15,000 transgender and gender-diverse active-duty service-members currently serving and protecting our country.
      We encourage our GSBA members to support the local and national organizations working to elevate and advocate for the rights of trans and gender-diverse people. Read more about this case here.
      In solidarity,
    • Small Business Impact of the Government Shutdown

      by Caron Beesley, as published on
      | Jan 18, 2019
      For many small business owners, the last thing you may plan for is "what happens if the government shuts down?" As we have seen increasingly over the last several administrations, the Federal Government can, and does shut down from time to time. That means some lifeline services to small business owners may be unavailable, unreliable, or in worst case scenarios, canceled altogether.

      There isn't a lot of information out there right now about what to do now that we're in a shutdown. There is a void of information about what services and resources are out there currently to help small business owners who cannot receive information, loans, and services from the government at this time. We came across one article (copied below) with some objective analysis on this topic, and are sharing that information with you. 

      By Caron Beesley January 9, 2019
      Originally published on, an online small business loan and finance company.

      Government shutdowns, or the threat of them, have become a way of life in today’s political climate. The 16-day government shutdown of 2013 resulted in $24 billion in lost economic output and there’s seemingly no end in sight for the current one as each side battles over funding priorities.

      In this article, the first in a two-part series on government shutdowns, we’re looking at how the fallout affects the small business community.

      Here are five scenarios when government shutdowns can hurt small business.

      1.  When Your Customer is the Federal Government or a Contractor

      The federal government is the largest single purchaser of goods and services in the world, awarding $500 billion in contracts every year. Everything from paper clips to missiles, computer software to marketing communication services, the government buys it all. And it’s not just from large contractors.

      The Small Business Administration (SBA) works with federal agencies to award nearly one quarter of prime government contracting dollars to small businesses in accordance with statutory goals. These “set-asides”, as they’re known, generate millions of dollars in payments and support a broad ecosystem of prime and sub-contractors.

      The Impact:

      When the government closes, not only do federal contracts stop paying out, but the opportunity to bid for new business also dries up, since everyone (except critical government employees) is furloughed. Even during the brief January 2018 shutdown, contractors received “stop work” orders from agencies. This equates to tense times for small business and can cost employees and subcontractors their jobs, at least temporarily.

      2.  If You’re Looking for an SBA Loan

      When the government shuts down, the SBA stops processing loan applications submitted by financial institutions on behalf of their clients (SBA doesn’t provide the funds, rather they guarantee the loan giving the lender a lifeline should the business owner default). In fact, it’s against the law for federal employees to do any work, even check email, when they’re furloughed.

      If your small business is looking for cash to grow or expand, you won’t get an answer on whether the loan is approved until the government returns to work. The exception is SBA disaster loans that help small business and home-owners recover from declared disasters.

      The Impact:

      During the prolonged 2013 shutdown (16 days), 700 loan applications piled up in a queue while the agency was closed. The Washington Post cited several examples of small business owners left in limbo when the SBA held up their loans. For example, Chris Leh, president of TL Technologies in Lancaster, PA., told a congressional hearing that he had to cancel a $600,000 equipment order and rescind two job offers to highly trained machinists because his SBA loan application was not approved before the 2013 shutdown.

      Then-acting SBA Administrator, Jeanne Hulit, wrote, “During the shutdown, I heard stories from small business owners about contracts cancelled or put on hold, workers they had to furlough, and the potential for shift and staff reductions…many small businesses are still struggling with how to take care of their employees as they see projects postponed.”

      3.  If your livelihood depends on tourism

      One of the most indelible images of all government  shutdowns is the closure signs posted outside national parks and landmarks. While some parks remain open during the current shutdown, albeit with a reduced level of service, many smaller sites are shuttered. If your business is located in the vicinity of a park, any closure can have devastating consequences.

      The Impact:

      Cancellations and reductions in traffic threatens small business livelihoods. National Park shutdown costs are already at $5 million and rising and our nation’s parks face years of damage as a result.

      4.  If you’re planning to hire

      One overlooked aspect of the government shutdown is the government’s E-Verify website used to verify the eligibility of individuals to work in the U.S. During any shutdown, per the Department of Homeland Security and USCIS, employers will not be able to access their online accounts.

      The Impact:

      While it shouldn’t delay your hiring plans (USCIS usually approves a workaround), the E-Verify shutdown puts businesses at risk of non-compliance if they skip this important step to ensuring a legal workforce.

      5.  If military personnel are your big customers

      Without an exemption, military personnel can be furloughed and lose pay during a shutdown.

      The Impact:

      If your business is located near a military base or is positioned in a military installation, lack of disposable income could hit your business hard during a shutdown.

      The bottom line

      Brief or prolonged, a federal government shutdown can throw a wrench in the works of business operations and plans. Shutdowns are a serious blow to small businesses and affect their ability to serve customers, access finance, invest, and ultimately, grow.

      According to Small Business Majority, every time the government closes shop it diminishes consumer confidence and creates a huge amount of uncertainty.

      Stay tuned for part two in this series, where we’ll discuss ways small business can plan for and mitigate the effect of government shutdowns if and when they happen.