GSBA Recognizes Excellence in Workplace Diversity & Inclusion

by GSBA Staff | Feb 02, 2021

40th Annual Business & Humanitarian Awards raises critical dollars
for small business recovery

Media Contacts
Cade Schmidt (He/him), GSBA Marketing & Digital Communications Manager

SEATTLE (January 27, 2021) – GSBA announces the recipients of their annual business and humanitarian awards. Each year, GSBA honors businesses, nonprofit organizations, and community leaders who demonstrate leadership and success in their business or profession, promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace, visibly support the LGBTQ community, and invest time and resources into community-wide causes. The 40th annual event, supported by Title Sponsor Wells Fargo, will take place online Thursday, February 18, at 4:30 p.m.

For the first time, the Business & Humanitarian Awards celebration will directly benefit small business recovery through the GSBA Ready for Business Fund. Created by GSBA and Comcast Washington in 2020 to strengthen the economic recovery of small and minority-owned businesses, the Ready for Business Fund awards cash grants and wrap-around support services. The next round of applications opens on Monday, March 15. All event registrations are tax-deductible donations to the Fund.

“We are thrilled to recognize individuals, businesses, and organizations who have persevered, despite the overwhelming challenges of the past year,” said Mark Rosén, Acting President & CEO of GSBA. “The innovation and resilience they have shown is one of the many reasons why our signature event, which previously has never been a fundraiser, will now support the Ready for Business Fund. Created with the help of founding partner, Comcast NBCUniversal, and many other businesses and individuals, this fund has already given grants to 65 BIPOC-, LGBTQ-, and women-owned small businesses.”

“My team and I are so honored and happily surprised to be named GSBA's Business of the Year, and what a year it was,” said Dani Cone, founder and CEO of Cone & Steiner.

“However it is these times that are a true testament to the strength and importance of community. I couldn't be more grateful to the Cone & Steiner team, our neighbors, and certainly GSBA to show up for what has felt like the building and rebuilding of our business every day. This is a group effort and one hell of a marathon, but we can do this, and we are doing this...together.”

"Throughout 2020, these businesses and leaders repeatedly changed and transformed to continue to serve our community during a global pandemic and financial crisis, stood up against systemic racial injustice and served as an example to us all of what it looks like when businesses ‘walk the walk,’” said Rosén.

GSBA will recognize and celebrate the following recipients:

New Business of the Year
Veritas Electric
Deborah McGowan, owner

Founded in 2019, Veritas Electric is a woman-owned residential and commercial electrical contractor. After being frustrated for many years with the construction industry's culture, McGowan found a way to make a living in the field she is passionate about while creating a positive work environment centered on learning and collaboration. The name, Veritas—the Roman Goddess of Truth—fits the company’s values of honesty and integrity. Employees and customers know that Veritas is a safe place where all are welcome and celebrated.

Business of the Year
Cone & Steiner
Dani Cone, Founder & CEO

Cone & Steiner (C&S) is a modern take on the classic general store and honors the belief that people come together over good food and drink. They feature specialty, local, and basic goods at their two Seattle stores and online platform. C&S is based on founder Dani Cone’s Great Grandfather Sam Cone’s original store of the same name, established in Seattle in 1915 shortly after arriving in the US. As a young man who didn’t know anyone or even know the language, he created a community for himself through his business, providing people with meats, groceries, provisions, and a space to gather. Cone & Steiner is where and how community happens.

Business Leader of the Year
Laura Clise
Founder & CEO, Intentionalist
Intentionalist is a resource and online guide for local small businesses owned by women, people of color, veterans, LGBTQ, families, and differently-abled people. Intentionalist helps consumers make everyday decisions to spend money with intention and contribute to the businesses that keep our communities vibrant and diverse. Laura Clise founded Intentionalist to help close the gap between intention and action by connecting consumers with various local companies to make everyday spending more intentional. She is a corporate intrapreneur turned
social entrepreneur with a passion for instigating impact at the intersection of business and society.

Corporate Leader of the Year

Headquartered in Bellevue, Washington, with Pacific Northwest roots that go back 60 years, Symetra is a financial services company offering retirement, life insurance, and employee benefits products nationwide. Symetra’s vision — to create a world where more people have access to financial freedom— is grounded in its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Those values also drive the company’s Symetra Empowers Communities program, which combines community and civic partnerships, resources, and advocacy to build resilient and robust community support systems focusing on BIPOC communities, women, and at-risk youth.

Nonprofit of the Year
U.T.O.P.I.A. WA (United Territories of Pacific Islanders’ Alliance - WA)
Taffy Johnson, Executive Director

UTOPIA was founded to create a safe, welcoming, supportive, and vibrant space to address basic needs, build pathways toward new opportunities, foster a sense of common purpose, and advocate for social justice, leadership, and wellness among members of the queer and trans Pacific Islander (QTPI, or “cutie-pie”) community. UTOPIA is an transgender and Fa’afafine-led, member-based organization driven by a deeply dedicated group of community volunteers. (Fa’afafine is a cultural gender identity native to Samoa translated as “in the manner of a woman.”) Cultural alignment and cultural identity play significant roles in the organization’s decision-making and organizing. UTOPIA exists because of the fundamental necessity of the QTPI to create their own loving, accepting sisterhood and community.

Community Leader of the Year
Monserrat Padilla

Monserrat Padilla has been organizing LGBTQ, immigrant, and communities of color on the ground for over 12 years with a vision to build collective movement power. She is currently the Director of the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network, a powerful immigrant-led network with over 250 organizations that protect and advance immigrant and refugee communities through a multiracial, multilingual, and multi-faith coalition. Monserrat’s recent movement victory involved her leading to fruition a state policy win that brought $40 million in COVID-19 relief funding for undocumented Washington state residents.

Champion for Small Business Recovery
Comcast NBCUniversal and Diem Ly

Comcast is deeply committed to Washington, where its more than 4,200 employees serve more than 1.6 million residential and business customers throughout the state. Realizing that Comcast could play a role in economic recovery for Washington’s minority-owned small businesses who’d been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, Diem Ly, Director of Community Investment & External Affairs at Comcast NBCUniversal, approached GSBA in the summer of 2020 to co-found the Ready for Business Fund. Diem worked closely with the GSBA team to establish the fund, fundraise throughout the community, and reach small businesses in need, with Comcast investing a total of $100,000 to seed the fund.

Voice for Social Justice
Seattle Storm
Four-time WNBA Champions

Seattle Storm represents the intersection of civic responsibility, social justice and the powerful platform of professional sports. The team utilized this powerful platform to bring much-needed awareness and attention to racial equity issues. On July 25, New York Liberty guard Layshia Clarendon and Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart opened the 2020 WNBA season with a speech about the league’s season-long commitment to social justice. Besides dedicating the season to Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old emergency technician who was fatally shot in her home on March 13 by Louisville, Kentucky, police officers, the WNBA would be partnering with the “Say Her Name” campaign, an initiative Crenshaw founded in 2014 that is “committed to saying the names and fighting for justice for Black women.” GSBA recognizes the Seattle Storm for their commitment to action around the promotion of equity, inclusion and diversity.

Board Chair’s Award
Mona Smith

Mona Smith was selected to receive the Board Chair’s award for her ongoing support of GSBA and the GSBA Scholarship Fund, donating countless hours of legal consulting and services to support the work of the organization. Mona is always ready to help out when GSBA needs legal advice around a contract or negotiation. In numerous leadership positions with GSBA, including two-term President and Public Policy Task Force Chair, she oversaw vital policy work that strengthened the sustainability of GSBA and the GSBA Scholarship Fund while expanding the role of GSBA in advocating for both civil rights and business issues.

Tickets to Forward Vision: The 40th Annual Business & Humanitarian Awards range from the free Community Member level to the $1000 Small Business Champion. The $250 level and above include a virtual room for ten people. Registration and more information are available at