Advocate for small business owners is selected as leader of largest LGBTQ+ chamber of commerce in the country
SEATTLE, Wash. (September 12, 2022) – GSBA, Washington’s LGBTQ+ and allied chamber of commerce, is proud to announce Ilona Y. Lohrey as its newly appointed President and CEO, effective today. Previously serving as interim leader of the organization, she was selected as the ideal candidate to grow and further develop GSBA’s mission to bring communities together through business while advocating for civil rights by supporting small businesses, promoting LGBTQ+ tourism, and investing in the next generation of leaders.
“Today, a new chapter in GSBA’s history begins and I couldn’t be happier or prouder,” said Louise Chernin, former and longtime President and CEO of GSBA. “I have worked with Ilona over many years and in many of the roles she held within GSBA. To say Ilona is talented is an understatement. She is smart, insightful, visionary, practical, a team builder and a fierce believer in small business. Best of all, she is now our President & CEO, taking the helm of the largest LGBTQ+ chamber of commerce at a time of great transition in the world of nonprofits, small business, and economic uncertainty. A huge job, but no one is more prepared and qualified to bring us together to roll up our sleeves, remain focused on our mission and commitment to address rising homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, and systemic racism by doing what GSBA has always done: work for justice by investing in diverse-owned small businesses and educating the next generation of leaders.”
Lohrey joined GSBA in 2015, bringing expertise in economic and educational equity and the prosperity of small minority owned businesses in the state of Washington, along with business development, technical assistance, and supplier diversity. She launched GSBA’s Ready for Business recovery grant, as well as GSBA's Business Academy to directly support entrepreneurs with a focus on LGBTQ-, BIPOC- and women-owned businesses. As a major donor herself, she has championed the GSBA Scholarship Fund that has invested over $5.5 million dollars in the educational advancement of our future leaders.
“Ilona brings a wealth of small business passion as president and CEO of GSBA,” said Carrie Carson, board chair of GSBA. “She leads with humility and has a proven track record with the organization, along with resounding confidence and respect from the GSBA staff and board. GSBA has so much work to do for our business, scholar, and local communities and Ilona is ready for the journey ahead, proving that equality is good for business.”
As a first-generation immigrant that was born in Munich, Germany and raised by a family of entrepreneurs, Ilona is passionate about and understands small business. She was the CEO of RBH, a family-owned business with 1,400 employees and $26MM in revenues in Germany. Prior to joining GSBA, she served as a Small Business Banking Manager at Wells Fargo Bank, managing a team of bankers and $980MM in deposits for the Seattle Metro area.
“Ilona will lead GSBA into the future,” said Jay Peterson, former GSBA Board Chair. “Her tremendous efforts on issues facing the LGBTQ+ community and small businesses has been demonstrated time and again during her years of service to the organization. She is equally committed to the Scholarship Fund and will ensure our next generation of leaders has the support they need to be successful.”
Ilona identifies as a queer, lesbian immigrant and dedicates her advocacy work and passion to the LGBTQ+ community to advance equity across the most vulnerable of populations. Ilona serves on the Cocoon House Governance Board, as well as a Commissioner for the City of Seattle’s Labor Standards Advisory Commission. She obtained her US citizenship in 2020 right when the COVID-19 pandemic began. She lives with her wife of 25 years and their two Vizslas in Snohomish County and enjoys traveling, cooking dishes from around the world, and painting.
GSBA is Washington state's LGBTQ+ and allied chamber of commerce, and the largest LGBTQ+ chamber in North America. It represents over 1,300 small business, corporate and nonprofit members who share the values of promoting equality and diversity in the workplace. GSBA proudly serves as a connector across the state, bringing the community together through business while advocating for civil rights and small business, promoting LGBTQ+ tourism through Travel Out Seattle and investing in the next generation of leaders through the GSBA Scholarship Fund. For more information, please visit www.thegsba.org/about-us.
Public Relations, GreenRubino for GSBA