GSBA recognizes excellence in workplace diversity & inclusion

January 27, 2021 | Press Release
GSBA recognizes excellence in workplace diversity & inclusion

SEATTLE - The GSBA announces the recipients of its annual business and humanitarian awards. Each year, the 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 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 and CEO of the 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 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. It features specialty, local, and basic goods at the 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, Intentionalist, founder & CEO 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: Symetra 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) 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 a 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 multifaith 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 that had been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, Diem Ly, director of community investment and external affairs at Comcast NBCUniversal, approached the GSBA in the summer of 2020 to cofound 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.

Voice for Social Justice: Seattle Storm The four-time WNBA champions Seattle Storm represent the intersection of civic responsibility, social justice, and the powerful platform of professional sports. The team [brought] 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 committment 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, [having donated] countless hours of legal consulting and services to support the work of the organization. Mona is always ready to help out when the GSBA needs legal advice around a contract or negotiation. In numerous leadership positions with the GSBA, including two-term president and Public Policy Task Force chair, she oversaw key policy work that strengthened the sustainability of the GSBA and the GSBA Scholarship Fund, while expanding the role of the 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

Established in 1981, the GSBA is Washington State's LGBTQ and allied chamber of commerce and is the largest of its kind in North America. The chamber represents over 1,400 small business, corporate, and nonprofit members who share the values of promoting diversity, equity, equality, and inclusion in the workplace. The GSBA proudly serves as a connector across the region, bringing communities together through business while advocating for civil rights and small business. The GSBA also promotes LGBTQ tourism through Travel Out Seattle, advocates for small businesses in Seattle's Capitol Hill Neighborhood through the Capitol Hill Business Alliance (CHBA), and invests in the next generation of LGBTQ allied leaders through the GSBA Scholarship & Education Fund. For more information on GSBA, visit

Courtesy of the GSBA