Greater Seattle Business Association

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Greater Seattle Business Association
GSBA logo1.jpg
Motto With Pride Since 1981 (current)
The Chamber of Choice
Formation 1981
Type Chamber of Commerce
Legal status Non-Profit, 501(c)(6)
Scholarship Program, 501(c)(3)
Purpose The Four Pillars of GSBA: Business Development, Community, Advocacy, Philanthropy
Region served
Puget Sound, Washington
1,000 (approx)
Louise Chernin
Key people
Drew Ness
Board President
Stephanie Dallas
Vice President
Brandon Chun
Marci Flanery
Carrie Carson
Scholarship Chair
Bryan Adamson
Public Affairs Chair
Main organ
Board of Directors [1]
12 full-time employees
100-200 annually

The Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA) is a Seattle, Washington-based lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT), and allied chamber of commerce. The majority of the organization's membership are small businesses located throughout the Puget Sound area. The association counts a few large corporations as members, including: Microsoft, Starbucks, Wells Fargo,, and Boeing. The association's mission is to combine business development, leadership, and social activism to expand economic opportunities for the LGBT community and allies.[2]


The GSBA was founded in 1981 [3] for the purposes of visibility and to create a unified voice for the lesbian and gay business community. At the time of its incorporation, the board of directors consisted of 9 men. Since its inception, the board of directors has grown to 25 positions. The association's membership reached 1,000 in 2006. The following year the GSBA opened its first independent office in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood.

Female leadership[edit]

In the organization's second year, 1982, accountant Harley Broe became the first woman elected to the board of directors. The first female board President was Mary Kay Wright, elected in 1986. In 2001, GSBA hired Louise Chernin as their Executive Director, and she still serves in that position.[citation needed]

Regional activities[edit]

In 1992, GSBA formed the Western Business Alliance in partnership with the Greater San Diego Business Association and the Camelback Business Association of Phoenix. In 1997, the WBA brought together 21 LGBT-and-allied organizations—from Vancouver, British Columbia, in the north; to Tijuana, Mexico, in the south. With the establishment of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce in 2004 (of which GSBA was a founding member), GSBA's current executive director, Louise Chernin, was appointed National Chair on the Council on Chambers and Business Organizations (CCBO), a position she held for four years. The following year, the WBA voted in favor of folding into the NGLCC’s CCBO structure as the Pacific Regional Council.[4]

Gay Wedding Show[edit]

GSBA was the presenting sponsor of the first Gay Wedding Show in 2004. Held at Seattle's Swedish Cultural Center, the event hosted 50 vendors and was the first of its kind in Seattle.[5]

National recognition[edit]

In November 2008 GSBA was awarded "Chamber of the Year" by the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) in Washington, D.C. recognizing its leadership among more than 45 other regional LGBT and Allied chambers.[6] In 2009, GSBA played host affiliate chamber to NGLCC's Sixth Annual Out for Business Conference, held in Seattle. That year GSBA received the "Community Outreach Award" for its scholarship program.[7]


Same-sex marriage in Washington State is a primary goal of the organization, however it undertakes many public policy issues through its Legislative Agenda.

Marriage equality[edit]

In 2006, when efforts were undertaken to repeal Washington's non-discrimination law through public referendum, GSBA stood alongside other organizations in support of Washington Won't Discriminate, a group opposing the referendum.[8] After passage of three separate domestic partnership bills in the Washington State Legislature access to full marriage is still denied to Washingtonians.[9] In 2009, enough signatures were obtained by put Referendum 71 on that year's general election ballot. This referendum would have overturned the state's third and final expansion of domestic partnership law passed by the legislature earlier that year. GSBA was a leading voice of 282 coalition partners of Washington Families Standing Together, the organization that lead the campaign to approve Referendum 71.[10]

Candidate Forum[edit]

Every September the organization holds a debate-like program, The GSBA Candidate Forum.[11] The event is billed as "the region's only LGBT candidate forum". The forum has featured candidates from local races such as city/county councils to larger office including Washington State Governor and US House of Representatives.[12]


In 2009, then mayoral candidate Mike McGinn was criticized for his "rude" treatment of GSBA staff members while attending that year's event.[13] Subsequently he won the 2009 election.

Scholarship program[edit]

In 1990, two teachers saw a need for LGBT and allied students who needed financial assistance with higher education expenses. At the time it was the nation's first LGBT and allied scholarship fund. Six years into the program, the organization had granted five scholarships totaling $10,000.[14] In 1998, Richard C. Rolfs (a Wenatchee-native and longtime gay rights activist) bequested $200,000 to the GSBA Scholarship Fund, establishing an endowment in his name. By 2001, the program was granting more than $50,000 each year in undergraduate scholarships.[15] By 2010, a cumulative 350 or more individual scholarships totaling in excess of $1,000,000 had been granted.

Record breaking[edit]

In May 2010, at the Annual Scholarship Awards Dinner, GSBA gave out its one millionth dollar ($1,000,000) in cumulative scholarship grants. The following November the primary fundraising event for the program, The Taste of GSBA smashed all previous records, grossing $345,000 from the dinner auction.[16][17] More than $130,000 of the gross was direct donations to the fund.


The association holds a variety of monthly and annual events—the three largest of which are formal evening functions, held annually.

Awards dinner[edit]

The Business & Humanitarian Awards Dinner is generally held in March and honors business leaders in various areas; such as Business Person of the Year, New Business of the Year, and Employee of the Year.

At the 2008 event, Collaboration for Social Change honorees included Anne Levinson, Ginny Gilder, Lisa Brummel and Dawn Trudeau (Force 10 Hoops, LLC). In a sale approved by the WNBA in late February 2008, Force 10 Hoops became the new owner of the Seattle Storm. The change in ownership will allow the Storm to remain in Seattle in the event the Seattle SuperSonics move to Oklahoma City.[18]

Scholarship dinner[edit]

The Scholarship Awards Dinner honors the current group of recipients with their scholarships. Each recipient is given the opportunity to speak and express themselves after receiving their award. At the 2008 dinner, the GSBA Scholarship Fund awarded $137,000 to 37 undergraduate students. The event was also host to two celebrity presenters, including Sheryl Swoopes (3-time Olympic Gold Medalist, 3-time WNBA MVP, and recent addition to the Seattle Storm),[19] as well as former University of Washington Huskey/NFL player David Kopay,[20] who after his retirement from professional football came out in 1975.

The Taste of GSBA event[edit]

The Taste of GSBA is the organization's annual gala event, with approximately 800 people in attendance. The "Taste" (as it is referred to in short) is a black-tie fundraiser for the GSBA Scholarship Program.[21][22] The event also serves as a showcase of member restaurants and caterers, and hosts a silent and live auctions.[23]

Participation in Seattle Pride[edit]

The association participates each year in Seattle's Pride festivities. In 2006 graphic designer Andrea Rouleau designed a birthday cake float to celebrate GSBA's 25th anniversary.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ GSBA Board & Staff - GSBA website
  2. ^ Philadelphia and other towns outdo Seattle in going after $56B gay tourism market, Puget Sound Business Journal (Seattle), Friday, January 25, 2008
  3. ^ GSBA timeline - GSBA website
  4. ^ INBA – Spokane’s LGBT business chamber working to get to the next level -, May 20, 2011
  5. ^ Booming wedding industry poised to tap into growing market for gay marriages - Seattle Times, Friday, March 26, 2004
  6. ^ The Insider: Network Strong - Seattle Post-Intelligencer, November 16, 2008
  7. ^ NGLCC's Sixth Annual Business & Leadership Conference a Great Success! - NGLCC Press Release, June 25, 2008
  8. ^ Effort to repeal state gay-rights law gathers momentum from pulpit, Seattle Times, May 24, 2006
  9. ^ Same-sex marriage in Washington Same-sex marriage in Washington - Wikipedia
  10. ^ Coalition partners - Washington Families Standing Together, campaign website
  11. ^ - GSBA & ERW host 2010 candidate forum - Seattle Gay News, September 24, 2010
  12. ^ - Gregoire & Burner at GSBA Candidate Forum - Republicans play hide-and-seek - Seattle Gay News, September 5, 2008
  13. ^ Extra Fizz: McGinn and the GSBA - Publicola, October 8, 2009
  14. ^ $10,000 In Scholarships Awarded - Seattle Times, Thursday, May 09, 1996
  15. ^ Business group issues scholarships for gay students - Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Thursday, May 3, 2001
  16. ^ GSBA gala dinner and auction raises record $345,000 - Seattle Gay News, November 19, 2010
  17. ^ GSBA Scholarship Fund - The Seattle Foundation, nonprofit organization profiles
  18. ^ WNBA Approves Sale of Seattle Storm to Local Owners - WNBA press release, February 28, 2008
  19. ^ Indiana game thread; SWOOPES TO START? - Storm Blog, Saturday, May 10, 2008
  20. ^ Register Today for the 2008 GSBA Scholarship Awards Dinner - GSBA Blog, Sunday, April 27, 2008
  21. ^ About Us - Pride Foundation website, 2011
  22. ^ TASTE of GSBA - Come Fly with Us Raises Money for GSBA Scholarship Fund - The Seattle Lesbian, November 1, 2010
  23. ^ Greater Seattle Business Association - FunMaps: Gay Seattle | Gay Community Resources
  24. ^ Gay pride events multiply - Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Friday, June 23, 2006[dead link]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 47°36′55″N 122°19′35″W / 47.615278°N 122.326329°W / 47.615278; -122.326329