Professionals in Advocacy and Programming: Washington State's LGBTQ & Allied Chamber of Commerce

| By Sarah Jester

Washington State's LGBTQ & Allied Chamber of Commerce (GSBA) has made major changes for the LGBT business community since it was founded in 1991, before the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce even existed!

Vice President of Membership & Programs Ilona Lohrey is proud of the many accomplishments made by the chamber, especially those relating to its programming and advocacy work.

“GSBA prides itself in providing its members with outstanding programs in business development, providing a voice and visibility to small businesses and advocating for LGBTQ equality as well as equality for all marginalized communities,” said Lohrey.

Lohrey added that the mission of the chamber is “to combine business development, leadership and social action to expand economic opportunities for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community and those who support equality for all.”

At the 2019 National Dinner, GSBA was honored as Chamber of the Year for its local community leadership, its support of NGLCC’s Certified LGBTBE® program, and its advocacy efforts in support of the LGBT business community. The chamber was also honored in 2008 for their advocacy and leadership. Some of its most prominent advocacy efforts include the Travel Out Seattle initiative, as well as their participation in the Trans Economic Empowerment Coalition. GSBA is identified by the business community as an important influencer with a year-round lobbyist in our state capitol and a full-time Director of Public Policy. The chamber has proven to be a leader in creating and supporting legislation that impacts both the small business and LGBTQ communities.

The GSBA serves the largest amount of LGBT-business owners out of all of the affiliate networks, boasting over 1,400 members throughout the state of Washington. GSBA has also been active in funding the pursuit of higher education for LGBT individuals. The chamber created the first LGBTQ Scholarship Fund in the U.S. Through this effort, the chamber has invested over $4 million in the post-secondary education of LGBTQ and allied students.

GSBA has also cultivated a business development program, which provides over thirty business empowerment workshops. These cover topics related to Finances, Marketing, HR, LGBTQ Cultural Competency and even one on how to be a Certified LGBTBE®!

While GSBA is a successful chamber already, Lohrey shared her goals for the chamber for the chamber.

She hopes to create statewide programs that reach marginalized communities in all areas of the state, including rural areas, and wants to expand the amount of staff the GSBA employs.

Lohrey also mentioned her top tips for LGBT entrepreneurs.

“Research the market you are about to enter: understand the costs and know your competitors ,” she said. Also, to “Use your member resources to connect, engage, and grow your business by attending workshops and networking.”

GSBA has shown NGLCC over many years that the chamber is a place where LGBT-business owners and allies thrive.

“By being a member of GSBA, a business aligns itself with a values driven Chamber that promotes equality, equity, diversity and inclusion in business,” said Lohrey.

Want to learn more about GSBA? Visit their website and learn how to get involved!