On Wednesday, October 11, the 2023 Intentionalist Awards celebrated small business community champions.

Host Doug Baldwin Jr. and emcee Angela Poe Russell were joined by Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell, Eighth Generation founder, Louie Gong, Visit Seattle Chief Marketing Officer, Ali Daniels, BECU Vice President of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Jackie Martinez-Vasquez, and South Seattle Emerald and Hinton Publishing founder, Marcus Harrison Green.

Presenting awards across seven categories, the event highlighted the many ways that Main Street brick + mortar small businesses contribute to our communities beyond the products and services they sell.

Below we are proud to share excerpts from the nominations we received for the 2023 Intentionalist Awards finalists and winners.



Boon Boona Coffee – “Boon Boona is always uplifting other BIPOC-owned businesses by connecting with them, choosing to work with them and communicating their excellence out into the world. Owner, Efrem Fesaha has also created a much-needed central cultural hub in the heart of Renton.”

Jude’s Old Town – “As of 2023 Jude’s is a co-op, owned fully by its employees. They are advocates for this co-op model and employee advocacy and buy-in, where all financial and operating decisions are made collectively by all employees. Jude’s also supports many pop-ups, allowing chefs without their ownbrick and mortar a restaurant space to create.”


Intentions Juice & Smoothie Bar – “Intentions is a black woman owned Juice bar that specializes in holistic health. Intentions goes out of their way to promote small businesses and elevate other businesses in their own space with pop up opportunities and even closing to educate entrepreneurs on financial health and social media promotion. Intentions is the epitome of Community Over Competition.”

Cross-Cultural Champion


La Escuelita Bilingual School – “From the language, to the songs, the curriculum, special activities – everything they do is in celebration of Latin and Afro-Latin culture. I also deeply appreciate that La Escuelita provides steady employment to Latin American immigrants from across the continent, who are also the most loving care providers that we could have asked for. I am so grateful for La Escuelita. It has
truly made living in Seattle, away from my family, a little bit more like home.”

Seeking Kombucha – “I love that Seeking Kombucha not only provides gut friendly beverages but provides a safe space for all. Their Seeking Cultura festival brings together cultures from around the city to showcase and support minority-owned, woman-owned, Black-owned, Asian owned and all other types of diverse-owned businesses.”


Bahia in Motion – “Bahia in Motion bring the culture and community of Salvador, Brazil to Seattle through the incredible dance and capoeira classes they offer, the dance-focused trips they lead to Brazil, and their participation in so many community events and festivals throughout the area. The energy, positivity and enthusiasm that Daniel and Aileen bring to every class, performance and interaction honoring the culture, history, art forms and traditions of Brazil is authentic and inclusive.”

Community Leader of the Year


Ashley McGirt Counseling – “In addition to running and maintaining her private practice, where she provides individual and group therapy, she also created the WA Therapy Fund Foundation during the pandemic, an organization dedicated toward eliminating barriers to Black healing that provides free therapy and other mental health resources. Ashley has ensured that hundreds of people receive free sound therapeutic services!”

Black Coffee Northwest – “An extension of Black Coffee Northwest, Grounded is a non-profit organization that serves black youth within the City of Seattle and beyond. These services include school tutoring, mental health therapies, and exercise through dance programs that encompass the body, mind, and spirit. Grounded creates a safe space for Black youth to express themselves and provides a community.”


Emerald City Spinal Care – Dr. Zapata and Emerald City Spinal Care have opened up a weekly $100 tab at a local business EVERY WEEK SINCE MARCH 2020!! That’s over $16,000 of tabs opened with the goal of highlighting and supporting different business in the community. Dr. Zapata hosts a monthly meetup called Community & Cocktails where she donates to, and highlights, a different local charity each month. Emerald City spinal care is a unicorn of immeasurable value. Our communities need what they have to teach us.”

Rookie of the Year


Black Arts Love – “Malika Bennett opened Black Arts Love Gallery & Marketplace 4 months ago with the vision of helping Black artists and brands return to Capitol Hill in Seattle. Malika actively recruits Black artists and brands and helps them connect with new customers, who are delighted to discover art and products that they wouldn’t have otherwise. Through her Saturday summer pop series, Malika has helped dozens of independent Black artists and brands generate additional revenue and get a taste of retail.”

Inside – “Owner Sierra Jones and her team continue to create opportunities for the BIPOC /LGBTQIA
communities through art, products, spoken and written word, song, movement and dance to come together and celebrate the rich diversity and talents they bring to Seattle. Whether it is open mic night or just a casual day of shopping, Inside, has become a home and safe space to those who need it. Whatever you need to feed your soul and mind, you can find it Inside.”


Rough & Tumble Pub – “Rough & Tumble fills a need that many women’s sports fans can appreciate. It can be really hard to find a sports bar that is broadcasting women sports. Even if it’s a major tournament like the WNBA finals or the Women’s World Cup. Jen Barnes opened Rough & Tumble in late 2022 and it’s a wonderful gathering place to watch all sports, but especially women’s sports.”

Heart of the Community


Positive Spin Pole Dance Fitness – Positive Spin Pole Dance Fitness is much more than a fitness studio; it’s a growing place for people to come together and find community. Positive Spin is a community hub for so many folks who feel marginalized in other spaces. Positive Spin has a large section of community that identify as sexual identity and/or gender minorities and the rest are allies. I have never seen a fitness studio of any kind show that kind of representation. Positive Spin has also provided events for specific demographics of people, including trans, BIPOC and Hispanic pole dance workshops.”

The Station – “It would be hard to imagine North Beacon Hill without the Station. It is a place of gathering, community-building, and mutual support for our neighborhood’s community of aspiring
entrepreneurs, and for everyone who loves Beacon Hill. It is a place where everyone is welcome and celebrated, and it proudly carries forward the tradition of cross-cultural solidarity and coalition-building of Roberto Maestas, for whom its street is named.”


Barakah Beauty – “The heart of the community is a perfect description of what Barakah Beauty Collective (BBC) stands for. BBC was formed to create a space for women to come and feel not just pampered but safe and find a community. It is the first of its kind in Washington for Muslim women and it has been done so well. I can go to BBC and walk out with a new friendship and sense of purpose. We don’t just simply go there to shop, that’s secondary, we go there to connect, to feel seen and heard, and to be inspired to go out and conquer the world.”

Team Member of the Year

Aloria Ashley, Nurture Well Center – “I had been working solo since opening my medical office to the public in March 2021. I was told by close friends to hire someone but I was reluctant as I wanted to be sure I could build a sustainable business that would allow me to pay myself something first before increasing my overhead further by paying for staff. I . DID. IT . ALL. Saw patients, packaged products, did my newsletter, did inventory, ordered supplies, set up for vendor events, you name it – I did it. All while being a full time physician and mama to two young kids. Looking back, doing this all by myself was crazy. This was my reality until I met Aloria, who offered to help me with tidying up the office in December 2022. I told her it would be only for a few weeks, she looked around the office, looked back at me and said “Oh, I have a feeling I’ll be here for more than a few weeks, there is a lot of work I can do in this space.” I was taken aback, but thought to myself – “I like her”. Fast forward to today – she is still working with me and has been promoted to Office Manager. She is my right hand person and probably one of the best business decisions I made was hiring her on. I was scared to scale and bring someone into my office, but frankly I needed a team member. With her here, business ownership does not seem so daunting. She has set up inventory in office and online. She has updated the signage in my office. Helped with supplies in the office. Helped run events. And so much more. To top it all off, she has a wonderful attitude and spirit about her. I thank God for sending her my way.”

Casey Crowell, Marination – “Casey Crowell deserves the Team Member of the year award because she’s the definition of best coworker ever. Humble, hard working, and cheerful are just the icebergs of Casey and what she offers the world and Marination – including but not limited to our Moose-ubi puns at T-mobile Park, our most recent vending addition. She started as the Catering Manager and is now the special events and logistics manager helping us execute everything from hoards of baseball fans to building community in Downtown at our 6th & Virginia location, which she helped us keep running and expand hours after offices began to reopen while hospitality managers were hard to come by. We’re honored to work alongside Casey and hope she can receive this amazing recognition that she’s worked so hard to receive.”

Nicole LeClech, Buddha Bruddah – “Nicole joined Buddha Bruddah as a FOH team member for the grand opening of our Seattle location in April 2018. She embodies Buddha Bruddah’s spirit of making every guest feel the Aloha of our Ohana. Nicole has taken on many leadership roles including interviewing, hiring, training, schedule writing, meeting with couples for wedding tastings and as Catering Lead. Our success as a small business is owed in large part to the support of our amazing staff, and Nicole exemplifies the heartbeat of our team.”

Marlene Knox, Esme & Elodie – “Marlene Knox has been with Esme and Elodie when it was just an idea and I was working out of my living room. She has always been a rock for me as a business owner and has been a fantastic team leader. When she’s working, I know my customers are in good hands. People always come into the store looking for her and I joke that Esme and Elodie is her store and that I just own it. She makes everyone feel confident, welcome and energized with her radical acceptance and honest opinions. She truly treats everyone who walks through our door as if they are family. She is one of the reasons I keep my business going because she brings life to our Renton community that I would never have been able to do on my own.”

Jaylon Nazario, Communion – “Jaylon Nazario has a dedication to our success like none other. He has been with Communion since before we opened and his belief in our vision is unparalleled. Being at the ready doesn’t come close to describe the way he anticipates the needs of the business, he’s solution oriented so he’s not waiting for the problem, he’s there to meet things head on. He’s our lead when it comes to setting the tone, always willing to light some sage to clear the space and help us do breathing exercises to get ready for service.

When we opened during the pandemic, Jaylon rolled up his sleeves to help us complete the buildout and get ready for the customers. And when they arrived….he was ready with a smile. He serves in a official capacity as the Restaurant Manager, but he’s also, Lead bartender, Host, Server, Expo, Errand Runner, Disc Jockey and Dishwasher if need be.

We are grateful for all that Jaylon does to keep things afloat, with a smile and maybe a song.”



Kobo Seattle – “Owners John and Binko have been running Kobo for over 20 years. They have become a staple in Japantown and community advocates. Binko is a part of the Japantown Neighbors group which promotes Nihonmachi Seattle and continues to create opportunities to improve this important part of Seattle’s Chinatown-International District. Kobo Seattle sets an example of what it takes to keep your business running though ups and downs.”

The Elliott Bay Book Company – “This store has long been a local favorite because they do more than sell books – it’s a place to gather with friends, meet authors on book tours, pet some dogs, and talk to superb staff. I applaud them for prominently having sections for diverse demographics of the community, for having a unionized staff, for being LGBTQ+-friendly, gay-owned, woman-owned, and for championing the creativity that our local community has to offer through vendor selections, artist commissions, and local author features.”


Wildrose – “It’s the one place in Seattle I can go on any given day as a Lesbian and feel completely seen and welcomed. A friend took me to The Rose in the early 90s. I made enduring friendships, met girls, went on dates, watched elections, cried over girls, cried over elections, celebrated Pride! Over and over – The Rose has stood the test of time and multiple generations have all the folks behind The Rose to thank.”


The Intentionalist Awards would not have been possible without our presenting sponsor, BECU, with support from Seattle’s Office of Economic Development, VLACK Media, and the Seattle Public Library. We would also like to thank our incredible panel of judges – Martha Choe, Ali Daniels (Chief Marketing Officer, Visit Seattle), Louie Gong (Founder, Eighth Generation), Marcus Harrison Green (Founder, South Seattle Emerald & Hinton Publishing) & Jackie Martinez-Vasquez (Vice President, Diversity Equity Inclusion, BECU) – who reviewed the more than 450 nominations.

Thank you to Maiz Molino, OHSUN Banchan, and Fuji Bakery for sharing and serving your delicious food.

Thank you to Doug Baldwin Jr. for hosting, our emcee Angela Poe Russell, and Intentionalist staff and volunteers for helping us celebrate the inspiring people behind the small businesses at the heart of our communities!

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