As part of our Pride Month celebration, we heard the first-hand stories behind beloved Seattle LGBTQ-owned businesses, learned about everything they bring to their communities, and explored the many ways we can be supporting them this month and beyond.
On June 15, Intentionalist and Ellevate, a network for professional women, co-hosted a panel featuring four inspiring LGBTQ small business owners. Intentionalist Founder and CEO Laura Clise moderated the conversation with Lyz Bartolome from Seeking Kombucha, Dani Cone from Cone and Steiner, Karyn Schwartz from SugarPill, and Erika White from Fat’s Chicken and Waffles.
In her opening remarks, Laura mentioned she was recently asked in an interview to talk about who inspires her, noting that for the majority of her life she looked to global corporate and humanitarian leaders.
“Over the past three years of living and breathing and building Intentionalist . . . my perspective has shifted,” Laura said. “I’m so excited this evening to be able to moderate a conversation with some of the people who, over the course of the past three years, really inspired me every day.”
Each business owner shared why they opened their business, from trying to improve their gut health, to keeping soul and soul food in the Central District. They also talked about their connections to the neighborhoods and communities their businesses are in.
“[Central District] is my neighborhood. This is where I grew up at,” Erika said. “I went to high school down the street from here. It’s just been a part of my life.”
Karyn echoed similar sentiments. She said she wasn’t planning on living in Seattle, but she fell in love with Capitol Hill and never left.
“It’s been so lovely to be in one place for such a long time, and know people’s stories, and watch people’s families grow up,” Karyn said. “It’s the safety net we have. That we know each other’s stories and needs.”
Capitol Hill was also a place where Laura found community years ago, and she said it was transformational. Queer spaces provide a place for the LGBTQ community to celebrate, be themselves, and find support.
“I went to the Hill looking for community, looking for belonging, looking for people like me,” Laura said. “Looking for places I might not have to be afraid.”
Each of the business owners agreed it was important to them to create safe spaces.
“It’s important for me that no matter who you are, when you come here you feel comfortable,” Erika said. “You can be the most flamboyant gay or the most quiet.”
Queer-owned businesses create connections that build and strengthen the community. They are worth so much more than the sum of their products or their food.
“I always pictured myself owning a space to be able to give back to the community,” Lyz said. “[Like the spaces] that I got to be myself in.”
Dani agreed with Lyz, adding that queer-owned businesses are touchstone places where they can welcome people in the same way they were welcomed.
“This is a place you can come into where someone will be happy to see you,” Dani said.
As much as they support customers in their community, these four business owners also support other small businesses. Whether it’s recommending other restaurants and shops, carrying goods that haven’t had a chance to hit the shelves yet, creating space for pop-up vendors, or collaborating on events or promotions.
“When the sun is shining it’s not just shining on me, and when it’s raining I’m not the only one getting wet,” Erika said. “At the end of the day, we are all we got.”
Karyn said during COVID-19 people realized that if they didn’t spend intentionally, the small businesses around them wouldn’t survive. People saw their neighborhoods disappearing and realized how important it is to shop locally.
“Instead of being an anonymous consumer, be a neighbor,” she said.
Thanks for all that you do to #SpendLikeItMatters! Discover awesome brick + mortar small businesses in your community, suggest your favorites, and be sure that you’re following us on social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter).
Intentionalist is built on one simple idea: where we spend our money matters. We make it easy to find, learn about, and support small businesses and the diverse people behind them through everyday decisions about where we eat, drink, and shop. #SpendLikeItMatters