Celebrate LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs with us!
Katie Kurfurst

June 22, 2019

We are proud to be working towards a more inclusive and equitable economy for everyone. This month, Ventures is highlighting the successes, experiences, and impact of local, diverse LGBTQ+ business owners in our community. One of the ways we are doing this is by hosting a happy hour and panel discussion with LGBTQ+ founders on how they built their businesses on June 25th at The Riveter on Capitol Hill.

Similar to Ventures’ mission to provide accessible small business services to marginalized communities, our goal is to host an affordable event that celebrates the successes and experiences of local, diverse LGBTQ+ business owners. Ask questions, hear their stories, learn how they navigate challenges and bias, and celebrate their triumphs, large and small.

Our event is open to everyone whether or not you identify within the LGBTQ+ community. We encourage you to invite your friends, family, and aspiring entrepreneurs who are looking to start or grow their businesses. (This is a 21+ event.)

Tickets are $10 and include appetizers from Ventures business Thyme Well Spent Catering, craft beer, wine, and a free raffle featuring great prizes from local businesses like Elliot Bay bookstore, Poppy, Caffe Vita, Bishops Cuts & Color, Stoup Brewing, Eltana, the GSBA. Special thanks to our sponsors queer / bar and SAP Concur.

Meet the Panelists

Edward Holmes

Founder of Ally, Emofit, & UX Designer

Edward Holmes is a UX designer of apps for good for start-ups and businesses. Edward was educated by the same designers that coined the phrase “less is more.” With that philosophy in mind, Edward has forged a career in design which listens attentively to the user, whether designing a physical or digital space, to produce the most valuable and high impact product. Edward has created Ally, emoFIT, and Quirk, a mobile dating app that focuses on the individual quirks and idiosyncrasies of the user in lieu of physicality. 

How has your identity been an asset to your business?

My identity and the discrimination I’ve faced has made me an exceedingly empathetic person. This empathy shows up in my work, which causes people interested in this rare exploration in tech to gravitate towards my work.

What’s the proudest moment you’ve felt as a business owner, large or small?

When I received my first client. I had put in years of work honing my craft on my own time, outside of my nine to five job. I wasn’t sure if I was to ever get a client, but through proactively seeking out organizations whose purposes aligned with mine, I was able to do it.

Elliat Graney-Saucke

Founder of Elliat Creative LLC and Executive Director of the Seattle Documentary Association

Elliat Graney-Saucke is a documentary film director, producer, consultant, organizer, and educator. As Executive Director of the Seattle Documentary Association and Owner and Creative Director of Elliat Creative LLC, Elliat has recently worked in partnership with Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF), Icicle Creek Center for the Arts, Washington State Arts Commission’s Creative Districts, Utah’s Change Leaders Institute, and Tasveer.

After being based in Berlin, Germany for seven years, producing video, performing, organizing international queer festivals, cultural heritage conferences, and obtaining an M.A. in World Heritage Studies, Elliat returned to Seattle in 2015. Since 2008, Elliat has been producing their second feature documentary film “11 aka Boys on the Inside,” about ‘boy’ culture in women’s prisons, currently in post-production. Elliat holds leadership roles on the Washington Film Leadership Council and SALT Seattle Arts Leadership Team, as well as teaches at Northwest Film Forum.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your business?

My business, Elliat Creative, has taken me on quite a journey⁠—it is a never-ending process of reevaluating identity and presentation, values and relationship to networks and industry. Your business is not you, and yet, it is. The identity of Elliat Creative has evolved as I have become more honest and clear with myself around my skills and assets, and what it is that I truly want to put forth in the world. Running this business has allowed me to learn a great about things I continue to find challenging in regards to small business operations, but it has also allowed me to fine tune what I do so I can provide services that are unique to my skill set and experience as a creative, community organizer and cultural worker.

Has “coming out” been something you’ve faced in your business career?

As a queer femme I pass, and even in mixed LGBTQ spaces have to out myself at times. While passing has its privileges, it means I also have to come out constantly, from the doctor’s office to business networking events. There are definitely situations with straight cis-men where I avoid talking about being queer because my gut instinct is that I will be overly sexualized, as this has happened in various work environments in the past with colleagues.

It’s hard when you have to stay guarded because certain people feel unsafe, and this is an aspect of being queer that can impede relationship building that impacts professional opportunities as well. It is frustrating that having a visibly queer partner at my side both issues validation to my identity and an ability to feel physically safer and respected as a feminine presenting person. These are dynamics I am always navigating, regardless of how comfortable and safe I feel with friends, business partners, and colleagues.

Eli Allison

Founder of Repair Revolution

Eli started his career in the nonprofit sector focusing on supporting homeless and low-income families and worked in domestic violence. After several years in this field, Eli decided to shift gears back to his passion for cars. Eli went back to school to get a degree in Automotive Science and became a Master Certified Mechanic. After several years of hard work and rejection as a queer person working in a highly misogynistic and patriarchal industry, Eli decided to open his own repair shop, Repair Revolution, and disrupt the industry. Learn more about Eli and his business in our interview with him.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your business?

The biggest challenge I have faced in my business is finding skilled technicians who also believe in our mission which is to disrupt the [auto repair] industry with radical transparency. In addition, technicians that we bring on must have an understanding that our shop is a feminist, LGBTQ owned and operated, community-driven shop with a social justice heart. We are a safe and welcoming auto repair shop for both clients and technicians.

Skilled automotive technicians are already very hard to come by. They say for every 10 technicians that leave the industry 1 replaces them. Then add to that the environment of our industry which is male dominated where misogyny and homophobia are the norms. When I was researching my business plan, I found that less than 2% of automotive technicians were female. I can only imagine that this has something to with the toxic environment and extra hurdles women, people of color, and queer people face to stay in this industry. I have talked to many women who “used to be technicians” or “went to automotive school” but left the industry because the amount of sexual harassment and/or discrimination they faced was too much.

Personally, my biggest challenge is trying to have a work-life balance. Starting a business is often compared to having a baby. You pour your heart, soul, and 80 plus hours a week into it. This makes maintaining relationships and friendships hard because at the end of the day there is not a lot left. I am very grateful every day to have an amazingly supportive partner who I could not have done this without.

Joy Hollingsworth

Founder of Hollingsworth Cannabis and Elio CBD

Established in 2013, Hollingsworth Cannabis is one of the only Black LGBTQ owned Cannabis companies in Washington and was featured in Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown Seattle. Joy is entering her 6th year as the Chief Operating Officer and has created numerous innovative processing techniques to maximize company efficiency, branding, marketing, logistics, and creative development. Her love and appreciation for cannabis began when she saw firsthand how the plant provided immediate long-term relief to her disabled mother, aging grandmother and paraplegic uncle.

After a stellar high school sports career, Joy continued to earn honors as a collegiate student-athlete of the University of Arizona women’s basketball team where she graduated in 2007. She went on to play professionally in Athens, Greece and earned her Master’s in Education from the University of Washington. She worked as an assistant women’s basketball coach at Seattle University until joining her brother in the cannabis industry.

How has your identity been an asset to your business?

We really embrace being a black family. The industry is becoming more commercialized and dominated by corporations and as a result, we are able to capture an audience and find our niche. Our ability to be small family-owned and operated means that we are able to adjust quickly to market changes, expedite the process of implementing new ideas, and building long-term relationships with our community that we do business in and live in. We love being at the forefront in breaking stereotypes and adding a fresh feel to our work that other people can connect with and support.

Beto Yarce

Executive Director of Ventures (Event Moderator)

Beto Yarce is the Executive Director of Ventures. Beto started his first business at the age of eight years old selling candy. He continued over the years, selling all kind of products from bags to magazines, a restaurant, a coffee shop, and a family business of jewelry and folk art. Beto received a degree in International Business from the Instituto Tecnologico de Estudios Superiores de Occidente (ITESO) in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico and a certificate in Nonprofit Management from the University of Washington.

Beto received the Small Business Administration (SBA) Director Excellence Award in 2016, Nonprofit of the Year by GSBA in 2016, Innovation Award by Puget Sound Business Journal, City of Seattle Emerging Leader Pride Award, and Crosscut Business Courage Award in 2018. This year, Beto received an Outstanding LGBTQ Business Leaders award from Puget Sound Business Journal.

What can businesses in the region do to better support the LGBTQ+ community?

I believe marginalized and minority communities struggle with similar challenges. Businesses could create more intentional processes to create cultures that create diversity, equity, and inclusion where everyone is welcome and can thrive and grow personally and professionally. Have a more intentional hiring process for these communities, create systems and structure for these communities to thrive by asking what they need to be seated at the table while also being comfortable when they are at the table.

Thank you to all of our panelists! We are so grateful for all that you do to make Seattle a welcoming, safe, and vibrant city. Celebrate with us at our happy hour and panel discussion with The Riveter on June 25th!