Over four hundred business and community leaders are expected to attend the 2017 Excellence in Business Awards lunch event to celebrate and recognize the finalists and hear about the winners who were selected for their contributions to Nashville's inclusive business and nonprofit communities. The event will take place Friday April 28 from 11am-1pm at the Hilton Nashville Downtown.
Over 100 people and organizations were nominated across seven categories. Nominees completed questionnaires describing their accomplishments over the last twelve months. Questionnaires were scored by an awards committee made up of a diverse group of LGBT Chamber members and former award winners. The nominees who receive the top three scores are the finalists in that category. All current LGBT Chamber members will be allowed to vote for one deserving winner in each category to add to the judges’ scores of each finalist. Winners will be announced at the event on April 28.
Nashville LGBT Chamber CEO Lisa Howe said about the event, “The Excellence in Business Awards is an inspirational day for the LGBT Chamber and our community. This unique and exciting lunch event spotlights the LGBT and ally professional community like no other. All of our nominees deserve to have their stories shared and heard. We do our best to get these LGBT-inclusive stories and accomplishments in front of a powerful audience.”
The Corporate Diversity Award is given to the company that has over 500 employees and who has the most effective policies and best practices that protect and engage their LGBT employees, customers, and suppliers.
Dell has increased its engagement with the LGBT Chamber over the last year by sponsoring events such as TASTE and the Predators Pride Night reception. Dell has shared benchmarking material on Transgender policies and practices with local businesses. A Tennessee Thrives signatory, Dell supports, locally, Just Us, MTSU LGBT+ College Conference, Nashville CARES, and Nashville Pride. Named Best Places to Work by the Human Rights Campaign for thirteen years, Dell sponsors the HRC and Out & Equal Workplace Advocates. Last year, Dell won the Out & Equal Outie Award for Workplace Excellence.
UBS increases awareness of the importance of diversity in the workplace by engaging all employees in LGBT events and seeing record attendance at diversity programming. UBS leadership is fully committed to diversity and LGBT inclusion. UBS has a 100 on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index. Last year, UBS funded a library, called “Gender Spectrum,” which provides much needed resources for the Oasis Center LGBT youth groups and their families. The UBS Pride Employee Resource Group consistently provides Just Us with volunteers and resources. UBS has a vendor booth at the Nashville Pride Festival.
Waller sponsors and provides leadership for several local LGBT organizations and events, including the LGBT Chamber, Nashville CARES, Dining Out for Life, Vanderbilt University, MTSU LGBT+ College Conference, Tennessee Stonewall Bar Association, Human Rights Campaign, and the Tennessee Equality Project. Waller’s long history of supporting LGBT-inclusiveness started when Waller was one of the first local companies to offer full health and insurance benefits to same-sex couples. Waller recently was one of the first 100 companies to sign the Tennessee Thrives pledge.
Small Business Diversity
The Small Business Diversity Award is given to the company that has under 500 employees and who has the most effective policies and best practices that protect and engage their LGBT employees, customers, and suppliers.
Bart Durham Injury Law is an auto accident law firm with more than 75 years of experience. There is no one more vulnerable, no one in greater need of help, than those who have been injured due to the negligence of others. Bart Durham is one of the original advertisers in Out & About Nashville and a long-time supporter of Nashville Pride. Bart Durham Injury Law is not only committed to hiring within the LGBT community but also contracting with LGBT-owned businesses whenever possible. Pam Wheeler and Brent Meredith have helped develop a strong ally business at Bart Durham Injury Law.
MediCopy partners with healthcare facilities of all sizes to provide all-inclusive release of information and disability/FMLA form completion services, aiding in the transfer of medical records to speciality clinics, attorneys and auditors. Medicopy is LGBT-owned and operated and hired their first transgender employee this year. MediCopy is awaiting word of their LGBT Business Enterprise certification. MediCopy signed Tennessee Thrives. Leaders at MediCopy participate in honest and transparent mentoring programs at the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, TSU, and Metro Public Schools.
The Turnip Truck is Nashville’s only locally-owned, full-service natural foods grocer. John Dyke opened the first store in East Nashville’s 5 Points in 2001, determined to bring his neighbors easier access to healthy groceries. The Turnip Truck is a certified LGBT owned and operated company. The Turnip Truck has strong non-discrimination policies and has had several transgender employees. Numerous vendors for The Turnip Truck identify as LGBT. Their goal, every day, is to bring all these diverse people and products together to serve the greater good, and stronger health, of Nashville.
Maria M Salas Entrepreneur of the Year
The Maria M Salas Entrepreneur of the Year is presented to an entrepreneur or small business owner who identifies as LGBT. The candidate should be able to show increased outcomes over the last twelve months while giving back to the LGBT community.
John Dyke (The Turnip Truck) – The Turnip Truck has grown revenue 32.6% in the last year. Total employee count in March 2017 is 137, up from 120 in March 2016 and 87 in March 2015. The Turnip Truck completed an inside redesign of the Gulch store. MSN Lifestyle named The Turnip Truck “Best Grocery Store in Tennessee,” and John Dyke was named Retailer of the Year for Innovation by Natural Foods Merchandiser magazine at a national expo.
Jenny Ford (JF Government Strategies) – Jenny Ford had an amazing year which included subcontracting with Deloitte’s government relations team, successfully defeating seven (and counting) anti-LGBT bills in the Tennessee legislature, and narrowly passing a bill protecting patients, for which she was hired by a group representing doctors. Jenny was instrumental in organizing the Nashville vigil for the Pulse victims, the first such vigil in the U.S.
Elliott Noble-Holt (MediCopy) – In the past year, Elliott Noble-Holt moved MediCopy into a new facility at OneCity, having outgrown their previous three office spaces. MediCopy also expanded their footprint to 43 states and Guam this past year, giving them the opportunity to work with physician offices and hospitals throughout the country. Within the past 12 months, MediCopy expanded its service line and are anticipating a top line revenue increase of at least 20% during the rest of 2017.
Samuel L Felker Business Leader of the Year
The Samuel L. Felker Business Leader of the Year is presented to someone who identifies as LGBT and has an employer. First, the candidate should show strong business results over the last twelve months, including increased revenue, attendance, programs, clients, promotion, or whatever is relevant to their field. The better candidate will be involved in the LGBT community or give back to LGBT organizations. The best candidate will be able to tie their increased outcomes to the LGBT Chamber.
Dwayne Jenkins (Nashville CARES) – In the last twelve months, Dwayne Jenkins hired four individuals to join his team as part of a newly funded project entitled MY HOUSE, which is Nashville’s first Gay Men’s Health & Wellness Drop-In Center. This collaborative effort between Nashville CARES, Street Works, and Neighborhood Health is in its second year of a five-year grant. One of his primary successes over the past year has been finding a space for the MY HOUSE Gay Men’s Drop-In Center. It has been a long process, and Dwayne was instrumental in building a collaboration to bring forth the vision. As the founder and Executive Director of the Brothers United Network, Dwayne had two very successful events within the past twelve months. The Brothers United Network owns and hosts the annual Nashville Black Pride celebration which celebrated its fourteenth year in October 2016. They increased attendance and sponsorship last year. The Brothers United Network also held its twelfth Winter Retreat in December and was able to increase registration from the previous year by 20 individuals. One of Jenkins many awards includes LOUD 100 LGBT People of Color by DBQ Magazine for two consecutive years.
Pam Sheffer (Oasis Center) – Over the last twelve months, Pam Sheffer, Director of LGBTQI Programming at Oasis Center, presented at the True Colors Conference in Los Angeles on LGBTQ homeless youth in Tennessee. She also assembled a group of national experts on LGBTQ youth within the juvenile justice system, child welfare, and LGBTQ homelessness at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C. for a two-day brainstorming session on how to create systemic change for LGBTQI youth in Tennessee. While in Washington, D.C., Pam served as a facilitator for a breakout session during the "White House Convening on Advancing LGBT Progress in Rural America". Just Us was awarded a grant to provide LGBTQ Cultural Competency Training to professionals who work with victims of crime throughout the state. Just Us expanded programming to serve LGBTQ young men of color. Just Us has served over 150 young people in the past twelve months averaging 40 young people per session. Just Us hired a therapist to focus specifically on LGBTQ youth and their parents. Sheffer is responsible for securing the funding for the program, which has grown from $40,000 annually to over $200,000.
Paul Vasterling (Nashville Ballet) – Paul Vasterling, the Artistic Director and CEO of the Nashville Ballet, set three attendance and revenue records last year. Currently, the Nashville Ballet is preparing for one of the biggest moments in their history – making their debut at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. as part of the Ballet Across America series. Under Paul Vasterling’s leadership, Nashville Ballet has transformed a troupe of twelve professional dancers into a company of 24, and his commitment to developing the dancers of tomorrow inspired him to establish a second pre-professional company of 25 dancers. One of Paul’s proudest moments of 2016 was presenting Carmina Burana, which he created in 2009. It has become a frequently sought-after performance for touring. It has gone to St. Louis multiple times and has been invited to additional touring destinations next year. Vasterling has created programming in the School of Nashville Ballet with both masculine and feminine themes but does not limit or specify who can register in which class. One of Paul’s next projects is to choreograph a new work based on a classic piece of literature that explores changing gender roles through history.
Mayor Megan Barry Ally Award
The Mayor Megan Barry Ally Award is presented to someone who does not identify as LGBT and has shown a commitment to helping the LGBT community. Donations include monetary, time, policies, budgeting, treatment, support, engagement, etc. An ally uses their resources and centers of influence to provide opportunities for and empower their LGBT peers, employees, organizations, or the community.
Melody Fowler-Green (Metro Human Relations Commission (MHRC)) – Mel Fowler-Green is the Executive Director of the MHRC who co-authored, with the LGBT Chamber, a policy recommendation to Metro for greater inclusion of LGBT employees. Mel invited the Tennessee Equality Project to be on the steering committee of the Respect Nashville Coalition. Fowler-Green provided cultural humility and competence training to the Metro Nashville Police Department training academy that included trainees meeting with members of the LGBTQ community. The MHRC helps organize or sponsor many events such as World AIDS Day, National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, the Bingham Cup, and Nashville Pride. Mel Fowler-Green was instrumental in Metro employees being able to walk in the Nashville Pride Equality Walk while representing their departments.
Sean Henry (Nashville Predators) – Sean Henry, the President & CEO of the Nashville Predators, was The Tennessean Sportsperson of 2016. The Nashville Predators were one of the early signers of Tennessee Thrives. Sean was one of the few CEOs who was willing to give an interview to the media regarding Tennessee Thrives. When asked why the Predators signed the pledge, in a memorable moment, Henry responded, “You need to ask people why they don’t sign a non-discrimination pledge.” While the National Hockey League encourages their franchises to host a Pride Night, not all teams participate. The Predators have grown their Pride Night from less than 200 to over 400 ticket buyers in just one year and sold rainbow Predators sweaters in their silent auction. Tennessee Equality Project received a grant from the Nashville Predators Foundation last year.
Hedy Weinberg (American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Tennessee) – Hedy Weinberg is the Executive Director of the ACLU of Tennessee. At the ACLU, Hedy has been advocating for LGBT rights before there were LGBT organizations doing so. Almost fifteen years ago, Hedy successfully pursued a legislative initiative that recognized, for the first time, sexual orientation as a protected class. Most recently, Hedy, with her LGBT partners, successfully defeated anti-transgender student bathroom bills in back-to-back sessions. Tennessee has the most proposed pieces of anti-LGBT legislation of any state, and Hedy is on the front lines fighting for transgender students, LGBT youth, marriage equality, LGBT families, same-sex parents, and LGBT employees. What motivates Hedy is her belief that it is most important to change hearts and minds as we work to advance LGBT equality and ensure that all people are treated with dignity and respect.
Mark Lee Taylor Community Service Award
The Mark Lee Taylor Community Service Award is given to an individual who identifies as LGBT or an organization which caters specifically to the LGBT community (like Pride or GLSEN). The better candidate will be involved in the local LGBT community. The best candidate will have a consistent relationship with the LGBT Chamber.
Amos Gott (AmosEvents) – Over the past year AmosEvents contributed $86,819.48 in goods, event planning, and design to organizations including the Belcourt Theatre, Charley Foundation, Cheekwood, Make-A-Wish, Middle Tennessee Heart Association, Nashville Ballet, Nashville Fashion Week [Fashion Forward Fund at The Community Foundation], and Nashville Humane Society. That far-reaching impact not only reflects on a giving LGBT community, but also allows these organizations to raise more funds in order to develop and sponsor programs that LGBT individuals and families may enjoy. Amos serves on the boards of the Brooks Fund and the Belcourt Theatre. Amos has always found it imperative to give back to the community through time, talent, and resources.
Nashville Launch Pad Volunteers – Launch Pad is the only shelter in Nashville created specifically to serve youth, between the ages of 18 and 24, that is LGBTQ inclusive and affirming. Nashville Launch Pad volunteers attributed to several accomplishments last year, including 1115 beds filled in the last twelve months, 73 nights open during the cold weather months, 157 different youth served, and 2230 breakfast and hot dinners provided to youth. To put this volunteer commitment in perspective, 158 Launch Pad volunteers fulfilled 538 different shifts, meals, or laundry for a total of more than 5000 hours. Forty percent of Launch Pad guests are from the LGBTQ community. Homeless youth are disproportionately part of the LGBTQ community, often due to family rejection and abuse.
Ron Sanford (Ron Sanford Productions) – Ron has been the VIP tent sponsor for Nashville Pride and plans on doing so this year, for the third year in a row. Ron has assisted the LGBT Chamber in gathering and installing decor for TASTE and the Excellence in Business Awards. Ron was crowned Miss Red Dress at the Nashville Grizzlies RFC's Red Dress Rampage. Other organizations and events Ron supports include: Nashville CARES, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, The Conductors, Planet Nashville, Celebrate Nashville at the Ryman, and Mr. Friendly. Sanford is a founding member of the Bianca Paige Foundation and a longtime, volunteer judge of Nashville's drag queen and drag king pageants.
Leadership in the Arts Award
The Leadership in the Arts Award is given to an individual who identifies as LGBT or an organization (which does not) who, over the past year, has demonstrated a commitment to equality, especially LGBT equality. Considerations should be given to performance topics, performers, staff, audience, policies, and more.
Belcourt Theatre – The Belcourt Theatre’s programming brings stories, issues, and perspectives from all voices to audiences through quality film content that inspires lively conversation and thoughtful discussion around gender, race, sexuality, justice, inclusion, and tolerance. Among its recent highlights, the Belcourt was the first area theatre to show the Academy Award winner MOONLIGHT and continued to screen this extraordinary film for nine weeks. In its community-wide education and engagement work with young people and students, the Belcourt utilizes the power of film to introduce and explore topics and issues of inclusion, intolerance, justice, gender, and identity. Out & About Nashville readers named the Belcourt their favorite movie spot. The Nashville Scene named the Belcourt’s executive director, Stephanie Silverman, as “Nashvillian of the Year” in November 2016. With a newly-renovated and preserved building that includes a small screening room and classroom, the Belcourt has been able to increase the number of films showed by approximately sixteen percent. In terms of overall tickets sold, the Belcourt is on-track to exceed last year’s attendance by at least six or seven percent.
OZ Arts Nashville – OZ Arts supports the creative explorations of leading performing and visual artists from around the world; encourage the work of accomplished Tennessee-based artists; and inspire curious audiences of all ages. OZ Arts has established itself as a destination for world-class contemporary dance, theater, and multimedia performances. OZ Arts is dedicated to working with contemporary artists who expand our way of thinking, and who create important works that address current social, political, economic, environmental or religious issues. OZ Arts is a destination for contemporary art in Nashville and is committed to presenting programs that foster inclusivity. OZ Arts chose the theme for Nashville’s edition of the INSIDE OUT project as Inclusion. OZ Arts actively solicited participation from a wide variety of community members, and created portrait murals highlighting the diverse faces of Nashville. Public murals were installed at Meharry Medical College, Casa Azafrán, and Merchants. OZ Arts believes the arts help people to better understand the nature of the human condition and the broader cultural and social arrangements that make up human lives. Arts have a unique capability of communicating, inspiring, and making personal the extremes of human emotion.
Hon. Nancy VanReece (BatchNashville, LLC) – As a member of the Metro Council, Nancy worked diligently on securing additional funding of $300,000 to arts programming in 2016. In 2017 she worked with Metro Nashville Arts Council to insure an National Education Association grant that will bring research and implementation of arts development to the community of Madison. She is the former Executive Director of The Nashville Shakespeare Festival (2007-2009) and the former Sr. Director of Website and Social Media for the Nashville Symphony (2012-2013.) Both years, nominated by the Nashville Tech Council as Strategist of the Year. As a painter, she has works in over twelve cities in North America. VanReece has found that promotion of the arts, in all forms, are important to all Nashvillians, including the LGBT community.
Photo from the 2016 Excellence in Business Awards