A diverse panel of judges read and scored applications from over 60 nominees. Those with the top four scores in each category have qualified as finalists. The finalists communicated an impressive level of success, talent, and commitment to diversity and inclusion over the last 12 months. The LGBT Chamber is proud of the impact these companies, professionals, and organizations have on the local economy and social justice. The complete list of finalists with a brief description of each follows:
Corporate Diversity Award
Baker Donelson - Baker Donelson just received its first 100 score in 2015 up from 80 on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index. They are the only local law firm to receive this distinction. Baker Donelson partnered with several LGBT non-profit organizations to help organize the 2015 Mayoral Forum for the LGBT community and its allies.
Cracker Barrel - The LGBT Alliance at Cracker Barrel is an effective Employee Resource Group. Their consistent growth in members and diversity has given them leverage to change internal policies and build external partnerships that improve the workplace culture for LGBT and ally employees.
Cummins - A consistent leader in diversity, Cummins has shared multiple resources with LGBT Chamber members including Safe Leader Training, Transgender Policy forms, and Self-ID Data Collection. Cummins signed the 2015 Supreme Court amicus brief supporting marriage equality.
Waller - Waller sponsors the Nashville Human Rights Campaign Equality Dinner, Nashville CARES Red Ribbon Breakfast, and MTSU's LGBT+ College Conference, including hosting the Cocktails & Conversation community diversity event. Waller employees serve on LGBT committees and boards in Middle Tennessee and speak locally/nationally on LGBT-related issues.
Small Business Diversity Award
ALT Travel - ALT Travel is a certified LGBT-owned Business Enterprise (LGBTBE). They pride themselves on not just being a gay owned and operated company but rather being a diverse work force that reaches out to diverse clients and colleagues throughout all different demographics.
GS&F - GS&F is a local pioneer in executing marketing strategies to the LGBT community. Most recently, GS&F received several awards at the 2016 ADDY’s for their More to Youth campaign for the Oasis Center.
MediCopy - MediCopy measures data of its LGBT employees. Over 25% of their workforce is LGBT, and over 30% of their management team identifies as LGBT. The fast-growing company includes gender identity and gender expression in their non-discrimination policies.
Parachute Media, LLC - Parachute Media has grown exponentially in the last year and they have not made any new human resources policies without fully including any current or future LGBT employees. Parachute consistently endorses efforts by the Tennessee Equality Project.
Claudia Huskey - Claudia served as President of the Nashville Pride Board in 2015, which was the largest and most successful Nashville Pride Festival. She followed up a successful, LGBT-inclusive mayoral campaign for Megan Barry with intentionally including people who identify as LGBT in her recommendations for the Mayor’s Office staff and board appointments.
Patrick Luther - As a Nashville CARES employee, Patrick co-created My House, a first of its kind, world-class gay men’s health center. His ability to collaborate with other local health service organizations and resources created THRIVE, which has almost doubled the amount of care and providers for sexual and gender minority people living with HIV.
Amy Parker - Amy has volunteered for several successful events and causes over the last year, the highlight was serving as Project Lead for the Shades of Us event, which raised over $13,000 for Just Us at Oasis Center. While at Dollar General, Amy held a leadership position in EQUAL, the LGBT ERG that helped adopt equal benefits policies for same-sex couples.
Erica Rains - Erica has proven that supporting equality is good for business. Several LGBT non-profit organizations have benefited from The Chef and I’s donation of delicious food and courteous service to fundraising events. Erica is not an anonymous donor - she attends events, volunteers frequently, and brings her sparkle wherever she goes.
Leadership in the Arts Award
Belcourt Theatre - The Belcourt presents cinematic art that Nashvillians may not have the opportunity to see otherwise. Their programming has included a number of films with LGBT-related themes and issues. These include: Tangerine, Mommy, Tom at the Farm, Fifi Howls from Happiness, The Duke of Burgandy, We Were Here, God Loves Uganda, Portrait of Jason, and more. The Belcourt also showed The New Black and LA Mission exclusively for young people at the Oasis Center.
Nashville Ballet - Nashville Ballet promotes self-expression, acceptance, and understanding through its performances and school. They annually host Night OUT at the Ballet for one of their ATTITUDE performances, where people, regardless of sexual orientation, race, or religion, can step aside from their everyday lives and allow art to transform their lives. Nashville Ballet offers special programs for boys ages three to eighteen where they can pursue their love of dance, no matter what gender stereotypes they face in the world.
Nashville Opera Association - Nashville Opera is a nationally recognized leader in audience building, creative placemaking, and community engagement. Nashville Opera understands the correlation between exposure to art and arts activities and acceptance and inclusion. The company creates authentic relationships with Nashville’s many diverse communities to develop partnerships that will transform young people in the surrounding areas and improve the community as a whole.
OZ Arts Nashville - OZ Arts Nashville is a contemporary arts center presenting the work of cutting edge artists from the dance, music, theatrical, visual art, film, and spoken word communities. OZ seeks to ensure everyone in Nashville is included in the richness art offers - from the presenting artists to the audience members. In February, OZ hosted Taylor Mac, an openly gay performer whose work addresses marginalized communities throughout history through his art.
Samuel L Felker Business Leader of the Year
William Bullens - In January, William won Best Entertainment Sales Rep in Eastern North America by his peers. He was promoted to Director of Entertainment Sales for five more properties, including properties in California, Oregon, and New York. He led Sheraton Nashville Downtown to a 50% growth in entertainment sales last year. William supports Nashville CARES as well as several other non-profit organizations.
Steve Smotherman - Steve is one of the founders and leaders of the Cracker Barrel LGBT Alliance, which has contributed to the implementation of same-sex spouse benefits, LGBT cultural competency training, and LGBT workplace best practices including transgender policies and accommodations. Steve received a promotion within his position of Management Training & Development. He now speaks at all new hire orientations at Cracker Barrel to welcome new LGBT and ally employees.
Nancy VanReece - Nancy became the first out-lesbian to be elected to a legislative body in Tennessee, as Metro Councilmember District 8, in 2015. Councilperson VanReece was instrumental in the Metro Council passing a resolution supporting the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision. In October, VanReece joined Parachute Media as COO where she helps manage business development, client relations, and a staff of nine. Parachute Media’s client base doubled in the fourth quarter last year.
Paul Vasterling - As Artistic Director and CEO of the Nashville Ballet, Paul led a 13,000 foot expansion of the Nashville Ballet, which allows the school to offer more diverse dance opportunities for every age and experience level. For the Ballet’s 30th anniversary season, Vasterling choreographed five of the six ballets, which helped them receive Nashville Scene’s Best Performing Arts Group and the Ballet was named Top Performing Arts Group by the Nashville Business Journal.
Mark Lee Taylor Community Service Award
Jeffery Humble - Jeffery’s community service is focused on Nashville CARES, Human Rights Campaign, and the Tennessee Equality Project. He was the Event Co-Chair and Ticket and Host Chair for the wildly successful Nashville CARES 2016 Avant Garde “Speakeasy.” Jeffery has dedicated time and experience to help sell more tickets, acquire more silent auction items, and generate more revenue for many LGBT non-profit organizations.
Mac - Mac is heavily involved with Nashville Pride and Nashville Black Pride. She was a Pride Board member and coordinated the Nashville Pride Pageant, Turnabout Pride Fundraiser, and the Festival Drag Stage in 2015, the most successful year of the Nashville Pride Festival. Mac Productions also holds a Toys for Tots drive at PLAY every year.
Scott Ridgway - Scott has received several awards in the last twelve months, including the NAMI-Davidson County 2015 Well Within Community Service Award and UNITE Magazine’s 2015 Man of the Year. Scott serves on the organizing committee for the 2016 Bingham Cup and is the Chair of the Host and Volunteer Committees. As a Nashville CARES Executive Board member, Ridgway chairs the Strategic Planning Committee.
Jim Schmidt - Jim helped with two political campaigns last year, as well as serving on the Finance Committee for Megan Barry for Mayor. He also advised and volunteered for Nancy VanReece for Metro Council. Jim’s community service and support extends to Nashville Pride, Victory Fund, and Just Us at Oasis Center. Schmidt serves as the Corporate Sponsorship Chair for the 2016 Bingham Cup.
Maria M Salas Entrepreneur of the Year
Phil Cobucci - BAM! Social Business is a digital marketing strategy firm. In 2015, BAM! grew by nearly 50%. The firm hired two new full-time and two new part-time employees. BAM! added eight new clients in 2015 and added scope of work increases to 24 clients. BAM! is positioned to add another 3 full time employees by the end of the year. Phil recently completed the SBA’s Emerging Leaders program and is in process of getting LGBTBE certification. Cobucci serves as President-Elect on the Nashville Pride Board.
Jack Davis - JD Events and Festivals manage all aspects of festivals. Davis’ largest growing festivals over the last year were the Tomato Art Festival, Nashville Pride Festival, and Sevier Park Fest. In 2015, festivals run by JD Events and Festivals drew an estimated 150,000 people, a 15% increase from the previous year. The increase in the number of festivals Jack manages led to the addition of a full-time employee and an increase in the number of part-time and seasonal staff to fifteen.
John Dyke - Turnip Truck is Nashville’s only locally-owned, full-service natural foods grocer. Over the last year, John opened their flagship East Nashville store, which at 13,000 square feet is four times the size of the original location. The expanded store includes more departments and has a large second-floor space for community and educational events. The new location has allowed a 40% increase in employees and 80% growth in revenue. Transitioning customers smoothly to the new store while maintaining the Gulch location was an accomplishment.
Dale Levitski - The Hook and Sinema are fast casual and semi-fine dining restaurants in Nashville. Sinema has received several accolades including Best Restaurant in Nashville. The project to bring the Hook to 8th Avenue took an astounding 165 workdays, from the first contractor meeting to opening day. The Hook’s opening projections have been blown away estimates by over 50%. Chef Levitski expects to drive close to $2 million in revenue in the first year while maintaining an affordable entree average of $13.