Nashville LGBT Chamber Announces Excellence in Business Awards Winners


On Wednesday, April 13, 2016, the Nashville LGBT Chamber presented its annual Excellence in Business Awards luncheon presented by Curb Records and sponsored by HCA/Tri-Star Health, Fifth Third Bank, The Bank of Nashville and Nashville Pharmacy Services.

LGBT Chamber Executive Director, Lisa Howe, was encouraged by the event and the attendance. “To honor and share the stories of LGBT professionals, LGBT-inclusive businesses, and allies in front of CEO’s, Presidents, and Vice Presidents is great for the community. Guests left the event feeling inspired.The LGBT Chamber reiterated our message that economic growth, business growth, and LGBT-inclusion are not mutually exclusive.”

The LGBT Chamber welcomed over 300 guests to the DoubleTree Hotel by Hilton where members of Nashville’s LGBT community and allies were honored for their outstanding achievements. Awards were presented in seven categories. Over 200 guests signed letters to Governor Haslam, asking him to veto the Counseling Discrimination Bill and the Transgender Bathroom Harassment Bill. Immediately following the event, LGBT Chamber Board President, Joe Woolley, led a dozen members to the Governor’s office to hand deliver the letters to the Governor.

This year, the Nashville LGBT Chamber Board of Directors decided to name the Ally Award after Mayor Megan Barry for her ongoing support and dedication to the LGBT community and diversity in Nashville.

Serial entrepreneur and business leader Michael Burcham announced an offer for members of the LGBT Chamber to receive exclusive discounts to attend his renowned program, Thinking Like a CEO: Professional Development Workshop, which will take place on Saturday, September 24 at the John Siegenthaler First Amendment Center.

In partnership with Wells Fargo and the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, the Nashville LGBT Chamber added four certified LGBT owned businesses to the list of LGBT Business Enterprises. LGBTBE certification can help a business owner differentiate themselves from other suppliers. Wells Fargo representative, James Anderson presented certificates to Allard Ward Architects, Bam! Social Business, KE Innerworks, and Schmidt Government Solutions. The LGBT Chamber announced the next cohort will begin in May to be certified by August.

The Nashville LGBT Chamber also announced hiring a second staff person. The new Membership and Events Coordinator, Melanie Dorantes, is a recent Belmont University graduate with a major in Music Business. She helped organize national tours for bands and has experience in advertising. After volunteering as the food vendor liaison for TASTE last year, she has been able to hit the ground running with some existing knowledge of LGBT Chamber members and events. “I am grateful for the Board’s decision to invest in a Membership and Events Coordinator. I think our members deserve this benefit, and Melanie will be a great team member,” said Lisa Howe.

For more information on the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce, please visit

Community Service Award: 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 JustUs at Oasis Center. Schmidt serves as the Corporate Sponsorship Chair for the 2016 Bingham Cup.

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.

Small Business Diversity Award: 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.

Entrepreneur of the Year Award: 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.

Business Leader of the Year Award: 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.

Mayor Megan Barry Ally Award:  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 JustUs 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.

Leadership in the Arts Award: 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.

Pictured: 2016 Community Service Award recipient, Jim Schmidt – by Myl Pak