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2021 Pride in Business Awards Finalists

Business Awards Chamber News Release

We were proud to announce our 2021 Pride in Business Awards in a live broadcast on Friday, May 14th. You can watch the broadcast on FacebookLinkedIn, or YouTube. Learn more about all of the finalists below!

Leadership in the Arts

Nashville Children's Theatre

Nashville Children's Theatre had to totally reinvent and reinvigorate our business model over the past year. As we began to celebrate our 90th anniversary, we looked for ways NCT would continue to be the city's theatre for the next 90 years. Before the pandemic, 80% of our performance schedule and revenue came from weekday school matinees which obviously stopped cold.This forced the organization to look for new ways to serve young people, teachers, and families in Middle Tennessee and, thanks to technology, outside the state. NCT quickly revised all of its class curriculum and not only took The NCT Drama School to virtual platforms, but also created entirely new drama education experiences that embraced online capabilities. Over the past year, NCT has served over 1,886 students from 11 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, Spain, and India in our online arts programming. Two productions, AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 STORIES: A Celebration of Multicultural Folks Tales and PETE THE CAT, were recorded and have been streamed to families and classrooms. Thanks to generous support from Amazon all K-3 grade classrooms are receiving PETE THE CAT free of charge. The organization has also been heavily involved in diversity and inclusion efforts including participating in TYA USA's training programs as well as participating in BIPOC in TYA discussion. As the city begins to open back up, NCT is looking for ways to bring productions outside the building in order to safely serve young people and families again.

Southern Word

Murfreesboro Poet Laureate Amie Whittemore partnered with Southern Word, a Nashville youth literary arts non-profit, to launch the Write with Pride program. Write with Pride cultivates brave and barrier-breaking writing and sharing spaces for LGBT+ youth to build community and provide resources that foster well-being. Sponsored by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Academy of American Poets, the team conducted visits to school GSA’s, six Saturday workshops, and a culminating Creative Justice Conference.

Participants had the opportunity to process and understand their own experience while gaining the confidence to share these experiences with a broader community. Several youth shared that Southern Word was one of the first places where they encountered other members of the LGBT+ community.

Program testimonials:

“I loved how open the hosts were with everyone. Coming from a less than decent environment, I never had a place where I could be seen and have my voice heard by adults.”

“Everyone brought love into the space. I normally feel very nervous about sharing my writing, but everyone was super supportive and made me feel excited about sharing.”

Community Service

Rev. Dawn Bennett, The Table

Pastor Dawn is an ordained pastor serving The Table community in Downtown Nashville. Her ministry work centers LGBTQ+ voices and the ways we experience faith. She has a longtime commitment to social justice as it relates to religion-based trauma and the phobias that negatively impact the health and wellbeing of God’s Beloved Community. Pastor Dawn is known around town as the #holyhellion. She gives back to the community in a variety of ways: She goes to name change court, she accompanies for grs surgery, she raises funds for local non-profits, she prays at public events (Mayor’s City address), she gives rides and gives clothes away and delivers food boxes weekly. Pastor Dawn is active in speaking out and speaking up for our community. Her favorite thing to do is partner with other orgs to make the widest impact possible and help as many people as possible, because we are better together.

Dakerri Rhone, HRC Nashville

"Be the change you wish to see in the world" is a quote I truly live by and advocating for the LGBTQI+ community is my passion. Over the past 10 years I have had the pleasure of working with several organizations. Currently I am on the board of governors of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and one of the 2 leaders of the Nashville Steering Committee, serve on the Nashville Pride board (D&I and volunteer subcommittees), I am a board member of the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP), and a member of a national LGBT Greek sorority called Beta Phi Omega Sorority, Inc. Over the past year I have worked with these organizations with a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion, and LGBT legislation. I have served as a district captain with TEP and lobbied TN representatives regarding the "slate of hate". I have lobbied and met virtually with Rep. Jim Cooper, Sen. Marsha Blackburn, and Sen. Bill Hagerty's offices regarding the Equality Act, John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and conversion therapy legislation. This year HRC awarded me with Get Out the Vote (GOTV) Without Borders award, Achievement in State Legislative Advocacy award, and Team Leadership award.

Michael Reding, Nashville in Harmony

Michael Reding is a Nashville native who proudly devotes his time to local organizations benefiting the LGBTQ community and their families.    

Michael served as Co-Chair of PFLAG Nashville from 2015 to 2020. During his tenure, he made significant improvements in the organization’s administrative functions and technology and led the group to an increase of nearly 1000% in fundraising since he joined in 2011.  He facilitated the monthly support meeting and made himself personally available for those needing support.   

In the fall of 2020, Michael was elected President of Nashville in Harmony where he has worked to guide the organization through Artistic Director and Associate Conductor transitions while navigating the challenges and limitations of the pandemic, keeping members safe while staying true to the group’s mission of using music to build community and create social change. During his tenure, he oversaw the most successful show in the organization’s history, the virtual “At Home for the Holidays” with viewership of over 2500 people within the first 24 hours, and is currently working on their June 2021 show, “Up! Up! Up!” 

As Practice Manager for Rager Adolescent Health, the state’s largest provider of gender care for young people, Michael works to break down barriers to care and connect patients and their families to lifesaving resources.  Outside of work, he volunteers his time for community education and fighting anti-LGBTQ legislation. 

Combining this knowledge and experience has led Michael to become known as a top expert and trusted resource for LGBTQ youth and adults across the state.

Ally of the Year

Donna Drehmann, Consultant & Former NLGBTCC Board Member

I am a 20+ year resident of Nashville, with a long history of Board service. I had the honor of being the first Ally to serve as Vice President on the LGBT Chamber board.

I consistently support diversity & inclusion in the workplace, and

 have been a sponsor of the D&I ERG while at Change Healthcare, and facilitated Inclusion & Unconscious Bias training to over 150 associates in 2020 while at TikTok.

My proudest moment over the past 12 months has been as the corporate voice for Postmates, when I stood side by side with the Chamber and spoke out against the anti-LGBT bills we have seen in our legislature.

I am happy to lend my talents to inclusive organizations in Nashville and have done so in the past 12 months, whether it be leading a session as part of the Chambers’ Classroom Connect program, or joining the Marketing Committee of Nashville CARES.

I firmly believe that Love is Love and should be available for everyone. I commit to use my voice to help spread that message always.

Dan Frailich, Dell Technologies

Dan Frailich is a member of the Dell Technologies site leadership team, responsible for community engagement, culture, and inclusion activities. He is the Dell Pride Ally champion for North America and leads power hours on “being a better ally” for all marginalized groups. Recognizing the intersectionality of the racial injustice fight with the LGBT fight, he has made those two topics focal to his presentations.

As a finalist for this same award in 2019, he has put a heavier emphasis on LGBT issues into focus. One event he organized was a fireside chat with Broadway Actor, Thayne Jasperson of Hamilton fame. He produced content at the Out & Equal Conference in 2020 and volunteered his time with many LGBTQ organizations over the past year including mentoring with LGBTQ middle and high schoolers virtually.

In late 2019 he and his wife Sarah gave birth to their first Daughter, Avery Rose, and have enjoyed the additional time at home with her this year. His daughter loves spending time with her doggy their family looks forward to being able to travel again soon!

Beth-Ann Martorello, AllianceBernstein

Beth-Ann was born to be an ally. From helping her brother come-out, to supporting her friends/colleagues in their journeys, to being a critical resource to AB’s LGBT employees, and the co-chairs of AB OUT, the LGBT ERG, she has been an unwavering ally. Beth-Ann devoted herself to creating a workplace where employees can bring their whole selves, so much so, she will be presenting  “Creating an Inclusive Internal Audit Department” for the IIA-Nashville in May. After suffering personal losses to HIV/AIDS, she became active in fight to end the epidemic. When relocated to Nashville, she hit the ground “walking” in 2019 HIV/AIDS Walk, becoming the top fundraiser.  She supported the 2019 Red Ribbon Breakfast, where she served as a panelist comparing/contrasting the challenges facing the LGBT Community in NYC to those in Middle Tennessee. She became a Nashville Cares board member in 2020, quickly securing sponsorships for the 2020 Celebration of Hope Gala and HIV/AIDS Walk, once again becoming the top fundraiser.  She puts her money where her mouth is personally sponsoring the 2021 Dining Out for Life.

Business Leader of the Year

Hal Cato, Thistle Farms

Hal Cato has spent his entire career leading organizations in both the nonprofit and private sector. He is currently the CEO of Thistle Farms, a non-profit organization based in Nashville, TN that provides women escaping trafficking, prostitution and addiction with a second chance at life. As CEO, he has doubled the size of the organization, increased sales revenue by more than 70% in the past three years and helped provide more than 125,000 hours of employment to women survivors this past year. Prior to that, Hal served as Founder and CEO of Zeumo, a company that creates closed communication networks for health systems. In 2015, Hal sold Zeumo to the Advisory Board Company in Washington, DC. Between 2001 – 2011, Hal served as the CEO for the Oasis Center, a 44 year-old non-profit organization that works with youth, helping them in times of crisis as well as providing them with opportunities for leadership and service. Prior to joining Oasis Center, Hal was instrumental in helping build Bright Horizons Childcare, where he created hundreds of corporate-sponsored childcare centers throughout the United States, England, Ireland, and Guam. While at Bright Horizons, Hal founded the Bright Horizons Foundation for Children, whose mission is to create children’s play spaces in shelters serving homeless families.

Hal has raised more than $25m in capital and been recognized as “Best in Business” for nonprofit organizations by the Nashville Business Journal, received the “Community Champion” award by the Human Rights Campaign, and been named “Nashvillian of the Year” by the Nashville Scene.

Rich MacKinnon, Music City PrEP Clinic

As Music City PrEP clinic’s first patient, first volunteer, and first staff member, it’s been my continuing privilege to lead the “A-Team” for ending HIV in Nashville. Since 2019, my team comprised of 75% LGBT talented professionals has grown fourfold to 60+.  These are well-compensated, passion-driven jobs and 67% of surveyed staffed said it was “the best job they’ve ever had.”  We believe that employee satisfaction is inextricably linked to patient satisfaction.  Our patients give us a 95.7% Net Promoter Score which far outpaces the healthcare industry (0-30%) and we proudly display unedited patient reviews on our website in near real-time.  Even though we are just an STD clinic, our goal is to provide the best healthcare experience our patients have ever experienced of any kind.

Since 2019, our patient base has grown 5500% from 108 patients to nearly 6000 today, making us one of the largest LGBT-focused healthcare organizations in the state, rivaled only by the Vanderbilt Comprehensive Care Clinic (CCC).  If we focus only on 2020, patient growth was 367% despite a tornado ripping through the heart of our operations in East Nashville, disrupting officing, power and internet for over 10 days.  About a week later, the pandemic lockdown required a 100% shift to remote-working.  Despite these disruptions, we lost only four hours of patient service.     

Built upon a foundation of employee and patient satisfaction and a service-centric healthcare delivery model, we grew from $200K in annual revenues in 2018 to $7MM (3400%) in 2019.  In 2020, continued revenue growth pushed us to $17.5MM (150%).  Today, we’re estimating $36MM for 2021 (106%).  This has given us significant resources to provide exceptional no-cost healthcare to our primarily LGBT community as well as some of the most-coveted LGBT-friendly jobs on the market.

We recognize that we cannot end the HIV epidemic alone and have granted over $750K to community partners, including $200K to StreetWorks to replace their building lost in the tornado and over $100K to the Oasis Center.  We also became the LGBT Chamber’s first Titanium sponsor to support the important work it does on the community’s behalf and we continue to be a major sponsor of Nashville Pride.

In the short-term, we’re investing in a multi-million dollar project to transform the former Bill Martin grocery store in 5 Points into an LGBT hub of activity featuring an LGBT primary care practice, sexual health and wellness clinic, LGBT community center, and a gay bar/restaurant.

Finally, we hired Jenny Ford as a lobbyist to help us revise legislation that would enable minors to obtain HIV prevention medication without parental consent.  The irony is the law as it is written today enables providers to screen and treat STI infections without parental consent, and even allows for HIV treatment without consent.  But it’s unclear on whether HIV prevention is permitted.  Why wait until the kids get sick before we can help them?  While we were unsuccessful this year, we are already planning on how to re-engage the legislature.

I'm very much looking forwarding to leading MCPC and our community into a vision of the world where you can have sex without fear and love without stigma.

Matthew Shaw, Dell Technologies

Matthew Shaw is a Sales Manager and Co-Site Lead for the Pride Employee Resource Group at Dell Technologies. As a People Leader, Matthew directs a team in the Southeast Region, and as a visible LGBTQIA Leader in Business he has created and bolstered a culture of inclusivity that evangelizes Dell’s Social Policies for his customers and business segment.

Matthew is dedicated to ensuring Dell Technologies shines as a bright example in Nashville, collaborating with companies such as AllianceBernstein, Tractor Supply Co, and the University of Louisville on best practices for their employees. He has worked extensively with community partners such as TrueYouTN, TN Equality Project, Nashville Cares, and JustUs on volunteering and fundraising. Matthew has educated team members on advocacy and has coordinated events to lobby against anti-LGBTQIA bills in the TN General Assembly.

To support locally owned small businesses during the pandemic, Matthew created a virtual event featuring 9 local minority owned small businesses.

Matthew is inspired by his family’s legacy as Japanese Americans interned in the US during WW2 and fights for equal rights and equity for all.

Entrepreneur of the Year

Sarah Ashley, TN Event Designs

Sarah Ashley has over 16 years in the event industry and has helped grow several lighting and draping businesses in Nashville and across the country. Together with Brandy Ashley, she founded one of Nashville's leading production companies TN Event Designs, which specializes in lighting, draping and custom builds for corporate clientele, festivals and high profile weddings. The TN Event Designs team is known for their creativity and the ability to make any vision a reality. Sarah has recently been featured in several articles including a full feature in Nashville Journal and has sat so three panels this year discussing the event world bounce back post covid. TN Event Designs is an NGLCC certified company that is 100% owned by members that are LGBTQ and to date half of our staff members are LGBTQ.

Christopher Lester, Clifton + Leopold

Clifton+Leopold was born from my love of classic men’s accessories and the desire to make them more reflective of the world today. A world that’s more diverse, fluid, and empowered.

The journey to bring Clifton+Leopold to reality would begin in earnest in the fall of 2018 but we wouldn’t officially introduce ourselves to the world until May 1, 2020. Launching a business in the middle of a pandemic was never on my radar but sitting here a year later I wouldn’t have it any other way.

With each month, every new product release, and social post our community grew. Friends started sharing Clifton+Leopold with their friends. Folks started talking about our products, the packaging, and the fact that the full spectrum of pronouns, gender identities and sexual orientations showed up on our website and in our product stories. This last year we were honored to be donned at weddings, humbled to be worn to more funerals than we ever wished, and blessed that people shared each of those experiences with us.

From the beginning, for me, Clifton+Leopold has been bigger than simply selling a tie . . . it’s about a commitment to building a community. A community of dapper humans living their best life.

A few fun facts I’m proud of:

• NGLCC Certified LGBTBE

• Our team is diverse

o 72% Female/18% Male

o 51% Caucasian/49% POC

• Named one of Nfocus’ “Six Nashville Designers You Need to Know”

• 10,000+ online visits

• Ranked in the top 9% of Shopify stores that launched the same week as us

• Returning customer purchase rate of 36.8%

• Purchases shipped to 34/50 states including Alaska and Hawaii

• Averaged a 153% quarter/quarter increase in 2020

• Averaging a 78% month/month growth rate in 2021

Elliott Noble-Holt, MediCopy

Elliott Noble-Holt was born and raised in Nashville and has over 27 years of industry experience. Mr. Noble-Holt is the Founder and CEO of MediCopy, an LGBTBE certified company. Noble-Holt's success is attributed to his continuing effort to create a client-centric environment with a diverse team while offering valuable solutions to 3,800+ healthcare facilities throughout the U.S.

In the last 12 months, Medicopy has grown 40%+, was named to the Inc. 5000 for the seventh consecutive year, recognized as one of America’s Fastest-Growing Companies, hired over 90 new team members, and implemented 3 new nationwide clients while keeping a 99% client retention rate and 96% employee retention rate. 

Elliott also started a new podcast for small businesses and "bosses" named Bald.Bearded.Boss” will debut on 6/27/21 and wrote a book that is coming out in the fall named “Bald.Bearded.Boss”, “Manifesting Who You're Meant To Be” under Forbes Publishing to help other small business owners and business leaders lead successfully. 

Mr. Noble-Holt continues to operate personally and professionally with the basic principle that "Thoughts do become Things". 

Small Business Diversity

D'Andrews Bakery & Cafe

A modern American bakery, pastry, and sandwich shop with a classical Southern twist. Native Nashvillian David Andrews spent 13 years in New York City honing his craft in legendary pastry kitchens. He returned home to Nashville and opened his Southern and French-fused Bakery. We offer croissants with a Tennessee twist to delicate macarons made with familiar country flavors, and buttery brioche doughnuts that are filled with a Tahitian vanilla bean pastry cream. Sandwiches and salads are made from locally-sourced ingredients and the coffee is roasted right here in Nashville for ultimate freshness. D'Andrews was proud the participate in Dining Out For Life this year and looks forward to participating in the Chambers Taste event where we will be defending our 2019 People's Choice and Best Entree awards. Just follow the smell of chocolate downtown, and you'll wind up at the front door of D'Andrews Bakery and Cafe.

Green Pea Salon

Green Pea Salon is your home for beautiful hair. We strive to create a wonderful experience and be the best at our craft in order to give our clients the best in modern style.

We are proud, we show our pride throughout the year. We have unisex/nonbinary restrooms within our salons. We support various local charitable organizations such as Nashville Cares, Launch Pad, Oasis Center Just Us, and provide hair care services for the underserved LGBT community. Our staff is 54% LGBT across both salons.

TN Event Designs

Sarah Ashley has over 16 years in the event industry and has helped grow several lighting and draping businesses in Nashville and across the country. Together with her wife, Brandy Ashley, she founded one of Nashville's leading production companies TN Event Designs, which specializes in lighting, draping and custom builds for corporate clientele, festivals and high profile weddings. The TN Event Designs team is known for their creativity and the ability to make any vision a reality. Together, Sarah and Brandy have built two companies in the event world that have been featured in the Nashville business journal and have been discussed over several panels in the last six months.

Corporate Diversity


Our relationship with the Chamber has been the strongest in our advocacy against the Tennessee General Assembly’s discriminatory legislation targeting the LGBT community. We have signed the Tennessee Businesses Against Discrimination letter for the past three years. We have worked with Joe to encourage other companies to publicly advocate against this legislation. We have spoken out at press conferences hosted by the Chamber. We look forward to continuing our relationship with the Chamber.

We are committed to supporting the local LGBT community by supporting businesses, sponsoring activities and volunteering. We recognize that our commitment is not just through our words and membership at the Chamber, but what actions we take. We want our employees to utilize the Chamber’s Directory to ensure we are supporting businesses that support the LGBT community. We want to make sure that all Amazon employees, not just members of Glamazon, are aware of the work going on in the community. As we continue to grow in Nashville. We want our relationship with the Chamber to grow as well. We are grateful for the Chamber’s supporting in helping us accomplish this goal.

Bass, Berry & Sims

Bass, Berry & Sims has been a long-time member and supporter of the Nashville LGBT Chamber and the LGBTQ+ community. We were proud to continue this support during the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainties, financial and otherwise, that resulted. The firm regularly shares with members of its LGBT Affinity Group, which includes over 90 LGBT and ally members, communications from the Chamber in order to focus our team on the foundational pillars of ADVOCATING, EDUCATING and CONNECTING others with respect to important opportunities, challenges and accomplishments in the Nashville LGBT and business communities.

We are resolute in our fight for equity and inclusion within our own organization as well as doing our part to give back in Nashville and beyond. To us, local starts at home, and we are proud to involve our allies in a variety of firm-sponsored programming through our LGBT Affinity Group. We are proud that we are one of 8 Tennessee-based companies (and the only law firm) to achieve a perfect score of 100 on the HRC CEI in 2021. This marks the fourth year in a row that the firm has earned a perfect score on the CEI, earning the designation as one of the Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality.

BNA- Nashville International Airport

Nashville International Airport is committed to diversity and inclusion across the organization, including internal and external operations and community involvement in a variety of diverse organizations such as the LGBT Chamber of Commerce and more. Our commitment to diversity and inclusion aligns with our core values of Respect, Integrity, Service and Excellence, and our success as an organization and as an asset to the city is dependent upon our embracing all communities that we serve. The airport should reflect the best of our city and, from procurement to hiring to sponsorships and support, we are focused on doing just that.
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