As 2021 comes to an end, many small business owners have been reflecting the year that just was.
Amidst the lingering COVID epidemic, many business owners felt the need to dial back community engagement to ensure the survival of their business. Yet some business owners still found time to lend their energy and expertise to important community work.
This year, Business For Good decided to acknowledge the contributions of their community members with a special 2021 year end awards party.
Awards were granted to BFG community members who were especially impactful in their work around environmental health, the rights of immigrants and refugees, housing and homelessness and employee well-being.
Awards were also given to elected leaders and other community partners who have been key allies in shaping positive change for business owners and all San Diegans.
Business For Good announced their 2021 award winners in five categories; Environmental Champion, Housing & Homelessness Hero, Immigration Advocate, Employer of the Year, and Community Partner of the Year (three award winners in that category).
“This has been a challenging year for business and the community in general. Working together to support each other and the causes that are important to us is what Business For Good is all about,” said Chairperson Mikey Knab, Business For Good and Director of Operations for Meza Family Restaurant Group. “Each one of these award winners clearly earned it with their contributions. We want to make sure they’re recognized for the work they’ve done.”
Without further ado, here are this year’s award winners.
Tara Hammond of Hammond Climate Solutions
Tara Hammond, CEO of Hammond Climate Solutions, is the recipient of the 2021 Environmental Champion award. She has been engaging with environmental issues long before her involvement with Business For Good.
“When things got tough during the pandemic, you could count on Tara to keep up the quality posts and policy emails on pressing environmental issues that would have otherwise been swept under the rug,” said Cindy Lin, CEO of Hey Social Good and BFG Environmental Committee chairperson. “With her beside us, we voiced our support where it was most needed and made exactly the kind of impact necessary to push our city forward.”
“There has never been a Business For Good member as committed to engaging other members with advocacy opportunities for climate justice as Tara Hammond,” said Cody Hooven, Chief Operating Officer at San Diego Community Power and the announcer of the Environmental Champion award..
“She offers ways for members to joy the chorus of those saying that there can be no future for business if there is no future for our planet. Her relentless dedication to addressing the climate crisis by all means necessary is inspirational, and we’re all fortunate to benefit from her work.”
Housing & Homelessness Hero
Sam Mazzeo of Better APC
Sam Mazzeo, Founding & Managing Partner at Better APC, has been lending his legal expertise to important organizations and causes around San Diego for years. It’s no surprise that his skills would also prove to be valuable on the BFG Housing and Homelessness Committee.
“Sam has been the co-chair of Housing and Homelessness Committee since its inception, “ began Indra Gardiner Bowers, CEO of 62ABOVE, BFG Housing and Homelessness Committee chairperson and announcer of the Housing & Homelessness Hero award.
“In the ‘before times’ we would meet every single month at my office. We had as many as a dozen people show up and we did really good work. Since COVID, a lot of people had to back off. The one person who stuck it through with me is Sam. He’s completely committed. He shows up. He cares. He has a long history of doing policy action. For all those reasons and more, Sam truly deserves this recognition.”
Lauren Grattan of Mission Driven Finance
Lauren Grattan, Co-Founder & Chief Community Officer at Mission Driven Finance, has been helping businesses grow their impact with access to sufficient, affordable capital since the organization’s inception in 2016. This year alone Mission Driven Finance has overseen over $20 million in assets being invested in the community, much of that going to businesses run by women, people of color, and first generation immigrants.
“Lauren Grattan and Mission Driven Finance have promoted so many important causes for immigrants,” said Juan Pablo Sanchez, owner of Super Cocina restaurant and chairperson of the BFG Immigrant and Refugee Committee.
“Financial institutions are notorious for marginalizing people of color, especially those that are immigrants and refugees. Her commitment to creating programs to address these issues shows not only her willingness to take a tremendous risk for her values but also creates an important service for those portions of our community.”
Presenting the award to Lauren Grattan was San Diego Mayor, Todd Gloria. He added, “Lauren is a hero who has already accomplished so much, but is seemingly always increasing her velocity to empower people. She understands that advocating for immigrant justice must also include an economic outlook with long term prosperity built in. She is well-deserving of this award for Immigration Advocate of the Year.”
In her acceptance speech Lauren highlighted how important it is to acknowledge the special needs of people new to San Diego and their contributions to our community.
“1 in 4 San Diegans are born outside of the United States. It’s always been key to us that when we invest in our hometown we make sure that the investment is inclusive of people coming from all sorts of places, including those that grew up locally and those that are newcomers.”
Mission Driven Finance has also created a first of it’s kind investment fund that’s been successful in bonding out 100 people from immigration detention prisons. This is truly deserving of the Immigration Advocate award.
Employer of the Year
Indra Gardiner Bowers of 62ABOVE
With the challenges facing workers and small businesses alike, acknowledging the valuable role employers play not only in the professional and financial development of their team, but also in their overall well being is of utmost importance.
“Indra and 62ABOVE are amongst those rare magical leaders who have not only found the secret formula for success but have decided to share the secret and encourage policies that make improving the lives of working people easier for all businesses. She deserves far more than simply this recognition for decades of dedication for working professionals. We hope this award represents some small indication of appreciation for her efforts.”
Community Partner of the Year (3) :
The mission of Business For Good also relies on the cooperation of like minded elected officials dedicated to social equity, keeping housing affordable and available and ensuring we have a sustainable environmental future ahead of us.
As part of this year’s awards, Business For Good also acknowledged three Community Partners of the Year. This included two elected officials and one non-elected official. Without the support and cooperation of these partners, the BFG mission could never be achieved.
Community Partner of the Year (elected)
Supervisor Nora Vargas
The first community partner to be recognized is Supervisor Nora Vargas of the San Diego Board of Supervisors.
“When Supervisor Vargas spoke to our membership while she was candidate Vargas, she said that she was running in order to bring the true voice of the residents of our region to the board of Supervisors, to actually represent the beautiful diversity of San Diego and to focus on equity in all decisions.” said Mikey Knab, BFG Board Chairperson and Director of Operations for Meza Family Restaurant Group.
“Her time at the County has already shown that these were not empty promises, but strong, genuine commitments. Supervisor Vargas is delivering daily with her approach to public health and safety during the pandemic, and her focus on centering at-risk communities in policies that affect environmental health, our housing crisis and access to social programs for everybody in our community.”
“At Business For Good, we are dedicated to a business landscape where all can thrive, and this is the kind of work that Supervisor Vargas has taken on. We are thankful for her efforts and proud to present her with this award for Community Partner of the Year. “
Community Partner of the Year (elected)
Council President-elect Sean Elo-Rivera
Recently elected San Diego City Council President, Sean Elo-Rivera, was the second elected community partner to be honored by BFG this year.
“When we founded Business For Good, five years ago, one of the things we talked about most was making sure that local business owners had a seat at the table, especially small business owners in communities that are often left out,” said Mikey Knab, BFG Board Chairperson and Community Partner Award presenter.
“Sean Elo-Rivera has been the embodiment of an elected official who proactively seeks this kind of input. He bases his decisions on the lived experience of all of his constituents, especially the ones without traditional access to power. This is equity in action and we are thrilled to recognize Council President-elect Elo-Rivera’s commitment and dedication with our Community Partner of the Year Award.”
Community Partner of the Year (Non-elected Official)
Avital Aboody of LISC
“Avital is an incredible force for good in our community,” said Mikey Knab as he presented the last award of the night.
“She has worked for over a decade with various social justice oriented groups to help move us towards a future that places equity and prosperity at the forefront of things like city planning, access to capital and affordable housing.
“Her focus on economic development is precisely in-line with Business For Good’s mission to foster a business community that thrives because of its diversity. Helping to connect some of our board members to new business owners through LISC’s mentorship program is most likely the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership. We are so thankful to share space with Avital and proud to award her as Community Partner of the Year.”
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The award winners were honored at the Business For Good Annual Member Celebration on Wednesday, December 8, at AleSmith Brewing in Miramar.
“Each of these award winners has been pivotal in advancing the dialogue around social equity, housing and homelessness, immigration, the environment and small business needs,” said Lindsay LaShell, BFG vice chairperson and CEO of Diamond + Branch. “It only makes sense to honor them like we did.”
“It’s exciting to be able to all get together again,” said Danea Ramos, the new Managing Director of Business For Good. “I’m relatively recent to this organization, but even in the short time I’ve been involved I can see how important the support and camaraderie is amongst all these amazing business owners. I’m looking forward to what we can accomplish in 2022.”
To get involved and learn more about Business For Good, check out here.
Enrollment is also open to get involved with a Business For Good committee in 2022. Learn more about each committee and how to get involved here.