Seattle is indeed a city on an upward trajectory. The continued growth of Amazon’s HQ skyward, in the form of new skyscrapers in the South Lake Union District, is a fitting analogy. Other legacy brands from the city like Microsoft, Boeing, Alaska Airlines, Nordstrom and Starbucks continue to make an impact in the U.S. and around the world.
Yet beyond the more well-known names is a huge population of innovators, entrepreneurs and the next generation of global game-changers. They place a premium on stewardship, creativity, intellectual curiosity, philanthropy, optimism and humanity. The city’s new frontier is born from a sense of independence and filled with a range of unique talent. In the latest in Adweek’s City Spotlight series, we introduce you to 26 of the people creating change in Seattle. —Doug Zanger
In December 2016, Aneelah Afzali’s mosque was vandalized for the second time in less than a month.
She responded to the crime by founding the American Muslim Empowerment Network (AMEN) that same month. Afzali created the network in partnership with her mosque, the Muslim Association of Puget Sound, after presenting her plan for it to the organization’s leadership.
“We were seeing growing Islamophobia and just growing misunderstanding about Islam and Muslims in our country,” she says. “I had a vision for it, and our mosque leadership actually approached me and asked what my plans were for the future.”
In the nearly two years since its founding, Afzali has been busy growing AMEN via broad areas of focus that include education, coalition building and empowering the American Muslim community.
“The work that I do has involved going around and speaking to audiences small and large to help educate them about their Muslim neighbors,” she says. She presented at both the 2017 and 2018 Women’s Marches in Seattle and was honored with the Humanitarian Leadership Award this year by the International Rescue Committee.
Afzali, who describes herself as a “recovering attorney,” initially moved to Seattle 15 years ago after accepting an offer at one of the city’s law firms. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she worked at two firms in Seattle before becoming general counsel at a healthcare IT company, but ultimately decided to leave her legal career to “pursue service and knowledge.” Despite the challenges, she finds the work she does now to be incredibly rewarding, much like the city itself.
“I absolutely love Seattle,” she says. “I loved it as soon as I came here.” —Minda Smiley
After serving a short stint as vice president of media and advertising at Dallas-based Neiman Marcus, Natalie Bowman was itching to get back to the Pacific Northwest. Lucky for her, a position she describes as “perfect” was waiting for her at Alaska Airlines when she made her way back in 2016.
“I remember reading the job description and feeling like I checked every box for what they were looking for, and luckily they felt the same way,” she says. “It was just the perfect fit for my background.”
A Texas native, Bowman is no stranger to Seattle; she spent nearly 10 years at Microsoft, where she served as marketing director of Bing and MSN. At Alaska Airlines, she’s busy helping build the brand in California as the company continues to grow its West Coast presence.
Considering Seattle is home to some of the world’s biggest household names, Bowman believes the city is “is having a much stronger impact on the world than people probably realize.” But its small-town charm is what she believes genuinely separates it from the pack.
“Seattle is an interesting blend. It’s such a tech hub, and there’s a lot of innovation and forward thinking, but at the same time, it also feels a little bit like a small town,” she explains. “There is a bit of that hometown loyalty for the brands that started here.” —Minda Smiley
Sandra Buensalida earned a degree in Biology from the University of Nevada in Reno, but once she moved to one of the most tech-infused cities in the nation, she unearthed a passion for digital design.
By 2011, she was designing virtual keyboards for Swype, and in 2017, she rejoined the same entrepreneurial team on their new venture, Xealth, a cloud-based healthcare platform doctors use to recommend crucial medical information, literature, apps and surveys, creating a savvy, less bulky way for patients to manage their health.
With a keen understanding of the need to provide a user-friendly experience for both healthcare professionals and the everyday user, Buensalida creates visual end-to-end design solutions and interactive prototypes that aid the health teams in need. It’s all part of a vision that brings the act of health management into the now, alongside digital prescriptions and exercise-monitoring apps.
“I was excited by their mission to tackle the increasing need of digital innovation and content support in the healthcare space,” Buensalida says of her decision to take her talents to Xealth. “As the company continues to expand and their impact on the healthcare industry builds, I am excited to help grow the product and brand.”
Xealth is in a position to change the face of patient health management, joining a list of innovative Seattle-based companies.
“When Seattle businesses turn into giants, their brands can impact the way people live, which influences the entire world,” Buensilasa explains, citing the rise of homegrown brands like Amazon, Microsoft, Expedia and Starbucks.
But what makes the city special, according to Buensalida, isn’t just its collection of industry titans, but its ever-present startup culture as well. The two worlds provide not only a unique balance but a diversity of entrepreneurial thought which makes Seattle, in Buensalida’s words, “a melting pot of innovation.” —Shannon Miller
Alex Carleton came to Seattle four years ago after holding creative posts at brands including L.L.Bean, Abercrombie & Fitch and Timberland. Upon joining Filson, which specializes in outerwear and accessories, his first assignment was to “assess the brand and help provide some direction” for where the 120-year-old company could go.
As CCO, he works closely on the product side of the business but is also heavily involved with “really anything and everything” that has to do with the brand and brand experience. He compares creative direction to being a “serial novelist” of sorts, in the sense that much of his time is spent telling the many stories that make up the Filson brand.
“I reference Charles Dickens and Stephen King a lot as creatives who engage and captivate their loyal readers by revealing a world and engaging people in a world of storytelling,” he says. “I really love storytelling, whether it’s visceral and tangible on the product side, or whether it’s the experience of walking into a Filson store or engaging people on social media.”
While Carleton has spent much of his life in New England, he describes Seattle as an “incredibly relatable” city that he believes a lot of people can identify with.
“Seattle is a very rough and tumble town,” he says. “It’s sort of a chocolate-covered pretzel. It’s very much a working city juxtaposed with a high-tech atmosphere that is highly cerebral. I think that the combination of both brawn and brain makes Seattle incredibly unique.” —Minda Smiley
By the time Mishy Cass assumed the role of group creative director at outdoor retail cooperative REI in 2017, she’d spent 25 years in agencies big and boutique. Nowadays, she leads a 32-member creative team whose process is informed by a single client—the iconic and unapologetically “crunchy” outdoor gear brand that gives 70 percent of its profits to outdoor causes. It also boasts a 65-foot indoor climbing wall at its Seattle flagship store and flips Black Friday shopping the bird by urging its workers (and customers) to “Opt Outside” instead of storming the mall.
It’s a place where marketers consider professional research and a long list of stakeholders (not just customers but employees, the business, and society at large) in deciding how to tackle 30,000-foot questions like, “How can we get more people to go outside?” and “How do we start getting kids outside as youngsters?”
“The client side is very different!” Cass says. “We spend our time asking ourselves: How do we put our brand values into action?”
The answer seems to have emerged both organically and through research. Aside from Opt Outside, the company’s storytelling projects like “Force of Nature,” encouraging women to experience and enjoy the outdoors, are helping the company lead the message that anyone can forge a relationship with nature. “The outdoors is for everyone,” Cass says. Next up: Work on how to help children tap the outdoors.
While REI is born of and informed by Seattle values like sustainability and its staff members’ earnest technical expertise, Cass’s mission is to support and evolve the brand’s imprint, so it makes sense beyond the Northwest. “We’re known as a west coast company, but we’re trying not to be a Seattle-only brand,” she notes. “We’re not just a retailer, but a place that informs outdoor experiences.” —Jane Hodges
Min Cho, vp of Concepts Studio, global store design & development at Starbucks, understands that consumers are more sophisticated and connecting with the brand in multiple ways, which makes customer feedback essential to his job.
“Convenience has evolved over time,” Cho said at Seattle’s Future Store conference last June. “I love the fact that the customer is telling us that we have even more opportunities [to streamline].”
When customers at a table are ready for a second cup of coffee, Cho notes that more people skip the line and order a second beverage from their phone. Given the increase in usage, Cho and company are working to make the process more seamless.
“We thought mobile order and pay was going to be one channel used a certain way,” he noted. “But our customers are starting to utilize it almost like a second service. They’re using as a way to actually even order from their own tables in the store.”
Cho led the design of a distinctive Starbucks in Los Angeles which offers customers a way to learn more about the company and doubles as one of the dozens of Reserve coffee bars worldwide.
Additionally, an express store concept has worked wonders on Wall Street in New York, where people can pop in and out quickly, and the brand recently opened a massive roastery in Shanghai.
In Cho’s mind, however, it all comes down to the natural evolution based on the most important of stakeholders: the customer.
“We’re excited because of the way that the community is growing over time,” he said. “And we’re loving the ability to be able to have our customers almost inform us and the way that we want to be able to connect with them.” —Amy Corr
Tourism and convention marketing generally follows a predictable pattern—direct mail with lists of vendors and the usual things to do that sometimes miss what makes a city special. For Ali Daniels, CMO of Visit Seattle, the approach, like the city itself, had to be unique. To that end, her team, along with their agency, PB& have continually exhibited ambition.
Coming to Visit Seattle in 2011 after stints with NBA franchises (including the SuperSonics), Tully’s Coffee and creative agency Creature, Daniels’ first order of business was to think of Seattle more like a big brand.
“Why not shoot for the stars like Coca-Cola?” she notes.
A key moment was when Visit Seattle decided to let outsiders take the reins to tell the city’s story. In 2012, they were among the first to use influencers on social media. In 2015, after becoming more comfortable with others telling their story, the organization launched visitseattle.tv, a video platform that, to date, has racked up over 100 million minutes of views—and focuses on arts, culture, food and wine, music and the outdoors.
Sounds by the Sound, a 54-episode video series launched in 2015 and built a following around the city’s legendary music scene. In subsequent years, filmmakers from outside the region, with creative free reign, have consistently created high-quality films that paint a “real” picture of Seattle.
“These people tell our story differently than we ever could because their perspective and filter is so different,” says Daniels. “We find with each step, we see Seattle in a different way, which makes you fall in love with the city all over again.” —Doug Zanger
For 32 years, Vulcan Inc. has served as late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s hub for a wide range of business and philanthropic ventures. Its grandest conservation project, the Great Elephant Census, provided data that showed a 30 percent decline in the population of African savannah elephants and is the most extensive wildlife survey in history. That very research connected James Deutsch, who was working with the Wildlife Conservation Society at the time, with Allen and the Vulcan team.
So when Vulcan announced an opening for a Director of Wildlife, Deutsch jumped at the opportunity.
“I knew Paul’s extraordinary capacity to move the needle on wildlife conservation and biodiversity conservation not only in Africa but globally,” Deutsch recounts. “So the opportunity to help him do that and encourage him to scale it up and have the greatest possible impact was too much to turn down.”
Deutsch’s extensive knowledge in wildlife, marine and terrestrial conversation has evolved his role into that of the director of Biodiversity Conservation, allowing him to oversee and advise both the development of strategies and new projects. To date, he remains proud of his work with the elephant census, which was a factor in China’s decision to shut down their domestic ivory markets.
His vision for translating tech and science into sustainable, environmentally friendly solutions is indicative of the forward-thinking spirit of Seattle. “Tech infuses everything in Seattle. It’s amazing to be in the heart of where that’s happening.” —Shannon Miller
Ashley Fosberg got to know the Seattle Sounders’ penchant for community service while serving as executive director of the Highline Schools Foundation, which served the diverse Highline School District south of Seattle. The Sounders were generous with tickets to soccer games, and the players were role models for many a Puget Sound youngster.
“This club has historically been deeply invested in the community,” she says.
Fosberg joined the franchise in 2016, their MLS Cup-winning year, and leads the Sounders-affiliated RAVE Foundation, whose mission involves “using soccer as a vehicle to empower and inspire, to remove barriers to participation on and off the field, and to support and strengthen communities in the Puget Sound region.” Or, as Fosberg puts it: “What can soccer solve?”
Turns out, soccer can solve a lot. RAVE spearheads free soccer camps and clinics, pop-up soccer matches and gear, and runs adopt-a-school and give-a-kid-a-ball initiatives that bring out the best in youth. Soccer can also boost school attendance—motivating school-skippers to attend so they can go to soccer practice, or by sending them robo-reminders (in their native language) from Sounders team members reminding them to go to class.
Fosberg arrived at RAVE midway through a major project—construction of a soccer field inside a Seattle park co-located at a mixed-income housing project in the inner-city Yesler Terrace neighborhood. Listening to the community played a significant role in the new field’s development, she says.
The RAVE Flagship Field, which opened in summer 2018, is now in operation and in use almost continually by, as Fosberg puts it, real locals.
“This is just one example of what RAVE can do in a community,” she says. —Jane Hodges
Daniel Green spent nearly two decades in journalism and several years in nonprofit consulting before joining The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2011, where he leads a team focused on advocacy and communications on behalf of the foundation’s global initiatives.
His role involves not just helping the foundation raise the profile of its own work, but also using foundation resources to help support journalism around the world, to ensure that issues the organization care about most stay in the public consciousness. In practice, that means the foundation funds programs that carve a wide swath in the global media ecosystem, ranging from major international publications like the Guardian to small local outlets.
For example, Nigerian Health Watch, a small media property, receives financial help to continue its work tracking health data in the country, one of the three remaining that has yet to eradicate polio. Another partnership, The Conversation, pairs journalists and academics so cutting-edge research can be conveyed to the public in a more timely manner.
The remit, however, continues to expand with some unexpected partnerships like The Moth storytelling series.
“We realized people get their information in very different ways and receive it in different ways,” says Green, a California native. To that end, the foundation helped sponsor a Moth event in Kenya hosted by Melinda Gates and the first lady of the country, featuring stories about gender.
In the final analysis, though, it’s all about the data and how it can enhance the organization’s Goalkeepers work that plays off the UN’s 17 global development goals, adopted by 193 countries in 2015.
“We’re dedicated to data and evidence,” Green says. “The amount of data that we’re getting is impressive, and we continue to figure out how to translate and analyze it, and share it in a way that actually helps accelerate progress.” —Doug Zanger
As the rallying cry for more girls and women to take an interest in STEM-related careers grows, the nonprofit organization ChickTech is doing the work to actively bring young, underserved girls and women into the tech fold, nationwide.
Tina-Marie Gulley is the fearless leader of the Seattle chapter, which has been operating for five years. While her official title may be City Director, she actually wears quite a few hats, from acting as a liaison between her chapter and potential corporate partners to organizing workshops that provide hands-on education to girls and gender non-conforming youth of all ages.
Under Gulley’s leadership, the Seattle chapter focuses on various demographics that are not typically sought after for mentorship opportunities in tech, such as girls of color, disabled youth or those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
“We really want more underserved girls of color—Black, Latinx, indigenous girls represented in not only our programs but as employees as well,” she says. “So that’s a huge initiative for us.”
Gulley’s work is particularly crucial in Seattle, where software development is one of the most popular and thriving careers. As the home of many significant tech brands, the city is poised for an inclusive future within the massive landscape. With the steady expansion of ChickTech, Gulley and her team have the potential to make a significant impact by providing women with the resources needed to pursue those careers.
For now, Gulley hopes that ChickTech’s visibility in these generally exclusive tech spaces will encourage marginalized industry hopefuls to go after a future in STEM.
“We’re hoping something will resonate with those girls, and they’ll say, ‘Hey, this person did it. I could do it, too.’” —Shannon Miller
There is a reason why Arif Gursel’s nonprofit organization PACE, or the Pan-African Center for Empowerment, doesn’t quite have a mission statement. “Mission statements are for organizations optimistic about their plans,” the website specifies. “We view our work as our purpose for being, and there is no acceptable outcome other than achievement.” Considering that PACE aims to increase the visibility and success of Black engineers in tech-related careers, the sense of urgency is more than valid.
Gursel is working to close the gap between tech fields and underserved communities, and they’re not quite through STEM, but through the reimagined STEAM—Science, Technology, Entrepreneurship, Arts and Media.
The Seattle-based executive director’s abiding passion for empowering people of Pan-African descent permeates the roster of PACE’s projects. One of their initiatives is Floodgate Academy, a yearlong technology training program that provides classroom fundamentals and hands-on job training. The school aims to create a direct pipeline between trained and tested engineers of color from underserved communities and viable, related careers.
The impact of Gursel’s mission would be worth celebrating anywhere, but the fact that he and PACE are in Seattle, home of one of the top tech markets in the country, paves the way for serious impact.
When he’s not working tirelessly to evolve the tech landscape, per his personal website: “…you can often find me working hard to be super dad, sketching/wireframing, trying new coding trends, reading about new and old concepts in product management or strategy, and generally doing things to leave the planet a better place than I found it.” —Shannon Miller
One of the red threads that run through Shelby Healy’s work is her innate ability to elevate whatever she’s working on.
“I’ve found a way to bring out the best in whatever brand I’ve worked on,” she said.
Indeed, Healy, currently a marketing manager for Microsoft’s Surface business, has had a compelling career at Microsoft, starting out working on its advertising business. But it was a pivotal time away in 2015, working on her own fashion brand, that set up a compelling second act.
Excited about the potential of Microsoft’s Hololens, Healy thought about how she could bring the worlds of high fashion and technology together. She then met Dona Sarkar, one of Microsoft’s top engineers and fellow fashion designer. From there, the stars aligned and Healy found herself back at the company in 2016, working on Hololens.
Now, leading creativity for the most visible communications channels for Surface, Healy is not only optimistic about the future of the product, but the company at large.
“It’s important for me to be aligned with a brand that genuinely cares about the people who use their products,” she said. “(Microsoft CEO) Satya Nadella has created an environment where we are able to pursue our passions while simultaneously empowering others to pursue theirs.”
It’s that mindset and dedication to service that sparked Healy to become one of the founding members of Emerge America’s Washington state chapter last year. The organization trains women to run for political office, helped get eight candidates elected last year and put seven on this November’s ballot.
“We identify women who are incredible forces in their communities but may not realize their leadership potential just yet,” she said. “I’m grateful to be able to help clear a path and give others a voice to help them along their journey, wherever they want to land.” —Doug Zanger
Seattle is chockablock with vintner tasting rooms, microbreweries, and distilleries peddling every kind of alcohol imaginable, but what distinguishes Westland Distillery is its quest to pioneer a new whiskey genre—one the business likes to call “American single malt whiskey.” It’s a call to action only a few distilleries have heeded—and one that seeks to unseat Scotland as the sole home of single malt distillation techniques—and it’s one that Matt Hofmann, Westland’s master distiller, takes seriously.
Hofmann began tinkering with distilling while enrolled at the University of Washington, then traveled to Edinburgh for post-secondary training in brewing and distilling. His day-to-day work involves a mix of distillation artistry and, he puts it, “making sure all of the pieces fit together.” Westland Distillery opened a tasting room and distillery facility to the public in 2013, serving craft cocktails and regionally sourced snacks, offering distillery tours, and hosting events.
Working at the distillery feels distinctly “Pacific Northwest,” Hofmann says. The product quality and local ingredient profile (local barley, Cascade Mountain water) have put the distillery on the national map, and it’s landed Hofmann accolades from the culinary and spirits communities. (He currently boasts a spot in Whisky Magazine’s 2018 “Icons of Whisky” list.) But Seattle as the backdrop for this reinterpretation of a classic liquor also makes sense.
“There’s this sense of optimism and entrepreneurship that exists in the Pacific Northwest that’s had a huge influence on the world,” he says. “It gave us the confidence to do something that was a different interpretation of malt whiskey that was better, that made sense for the Pacific Northwest.”
And who wouldn’t drink to that? —Jane Hodges
Megan Jasper was a punk-loving East Coast kid who made her way into an internship at Sub Pop Records—the label that launched in the late 80s with bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden—and stayed for three decades, ascending to the role of CEO.
“Seattle is one of the most unique places to run a business,” Jasper says. “It operates like a small town.”
While the music business has changed, and music tastes have graduated from grunge, music culture in Seattle hasn’t slowed down. The city thrives on music, with great independent radio stations, an all-ages club with classes called The Vera Project, a pop culture museum (MoPop), a city Office of Film and Music, and a multitude of indie labels and music stores. Jasper recalls a young music fan visiting the Sub Pop offices to see Kurt Cobain memorabilia—and how, with just a few phone calls, her staff was able to help the fan and their family get VIP tickets to MoPop. It’s this sense of collaboration and interplay that makes creative industries here tick.
Sub Pop is a brand—but so, too, are the individual artists and acts comprising its catalog. And Jasper says Sub Pop’s role as both brand and publisher with a West Coast, independent flavor fits right in here—a place where fans love discovering new music.
This past summer Sup Pop celebrated its 30th anniversary with a free waterfront festival along Seattle’s Alki Beach, with distinctly local but also national acts like Mudhoney and Father John Misty strutting their stuff on the beach.
For Jasper, much of maintaining Sub Pop’s brand is about “trust preservation” with music fans and maintaining an honest, consistent voice. “A lot of it is gut,” she says. “What Sub Pop means is different from person to person.” —Jane Hodges
As the principal strategist specializing in innovation and new ventures at Boeing Horizon X, Sara Jones is the mind responsible for guiding the world’s largest aerospace company towards new opportunities. The native Seattleite has been with the company since October 2015, where her background in management consulting and entrepreneurship made her a critical voice in finding new ventures that would keep Boeing as the leader of aerospace technology well into 2050.
In 2017, her role with Boeing evolved, and her consulting broadened to assist and guide three different areas within the company: business development, venture capital and product ideation. Now, Jones’ work can have an impact on both present-day business operations and future innovation. With so much on her plate, Jones has had to master multitasking at a fast pace. To her, that’s what makes the work she does so exciting.
“We created a cargo air vehicle prototype in 90 days. [For] the Boeing company to do something in three months is really exciting. That’s what our group is able to do,” she says.
Interestingly enough, Jones’ long-time function within Boeing Horizon X mirrors her interpretation of Seattle as a city that has always been about finding solutions to satisfy global needs.
”In Seattle, we’ve been able to work on any problems that we truly felt were the problems that needed to be solved in the world,” she explains. “We created the planes that you fly in, the coffee you drink, the operating systems you work on … and then we also have the top philanthropies in the world. We have been able to have this culture of excellence through cooperation.” —Shannon Miller
Authentic Southern cooking in the Northwest? It does exist! And it’s outstanding.
Edouardo Jordan’s JuneBaby restaurant in Seattle won the 2018 James Beard Award for best new restaurant in the country. Jordan was also crowned as the best chef in the Pacific Northwest. The Florida native also owns Salare, an upscale restaurant serving French and Italian cuisine that’s mere blocks from JuneBaby.
According to Jordan, the choice to open Salare came in 2015. “After nearly 11 years working in the industry as a cook, I decided to take the chance and open my own restaurant,” he says. “My work revolves around hospitality, so what I value most is making guests happy through food and service and being able to provide a healthy fun workplace for my staff.”
And it appears that momentum is on Jordan’s side as a third restaurant focusing on heirloom and ancient grains, Lucinda Grain Bar, will open in late November.
Outside of his restaurants, Jordan works with nonprofits Northwest Harvest, Washington’s nonprofit supporter of food banks, and Seattle’s FareStart, which provides job training for adults in the foodservice industry.
“Seattle is a growing city that is still being shaped, said Jordan. “It’s a great time as we get to help shape the future of Seattle. People are watching, taking notes and learning from what we do and who we are. From our green efforts (recycle, waste and trash), our political footprint, to our technology impact.” —Amy Corr
New York native Olivia Kim had never been to Seattle when she accepted a position with Nordstrom five and a half years ago. But the opportunity to help revamp the department store chain and transform it into a fashion destination convinced her to make her way west—and she hasn’t looked back.
Kim was hired by the company’s co-president Pete Nordstrom while she was still serving as vice president of creative at retailer Opening Ceremony in New York City. She found his openness to innovation and change appealing, and was excited by the prospect of taking on a role at Nordstrom that would give her creative freedom and room to take risks.
“My role is to bring disruption, fun and excitement to retail both in-store and online,” she explains. “That job has continued to evolve in the entire time that I’ve been here.”
While she says her role changes “month to month,” much of it involves coming up with brand collaborations and ideas that will pique the interest of Nordstrom shoppers. Recently, she spearheaded a partnership with ‘80s design movement Memphis Milano that resulted in a shoppable exhibition at Nordstrom’s flagship store in Seattle.
When she’s not busy dreaming up Nordstrom’s next brand collaboration or pop-up, Kim enjoys getting out of the city to take in the sights and sounds of the Pacific Northwest.
“I’m an outdoorsy person, but it’s always hard to do that kind of stuff when you live in New York. When I first moved out here, every weekend that I had free I’d get in my car and drive two hours in any direction just to get lost,” she says. “It’s incredibly magical and beautiful.” —Minda Smiley
Colin Lenfesty and Mike Murphy
Four years ago, Colin Lenfesty and Mike Murphy opened brewery and taproom Holy Mountain in Seattle’s Interbay neighborhood. Since then, the pair’s unique selection of craft beers has helped them stand out in what’s become a decidedly crowded industry.
At Holy Mountain, Lenfesty primarily oversees brewing operations while Murphy looks after the business side. With a small staff of 12, Murphy says everyone who works there “wears multiple hats.” Murphy attributes the company’s low staff turnover to the environment of collaboration that the two have worked hard to foster.
“We try to give our staff every opportunity to voice their ideas and collaborate on operations, production and branding, so that’s something we’re extremely proud of,” he says.
Part of the reason they believe Holy Mountain has been able to flourish and find its way to taps around the city is due to Seattle’s recent and rapid growth and the intellectual curiosity of the area, which rewards ambition.
“The boom of the tech industry has brought more and more people to the city who aren’t from Seattle. While this has created growing pains for the city, it has also created a lot of new opportunities for businesses to expand and experiment,” Murphy says. “We’re fortunate as a brewery in the sense that we exclusively make the beers we want to make, and we know there’s a local market that will be interested in what we’re doing.”
A Seattle transplant himself, Murphy says the city has most “absolutely become home” since he moved there 10 years ago.
“We’re surrounded by mountains and water, so you’re always within an hour drive of seclusion and solitude,” he says. —Minda Smiley
Michael Miller, a longtime veteran of digital and creative agencies with a diverse skill set ranging from copywriting to studio engineering and video, joined T-Mobile in 2016 at the urging of Nicholas Drake, the telecom company’s executive VP of marketing and digital experience. Miller’s job: Growing the company’s in-house content and creative studio teams into a powerful in-house “studio” for the massive wireless carrier.
“I was a jack of all trades in the digital space,” Miller recalls. “Nick said to me, ‘We’re changing everything. We’re bringing everything in-house.”
Miller began with a team of 10—and soon it became a team of 100. His job has involved building out the company’s internal digital capabilities, then growing its creative and content marketing capabilities. The team is working on expanding upon what Miller called a “more human” and “more authentic” side of the brand, the one typified in its 2018 Super Bowl campaign, “Are You With Us?”
“The thing I’m most proud of is building a really amazing leadership team and digital team,” he says.
And as he works on building a brand at T-Mobile, Miller says that the Seattle market means there are big shoes to fill regarding branding muscle.
“Microsoft, Amazon, and Starbucks are global, dominant company brands,” he says. “T-Mobile wants to lead its industry, too.”
According to Miller, Seattle’s culture of quality boutique and tactical agencies results in a rich pool of talent as more brands own marketing functions within their mother ships.
“What I love about Seattle is that the caliber of people here is very high,” he says. “There’s also this feeling that the work being done here is at a very high level.” —Jane Hodges
Ludovic Morlot, Music Director for the Seattle Symphony since 2011, will vacate the position in 2019, but plans to maintain a close relationship with the award-winning orchestra.
“I’m particularly proud of how much this orchestra has grown,” says Morlot. “We’ve increased the number of musicians in the orchestra, commissioned exciting new works, explored new ways of sharing the concert experience, and toured to Carnegie Hall and all over the West Coast. We’ve brought music into schools, community centers, shelters and prisons, and brought members of our community into the hall, many for the first time. And we launched a Grammy Award-winning label, Seattle Symphony Media.”
The orchestra was named “Orchestra of the Year” in 2018 by Gramophone Magazine, won three Grammy Awards, and was nominated for 11 under Morlot. He also serves as chair of Orchestral Conducting Studies at the University of Washington.
“Seattle is such a wonderful and exciting place to be,” adds Morlot. “This city has a vibrant and rich arts scene, an exciting, growing tech sector and beautiful nature around us. And we see how Seattleites are impacting the world in so many industries. We’re a city comprised of innovators, and that leadership is recognized globally.” —Amy Corr
Gianna Puerini worked in tech roles at Amazon for eight years before leaving in 2011 to launch a house-flipping business. After designing digital retail experiences and environments at Amazon—ranging from site merchandising and online retail design leadership, to a senior position in retail customer experience—the appeal of building and merchandising space in the 3D had become too strong a pull to resist. But one year into it, Amazon called with a curious proposition.
“Amazon said they wanted to build physical stores, and asked if I would be interested in helping figure that out,” she said. “This was the perfect combination—a company and culture I loved full of people who inspired me daily, combined with my newfound passion for the design and building of physical spaces. I immediately said yes.”
Fast forward to the present, and Puerini prides herself on her role developing Amazon Go—an innovative, cashier-less market that debuted in January. It took four years to bring the new retail concept from a blank sheet of paper to a fully-developed fixture in downtown Seattle, where consumers breeze in and out with packaged lunches, products or grocery items.
“Amazon Go is my proudest career moment,” says Puerini, who works closely with Amazon Go’s vp of technology, Dilip Kumar. “Seattle has been first in many respects—from ushering in the Grunge era to important changes like the $15 minimum wage, to projects closer to home like the first Amazon Go store. We also have a strong food culture which provides great inspiration for our business. I think we’ll continue to see Seattle set the trend for many significant advances in years to come. Plus, I love that it’s a little quirky.” —Jane Hodges
Julie Sandler left her post as a partner at Seattle’s prestigious Madrona Venture Group to join upstart Pioneer Square Labs, a combination startup incubator and venture investor devoted to cultivating Northwest entrepreneurs and, on the venture side, funding them with money from regional venture and business leaders.
Sandler leads PSL Ventures, which funds companies driven from ideas built off solid marketing, engineering, product design, and data science. The venture arm closed an $80 million round in April, which it has been investing both internally at PSL startups and beyond. Companies like AdLightning (which helps digital marketers curb disruptive advertising), Inspo (which helps companies develop original video content), and Boundless (which simplifies the US immigration process) are among the recipients.
“We’re passionate about seeing locally-grown companies thrive,” says Sandler. “Our job is to build great brands.”
Outside of PSL, Sandler is an educator and supporter of education. She serves on the board for the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship, which helps fund in-state college tuition for low- and middle-income students pursuing in-demand majors in STEM subjects. She also teaches an MBA-level entrepreneurship course at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business.
While much of entrepreneurship can’t be “taught” in a classroom, all startups, she says, must learn to tell their story—and to tell it to different audiences (media, investors, customers) in a compelling way. It’s an interesting observation and an important lesson in a region where founders, Sandler says, tend to be more “heads-down” about their projects and what are often global ambitions yet (mercifully) lack the flash of their peers in Silicon Valley.
“Seattle punches well above its weight,” she says. “Companies here have huge missions.” —Jane Hodges
Angela Stowell’s roots in Seattle’s food scene—co-developing and ultimately becoming CEO of Ethan Stowell Restaurants, a 16-restaurant food empire employing 400—are matched only by her inner drive to do the right thing. After the Great Recession tapered off, traditional restaurant marketing felt “inauthentic,” given the scope and scale of economic suffering in Seattle and beyond, Stowell says.
“We began thinking about getting involved in philanthropy,” Stowell says. And get involved the business did—now contributing $250,000 annually to philanthropy, to a long list of local organizations that help combat hunger, homelessness, and health vulnerabilities. By 2017, Stowell was co-chairing the local United Way campaign that raised $40 million.
A friend tipped her off about a job that sounded perfect for Stowell: The CEO job opening at FareStart, a nonprofit that trains homeless and disadvantaged adults and youth for careers in the foodservice industry in a collection of restaurants, coffee shops, a catering operation, and at pop-up dining events starring local guest chefs, all of which the nonprofit operates.
“FareStart’s got a remarkable brand,” she says. “We do so much more than just job training.”
She joins at an exciting time for the organization, which has added five new outlets in the South Lake Union neighborhood (home to Amazon headquarters) and is expanding opportunities for paid apprenticeships for its program participants, in part to make sure they can develop skills sufficient to draw wages commensurate with the rising cost of living in Seattle.
Seattle’s culture makes a great backdrop for philanthropy, not just because of the large footprint left by the internationally known Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation or philanthropists like the late Paul Allen, but also because Seattle consumers are willing to “vote with their wallets,” Stowell says. “When someone dines at FareStart they are not just dining, but also supporting someone becoming empowered.” —Jane Hodges
The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) didn’t exist when Alisha Valavanis was growing up in Indiana and rooting for The Hoosiers between games of hoops with her five siblings—one of them her twin sister.
But somewhere back in time, Valavanis began preparing for a career in sports coaching and leadership that would take her to college campuses including Cal State University-Chico and UC-Berkeley and then to her next act: Stepping outside the college arena and into the national one as COO of The Seattle Storm, a WNBA sports franchise.
Valavanis came to Seattle to lead Seattle Storm operations in 2014—but just one year into her stint, she was promoted to the position of the team’s president and general manager. She now straddles a variety of business, operations, sports management, and branding roles associated with the Storm’s ownership group and sports marketing arm known as Force 10 Sports Management, while also overseeing team hiring and management, roster development, and more.
“Running both sides is unique,” she says of her role developing a product while also monetizing it. “But I have an incredible team on and off the court.”
Valavanis’s proudest moment on the job: The Seattle Storm taking the 2018 WNBA Championship in September. Beyond the court wins, she sees the WNBA—and the Seattle Storm in particular—as a platform for community impact.
“The WNBA is about equality, social change, and of course, entertainment,” she says. “When I came to Seattle the values of this place really struck me—equality, diversity, inclusion. And it doesn’t hurt that Seattle’s a big-time sports city.” —Jane Hodges