Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce
Press Release

Wisconsin LGBT Chamber Announces Winners of 2021 Business Awards

Milwaukee Bucks recognized as Corporate Partner of the Year

By - Sep 9th, 2021 09:19 am

MILWAUKEE — The Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce today announced the winners of its 2021 Business Awards, a program that recognizes the contributions made by businesses and individuals in building a stronger LGBTQ+ and allied business community.

“The Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce is so proud to recognize these amazing businesses and individuals for the work they are doing to build a more welcoming and inclusive business community in Wisconsin,” said Jason Rae, President & CEO of the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce. “These award recipients truly represent the best of Wisconsin. We are thrilled to be able to turn the spotlight on these deserving companies and individuals and showcase the amazing work they are doing to support LGBTQ and allied businesses in Wisconsin.”

Those businesses and individuals receiving awards this year are:

  • Corporate Partner of the Year: Milwaukee Bucks
  • LGBTQ Business of the Year: Swaye’ Tea (West Allis, WI)
  • Allied Business of the Year: Mayana Chocolate (Spooner, WI)
  • Nonprofit Organization of the Year: Community Living Connections, Inc. (Madison, WI)
  • Business Resource Group of the Year: Kohler PROUD (Kohler, WI)
  • John Ross Pruess Business Leader of the Year: Kerri Balliet, Red Baron Coaching (Shorewood, WI)
  • Advocate of the Year: Governor Tony Evers

“Each winner demonstrates a strong commitment to building a diverse business community where all people can thrive,” added Rae. “We are so excited to honor these champions of inclusion.”

The awards will be presented at the Chamber’s Business Awards & Showcase, presented by BMO Harris Bank, on the evening of Tuesday, September 14 at the Bradley Symphony Center in downtown Milwaukee. The public is invited to attend. All attendees are requested to be fully vaccinated to attend and must wear a mask at all times. Registration is requested and can be done online at www.wislgbtchamber.com/awards.

Here are some additional details on each of our 2021 award recipients:

  • Corporate Partner of the Year: Milwaukee Bucks
    This award is given to an organization that is a corporate member of the LGBT Chamber and has shown a strong commitment to diversity in the workplace and to positively growing the LGBTQ and allied business community. The Milwaukee Bucks have been key in growing and supporting the LGBT Chamber by serving as a platinum member since April of 2016. This year, the Milwaukee Bucks launched an LGBTQ business resource group internally to support their LGBTQ employees. That group has been an active participant in the Chamber’s LGBT Workplace Alliance and worked in Pride Month to support events outside of Fiserv Forum. The Milwaukee Bucks have also led the way by helping create and support one of the NBA’s first Pride Nights.
  • LGBTQ Business of the Year: Swaye’ Tea (West Allis, WI)
    This award is given to an LGBTQ-owned business that is a member of the Chamber, is an active participant in building a more diverse business community in Wisconsin and has a proven track record of success and involvement. Swaye’ Tea is a nationally certified LGBT Busines Enterprise that has been able to bounce back and grow through the pandemic. In addition to being an LGBTBE, Swaye’ Tea is a Black-owned and woman-owned business that has been able to expand their services and offerings. They have been involved in Chamber events and are committed to building a more inclusive business community.
  • Allied Business of the Year: Mayana Chocolate (Spooner, WI)
    This award is given to an allied-owned business that is a member of the Chamber, is an active participant in building a more diverse business community in Wisconsin and has a proven track record of success and involvement. Mayana Chocolate has been actively involved in Chamber events. As a rural member of the LGBT Chamber, they have worked to build true statewide support for diverse owned businesses. They have committed themselves to giving back by donating a portion of all Pride Caramel Hearts and Pride Candy Bar sales (available year-round) to LGBTQ focused organizations. As an ally, they have made and continue to make an effort to support diverse communities in Wisconsin.
  • Nonprofit Organization of the Year: Community Living Connections, Inc. (Madison, WI)
    This award is given to a nonprofit organization that is a member of the Chamber, with a proven track record of success and involvement and a commitment to building a diverse community. Since 2004, Community Living Connections has worked to support individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities, physical disabilities, and frail elders to live as independently as possible, in their own homes. Community Living Connections has been an active Chamber member since 2018 and has worked to build an inclusive workforce through participation in multiple LGBTQ Career Fairs and others events.
  • Business Resource Group of the Year: Kohler PROUD (Kohler, WI)
    This award is given to a business resource group at one of our corporate partners who works to support and build a culture of inclusion and acceptance. Established in 2017, Kohler PROUD was one of the first Business Resource Groups at Kohler Co. thanks to an incredibly passionate and active group of nearly 100 members. Kohler PROUD has been active with the Chamber’s LGBT Workplace Alliance and other programs. Partnering with KOHLER Original Recipe Chocolates business, Kohler PROUD developed Facets of Love, a limited collection of rainbow chocolates available during Pride Month. Proceeds from every Facets of Love Pride Collection purchase were donated to PFLAG. Kohler PROUD is active in the community providing ongoing support and education for Kohler associates and local LGBTQ+ organizations. The PROUD BRG’s ongoing diversity and inclusion efforts are at the very heart of Kohler’s gracious living mission.
  • John Ross Pruess Business Leader of the Year: Kerri Balliet (Shorewood, WI)
    Named after one the Chamber’s most passionate business advocates, this award is given to a hard-working and dedicated individual who has had a positive professional and personal impact on building a diverse business community in Wisconsin. Kerri Balliet has been a passionate leader in growing the LGBTQ and small business communities throughout not only Wisconsin but the globe. Kerri was instrumental in helping to launch the Chamber’s Business Leadership Academy and has continued each year as a frequent presenter. Kerri also is active with the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) as the owner of a nationally certified LGBTBE, Red Baron Coaching. She has presented globally for NGLCC affiliates and business leaders across the world. Kerri brings a sense of optimism and hope to everything she does and exemplifies the spirit of John Ross Pruess.
  • Advocate of the Year: Governor Tony Evers
    This award is given to an individual who has been a strong advocate for inclusion and diversity within the larger business community. Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has been a champion for Wisconsin’s LGBTQ and allied business community. In his proposed 2021-2023 budget request, he advocated for building a more inclusive supply chain in state procurement by adding in LGBT Business Enterprises into the state’s accepted certifications. Governor Evers has been working steadily the past year to help businesses bounce back from COVID. He has been dedicated to not only helping LGBTQ businesses, but all diverse businesses in the state recovery. Governor Evers has worked every day to build a more welcoming and inclusive business community for all people.

The Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce is an organization of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and LGBT-allied businesses, corporations and professionals throughout the state of Wisconsin. It offers networking opportunities, business development efforts within the LGBT community, and educational programming to its members. The organization has nearly 700 members from around the state. In 2015, the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce received the National Chamber of the Year Award from the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). More information can be found online at: www.wislgbtchamber.com.

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