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    Homegrown Sustainable Sandwiches: Epicenter of the ‘Sandwich Environmentalism Movement’

    Homegrown Sustainable Sandwiches is a mission-driven fast-casual restaurant brand based in Seattle, WA, with 10 stores in Seattle and San Francisco. Founded in 2009 by Ben Friedman and Brad Gillis with the goal of making the food system more sustainable, Homegrown’s food is sustainably sourced, farm by farm, ingredient by ingredient. The founders, who are also co-CEOs, strive for what is best for all stakeholders: people, farm animals and the planet.

    In 2014, Homegrown launched Homegrown Sprouting Farms in Woodinville, WA, its very own certified organic farm that supplies seasonal, organic produce for the menu and serves as a model for sustainable agricultural practices, including no-till farming methods, eco-friendly weed and pest controls, and drip irrigation. Homegrown also uses the farm as a place to teach partners (employees) about sustainable agriculture. The farm is a small part of the growing business, but it is a big part of Homegrown’s commitment to keeping it local.

    Homegrown’s company vision is to grow with purpose to change the food system. “Growing with Purpose” means ensuring the food is coming from farms that are growing with sustainable agricultural practices. Gillis and Friedman believe that, as their business grows, their positive environmental impact should, too.

    This belief stems from the idea that food is the liaison between the earth and the communities we live in. Understanding the relationships that link the planet to the product is an important part of their recognition that, in addition to their economic impact, they are responsible for their environmental impact as well.

    Homegrown’s mission statement consists of four simple pillars:
    1- reduce environmental impact;
    2- craft the best food;
    3- provide exceptional service;
    4- cultivate their people.

    The stores are designed to be as low-impact as possible and as green as the food. Homegrown uses reclaimed, recycled and FSC certified building materials and low-VOC paints in furniture and wall coverings, and also uses hyper-efficient LED and CFL lighting. Additionally, next to larger containers for recycle and compost, there are tiny little trash cans in the dining rooms because nearly all of the products used are 100% compostable and recyclable.

    Every season, Homegrown launches a new seasonal menu showcasing the best from each region at that time of year. The business partners with 1% for the Planet to give 1% of sales from the seasonal menu to organizations working on environmental conservation and sustainable agriculture. Customers can order one of the seasonal offerings—typically a sandwich, a bowl and soup—to accelerate funding for a healthier planet.

    Catering is a big part of what makes Homegrown unique among the farm-to-table-inspired fast-casual dining cohort. Homegrown’s catering service represents nearly a third of its total business, and the business frequently touts that it offers the greenest catering in town. With the same commitment to eco-friendly food and packaging, the catering service offers companies an opportunity to live their corporate values during every meeting. As more and more offices focus on environmental initiatives and making their workplaces greener, having a catered meeting option like Homegrown brings them a lot closer to their values.

    Homegrown’s food sourcing starts with their chef, Michaela Skloven, who comes from a background of cooking at acclaimed New York City restaurants such as Franny’s, Grammercy Tavern and Thomas Keller’s Per Se. Chef Michaela focuses on farmers market style eating—pulling the best produce from each region and creating clean-eating, healthful recipes with bold, craveable flavors.

    Skloven’s belief is that sustainability is critical, but if the food is not amazing, she and her colleagues are back at square one. She has created a lineup of gourmet sandwiches on thin, crispy bread made from 100% GMO-free ingredients that pairs perfectly with a menu of grain bowls and salads that make for a hearty, but healthy, meal.

    Homegrown is passionate about changing the food system through partnerships with the best sustainable growers, ranchers and producers on the West Coast. Farm to table eating has traditionally been available to a privileged few who could afford fine dining experiences that celebrated local growers and seasonality, but the entrance of fast-growing brands like Homegrown promises to democratize accessibility to this type of food to a much broader demographic.

    For more information:

    Column Business Tips from GGBA

    ICE Raids: What Your Business Needs to Know

    The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids in the Bay Area have many small businesses concerned. As a result, the GGBA along with our colleagues at the Golden Gate Restaurant Association are providing information to you as an employer as well as to your employees.

    Know Your Rights as an Employer

    Have a plan for who on staff handles government officials. Establish who that point of contact is—whether a specific manager or owner—and instruct employees of the appropriate contact. Your plan should also include contacting legal counsel.  

    Anyone showing up at your workplace is only allowed to enter public areas without your permission—primarily the dining area. California law AB 450, which just went into effect, requires that employers may not voluntarily consent to an immigration enforcement agent to enter any nonpublic areas of “a place of labor” without a subpoena or judicial warrant. Any areas that are off-limits to the general public can therefore be off limits to federal officials as well. This includes your kitchen, office, break room, etc.

    Ask to See a Warrant

    A valid warrant should be signed and have listed names of employees. You do not have to provide them more information than what is requested on the warrant. In fact, the new state law indicates that, except as otherwise required by federal law, employers cannot re-verify the employment eligibility of a current employee at a time or in a manner not required by federal law. Basically, do not offer up, or penalize, employees whom you think may not have the proper documentation just because ICE has arrived.

    Employers Must Give Proper Notice to Employees

    ICE will likely request to see your Employment Eligibility Verification forms, known as I-9 forms. You should have these forms separate from other employee records, which federal officials do not have a right to review. You have the right to request that officials come back another time to review these forms. In fact, under California law AB 450, employers must give notice of 72 hours to employees of any immigration review of employment records, and there are specific measures for notifying “affected employees.”

    The notice must be posted in the language the employer normally uses to communicate employment-related information to the employee. In addition, the notice must include the following information:

    • The name of the immigration agency conducting the inspections of I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification forms or other employment records.
    • The date that the employer received notice of the inspection.
    • The nature of the inspection to the extent known.
    • A copy of the Notice of Inspection of I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification forms for the inspection to be conducted.

    For additional information, please contact:

    Column GGBA Monthly Report

     GGBA to Host the Western Business Alliance LGBTQ Economic Summit 

    By Dawn Ackerman and Paul Pendergast

    There is a new discussion taking place within the larger context of the LGBTQ business community. Perhaps it’s because we have achieved marriage equality, or maybe it’s because the current political climate emanating from Washington, D.C., is making us uneasy and energized. LGBTQ professionals, business owners, entrepreneurs, merchants, coders, programmers, millennials, transgender advocates, community foundations and our allies are talking about the need for economic equality. 

    In early March, we saw over 5,000 Lesbians, Queer Women and Allies in Tech gather in San Francisco to address critical issues of raising visibility, getting more lesbians/women in tech and building community.

    In Mid-March, we’ll see an historic number of over 20 LGBTQ Chambers of Commerce from throughout the Western United States and Canada gathering with the Golden Gate Business Association (GGBA) for an LGBTQ Economic Summit ( The purpose of this groundbreaking Summit is to discuss issues such as: addressing the entrepreneurial needs of LGBTQ Millennials, thinking outside of the box on access to capital for LGBTQ entrepreneurs, addressing LGBT homelessness from a regional perspective, and how we can harness the power of “disruptive technologies” to grow LGBTQ entrepreneurs. 

    One need only to look at the sheer numbers of people attending these events, the roster of sponsors, the speakers, the organizers who have lined up to support these powerful events to see that the issues of LGBTQ economic empowerment are moving to the forefront of our community. It’s getting louder. It’s getting more focused.

    It’s becoming more critical than ever that we challenge ourselves to face the economic realities on the ground that while some are prospering within our community, we have a significantly large number of community members who are disenfranchised, feel left behind, and are challenged by the costs of day to day living, finding affordable housing and employment, and gaining access to economic opportunity.

    These discussions can’t just be taking place in our major cities. A growing number of LGBTQ entrepreneurs are moving into the suburbs and rural areas to open businesses, create jobs, support their communities and build their families. The Western Business Alliance LGBT Economic Summit ( will feature representatives from cities all over the West—including Spokane, Albuquerque and Tucson—all adding their voices to the important discussion of LGBTQ economic equality. 

    Whether it’s 5,000 Lesbians/Queer Women in Tech getting together, a thousand entrepreneurs/business owners gathering, or the global roll out of StartOUT’s international Mentor/Protégé program for LGBTQ entrepreneurs, the one on one dialogues are now group discussions that are part of a growing chorus of an incredibly diverse LGBTQ community that needs to set the stage for the next steps of economic equality. Join the conversation because this is not going to be a discussion that you can stand on the sidelines and watch. It’s time to add your voice!

    Dawn Ackerman                                                    Paul Pendergast

    President, GGBA                                                    Chair, Public Policy GGBA

    The Golden Gate Business Association (GGBA) is the world’s first LGBT Chamber of Commerce based in San Francisco. Complete details:

    GGBA Networking

    Throughout the years since its founding, GGBA members have come up with innovative ways to encourage networking. From small group events to the very large, members and friends have come together for galas, workshops, luncheons, conferences, receptions and the ever popular monthly Make Contacts. For San Francisco Bay Times team members, we have especially fond memories of participating in Business Exchange Network (BEN) Groups, where it’s easy to meet your new lawyer, dentist, bookkeeper, marketing consultant, insurance agent, massage therapist and so many more. Thousands of LGBT community members have benefited from many GGBA gatherings and we predict that trend will continue, even during the upcoming Power Lunch and Economic Summit, March 15-16. Be sure to attend GGBA’s rewarding and memorable events.


    GGBA Leadership

    For GGBA’s 40th Anniversary, attorney Roger Gross wrote about the organization’s origins and evolution over four decades. In the article, published in the October 30, 2014, issue of the San Francisco Bay Times and distributed at the 40th Anniversary Grand Celebration, Gross named early leaders whose contributions moved the organization forward into its key leadership role for the entire LGBT community of our area. Among those he wrote about were Rick Stokes, John Schmidt, Jerry Robinson, Arthur Lazere and Dave Wharton, each of whom brought unique skills and expertise to the table. We reap the benefits of their contributions even now, decades later. More recent years have also seen tremendously talented individuals come forward to help lead the way. We thank all of those who have contributed over the past 44 years.

    Column GGBA Calendar

    WBA LGBT Economic Summit & Conference hosted by the GGBA

    Thursday, March 15 and Friday, March 16

    Hyatt Regency San Francisco

    RSVP at

    LGBT Business Leaders from 22 Chambers from throughout the U.S. and Canada


    GGBA’s “Become a More Effective Speaker and Communicator” Workshop

    Wednesday, March 21

    8 am to 9:15 am

    U.S. Small Business Administration

    455 Market Street, 6th Floor, San Francisco

    Led by Award-Winning Speaking Coach Gina Grahame

    RSVP at


    GGBA East Bay Make Contact

    Thursday, March 29

    6 pm to 8 pm

    Cooperative Center Federal Credit Union

    2001 Ashby Avenue, Berkeley

    GGBA’s signature networking event with an East Bay Focus

    RSVP at


    GGBA San Francisco Make Contact

    Tuesday, April 10

    6 pm to 8 pm


    278 Post Street, San Francisco, CA 94102 

    Get some rhythm in your networking and enjoy the amazing food, sound & discounts on products!

    RSVP at