Westside Awards presented at Chamber breakfast
The West Seattle Chamber of Commerce held it's annual Westside Awards Breakfast on May 16 at South Seattle College to honor West Seattle business leaders for their contributions throughout the year.
Those honored included:
- NOT FOR PROFIT OF THE YEAR
- Charlene Boyd, Providence Mount St. Vincent
- EMERGING BUSINESS OF THE YEAR
- Tony Wilson, Papa Tony's Hot Sauce
- BUSINESS OF THE YEAR
- Matt Vaughan, Easy Street Records
- WESTSIDER OF THE YEAR
- Claiborne Bell, Distinguished Foods
The event was sponsored by Nucor Steel and hosted by Chamber board member Brian Callanan.
Nucor's Mill Manager Tui P Fuala'au spoke first. He explained that Nucor is a steel recycling company whose primary product is a range of sizes of steel rebar used in construction. Nucor is a long time community supporter with donations to the West Seattle Food Bank and other community organizations. He explained that Nucor is now the largest steel company in America with 33,000 employees and 250 locations. "Our challenge is to become the safest steel company in the world," he said.
Charlene Boyd from Providence Mt. St Vincent rose to accept her award for Nof for profit of the year and spoke of the history of the institution and about the volunteer work done there.
"We certainly have to dedicate this award to the heroes of the community, the West Seattle Community and our caregivers are volunteers."
Andrew Mead and his son Caden came to the podium to introduce Anthony Wilson founder of Papa Tony's Hot Sauce as Emerging Business of the Year. Mead spoke about Wilson's remarkable background. Tony is a graduate of Hamlin University, worked for Americorps on Hurricane Katrina relief, worked as the Program Director for a non profit creating youth programs partnering with the NBA, worked in the music world peforming spoken word which took him to London, Paris, Amsterdam, Ecuador, and Belgium. Tony met his wife Guinnivere in 2014 in New Orleans and now have a five year old daughter. Tony created his hot sauce in 2021.After posting his sauce on Instagram he sold 300 bottles. His wife made a logo and they moved to Seattle. He got a job in a kitchen making hot sauce. After selling four cases of his own sauce at a Heron's Nest event he began selling at Farmer's markets around the Seattle area. In July 2022 he started selling at the West Seattle Farmer's market and got product placement with PCC Markets. Mead said, "The virtues he stands on are fearlessness, being creative, moving with integrity. and being intentional."
In accepting the award for Emerging New Business Wilson spoke movingly about his youth.
He said that he grew up with a drug addicted father who was murdered when Tony was three years old. His mother was a hard worker but had dropped out of school at 14 so opportunities were limited. Speaking in the third person about himself he said, "All is male role models.... were pimps, gang members, alcoholics and addicts." He spoke about the mental illness that runs in his family. "This award is another notch in my belt showing me and others like me that success is possible. Even at times when I felt like i wasn't enough. And this is only the beginning."
"My whole life I've battled depression and anxiety due to childhood trauma...there's no one to teach you how to live a happy healthy life. I had to learn to create that for myself," he said. He explained that "Papa Tony's runs on the African proverb, 'I am because we are,' meaning that as a community we help each other. "It's not just one sailing ship, it's a multitude of sailing ships."
Jack Miller of Husky Deli, introduced Matt Vaughan of Easy Street Records as Westside Business of the Year, noting that the two have been friends for more than 35 years.
Vaughan, spoke at length about his personal history, noting that the services, resources and networking provided by the Chamber of Commerce have been invaluable to him over the years. His wife Keisha and children were in attendance and he said, "Yes I do this for the community, i do it for musicians but when it gets down it this is a family business and they're the reason why I do this..." and as an aside, "We do have a mortgage still."
He thanked all the members of his staff including Display Manager Kevin Larson, General Manager Adam Tutty, Mary Bruce, Maria Sophia who handles social media and events. Mentioning, Nathan, Andy, Bill, Ashland, Nick and Rod as being part of the company's success.
After a brief history of his travails in the business he concluded saying, "I don't trust people who don't like music. I don't talk to them, I don't listen to them. They mean nothing to me."
Easy Street Records is celebrating 35 years in business this year and Vaughan said, "This has just been one big art project for me. I think it was Andy Worhol who said, 'Having a business is the greatest art form I could have ever created.'"
Claiborne Bell, owner of commercial kitchen Distinguished Foods, and Seattle Sorbets, was honored as Westsider of the Year. He was introduced by Whitney Moore who said, "Claiborne is known for his generosity to regularly donate sorbets to schools, churches, and nonprofits for auctions and raffles. He is dedicated to mentoring the next generation of business owners. And brings youth groups in school field trips on tours of his commercial kitchen. He's putting entrepreneurship on the radar for so many young people. He is busy. You can find him on panels speaking about race and representation as a panelist for Seattle Restored where he gave his time to help activate and revitalize vacant storefronts in downtown Seattle with Bipoc owned businesses and micro businesses. He serves on the West Seattle Chamber Board and on the Ambassador Committee."
Bell said that the award was really more for his team of people, "My team started with my grandparents and the emphasis they put on education and achievement. They encouraged and expected hard work and they didn't make excuses. This led to the achievement of my parents, Sam and Belinda Bell. My parents expected excellence from my twin brother, Cameron and I. And they didn't allow for much wiggle room in that. My living teammate is my wife, Doctor, Kendra Bell."
Bell singled out one person for praise, his co-worker Dora Ibarra. "Dora is the quiet superstar that never wants the credit. She always gets the job done. Dora is the left tackle that protects the quarterback." He noted that 'When Dora and I work together, I feel like we can accomplish anything. I tell all of my tenants at Distinguished Foods Kitchen Rental. You've got to impress two people. My mom and Dora."
He concluded by saying "I have an excellent team and my parents that continue to help me in my business. An amazing wife that is supportive and encouraging and I have a Dora that is guaranteed to get the job done every time. So I accept the Westsider of the Year award on behalf of my whole team. We are thankful, we are blessed and we are honored to be your friends. Thank you all."