Tracy and Mia Levesque, co-owners of Web-design company YIKES, were one of three finalists in the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce/Wells Fargo LGBT Business of the Year Award.
Also making it into the top 20 were Philadelphia-based John McManaman and David White from Absolute Abstract and David Jeffreys from marketing agency Altus Group, who, along with YIKES, are all members of the city’s LGBT chamber of commerce Independence Business Alliance.
The Levesques and Bill Rodman, owner of inVision Consultants, LCC, a Seattle-based aerospace engineering consulting firm, were recognized alongside the eventual winner, Joy Silver, president and CEO of RainbowVision Properties, during the NGLCC’s National Dinner Nov. 6 in Washington, D.C. Silver, who operates a chain of LGBT retirement communities, is a native of Northeast Philadelphia.
Kate Karasmeighan, NGLCC chief of staff, said she couldn’t release the number of applicants but did say it was record-breaking.
The Levesques, who have been together for 17 years and married for six, founded YIKES in 1996. The company, headquartered in Northern Liberties, provides an array of Web-based services, such as custom Web design, maintenance and podcasting.
The couple employs six staffers; Tracy works on the front-end design for the company’s clients, while Mia focuses more on project management.
YIKES is a member of the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia and has been committed to operating as a “green” company since its inception, even before the term became popular.
“We started with these kinds of sustainability business principles that now have a name and are becoming a lot more commonplace in the vernacular of the business world,” Mia said. “The whole concept of being sustainable is becoming more familiar to people and a lot more companies are looking to find ways to achieve a more green perspective, but we started based on this even though there wasn’t necessarily a real definition of it at that time.”
The company uses 100-percent renewable electricity, promotional materials printed on recycled paper with soy ink and uses only green cleaning and paper products.
“We come from a nonprofit and activist background and, unfortunately, we’ve seen the way things are run when ethical decisions are in the hands of corporations,” Tracy said. “We wanted to create a business where people are treated fairly and where our business did well by doing good.”
Tracy noted that YIKES is unique not only in its “green” focus, but also in the fact that it’s lesbian-owned.
“Men still really dominate the technology industry. It’s even rare when you call a Web company and get a woman tech support person,” Tracy said, noting that she knows of one another lesbian-owned green Web company based in Oregon. “We do see some women in the field here and there, but usually not as business owners.”
Tracy said earlier this year an NGLCC employee contacted local grantmaking organization Bread and Roses Community Fund for suggestions of local businesses they could encourage to apply, and agency executive director Casey Cook suggested YIKES.
“We were applying anyway, and then we got a call personally from someone at the chamber who asked us if we were planning to apply, so that gave us a little extra motivation to get it done,” she said.
Tracy said the company’s green business principles were key to their success in the competition.
“We were told that the reason we made it so far was really because of our commitment to sustainability,” she said. “By being at the event and seeing the leaders of the NGLCC, we were able to see that the chamber really seems to be in line with our beliefs about sustainability and about being a socially responsible business, so that really made us happy.”
Jen Colletta can be reached at email@example.com.