Issaquah innovators honored at chamber luncheon

February 18, 2014

By Peter Clark

Nonprofit lending, flip-flops and composting are leading the way in innovation, according to the Issaquah Chamber of Commerce.

Local businesses received recognition Feb. 13 in the fourth annual Innovation in Issaquah Awards. From 19 nominees, collected through area suggestions, the chamber chose three winners who best represented business innovation in Issaquah.

By Greg Farrar Matt ‘Griff’ Griffin (left), CEO of Combat Flip Flops; Karen Dawson, community relations director for Cedar Grove Composting; and Chris Walcott, president of Semble, hold their Innovation in Issaquah award plaques Feb. 13 at the Issaquah Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

By Greg Farrar
Matt ‘Griff’ Griffin (left), CEO of Combat Flip Flops; Karen Dawson, community relations director for Cedar Grove Composting; and Chris Walcott, president of Semble, hold their Innovation in Issaquah award plaques Feb. 13 at the Issaquah Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

In a large luncheon at the Issaquah Holiday Inn, where more than 100 people gathered to celebrate the nominees, Cedar Grove Composting, Semble and Combat Flip Flops received the top awards.

Cedar Grove Composting is dedicated to diverting waste from landfills through recycling and composting efforts. From two local facilities, including its facility south of Issaquah, it composts more than 350,000 tons of residential and commercial yard and food waste annually, according to its website.

Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Matt Bott presented the award with compliments to the environmental approach Cedar Grove has taken.

“Every day, they chart new territories in recycling and composting,” Bott said. “As we work to minimize climate change impacts, Cedar Grove has constantly risen to the challenge.”

Cedar Grove Director of Community Relations Karen Dawson accepted the award.

“We have been in the region since 1938,” she said, sharing her enthusiasm for her work. “I’m most proud they decided to divest in landfill and invest in composting and recycling exclusively.”

She repeatedly expressed her sincere pride in being a part of Cedar Grove’s commitment to the community.

“You have to have courage to do that,” she said about the company’s focus on green practices. “I’m honored to work for a company that is committed to work for the community.”

The second Innovation award went to Semble, an online service provider that attempts to match nonprofit needs with investors. Its peer-to-community-lending focus invites nonprofits to list loan requests, which are then reviewed and considered by investors. Semble aims to provide low-cost loans to enhance communities, whereby nonprofits save money and investors see a return.

“I love what I do,” Semble President Chris Walcott said as he stood to accept the award. “Every day, I get to talk to nonprofits who are meeting seminal needs out there. Our role is to help communities just like everyone in this room.”

He said the company will continue to explore innovation.

“We ask ourselves, ‘Is there a way for us to be more intentional with our fundraising?’” he said. “That’s why we’ve been so successful, is we’re coming together and asking ourselves, ‘Can we do more?’”

The final Issaquah Innovation award went to Combat Flip Flops, an Issaquah-based facility that manufactures rugged and sturdy flip-flops, with a message of peace.

Founder Matthew Griffin served three tours in Afghanistan as an Army Ranger. While touring a combat boot factory in Kabul, he noticed one of the workers used a boot sole to craft a flip-flop and conceived the idea to found a company, which might help the war-torn country.

After repeated attempts to make the shoes in an Afghan facility, setbacks led Griffin to establish initial production in Issaquah. He is looking to move overseas in the future.

“They empower the mindful consumer to impact peace through trade,” Bott said about Combat Flip Flops.

Griffin accepted the award and thanked Issaquah for the support he has received from citizens.

“This idea was born in the mountains of Afghanistan, but it was really conceived in the mountains of Issaquah,” Griffin said. “It’s the morally right thing to do. Issaquah and the community here have provided the right environment. Thank you for providing an awesome community, and I hope we get to do more together.”

Bott applauded all the winners as well as the nominees for shaping positivity in the Issaquah business community. He said the event might be young, but it serves an important role to honor forward-thinking businesses.

“The history of Innovation in Issaquah goes back four years,” Bott said, adding that the awards began in the midst of the national recession. “We thought one role that we could play would be to spread some great news going on in the community, and represent extraordinary innovation and leadership in Issaquah.”

Other nominees for the awards included the Issaquah Schools Foundation, Meadow Creek Business Center, Rowley Properties Inc., The White Board, Cycle the Wave, My Chef Lynn, Sustainable Services, Trophies2G, CleanScapes, Grand Ridge Plaza, Illuminate Contracting, Impact Studio Pro, Evergreen Ford, Frame Central, Shirey Handyman and Eastside Baby Corner.


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