Global Diversity Partners


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Inclusive Leader Profile: Laura Clise on “Spend Like It Matters”

As referenced in my last blog, Eddie and I have been incredibly fortunate over the course of our careers to work with many outstanding leaders. These leaders have consistently modeled behavior that have shaped our own inclusive leadership style. A leadership style that inspires and motivates our people and our teams to grow and achieve more than any of us thought possible. It was important to us in writing our book, Daily Practices of Inclusive Leaders, to introduce you to a handful of these inclusive leaders.

We begin the first 5 chapters of our book with a profile on an inclusive leader who exudes the qualities and characteristics of that specific chapter’s focus. Chapter 5 is titled, “Structure and Accountability.” Structure and accountability enable sustainability, authenticity, and norms to be baked into the culture of an organization. These efforts are what create the inclusive environment we know is critical for the success of any Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (ID&E) strategy. Chapter 5 provided the opportunity for our readers to get to know Laura Clise, the CEO and founder of Intentionalist, SPC (, a Seattle-based online guide to intentional spending that supports small businesses and diverse local communities. She is a Main Street small business champion, LGBTQIA+ activist, and advocate for social change through sports.

Laura and I have worked together since 2022 as Supplier Diversity Fellows at Seattle University as part of their RAMP UP program ( The goal is to build better futures for the diversity of small businesses in Seattle’s Central Area at risk of gentrification. In getting to know Laura over the past two years I’ve enjoyed her sharp intellect, creativity, and willingness to speak her truth, consistently providing a fresh perspective and attention-grabbing point of view. Here’s the Inclusive Leader profile on Laura that appears in our book, Daily Practices of Inclusive Leaders:

As a college student in the late 1990s, Laura heard Judy Shepard speak about her son, Matthew, whose brutal murder was the highest profile hate crime against LGBT people at the time. Laura recalls Judy’s challenge to the audience, to the effect, “If you want to live in a world where people are out at work, you come out so you live in that world.”

Several years later, Laura was concerned about the survival of small Main Street businesses and the fraying of the social fabric of our communities. Heeding Judy’s words, she reflected, “If I want to live in a world where companies are more compassionate and intentional, then I get there by building companies that are more compassionate and intentional.” So that’s what Laura set out to do with Intentionalist.

Laura also knew from her experience at multinational, multilateral organizations such as General Mills, DHL, and Intel, how companies struggle with walking the talk in their commitment to equity and social responsibility. So she and her team set out to help big organizations live up to their commitments with “Spend Like It Matters” (her company’s tagline). Intentionalist connects them with small Main Street businesses owned by women, people of color, veterans, LGBTQ-identifying people, families, people with disabilities, and every intersectionality. The model works so effectively that her “tiny” social enterprise company now has the most successful organizations reaching out to her.

“I’ve learned to ask a lot of questions, and through those questions and listening, I observed a gap and had an idea on how to fill it. That’s how Intentionalist was born. I realized Inclusive Leadership is not about any one of us having the answer. We navigate to better solutions to the extent that we effectively tap into, and invite, the awesomeness of others.

What Inclusive Leadership yields, and why folks we’ve partnered with have reached out to us, is the trust of the stakeholders, those organizations who give a damn about Main Street small business, those small businesses that contribute to our cities and communities, beyond the products they have for sale.”

If you’re looking for examples of Inclusive Leadership, they’re in the small local businesses, Laura says. Small business owners recognize that there are much easier ways to make money. They know that their value is in more than selling the products and services available for purchase. Their value is in how they center community, people, and connection in an authentic way. They are living, breathing examples of what is possible when we put people first, when we put community first.

When we recognize that value is created through connection and relationships, and when we provide an inclusive space to build belonging. Intentionalist hopes to seed a culture of Inclusive Leadership in the larger organizations they partner with that reflects the Inclusive Leadership seen in the small business community. By the way, Intentionalist also makes it easy for everyday citizens to find local restaurants, bars, gyms, shops, and more owned by historically underestimated, marginalized, or oppressed people. According to Laura, it all starts with everyday decisions about where you buy a cup of coffee, work out, or pick up a birthday gift. So drop a pebble and buy from a small Main Street business today!