Doing business better: RFM’s Angie Tomisser talks shop on B Corps

This week, the Pacific Northwest B Corp community gathered together to celebrate business as a force for good.

Here at Vibe Coworks, we were delighted to be a part of it. Thanks to our friends at B Local PDX, we had the opportunity to livestream the 5th Annual BLD PNW conference on the big screen, followed by an informal networking happy hour with local social impact fans and practitioners sponsored by Rice Fergus Miller Architecture and Design (the designers of our beautiful building!)

BLD PNW is the largest gathering of Certified B Corporations in the Pacific Northwest and beyond—organized by the B Corp community, for the B Corp community. This year’s theme was BLD Transformation, and for good reason.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused enormous uncertainty and lost revenue for businesses; job loss and instability for individuals and families; and overall disconnect and loneliness as people balance the necessities of community health with the hunger for interpersonal connection.

This year’s conference explored the role that certified B Corp companies have in leading our communities out of this crisis. We talked about how we can set new standards for racial equity, climate justice, and economic inclusivity, and what we can do to be brave leaders, willing to take our own risks in order to build a stronger future. There is a need to transform the way we do business, and the way we step up and lead.

The number of companies locally that have pursued B Corp certification remains slim. But with the help of pioneering leaders like Rice Fergus Miller, the hope is that more and more businesses and entrepreneurs will join the B Corp movement.

Tell us a little about yourself and your journey to where you are now in your career as an Interior Designer and Associate Principal at Rice Fergus Miller.

Angie: At the heart of all design work, you find people at the center. I’ve always loved that. I spent over a decade of my career working for large design firms in Seattle on projects that were high profile but always felt very disconnected from the actual people using the spaces I designed.

I moved to Bremerton in 2017 looking for a quieter existence and more connection in my work. I found Rice Fergus Miller at an evening community event and, after talking to founder Steve Rice for 20 minutes, I knew that they were different. Their B Corp status sealed the deal for me.

So give us the 101 on B Corps. What is it? What is the idea behind the certification? Does it even really matter?

Putting things into my own words, being a certified B Corporation means that you are committed to using your business as a force for good—prioritizing people and planet (and I like to throw in purpose, too) along with profit.

Undergoing the B Corp certification process is rigorous and shows that you are willing to show documentation along with this proclamation. Similar to how organic farming undergoes a process of certification to ensure that the produce you purchase and eat are in fact organic, the B Corp certification ensures that the businesses you patronize (and work for!) are in fact walking the talk.   

This type of certification matters because ‘business as usual’ has to change. The days of a growth-only, profit-only business philosophy that feeds shareholders at the cost of people and planet, needs to become a thing of the past. The B Corp certification starts to create a place for like-minded businesses to come together, network, and gain momentum. 

A lot of people ask me if it is worth it, or if it is actually valuable to the business. I am always surprised by these questions but here are three reasons why I absolutely believe it has value:

  1. B Corp companies prioritize people and planet. These are finite resources and If we don’t take care of them, they (we!) won’t always be around.
  2. B Corp companies have happier employees. The biggest expense that most businesses have is the cost of their employees. Studies show that when people feel a sense of purpose at work or that their direct actions help others, they are likely to be more satisfied with their job and are more likely to stay. The cost of turnover is high.
  3. B Corp companies win talent wars. The younger workforce demands purpose in their professional life. They are willing to choose one job position over another based on purpose over profit.  Business that are B Corp certified are better able to attract and retain the up and coming workforce.

Why did Rice Fergus Miller pursue this certification?

Angie: In our case, the decision to pursue certification was born out of a grassroots effort from our staff. Our team was really passionate about elevating our commitment to community, and operating as a people-first organization.

How has your corporate culture changed since becoming a B Corp? Are there any stories you can share?

Angie: RFM’s culture has always been one that is deeply rooted in giving back to the communities we serve, both in our project work and beyond.

Becoming a certified B Corp helped us to channel our energies in more targeted ways, creating formalized efforts to direct our giving initiatives through what we call our Community Giving Program. Through this program, we’re able to provide local community organizations with needed resources and/or volunteer support. RFM also gives all employees two days a year to volunteer their time in the community in ways that are personally meaningful for them.

What’s something you wish everyone knew about B Corp companies and/or certification?

Angie: I think that 2020 taught us that how we spend our money matters. Supporting certified B Corps companies is an easy way to make change.

If you are interested in supporting B Corps through your purchasing power, you can check out the B Corp Directory as you’re considering where to spend your dollars.  

What’s a wish you have for the local Puget Sound B Corp community?

I would love to see more interest, outreach and engagement from local businesses who are already B Corp certified, as well as from businesses and entrepreneurs who are interested in knowing more.

What advice would you give to local businesses and entrepreneurs who are not B Corp certified?

Angie: I would definitely encourage everyone to do some organizational soul-searching regarding how you use your business for good. If you’re looking for a way to take things to another level, I would love to share our journey. Please reach out.

(Additional pro tip: B Local PDX is hosting a virtual B Corp 101 info session for aspiring B Corp businesses on Oct 26, 2011. Look into it!)

Wondering about certified B Corps companies locally?
The Puget Sound region is currently home to the following certified B Corps:

  • A&R Solar (Seattle)
  • Bainbridge Vineyards (Bainbridge Island)
  • Boma Jewelry (Seattle)
  • Browne Accounting (Seattle)
  • Clarius Group Wealth Management (Seattle)
  • Cyborg Mobile (Renton)
  • Evernu Fiber Innovation (Seattle)
  • Finn River Farm & Cidery (Chimacum)
  • Floyd Snider Environmental Consulting (Seattle)
  • Frankie & Joe’s (Seattle)
  • Grounds for Change (Poulsbo)

  • Imago Executive Coaching (Seattle)
  • Lazarus Naturals (Seattle)
  • Living Room Realty (Bremerton)
  • Maveron Venture Capital (Seattle)
  • MiiR (Seattle)
  • NOVO Painting & Property Services (Seattle)
  • Pyramid Communications (Seattle)
  • Rice Fergus Miller Architecture and Design (Bremerton)
  • Snaplinc Consulting (Seattle)
  • Sno-Isle Food Co-op (Everett)
  • Sustainable Business Consulting (Seattle)
  • Tom Bihn (Seattle)

Links + Further reading