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Octane Public Relations: Where culture and action meet

Connecting the world to diverse stories unfolding in Washington, D.C.



Everett Hamilton started Octane 23 years ago. (Photo courtesy of Everett Hamilton)

Everett Hamilton was running an event planning business 23 years ago and realized that at the core of his work, he was a publicist. According to him, event planning and public relations are both meant to accomplish one goal – connection.

So, he started Octane Public Relations & Advertising and has since worked to connect the world to the diverse stories unfolding in Washington, D.C.

“What I found was that a lot of the work I was doing on the events side intersected with communications,” he said.

Now, with more than two decades of experience and a team that is steadily growing, he doesn’t have to be as hands-on with running the company. He credits his COO, Marcelle Brawner, and her two-person team with handling the everyday functions like payroll, bills, and other operating tasks. At one point, Hamilton and his former business partner were the only two people wearing all of those hats. For this reason, Hamilton still says that he is the best spokesperson for the company.

“What I do in my role as CEO is set up the strategic vision for the things I want to see us accomplish in a given year,” he said.

He says that when managing his company there are three areas to focus on: get the business, run the company that does the business, and attract talent to implement the business. A public relations company cannot thrive if it’s stagnant.

“I have to constantly source for new business and I do that through developing high-level relationships with clients,” Hamilton said.

As technology develops his work looks different. When he started the company in 2003 they were creating campaigns on paper and now they are trying to reach users on a multitude of digital platforms.

Despite these technological changes, the values statement remains the same: “Where culture and action meet.”

“We want to make sure that the clients we have are truly committed to communicating to diverse audiences,” Hamilton said. “Not telling them what to do, not dictating them – but bringing them along through empowerment.”

Octane has been working with the District’s government for more than 15 years, doing its HIV social marketing campaigns.

“That is something close to our hearts in the LGBTQ+ community and we have been really honored to work on all of those campaigns.”

Hamilton emphasized that they were intentional about empowering sub-cultures within the LGBTQ community with culturally aware campaigning. With Octane’s guidance, D.C. was the first city in the U.S. to specifically campaign for the transgender Latinx community.

In the beginning, campaign work looked like encouraging people to use condoms and now looks like viral load suppression and teaching people how to use PrEP. Their work has transformed from making people aware of the importance of sexual health, to helping people live longer no matter their diagnosis.

“[We have] issues that we couldn’t even dream of 15 years ago,” said Hamilton. “But we still have too many people not getting treatment, so we still have work to do.”

As Hamilton looks ahead, he only wants to increase his business footprint on community-driven work like this. Healthcare, energy, and corporate social responsibility are at the top of his priorities.

“We live in a world where people think to be profitable, you can’t be community and people centered,” he said. “But there are so many companies out there that are doing both and Octane wants to be a part of those teams.”



Heather Lawver’s journey to growth, inclusion with at StartOut’s Growth Lab

‘A program that embraces unique challenges LGBTQ+ founders have’



Jake Hannigan is Program Manager of StartOut.

In the bustling world of startups, where innovation and diversity intertwine to forge new pathways, Heather Lawver, founder and CEO of D.C.-based stands out not just as a visionary entrepreneur but as a beacon of inclusivity and determination. Her journey to build, an advertising and branding platform dedicated to revolutionizing how startups conceive and market their brands, has reached a pivotal milestone with its selection into StartOut’s esteemed Growth Lab Accelerator, sponsored by J.P. Morgan. 

With less than one percent of startup funding being allocated toward LGBTQ+ founders in 2023, according to a recent StartOut study, this five-month program is critical in providing resources and education to help LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs grow and compete. joins eight other companies nationwide for this exclusive five-month training program.

A commitment to inclusion

Lawver founded in 2021 as a way to help entrepreneurs build better brands and seamlessly apply them to the marketing and pitch materials they need to launch the company of their dreams. The company’s simple five-step brand quiz helps founders think strategically about how they want to be perceived by their customers to then generate a full brand book with wordmark logo, color scheme, and font suite. Ceemo then applies that new brand book to a full suite of marketing and pitch materials, giving founders a roadmap to making sales and securing investment.

Her application to the Growth Lab Accelerator cohort was driven by more than the desire for business growth; it was fueled by her longstanding volunteer work with StartOut and a profound commitment to fostering an environment where LGBTQ+ founders are not only included but celebrated. 

The selection of for StartOut’s Growth Lab, an accelerator known for its top-quality mentoring, education, and networking opportunities tailored for LGBTQ+ founders, marks a pivotal chapter in Lawver’s mission to help cultivate a more inclusive entrepreneurial landscape.

“Being in an accelerator where I’m not the only queer person in the room is not just empowering; it’s transformative,” she shares. “It means so much to be selected for a program that embraces the unique challenges LGBTQ+ founders have, and these issues are not just acknowledged but are central to the narrative of success and innovation.”

“The founders in our 2024 Cohort are problem solvers, developing unique products and solutions across a range of industries, from technology and software to food and beverage,” said David Barbee, Head of LGBTQ+ Initiatives, J.P. Morgan Commercial Banking. “As they continue to scale, these companies will need access to resources like capital and banking solutions, investors and business advisors. We are proud to provide mentorship and access to our firm-wide capabilities to help them reach the next level.” 

“This platform is not just an accelerator; it’s a community where the unique challenges and triumphs of LGBTQ+ founders are acknowledged, celebrated, and used as a springboard for groundbreaking business success,” said Lawver. 

Ambitious goals for bright future

Over the past decade, Lawver’s expertise in enhancing pitch decks and fundraising strategies has been instrumental in securing more than $170 million for minority entrepreneurs across various demographics, including women, BIPOC, LGBTQ+, disabled individuals, and seniors. 

Her vision for her time in the five-month cohort is characterized by ambition and a keen focus on leveraging the program’s resources to scale’s impact. Her top goals include refining the platform’s Crunchbase algorithms to offer unparalleled market insights for startups, enhancing their organic sales funnels, and forging strategic partnerships with tech giants like Canva, Adobe, Google, Shopify, and Squarespace. These objectives are not just growth metrics but stepping stones towards revolutionizing how startups approach branding and marketing in a highly competitive digital landscape.

(Founded in 2009, StartOut, a national 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, is the largest national organization to support LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs with more than 28,000 members nationwide. Its mission is to accelerate the growth of the LGBTQ+ community to drive its economic empowerment, building a world where every LGBTQ+ entrepreneur has equal access to lead, succeed, and shape the workforce of the future.)

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New owners of Color Lab Salon by TSR have big plans

Fresh outlook, expanded services planned at Connecticut Avenue facility



(Left to right) Sandy Campbell, Rick Baker, and Thomas Shelton.

Thomas Shelton, Sandy Campbell, and Rick Baker are the new owners of Color Lab Salon by TSR, formerly known as VSL Harlow.

They have given the salon a new name and outlook in hopes of getting the shop back to its former glory.

“Fifteen to 20 years ago there were lines out of the door and it was the place to go in the community,” said Shelton “We want to get it back to that.” 

Shelton and Campbell have been doing hair for more than 20 years. Shelton even worked at VSL Harlow shortly, before opening his own salon. 

Baker is the only owner who doesn’t do hair but he can typically be found at the front desk of Color Lab. 

When the former owners of VSL Harlow approached Shelton about taking over the salon he knew he couldn’t do it alone. So, he called Campbell and just a month later they were signing the lease to the building. 

After some demolition work to update the space, Color Lab Salon was up and running. 

In addition to Campbell and Shelton there are six other hairstylists, a waxer, nail tech, and threading artist. 

This year they plan to add mani-pedis to their services, something that Campbell said he is really excited for. 

“I figure if you offer all types of services people will always want to come,” said Campbell.

In addition to offering new services this year they are also implementing a new education system. Campbell and Shelton said that education and staying on top of trends in the hairstyling community will help to attract more customers.  

“We want to be trendsetters and education is a big part of that,” said Shelton. 

The Color Lab is open seven days a week at 1607 Connecticut Ave., N.W.

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A Workplace That Transcends the Ordinary

The Mather is hiring for an array of positions to provide hospitality and exceptional service.



The Mather is seeking hospitality professionals to provide exceptional service in its restaurants, fitness center and spa, and more—all in a luxury setting and supportive atmosphere. (Photo courtesy of The Mather)

When you start your workday, do you want to walk through the doors and enter an environment where talents are nurtured, passions are pursued, and possibilities abound? In Mather’s newest venture in Tysons, Virginia, all of this is part of an award-winning culture within their luxury community called The Mather

The highest level of hospitality imbues The Mather’s elegant amenity spaces, thoughtfully curated food and beverage offerings, and innovative model of next-level service. 

A Life Plan Community for those 62 and better, The Mather stands ready to welcome residents in early 2024, and is well underway with recruiting top talent who share a passion for creating an atmosphere that transcends the ordinary. That stems from the unique values of its parent organization—inclusive, resilient, bold, and impactful—and its vision to change the way society views aging. Mather, an 80+-year-old not-for-profit organization, has a history of retaining dedicated team members for years, by helping them learn new skills, develop their careers, and eliminate barriers to personal fulfillment.

Raj Radke, vice president and general manager of The Mather, explains, “Our mission of creating Ways to Age Well extends to all team members. We support their personal well-being with a supportive culture, valuable on-the-job perks, opportunities to learn and advance, and a competitive benefits package.” Highlights of that package include

  • a generous paid time off program
  • excellent medical and dental benefits
  • tuition reimbursement
  • annual reimbursement for self-care items and experiences 

Benefits commence on the first of the month following 30 days of employment. On-site perks include complimentary use of the community’s fitness center and pool, free parking, and a free meal. 

Located on Westpark Drive near Tysons Galleria, The Mather offers apartment homes ranging in size up to 3,300 square feet; luxury amenities include a fitness center featuring an exercise studio and indoor pool, multiple restaurants, a bar, outdoor event terraces with catering opportunities, a full-service spa, and three acres of green space. Services include reception and concierge, valet parking, shuttle and driver services, resident engagement and programming, housekeeping, and maintenance. 

Mather, with three senior living communities in Illinois and Arizona, is certified as a Great Place to Work and received a Nation’s Best and Brightest in Wellness Award from the National Association for Business Resources five years in a row, for promoting employee well-being, worksite health, and wellness.

The Mather is hiring for an array of positions to provide hospitality and exceptional service; it ultimately will have a total of 100+ full- and part-time team members—all focused on creating unique opportunities and meaningful moments for residents, colleagues, and guests.

“We’re seeking team members from high-end hotels and resorts who share our dedication to making a difference and creating luxury experiences,” says Raj. “We’re building a team that will push the envelope in curating elevated engagements that embrace a vibrant culture for residents and team members alike.”

If you’re interested in joining the team at The Mather, or know someone who is, browse open positions at

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