People of AMIBA
Click any linked name to jump directly to their biography and photo.
Board of Directors
Dana Eness, President; Executive Director, Stay Local! New Orleans, Louisiana
Colin Murray, Vice President/President-Elect; Executive Director, Dane Buy Local, Madison, Wisconsin
Nicole Kelly, Secretary; Board Member, Keep St. Petersburg Local, Florida
Laury Hammel, Treasurer; Executive Director, SBN Massachusetts, Boston, Massachusetts
Jennifer Rubenstein, Past-President; Executive Director, Louisville Independent Business Alliance, Kentucky
Lily Brislen, Executive Director, the Food Connection, University of Kentucky-Lexington
Kristi Streiffert, Business Development, Obsidian Networks, Durango, Colorado
Pamela Standing, Executive Director, Minnesota Indian Business Alliance, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Derek Peebles, Director, Economics of Compassion Initiative, Cincinnati, Ohio
Jenn Thompson, Executive Director, Portland Buy Local, Portland, Maine
Tom Lowenburg, Owner, Octavia Books, New Orleans, Louisiana
Co-Director & Co-Founder
Jennifer served as Outreach Director for the nation’s first Independent Business Alliance in Boulder, Colorado for two years before leaving to help launch and direct AMIBA in 2001 in response to address broader interest in the Boulder IBA’s success. Jennifer maintains the operation of the organization and is the main contact for most of AMIBA’s community affiliates. She advises on all aspects of IBA operation, including bringing local groups’ voices to the table of economic development discussion and developing strategies to prevent displacement of local businesses.
Jennifer hails from a family with a four-generations-old independent business. She currently engages in her community of Bozeman, Montana as both coordinator of her neighborhood association and chair of Bozeman’s InterNeighborhood Council. Jennifer received her BA degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and holds a Masters in Communication from the University of Colorado, where she augmented coursework with classes in non-profit management and public policy.
Co-Director & Co-Founder
Jeff has spent 18 years helping communities build vital local economies and enhancing economic opportunity through supporting local entrepreneurs. Milchen co-founded the American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA), which helps communities to launch and successfully operate Independent Business Alliances. These Alliances work to strengthen and sustain community-based businesses while promoting citizen empowerment over community development. Milchen pioneered this organizing model in 1998, founding and directing the Boulder IBA in Colorado. Since 2001, AMIBA has helped more than 85 Alliances in a diverse range of communities. Milchen has provided keynotes, presentations and workshops for more than one hundred organizations and conferences.
Milchen spent eight years as a successful small business owner in Vermont and Colorado before moving into non-profit work, directing Reclaim Democracy. He is the author of “Building Buy Local Campaigns that Shift Culture and Spending” and his commentaries and articles have appeared in dozens of publications including Business Week, Washington Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, The Ecologist, Chicago Tribune, and Adbusters. Milchen has appeared on TV and radio programs on the relationship between markets and democracy. Milchen is an avid outdoorsman and spends much of his free time in the mountains near Bozeman, MT.
Hallie is a graphic designer and an entrepreneur at heart. She grew up immersed in independent business culture, as her parents operated a Main Street furniture store for 35 years in Bozeman, MT, which Hallie is proud to call home.
Her creative edge and abilities include dynamic graphics, web design, layout, and skills in social media, photography, and organizational administration. Hallie is passionate about animal rescue and volunteers with Montana organizations helping rescue and care for animals. She is a graduate of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh with a degree in Graphic Design. Hallie enjoys all Bozeman has to offer in the outdoors in her free time, from snowboarding to camping, hiking, and golf.
Amy entered the nonprofit sector in 2004 in Crested Butte, Colorado, as the program director of a youth sports organization, serving five years in that position. During that time she expanded the range of her community involvement to include support for environmental concerns, advancement of the arts, and area nonprofit growth.
After moving to Bozeman, Montana, Amy signed on with Polar Bears International and filled many different roles over her five-year tenure, ending as the Director of Development and Outreach Strategies before relocating to beautiful Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where she also works for an independent book store. Amy has a B.A. in English and French from James Madison University and an M.F.A. in creative writing from Emerson College.
Chelsea previously served as the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Office’ first Refugee Community Liaison, where she helped Salt Lake’s 60,000 refugees engage in all aspects of the City. Chelsea first came to Montana five years ago, where she spent several years ski instructing and guiding outdoor pursuits while simultaneously pursuing a BA from Northwestern University in Political Science & History.
Drawn in by the warm community (figuratively, that is) and outdoor opportunities, she returned to Bozeman in early 2016 and joined AMIBA in the fall. Along with helping local affiliates thrive, Chelsea’s roles include research, writing and social media to help build the Localization Movement and AMIBA’s reach.
Board of Directors
Dana Eness is a founding board member and Executive Director of Stay Local!, which since 2003 has been dedicated to creating a robust independent business network in Greater New Orleans. Dana has also served as Executive Director of New Orleans-based nonprofit The Urban Conservancy since 2006. The Urban Conservancy engages in research, education, and advocacy which promote sustainable land use and local economies in Southeast Louisiana. Since receiving her MA in Latin American Studies from Tulane University in 1989, Dana has worked in non-profit administration, programming, community development and systems building in a number of settings both in the US and abroad.
Colin Murray is Executive Director of Dane Buy Local in Madison Wisconsin, a position he’s held since February 2013. Colin is known as a promoter of the local business community with over 15 years’ experience in locally-focused economic development. He has been involved with Dane County Buy Local from its initial formation meeting in 2004 and served as President from 2010-2013. During that time he oversaw the organization’s growth from 450 to more than 700 member businesses. Under his direction, Dane County Buy Local now boasts nearly 800 members. Murray is a lifelong member of the Madison community, working on behalf of Dane County businesses and non-profits throughout his career. He served as Advertising Manager at Isthmus Publishing and Advertising Director for Shepherd Express in Milwaukee — both are locally-owned alternative weekly newspapers. He holds an Associates Degree from Madison College.
Nicole Kelly serves on the board of Keep Saint Petersburg Local — the city’s Independent Business Alliance — that developed 500 members in its first two years and helped the city develop a reputation as a “destination city of the arts.” Nicole and her husband, John, own and operate the Hideaway Cafe, St Petersburg’s Original Listening Room, where they strive to provide truly appreciative listening audience’s for local artists. They have been at the forefront in supporting original music in St. Petersburg since their move from Nashville, TN in 2000 and strive to bring independent musicians to the table in the pro-local cause. Nicole holds a Bachelor of Engineering degree from Vanderbilt University. She has worked in site development for many industries and companies, including FOX, WebMD, AEGON, and Columbia/HCA, as well as several successful startups. In addition to Hideaway Cafe, Nicole offers technology consulting services through her web development company, Technikelly Kreative. In her downtime, she enjoys being a “baseball mom” to her boys, Jackson and Brennan.
Laury is the President and CEO of The Longfellow Clubs of Massachusetts, which encompasses health and sports clubs, holistic health centers, children’s centers, and camps that serve 10,000 members. Honored by the Boston Globe as one of the top places to work in MA, Longfellow is a recognized industry leader in innovative business practices, environmental responsibility, and community service.
Laury has helped numerous local business coalitions get started. He founded the Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts (SBN) in 1988, Business for Social Responsibility in 1991 and co-founded the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies in 2001. Laury directs the 1000+ member SBN and has developed innovative programs like the Boston Local Food Festival, the Sustainable Business Leader Program, and the Sustainability Leadership Summit. See our interview with Hammel for more.
Jennifer started working for the Louisville Independent Business Alliance (LIBA) in 2008 and became Director in 2011. Under her leadership, LIBA has grown from 60 to over 700 business members. LIBA educates the public about the advantages of buying from locally-owned, independent businesses, promotes the Keep Louisville Weird campaign and holds the Buy Local First Fair, Shift Your Shopping Contest and Louisville Brewfest annually in addition to other campaigns. Jennifer holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Louisville with a major in Marketing and was included as a “40 Under 40” by Business First Louisville in 2012. She was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, where she lives with her husband Mark, daughter Katie and two sweet hound dogs.
Lily Brislen is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Kentucky – Lexington and is first director of The Food Connection at UK, focused on enhancing production, distribution and consumption of Kentucky-grown and produced food both on and off campus. She was the founding director of Think Local Umpqua in Douglas County, Oregon, one of the most successful smaller-town Independent Business Alliances. Lily also is part of AMIBA’s speakers bureau and generates rave reviews for making her presentations and workshops memorably fun as well as informative and productive. She has written for rural development groups on many aspects of localization and entrepreneurial development. She also serves on the board of the Community Farm Alliance.
Kristi Streiffert works in business development with Obsidian, a financial technology firm focused on supporting local economies. Before that she was Managing Director of Local First in Durango, Colorado. After ten years overseas and soon after earning her MBA at University of Cyrus in the E.U., Kristi bought a local business in Durango and runs it in addition to her work at Obsidian. She is interested in building communities that support locally-owned independent businesses as a path to an economy that values people, the planet and prosperity for everyone.
Pamela Standing co-founded the Minnesota Indian Business Alliance (MNIBA) in 2008, in response to the limited American Indian private sector growth and development occurring throughout the state. Partners represent tribal economic and small business development experts, tribal attorneys/judiciary, tribal artisans, American Indian business owners, legal advisors, financial institutions, economic/community development organizations, consumer protection and financial education organizations, non-profits, foundations, institutions of higher education, corporations, MN elected delegates, county, state and federal agencies.
Standing is passionate about tribal economic sovereignty and sustainability and is a citizen of Cherokee Nation. She holds a BA in Education and a MBA in International Business.
Derek Peebles is the current Director for the Economics of Compassion Initiative in Cincinnati, OH, a small economic justice advocacy group that engages the public – both secular and religious – in conversations around the vision of a compassionate economy that is local, resilient and neighborhood based. Derek also serves as a partner for the Cincinnati Independent Business Alliance and Xavier University’s student-led business consulting program.
Derek is a servant-leader with advanced education in organizational leadership and public relations with 10 years of exceptional experience and success building organizational capacity, organizing and educating communities while creating jobs.
Jenn Thompson is the Executive Director of the Portland Independent Business & Community Alliance in Portland, Maine. Jenn has worked in the nonprofit sector since 2012, where she worked with farmers to address food insecurity in the Appalachian region of Ohio. Her interest in economic development prompted her move back to her home state of Maine in 2014, where she managed the programming of the Portland Maine Farmers’ Market and worked with entrepreneurs at the Casco Bay Tech Hub.
Thompson’s experience with farmers sparked her interest in working with businesses to strengthen economic and community resiliency, and in 2015 she began working for PIBCA to strengthen the Portland Buy Local campaign and expand the organization’s impact in the region.
Tom Lowenburg has co-owned Octavia Books since founding the New Orleans bookstore in 2000, a year when only a handful of independent bookstores dared open. In addition to Stay Local!, the New Orleans AMIBA affiliate, he served on the boards of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance and other independent bookseller groups. Tom testified before the Louisiana legislature, defeating a censorship bill that had already passed in the state Senate in 2010; and helped pass Louisiana’s e-fairness bill in 2016 to stop the preferential treatment of remote retailers.
Tom also co-founded of the Alliance for Affordable Energy, a local non-profit that works to advance community-based energy.