American Independent Business Alliance

Speakers and Workshop Facilitators

Jeff Milchen

Jeff Milchen

Co-director & Co-founder, AMIBA

Jeff has spent 18 years helping communities build vital local economies and enhancing economic opportunity through supporting local independent businesses. Milchen co-founded the American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA), which helps communities to launch and develop a range of local initiatives to strengthen and sustain community-based businesses while empowerment citizens and small business to guide community development. Milchen pioneered the Independent Business Alliance organizing model, founding and directing the Boulder IBA in Colorado, starting in 1998.

Since 2001, AMIBA has helped more than 85 of these Alliances form in a diverse range of communities. Jeff has provided keynotes, presentations and workshops for nearly one hundred organizations and conferences. Milchen’s prior work includes successfully launching and operating two small businesses. 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 WeekS.F. Chronicle, The Ecologist, The Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Washington Times and Adbusters. 

Joe Grafton

Joe Grafton

AMIBA facilitator

Joe has dedicated the last decade of his life to shifting culture and paradigms to support of sustainable local economies and community-based businesses. He is the Founding Executive Director and current Board Member at Somerville Local First, a leading local business alliance, a board member at the Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts, a steering committee member of the New England Local Economy Network, Co-Chair of the Pioneer Valley Slow Money Chapter and Director and Treasurer for the Together Festival, Boston’s SXSW. Joe brings skills and experience in fundraising, speaking, training, marketing, social media, operations and planning. He specializes in board development workshops. Joe lives in the Boston area, where he is engaged in several of the above groups. Also see Joe at TEDxSomerville.
Amy Campbell Bogie

Amy Campbell Bogie

Amy is passionate about local business as a mechanism for building strong, resilient communities. She found her love of local business at an early age, having grown up in her father’s independent bookstore in Durham, NC. In 2010, she co-founded Sustain-a-Bull: Shop Independent Durham, an alliance of more than 150 local businesses that organizes collaborative marketing efforts, a “buy local” initiative and advocates for their collective interests. She served as its Executive Director for four years, during which time she also worked as the Communications Coordinator of Slow Money NC, a peer-to-peer lending network that helps farmers and local food businesses find alternative financing. She is currently working with AMIBA on a project to expand community ownership of local businesses through equity offerings as part of her coursework for the Bard MBA in Sustainability program. She lives in Central Florida but travels frequently throughout the eastern United States.

Learn more about Amy’s current and past projects at www.amycbogie.com and connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Laury Hammel

Laury Hammel

Founder, Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts and Co-founder, BALLE

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.

Stacy Mitchell

Stacy Mitchell

Program Director, Institute for Local Self-Reliance

Stacy Mitchell co-directs the Institute for Local Self Reliance, coordinating its initiatives on community banking and independent business. She was among the first to raise the alarm about the rise of mega-retailers in the 1990s. Today her analysis and advice is widely sought by policymakers, community activists, and small business groups. Stacy has written for numerous national publications and a best-selling book, Big-Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America’s Independent Businesses, She has been a keynote speaker at many conferences and her TEDx talk, “Why We Can’t Shop Our Way to a Better Economy,” has been viewed more than 25,000 times.

A past AMIBA board chair, Stacy co-founded the Portland Independent Business & Community Alliance and helps coordinate the Advocates for Independent Business.

Nicola A. Williams

Nicola A. Williams

President & Founder, The Williams Agency

Nicola Williams has over 20 years of experience in marketing strategy, concept development, branding, public relations and fundraising. She has earned international respect for her work in grassroots marketing, campaign development and multicultural marketing. The Williams Agency has launched and developed events and campaigns in the Greater Boston area that are models of success, including the Boston Local Food Festival — Boston’s premier food event. She is also brainchild of SBN’s Hyper-Local Craft Brewfest and Boston Jerkfest™, a Caribbean-style food festival. Nicola led an international consulting team in developing a comprehensive branding plan and sustainability action plan for London’s largest event–the Nottinghill Carnival. Nicola is a recipient of many awards and has been featured in local and national media, including Black Enterprise magazine, the Boston Globe and Boston Herald. She serves on the boards of Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts. Cambridge Carnival International, and the Boston Collaborative for Food and Fitness.

Lily Brislen

Lily Brislen

Founding Director, Think Local Umpqua

Lily Brislen directs the Food Connection at the University of Kentucky – Lexington.  She was the founding director of Think Local Umpqua in Douglas County, Oregon, one of the most successful smaller-town Independent Business Alliances. Lily 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. Lily now resides in Lexington, KY, where she is completing a Ph.D. at the University of Kentucky focused on community development. She also serves on the board of the Community Farm Alliance.

Jennifer Rubenstein

Jennifer Rubenstein

Executive Director, Louisville Independent Business Alliance

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 900 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.
Erin Kilmer Neel

Erin Kilmer Neel

Interim Board Chair, AMIBA Director, Sustainable Business Alliance/Oakland Grown

Erin is passionate about supporting local independent businesses and artists, since these groups greatly improve the economic health and quality of life of our communities. To that end, she directs the Sustainable Business Alliance and Oakland Grown, co-founded Oakland Unwrapped!, is the co-Chair of the Board of the Oakland Merchant Leadership Forum (OMLF) and chairs the organizational development group for AMIBA’s board. Erin is a graduate of MIT’s Master of City Planning program, where she worked with several community development and economic development corporations and developed neighborhood revitalization plans, performed neighborhood economic analyses, conducted research on various community economic development topics, and used AMIBA as a focus of her Masters thesis.
Dana Eness

Dana Eness

Executive Director, Stay Local! (New Orleans)

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.

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