Erin Kilmer Neel is the director of Sustainable Business Alliance, based in Oakland. Erin recently worked as program officer of One PacificCoast Foundation, helping to build programs and provide strategic direction to one of the country's most innovative and socially responsible financial institutions. She founded Oakland Grown, Oakland Unwrapped!, and the Oakland Indie Awards to make it more compelling and easier for people to support independent businesses. Erin held positions at Oracle Corporation and California Resources and Training, and helped build grassroots eco-tourism operations in Thailand. She has a Master of City Planning from MIT, a Master of Education from ASU, and has served on several boards, including AMIBA and the Oakland Merchants Leadership Forum.
- Launched the Oakland Indie Awards, an Oakland-based social, environmental, community impact business and arts awards program that has steadily grown over six years, bringing awareness of the impact of our spending and banking decisions to thousands of Bay Area residents, making hundreds of business, arts, and community connections, providing new exposure for innovative businesses that are doing well, and helping connect local businesses to capital.
- Helped develop and launch the Pal Loan Program to provide fair and transparent emergency loans, savings accounts and financial information to almost 1,000 low income individuals and individuals with poor credit.
- Worked with dozens of local business assistance organizations and the City of Oakland to help build the Oakland Business Assistance Center, which includes a physical office and online portal. Designed and developed the online portal, offering one place to find training information, government regulations, and a directory of resource providers for small businesses.
- Brought hundreds of local independent businesses together in Oakland Unwrapped!, an e-commerce marketplace to help make it easy for people to shop local online (now folding into Oakland Grown / Sustainable Business Alliance directory).
- Developed and launched the Oakland Grown Gift and Rewards Card, which is in its early stage; it is committing thousands of dollars to Oakland's independent businesses, raising awareness, and rewarding people for continuing to shop local.
- As one of the first employees and the program officer of One PacificCoast Foundation, Erin had the fortunate opportunity to help shape the direction of and build community connections for both the foundation and the bank, whose economic rights are owned by the foundation. Overall, the bank and foundation have not only provided community development through fair and transparent loans, financial services and education to local businesses and individuals, it has also served as a model and beacon of hope for renewed economic paradigm in which banks and businesses exist to serve the community and environment, rather that the reverse. This work, the partnerships, convenings and participation in mission-aligned associations, are helping to influence how other institutions are choosing to operate, and helping individuals to expect more from their businesses and banks.
- Award for Excellence in Community Development: Bridging the Digital Divide for Small Businesses from California Resources and Training
- Recipient of the USF California Prize for Service and the Common Good, 2010
- "Oakland, merchants urging shoppers to buy local" - San Jose Mercury / Oakland Tribune, December 2012
- "Holiday shoppers urged to keep it local" - San Francisco Chronicle, November 2012
- "Oakland mayor encourages shopping locally" - KCBS
- "Celebrating Oakland’s revolutionaries" - Vision Hispana, May 2012
- "The Oakland Indie Awards' Declaration of Independence" - East Bay Express, May 2011