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About us

Project Equity is a national leader in the movement to harness employee ownership to maintain thriving local business communities, honor selling owners’ legacies, and address income and wealth inequality. Headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area, Project Equity works with partners around the country to raise awareness about employee ownership as an exit strategy for business owners, and as an important approach for increasing employee engagement and wellbeing. We also provide hands on consulting and support to companies that want to transition to employee ownership, as well as to the new employee-owners to ensure that they, and their businesses, thrive after the transition.

Our Team

Leadership

 

Evan Edwards

Evan Edwards

Chief Executive Officer

Evan began his career as the International Business Manager at an early leading technology start-up, Quarterdeck Corporation. Bitten by the start-up bug, he spent following years in leadership and consulting roles at a variety of early stage enterprise including Bid.com (Northcore Technologies), Mediaseek Technology and Planesia Corp. Guided by a shift in personal and professional priorities Evan moved into the non-profit sector as Executive Director at YMCA Corporation of Los Angeles, leading the turnaround of an under-performing business unit. Driven by the value of social enterprises and the vision of a generative economy, Evan’s work with Project Equity creates strong collaborative partnerships across sectors. Evan is a graduate of Northwestern University in Evanston, IL (a proud supporter of Wildcat football!), and has certification from Stelter in Professional Fundraising Management. When not working he’s playing sports, walking his dogs or cooking a great meal from scratch.

Alison Lingane

Alison Lingane

Co-founder, Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer

Alison Lingane has dedicated her career to enabling business to be a force for good. She started her career in community-based work, designing and leading micro-enterprise programs for urban youth. Inspired to gain skills to bring programs to scale that create real, she got her MBA and co-founded what is now the Global Social Venture Competition, the largest international business plan competition for double or triple bottom line businesses.

Prior to launching Project Equity, Alison held executive roles at mission-driven businesses that are designed to have human impact at scale, including Benetech (where she built and launched their first product, a digital book service for individuals with visual or reading disabilities), GreatSchools (the 6th largest parenting website, a nonprofit using information to drive school improvement), and InsideTrack (a venture-backed scaled services company that has delivered 1:1 coaching to millions of college students, resulting in increased college completion rates). She brings those scaling lessons back full circle to her work at Project Equity, turning businesses into community change agents through employee ownership.

A serial ‘social entrepreneur,’ Alison co-founded a thriving PreK-8th grade dual immersion school in Oakland (Escuela Bilingüe Internacional) that serves over 360 students. Alison has her B.A. from Harvard University and her MBA from the Haas School of Business. She has been selected as a 2014 Echoing Green Fellow, a 2017-18 Aspen Institute Job Quality Fellow and a 2019 Ashoka Fellow

Hilary Abell

Hilary Abell

Co-founder, Chief Policy & Impact Officer

Hilary was “bit by the cooperative bug” when she was a worker-owner at Equal Exchange in the 1990s and forever changed by witnessing how Latin American farmers used coops to transform their communities. After a decade of international community empowerment work, Hilary has been advancing cooperative development and employee ownership in the U.S. since 2003. As Executive Director of WAGES (now Prospera), she led the organization in creating a network of five worker-owned green cleaning businesses that sustained 100 healthy, dignified jobs for low-income women. Worker-owners increased their family incomes by 40-80%, built assets through robust profit sharing, and gained business skills and social capital.

In co-founding Project Equity, Hilary hoped to make these profound benefits of employee ownership a reality for millions more workers all over the country. For her work with Project Equity, Hilary was awarded Presidio Graduate School’s Big Idea Prize (2013), an Echoing Green Fellowship (2014), a 2016 Local Economy Fellowship, and a 2020 Executive Fellowship with the Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing at Rutgers University.

Hilary is a passionate advocate, practitioner and thought leader and has authored or co-authored several publications, most recently The Case for Employee Ownership (2020) and California Cooperatives (2021).  She has her B.A. from Princeton University and her MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio and, in her spare time, loves to explore redwood forests, California’s coastline, and good books and movies.

Stacey Smith

Stacey Smith

Vice President, Program Operations & Client Experience

Stacey has spent most of her career helping businesses examine their impact and aligning it with their values. She started as a CPA with Arthur Andersen, then moved into strategy and organizational development. Seeking to devote her financial expertise to social and environmental issues, she was an early mover in the field of sustainability and corporate responsibility in the US. She joined Business for Social Responsibility in 2001 to build their business consulting practice and spent the next decade guiding Fortune 500 companies to address their negative impacts. Recently, Stacey began consulting to nonprofits and foundations to strengthen their strategy, management, and governance practices. Through her work with the Public Equity Group and her own independent practice, she explored the structural barriers to wealth and other drivers of generational poverty. At Project Equity she is helping grow our team of professionals to accelerate the adoption of employee ownership as a key to building wealth and high-quality careers in communities. In addition to having been a licensed CPA, Stacey has a degree in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and has done coursework in International Business Studies at the University of Copenhagen. When she is not working, you can find her hiking the Bay Area hills, indulging in the restaurant scene, and playing with her family.

Business Development

 Annie Palacios

Annie Palacios

Business Engagement and Partnership Manager

Annie built her career around strategic client engagement and business development outreach for multiple industry sectors across various international consultancies. Having worked for the UK Government from 2013-2018, she developed relationships with investors and provided business advisory services to support expansion projects and promote job growth. Prior roles have included cultivating relationships with financial institutions in North and Latin American regions for a London-based think tank in addition to performing research and electoral analysis work. Annie holds an M.A. in International Relations from London Metropolitan University as well as a B.A. in Political Science (Magna cum Laude) from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. At Project Equity, she creates and nurtures collaborative partnerships to drive forward structured programs and results to clients. Outside of work, Annie enjoys running marathons, traveling the world with her husband, and listening to podcasts.
Donna Sky

Donna Sky

Business Engagement & Partnership Manager

Donna is a long time social entrepreneur and San Francisco business owner. She is the founder of Love & Hummus Co., a mission-driven food start up she operated starting in 2009 and grew from inception into a national brand. Love & Hummus is nationally recognized for its innovation, social and environmental impact and was named twice by B Corp as a “Best for the World Company.” Donna began her career in higher education and later founded the non-profit World Trotters, an early online multicultural education program. Donna’s work with Project Equity is led by her expertise as a business owner, her passion for using business as a force for good, developing a more inclusive economy and the creation of more employee-owned businesses. Donna has an MA from Kean University’s Professional Counseling Program and a BA in Psychology from Montclair State University. When not working Donna enjoys spending time with her family and traveling.
Emily Bergstrom

Emily Bergstrom

Senior Manager, Partnerships and Business Engagement - Key Sectors

For over a decade, Emily worked at McMaster-Carr Supply Co, a privately held industrial supplies distributor much loved and respected by makers worldwide. That work developed her passion for the domestic manufacturing industry. At McMaster, Emily experienced first-hand the incredible power of company profit sharing to engage, retain, and benefit employees.

At Project Equity, Emily advises owners on the benefits of transitioning their company to an employee-owned structure. Emily has an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business with a focus on operations and economics.  She received a Fulbright scholarship and spent two years abroad in Latin America, becoming fluent in Spanish.  She earned her undergraduate degree at Michigan State University and comes from a long line of hard-working Detroiters.  Emily lives in Chicago with her family and is usually found outside in the garden, on a hike, or biking.

Jason Eby

Jason Eby

Chief of Staff and Senior Manager, Operations

Jason’s background blends program development, community engagement, and operations. While finishing school, he joined Chicago’s campaign for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games as part of the Legacy Team which ran international events, promoted volunteerism, and channeled investments into youth organizations. Jason continued serving Chicago as a senior leader of the social impact organization created during this campaign. His team grew to engage more than 50 organizations and 7,500 youth annually through grants and programs. His experience in sustaining partnerships includes networking diverse perspectives to common goals, supporting regular communication, and facilitating shared learning. Jason graduated from Northwestern University with a B.A. in Psychology and Economics. At Project Equity, he builds cross-sector relationships to increase employee ownership and expands our work to new regions. When not working, Jason enjoys exploring, sharing great meals, and is a regular at local Meetups.
Miyaka Cochrane

Miyaka Cochrane

Business Engagement and Partnership Manager

Miyaka is a multidisciplinary partnership manager who has spent time managing and growing businesses in food, accommodation, technology, and arts industries. In Texas he worked with small chain restaurant Freebirds to grow into a multi state brand by opening restaurants, implementing new procedures, and employee development. Returning to his home state of California, he transitioned into the accommodation tech world to help vacation home owners and managers expand their businesses through technology and partnerships. In 2017 he joined industry nonprofit HEDNA where he was elected and served on the Future Leaders board to shape the future of the industry. He studied ensemble based physical theatre at the Dell’ Arte International School, and continues to be active in the bay area theatre scene as an actor, clown, and puppeteer. He brings his skills of collaboration, communication, and problem solving from across industries to the business development team of Project Equity, working with partners and businesses to transition into employee owned business models.

Client Services

Courtney Kemp

Courtney Kemp

Client Services Manager

Courtney is passionate about driving positive social, economic and environmental impact in local communities through supporting the operations of small businesses and social enterprises. Over the past five years as an impact investing and strategy consultant for nonprofits, foundations and private stakeholders, her work has spanned eight countries over four continents. Her experience has solidified her belief that shared prosperity powered by multi-sector solutions can positively impact underserved populations and the planet we all share. Courtney is based in the Pacific Northwest and is fluent in French. She holds a BA in Applied Political Economics from the University of Arizona, an MA in Policy from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, and an MBA in Social Finance and Impact Management from Middlebury College. In her spare time, Courtney enjoys digging into a good book, exploring the outdoors, and traveling near and far.

 

David Gray

David Gray

Client Services Manager

After several years in nonprofit leadership, David started his career as an entrepreneur by opening a fair-trade retail store with Ten Thousand Villages, in Montreal, Canada. He later opened Full Circle Thrift, a boutique second-hand store in Pasadena, CA. Most recently, David led business development for one of Habitat for Humanity’s networks of ReStores in the San Francisco region. David is passionate about addressing the unique issues of businesses in transition. He excels in developing strategic governance plans that support growth and frees up vision holders to maximize their time and energy. With training and experience in conflict mediation, David helps groups have difficult conversations that lead to creative solutions. His observation skills and interpersonal dynamics build trust, develop leadership, and cast a vision for viable new realities. When not working, he loves cooking for his family and planning unique trips to explore new places.

 Eric Medrano

Eric Medrano

Client Services Associate and Financial Analyst

An Oakland native with a passion for social impact in mid to low-income communities, Eric enjoys serving the public and was part of student government while earning his bachelor’s degree in Political Science at San Jose State University. Eric’s interest in Business and Economic Development grew during his time as a Coro Fellow in Public Affairs. During his time with Coro, Eric experienced what it’s like to work in the nonprofit, corporate, and public sectors through various consulting projects, ultimately coming across Project Equity, and felt it was the perfect fit for supporting small businesses and the creation of employee-owned businesses. Having experienced the flexibility and financial stability of running one’s own business through his father’s private contracting firm, Eric now seeks to reproduce that sense of financial stability for others. You’ll find Eric enjoys visiting small mom and pop shops, regularly supporting small businesses in his own way.

Laura Flores

Laura Flores

Client Services Manager, Oakland

Laura started her career as a community organizer and developed a passion for advancing equity and social justice. In her most recent role, she supported 10 nonprofit organizations to build operational infrastructure that drives their mission. As a Client Services Manager for Project Equity, she simplifies the process for owners to sell their business and for employees to become owners. She is an agile facilitator and capacity builder with a knack for making information accessible and engaging diverse audiences. She received her BA in Global Studies from the University of California Santa Barbara and an MBA from Mills College. She is a wannabe bookworm who enjoys a good cortado, meditating, and nurturing her creativity.

Melissa Gjerde

Melissa Gjerde

Client Services Assistant

Prior to joining Project Equity, Melissa worked in urban planning, working to deliver mass transit projects across Northern California and engaging communities throughout the planning process. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Policy Analysis and Planning from UC Davis, where she graduated with honors. As Client Services Assistant with Project Equity, Melissa supports the transition process to worker ownership for small businesses across the country, as well as Project Equity’s growing operational infrastructure. In her spare time, you can find her attempting to raise garden veggies from seed, spending time in the sun, and crafting with her hands.
Patty Viáfara

Patty Viáfara

Associate Director, Client Services

Patty Viáfara has built a career supporting small business through her work in tourism promotions, as a small business owner, and operations specialist. Her past experience in both the private and nonprofit sectors includes change management, business continuity, process improvement, and leadership development. She was a key player in the employee engagement and leadership development initiative at Bupa Latin America during three years of major growth. Prior to joining Project Equity, Patty worked with Beneficial State Foundation developing a new program aimed at lowering the cost of capital for social enterprises. As Sr. Client Services Manager, Patty has designed the infrastructure and programming to serve our clients, using her diverse business background to really understand the nature of the companies we work with.  She’s helped over 30 enterprises assess, transition, and thrive as employee-owned businesses. She received her B.S. in Travel and Tourism Management from Florida International University and an MBA in Global Impact Management from Middlebury Institute of International Studies. Patty is passionate about creating quality jobs where people love coming to work; in her free time, you can find Patty enjoying outdoor yoga, paddleboarding, and spending time with her french bulldog, Stella.

Regional Engagement and Development

Anastasia “Stazee” Bacigalupo

Anastasia “Stazee” Bacigalupo

Senior Development Manager

Stazee is a seasoned development professional with 10+ years experience in fundraising and 20+ years experience working in partnership with underserved, underrepresented and marginalized communities in pursuit of racial, social and economic justice, equality and equity. She previously worked at the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) where she secured over $4 million in grant awards from government, foundations, corporations, and private funders supporting MEDA’s high impact community economic development programs and services. Prior to entering the field of community economic development, Stazee held leadership roles at organizations supporting the rights of people with disabilities and immigrant survivors of domestic violence. Stazee holds a JD from Whittier College of Law, a BA from University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and holds certifications in Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino Studies as well as Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. At Project Equity, Stazee shapes and executes successful fundraising strategies that support Project Equity staff in the expansion of employee ownership across the US small business sector. Outside of work, Stazee loves to host or visit family and friends, cuddle with her fur babies and travel all over the world.
Kiara Williams

Kiara Williams

Development Associate

Kiara Williams passionately supports and advocates on behalf of people of color marginalized by negative statistics and cyclic struggles. Based in Orange County, CA, her work is largely driven by her desire to be of service to at-risk communities, and to eradicate barriers faced by socio-economically disadvantaged groups of people.

Kiara has over ten years experience as a community advocate in Southern California working on various initiatives and partnering with organizations to lift up low-income communities through high quality, accessible resources. For the past 5 years, she has built a solid background in the nonprofit sector working at social services organizations, serving homeless veterans and families affected by neurodiverse disabilities.

As the Development Associate with Project Equity, Kiara supports a range of efforts related to fundraising, grants and donor stewardship. She is eager to expand employee ownership by cultivating funder relationships that align with the mission of improving racial equity and minimizing unjust wage gaps nationwide. In her free time, she enjoys exploring the outdoors, writing creatively and nurturing her family.

Sarah McBroom

Sarah McBroom

Sr. Manager, Regional Engagement

Sarah has spent her career committed to building shared prosperity and well-being.  She began her career in state-level economic development and most recently was an equity officer at a private, regional foundation in Arkansas.  She is driven by a commitment to economic and racial equity and passion for developing partnerships, collective strategy, and infrastructure to advance systemic change.  At Project Equity, Sarah focuses on building regional partnerships with government, non-profit, private sector, and philanthropic organizations to support, scale, and sustain a local employee ownership ecosystem.  Sarah has a joint Master of Public Service and MBA from the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service and Walton College of Business and BA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Outside of work, she loves canoeing, camping, and hiking with her family.

Marketing

Jim Caponigro

Jim Caponigro

Director of Marketing

Jim has over 20 years of nonprofit and for-profit experience, leading teams in Oakland, Atlanta, Washington DC, Dallas, Memphis, and Detroit. He has led marketing activities for world-renowned nonprofits and advertising agencies that include strategic planning, public relations, advertising, public affairs, and public speech writing for organizations such as Goodwill Industries, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Norfolk Southern, Orkin Pest Control, Nextel Communications, United States Virgin Islands, and JEEP. Jim believes in protecting the brand, strategic direction through analytics, team solutions, and working with organizations making a positive community impact. He’s a respected thought leader, having envisioned and co-hosted The Good Works Show on live radio throughout the Atlanta Metro market. In 2014, he was named The Corporate Marketer of the Year by the American Marketing Association. He is a passionate Green Bay Packer fan, cyclist, tennis player, and billiard competitor.

Genevieve Adams

Genevieve Adams

Senior Manager, Marketing

Genevieve has built her career around providing marketing direction, print and web materials and blog content for small and medium-sized businesses, including her own. She joined the Marketing Team after contracting with Project Equity for two years. Genevieve received her BA in Psychology and Film Arts from Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan and went on to take design classes from both The School of Visual Arts and Parsons School of Design in NYC. She also holds a Marketing Certificate from the University of Illinois. Genevieve excels at taking a creative project from concept to completion and providing the right approach for the target audience. At Project Equity, she helps increase awareness of employee ownership through local and national outreach. Genevieve is passionate about equality in all forms and is honored to use her creativity and knowledge to advance employee ownership. In her free time, she enjoys going to the ocean, being silly with her kids, and decorating her home.

Franzi Charen

Franzi Charen

Marketing and Communications

Franzi has been an independent business owner in Asheville, North Carolina for nineteen years. She is the founder of the Asheville Grown Business Alliance and organized over 550 small business members to advocate for a strong and healthy local economy. She currently co-owns a vintage-inspired clothing shop in downtown called Hip Replacements Clothing. A first generation American, she grew up in a textile family in the South and experienced the devastation of mill towns with the loss of a core heritage industry. Franzi joined the team part-time at Project Equity because she is passionate about employee ownership and documenting its impact. She has a Bachelor of Science in Ecology as well as a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Georgia. She is an avid photographer and loves jogging in the mountains.

Businesses owned by baby boomers

New updates!

Now including the impacts of COVID-19, our latest study across the United States indicates millions of businesses are at risk of closing and point to employee ownership as a solution.

Free consultation

for businesses interested in employee ownership