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Co-founders

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.

Alison Lingane

Alison Lingane

Co-founder

Alison (left) 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 opportunity for people, she left to get 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 spent 15 years in 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 over 1 million college students to increase college completion rates). 

A serial ‘social entrepreneur,’ in 2006, Alison co-founded a thriving PreK-8th grade dual immersion school in Oakland (Escuela Bilingüe Internacional) that now 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 and a 2017-18 Aspen Institute Job Quality Fellow. Alison can be found running trails in the East Bay Hills, hanging out with her three boys (especially at soccer games!) and drinking Peet’s Coffee.

Hilary Abell

Co-founder

Hilary (right) 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 internationally focused community empowerment work, Hilary has worked in coop development in the Bay Area since 2003. As Executive Director of WAGES (since rebranded to Prospera), she led the organization through a period of major growth, resulting in a network of five worker-owned green cleaning businesses that created 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.

Hilary co-founded Project Equity while writing Worker Cooperatives: Pathways to Scale and consulting for coop development initiatives and nonprofits. For her work with Project Equity, Hilary was awarded Presidio Graduate School’s Big Idea Prize in 2013, an Echoing Green Fellowship in 2014, and a 2016 Local Economy Fellowship. She has her B.A. from Princeton University and her MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio. In her spare time, she can be found powering up a hill on her road bike or nesting with her wife and three kittens.

Our Team

Evan Edwards

Evan Edwards

Business Development

Evan began his career as the International Business Manager at an early leading technology start-up, Quarterdeck Corporation. Bitten by the start-up bug, Evan spent the next few 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. When not working he’s playing sports, walking his dogs or cooking a great meal from scratch.

Donna Sky

Donna Sky

Business Development 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.
Patty Viáfara

Patty Viáfara

Client Services Manager

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. She received her B.S from Florida International University and MBA in Global Impact Management from Middlebury Institute of International Studies. In her free time, you can find Patty enjoying outdoor yoga, hiking, and trolling the East Bay for the perfect empanada.

Stacey Smith

Stacey Smith

Director of Client Services

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 build wealth and high-quality careers in communities. When she is not working, you can find her hiking the Bay Area hills, indulging in the restaurant scene, and playing with her family.

 Eric Medrano

Eric Medrano

Program Associate

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.

Franzi Charen

Franzi Charen

Marketing and Communications

Franzi has been an independent business owner in Asheville, North Carolina for 17 years. She is the founder of the Asheville Grown Business Alliance and the creative director of the Love Asheville, Go Local campaign. Her team organizes over 470 small business members to advocate for a strong and healthy local economy. She also co-owns a small 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 its potential to deepen the local movement by democratizing wealth, growing good jobs and reshoring manufacturing.

Our Advisors

We have a small number of initial Advisors who are providing key support in this stage of our initiative. We are thankful for their help and the confidence they have shown in the potential for community wealth impact through combining Business Development with Human Development.

Just released!

New studies in regions across the U.S., including Washington StateBerkeley and Long Beach, CA show millions of businesses at risk and point to employee ownership as a solution.

Free consultation

for businesses interested in employee ownership

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