Made in Oakland with Local Love
Brian McKeown, Made in Oakland Producer & Oakland Program Director (Kiva)
Whether it’s breezing through the outdoor cafes around Lake Merritt or strolling through the Hispanic clothing shops along International Boulevard in the Fruitvale, I find myself stimulated by the diversity and ingenuity of Oakland’s local businesses. As a former owner of a mobile hot dog cart and a nightclub, I too am familiar with the thrills and challenges of owning and running a small business.
For the last year and a half, I have had the privilege of working for Kiva, an award-winning microfinance crowdfunding nonprofit that supports more than 150 financially underserved entrepreneurs with more than a million dollars of interest-free working capital. Kiva was founded in 2005 and offers loans in 82 countries—in fact, globally, a Kiva loan is funded every two minutes. Because we’re headquartered in San Francisco, however, it’s especially important to us that we serve entrepreneurs in the Bay Area
Kiva partners with Townsquared on projects that focus on community and local economic development. Before our Made in Oakland event on October 6, celebrating Oakland small businesses, we thought we’d share with the broader community stories of hard-working, successful Oakland entrepreneurs.
Among Kiva’s first Oakland borrowers, as well as one of the city’s most treasured families, is the Ramos family. La Borinquena Mex-icatessen was a three-generation family business, founded by “Mama” Rosa Lopez in 1944, and most recently run by her granddaughter, Tina “Tamale” Ramos. (The Mex-icatessen closed in 2015 when Mama Tamale, Natividad Ramos, Tina’s mother, fell ill.) La Borinquena Mex-icatessen was Oakland’s home-grown source for everything from tamales and sweet bread to Latino advocacy and history. For more than 70 years the West Oakland Mex-icatessen was a bedrock in the East Bay community.
In 2014, Tina was publicly endorsed by Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and received a $5,000 interest-free loan to start an off-shoot of La Borinquena called La Snackeria. The loan allowed her to source food from local farmers, acquire restaurant equipment, and hire staff to create delicious, affordable food. That loan was crowdfunded by 83 members of her network and the greater Kiva community.
She recently completed her Kiva experience and Townsquared is lucky to have her working in the Oakland small business community. Tina is a social connector and continues to be a vibrant supporter of everything Oakland.
Kyle Parsons and Faye Middleton founded responsible footwear company Indosole, another Oakland-grown business. Indosole operates on the premise that “a good human is someone who spreads positivity, lives responsibly, takes care of our natural environment, and inspires others to pursue their interests and passions to the fullest.”
The company does this by tackling one of Earth’s most vexing problems: tire pollution. Indosole’s mission is to keep one million tires out of landfills by giving them a second life as footwear. Indosole workers in Bali intercept tires before they get to landfills or are burned and pollute the environment in Indonesia. Local artisans remove the sidewall and cut the tire into the shape of a sole. They construct uppers from natural materials like organic canvas, banana leaves, and grass. Their skilled hands stitch, fold, cut, weave, and more. Once the upper is on the shoe, the sole is applied through a bit of hammering, pulling, gluing, pressing and heating up. Voilà! Responsibly made footwear ready to tread the earth to new and exciting adventures!
All this was made possible by Indosole’s 349 community supporters, who funded a $10,000 loan. That money was used to grow the business by producing more inventory and some upgrades to their manufacturing facility. Learn more about Indosole in Kyle’s recent TedTalk.
Made in Oakland Fall Food and Fashion Event
Kiva believes that every Borrower who receives a Kiva loan can be a success. Kiva’s mission is to democratize access to capital so that anyone who has an unfulfilled need can borrow from $500 to $10,000 to chase their dream. Whether it’s a roadside tamale stand, a brick-and-mortar footwear store, or a pop-up donut shop like Mamacitas Café, Oakland has a lot of flourishing small businesses that have grown with the support of the Kiva community.
Kiva is proud to be hosting a Made in Oakland Fall Food and Fashion Event in collaboration with Townsquared, Oakland Grown and the city of Oakland. Made in Oakland happens at the Frank Ogawa Plaza on Thursday, October 6, from 4-7 pm.
Meet Kyle and Tina and more than 40 other Oakland foodmakers, fashion designers, artisans, and entrepreneurs as we celebrate the small business successes of our community. Come by and support great local businesses like Mamacitas, Crooked City Cider, Indosole, Own n Wood, Viscera, Show & Tell, Bottoms Up Community Garden, Beast Oakland, Marion & Rose, Tart Bakery, Platinum Dirt, Fashion Palace, and many more!
If you’re an Oakland small business and/or Townsquared member interested in participating in our Made in Oakland Event, we’d love to have you! Sign up at Made in Oakland before September 20.