“Oh, this is Oakland,” Tamara Drossart said upon arriving at the 7th Annual Oakland Indie Awards. Drossart, affiliated with nominee Cutting Edge Capital, was not alone in her sentiments. Although the event was in part an awards ceremony, the simple celebration of Oakland’s vibrant and innovative community was certainly at the forefront of the evening.  An abundant sense of unity permeated the festivities, held at the Kaiser Center’s rooftop garden. Many attendees didn’t even know who had won, and it didn’t really seem to matter.

That said, the ceremony was highly praised by those in attendance. Presenters offered encouraging words, and short but sweet videos highlighted the work of award winners. Competition was noticeably absent from the room, each winner receiving loud applause and shouts from the audience, which was largely composed of fellow nominees.

The afterparty was substantially bigger in scale than the ceremony, with over 2000 people in attendance. The crowd was thoroughly diverse, with local artists, business owners, politicians, families, bankers, nonprofit workers, neighbors, and even some Frisco-dwellers perusing vendors and enjoying the music. Three separate music stages and representatives from over fifty local businesses, nonprofits, and restaurants kept partygoers well entertained.

According to Erin Kilmer-Neel, executive director of Oakland Grown and the Sustainable Business Alliance, this year’s event was much bigger than in years prior. She said that when the event first started, she thought that it would become a parade of “the usual suspects.” But she has consistently been surprised and excited to learn about new and interesting businesses each year. For Kilmer-Neel, the Indies provide an aerial view of Oakland, as if one could peel off the roofs of all the buildings and take a peek inside each of them to see what’s happening.

Social Innovation nominee Andrea Tyler, whose business Tea Here Now has only been open seven months, said she gets goosebumps seeing all the inspiring people and ideas in “The Town.”

As he peered around the patio, Raka Rich of Los Rakas said it was great to see the people he grew up with following their own branch and working towards something positive.

Of course, with the incredible views and scenery of the rooftop garden, Andre Preston, performing with the Funkquarians, had to admit, “It’s all about location, location, location.”

This year’s winners:

Oakland Soul: Represents the soul, essence and spirit of Oakland. This business or artist appreciates diversity and creativity, is confident in their individuality and humbly supports their brothers and sisters.

38th Notes, Luke Brekke-Meisner

On the heels of a poignant and heartfelt blog post about February’s First Friday shooting that went viral, Brekke-Meisner was recognized for his outstanding coverage of Oakland arts and culture. Self-described as “a love affair,” the 38th Notes blog celebrates all things Oakland.

Ripple Effect: A business that supports the local economy by buying their supplies and services from other local vendors, creating a “ripple effect” as money circulates within the community.

Savor Oakland Food Tours

Husband and wife team Carlo Medina and Geneva Europa wanted to find a way to share the amazing culinary experiences they’d had in Oakland. With the influx of many talented chefs over the past few years, Oakland’s food scene is quickly becoming one of the most talked about in the country. Savor Oakland offers a challenge to the crime-ridden image of its beloved town, showcasing the delicious foods and wines in Old Oakland.

Innovative Newcomer: A business or artist that started in the last three years that excites and inspires with a creative new idea, perspective, model or solution.


Born of the desire to create more than just an average commercial kitchen space, Sophia Chang’s Kitchener has been the launching point for numerous local food businesses. But beyond lending space to budding entrepreneurs, Chang throws monthly popup events to promote the love for food and community.

Social Changemaker: This socially responsible business or individual incorporates positive social change into their mission, operations, and/or measures of success. They use creative approaches to give back to the community and address economic and environmental issues.

Jazz Monique Hudson

The multitalented Jazz Monique Hudson is a spoken word artist, actress, educator and mentor. She is a committed social justice activist, participating often in community rallies and events. As an arts educator, her work focuses on reaching at-risk teens by nurturing creativity and critical thinking.

Pillar: A long-established Oakland business or artist with deep roots in the community and long-standing ties to the people, culture and history of The Town. This person or business mentors newbies and is renowned for their contributions to Oakland’s living history.

La Boriqueña, Tina Tamale Ramos

The family behind La Boriqueña has been serving Oakland since 1944. Despite multiple displacements over the years, Tina Tamale has expanded her family’s business to a popup stand and catering company. Her tamales are, “made with love (and lard) in Oakland.”

Job Creator: An independent business that has a positive effect on the region by consistently providing good jobs for residents of the Bay Area, employs 50 people or more, is socially responsible and/or environmentally sustainable.

Ed Support Services (tie)

Founders Meredith Akers and Tonya Scott grew their company from just two employees, to now over one hundred. They provide educational and behavioral services to people with special needs throughout the Bay Area.

Sungevity (tie)

Oakland-based Sungevity employs over 250 people and focuses on solar energy solutions. The partnership between Danny Kennedy and Andrew Birch significantly lowers cost of solar installations for consumers, leasing equipment and making use of new technologies for remote setup.

Greenie: An environmental champion who works to improve our community through sustainable practices, products or services. This local business or individual reduces waste or consumption, creates green products or provides green services.

Juniper Ridge

As an avid backpacker, Hall Newbegin felt compelled to share his love of the outdoors through a somewhat unlikely avenue: fragrance. Founded in 1998, Juniper Ridge boasts (and rightly so) that they are, “the only company in the world extracting and formulating 100% real, plant-based fragrances. The only one.”

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