Category: Education

Sierra Commons will be offering our next Business Ignitor, Nevada County’s premier start-up incubator, starting on February 4th, 2016.  Registration is now open and, for the first time, Sierra Commons is able to offer scholarships to qualified individuals. Nevada County’s Small Business Education Center, has received a generous donation from the Nevada City Rotary Club and a matching donation from an anonymous donor in order to provide two scholarships to Nevada County’s premier start-up incubator, Sierra Commons’ Business Ignitor.

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The Business Ignitor includes eight weeks of coursework, materials, business mentoring, as well as three months free membership to Sierra Commons’ coworking space, located in Nevada City.  The course covers everything from accounting and law, to marketing and non-traditional funding such as crowd-sourcing.  It is designed to make sure that when the course is completed, the students have the confidence and knowledge to succeed in starting and running a viable business.

“Three of the key objectives of Rotary are affirming the value of each vocation, uplifting youth and young adults, and dignifying both as opportunities to serve society,” says David Bunje, President of the Nevada City Rotary Club. “Business Ignitor courses have already made a significant impact benefiting the rich mix of enterprises in Nevada County, and the Rotary Club of Nevada City is very excited to support additional young adults who seek to channel their creativity toward being a positive, productive participant in the business life of the community.”

Sierra Commons has expanded the scope of the Business Ignitor to include a class on crowd funding and to give further information on marketing and finding your ideal client.  The class covers a wide variety of topics and is suitable for people who are looking to start a business or solo venture and for those who are currently running a small business.

Sierra Commons has been a resource for small businesses in Nevada County for over six years and understands the unique and diverse economy of the Sierra Foothills.  Past Ignitor graduates have gone on to start and manage effective businesses in a variety of industries.  Sierra Commons has helped to start successful restaurants, cottage food companies, online marketing businesses, clothing companies, design services, and more.

The per-student fee is $450 and class registration is open now.  Sierra Commons is currently taking applications for scholarships.  The application deadline for scholarship opportunities is February 1st, 2016.  If you would like to sign up for the Business Ignitor or to learn more about the scholarship program, visit the Sierra Commons website at www.sierracommons.org or call 530-265-8443.

We have expanded our Business Ignitor course from 6 weeks to 8 weeks and registration is now open! Classes start on February 4th and will be held for eight weeks on Thursday nights from 6pm-9pm.

 

In our new Business Ignitor we will include a class on crowd funding and give further information on marketing and finding your ideal client.  The class covers a wide variety of topics and is suitable for both people who are looking to start a business or solo venture and for those who are currently running a small business.

The economy has changed a lot in the last five years since we started offering our Business Ignitor, Nevada County’s premier start-up incubator.  We are excited to expand our curriculum and to offer our community access to the latest and cutting-edge concepts in business and entrepreneurship.

According to a study done by Bloomberg Business, just over 80% of all new businesses are out of business within twelve months.  That means 8 out of 10 new business fail within the first year.  In the last quarter of 2015, more than 100 new fictitious business names were filed in Nevada County.

Sierra Commons, Nevada County’s non-profit business education center and coworking space, has helped start-ups in Nevada County succeed with their Business Ignitor course.  We have a proven track record in Nevada County.  More than 65% of Business Ignitor graduates are still in business after their first year.

Sierra Commons has been a resource for small businesses in Nevada County for over six years and understands the unique and diverse economy of the Sierra Foothills.  Past Ignitor graduates have gone on to start and manage effective businesses in a variety of industries.  Sierra Commons has helped to start successful restaurants, cottage food companies, online marketing businesses, clothing companies, design services, and more.

The per-student fee is $450 and class registration is open now.  Scholarships may be available to qualifying individuals.  If you would like to sign up for the Business Ignitor or learn more, visit the Sierra Commons website at www.sierracommons.org or call 530-265-8443.

I had a problem at work today that surprised me.

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I had a wonderful meeting this morning with a wonderful business coach.  She is a qualified teacher and she has volunteered as a faculty member with Sierra Commons for a long time.  (She wasn’t the problem.  She is completely awesome.)  Together, we used her resources to put together curriculum for an upcoming workshop about how to hire the right people.  Sierra Commons is really excited about offering this class and I left the meeting with real motivation to promote a workshop that I know is going to be a huge help to local businesses.

I have a system for promoting the classes at Sierra Commons and it is mostly a by-the-book approach to social media marketing.  I usually start by adding the workshop to our calendar and then I add the workshop to our business page on Facebook.

When I add workshops and events to our business page on Facebook, I usually search for a stock photo on the internet, or some other picture licensed under a commons license, in order to promote the event. (For those who aren’t familiar with web promotion, stock photos are available at a minimal price and photos licensed under a commons license are available to the general public.  It’s good to find a photo that can be the icon for the event as you promote it and it is also important that the photo you use matches the values of the organization or business.)  As a non-profit organization, we offer free and low-cost classes. It isn’t always within our budget to hire designers to create new icons or photos for every class we offer.

I went to look for a photo that would match the mission to “hire the right person.”

Nevada County isn’t exactly known for its racial diversity.  As of the last census, we were the second whitest county in California, just after our northern neighbor, Sierra County.  Interestingly, for being the whitest counties in California, neither Sierra County nor Nevada County have a particular propensity towards racism.  That’s not to say that racism doesn’t exist.  Racism exists everywhere.  But for counties lacking diversity, the awareness and the intention for inclusion is an undercurrent of the culture.  Speaking for Nevada County, many people and local organizations make consorted efforts to include people of color and other minorities in both business and organizational strategies.

Ruth Schwartz, the teacher for our upcoming workshop, and I had a long conversation about preconceived ideas about “hiring the right person.”  We talked a lot about pitfalls. We talked about inappropriate referrals.  We talked about how many local businesses hire their friends.  We talked about the fact that many local businesses don’t list job postings, they just ask for resumes through word-of-mouth.  We talked about how to honor resumes and how to sort through them.  We even talked about discrimination and how our prejudices can have an adverse effect on the hiring process.

I was so excited when I left our meeting.  I know that our upcoming workshop is going to be amazing and I know that our local business community is going to benefit from the material.

Here’s the problem I wasn’t anticipating: when I went to look for an appropriate picture to promote an event about “hiring the right person” it took me nearly two hours to find a mildly appropriate photo to promote the event, a photo that mirrored our values about the workshop.

Nearly every photo about “hiring the right person” contained the exact same group of people: young, fit, white men. Photo after photo portrayed young white men.  Pages upon pages.  Groups of young white men getting the job.

Then, most of the photos that tried to diversify, contained young, fit, white men and then one young, pretty, white woman in high-heels, a skirt, and low-cut blouse.  There were a small handful of photos that had a white-skinned Eastern Asian person, still 20-something and good-looking.  There were less photos that had a tan-skinned Indian or Pacific Asian person, usually in the background.  With the exception of a single photo that contained a group of entirely black young people high-fiving each other, there was no pictorial representation of diverse job-seekers that I could find.

I could not find a photo that contained a diverse group of hireable people that appeared to be equally qualified for a job. Today’s qualified job seekers might be not-white, not-male, not fit, and not under 40.  Those possibilities, and being open to those possibilities, are an asset to anyone hiring someone new.

I finally settled on a picture of a white woman’s left hand with no wedding ring using a magnifying glass to examine non-racially-descript, gray-scale icons of men and women.  It was a compromise.hiring the right people sq

On Friday, March 27th, Sierra Commons will host a free mixer and party to introduce their latest Business Ignitor graduates to the community. The Sierra Commons Business Ignitor program is Nevada County’s premier business incubation program. The program is a six-week course that helps start-ups and businesses learn about running and managing a business successfully. The event is open to the public and will be held at Sierra Commons, 792 A Searls Ave, Nevada City, CA 95959. It starts at 5:30pm and runs until 7:30pm. The graduation mixer and party is a way to introduce new businesses to the greater business community of Nevada County.

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“The Ignitor Graduation is always a fun event and it’s a great way for people to connect,” says Hilary Hodge, Executive Director of Sierra Commons. “Many of our start-ups are looking for established businesses with resources to help get their new businesses off the ground. This event is a way for our students to introduce themselves and find those resources.”

This is the 8th Ignitor class to graduate from the Sierra Commons program. The program has a history of producing successful businesses. Past graduates include Nick Santos of Environmental Consumer and Shana Maziarz of Three Forks Bakery and Brewery. This current graduating class is very diverse and includes an enthusiastic group of entrepreneurs, writers, artists, managers, and business people.

“The Ignitor Course has helped me get a firm hold on the vision for my business and it has given me the tools that will make that vision a reality,” says Shelly Covert of Nevada City Rancheria. “The staff and mentors at Sierra Commons have an amazing wealth of knowledge and are very approachable. The experience has been priceless. I’d highly recommend this course to anyone who needs assistance entering the marketplace.” Shelly and her fellow graduates are looking forward to celebrating what they have learned and what they have accomplished. Feel free to join them on Friday at Sierra Commons.

The next Business Ignitor will be starting in June. For more information email info@sierracommons.org or call 530-265-8443.

SARTA, the Sacramento Regional Technological Alliance, along with Nevada County’s Business Ignitor, Sierra Commons, hosted a Clean Technology Mixer at the Nevada City Winery on Friday, March 20th, 2015.  The event brought people from all over Northern California, including experts from the Silicon Valley and the Bay Area.  The event speakers included Brandon Davis of local solar electric company, California Solar Electric; Michael Carroll, the CEO of HeliosAtlas, a regional authority on Hydropower Technology; and Dr. Richard Philpott, CEO of Burst Laboratories, a local visionary who is on the cutting edge of chemical-free water and waste treatment.  The event focused on green technologies that solve local and global environmental problems and energy problems.

 

Pictured from left to right:  Hilary Hodge (Sierra Commons), Brandon Davis (CA Solar),  Michael Carroll (HeliosAtlas), Amber Harris (SARTA) and Dr. Richard Philpott (Burst Laboratories).

Pictured from left to right: Hilary Hodge (Sierra Commons), Brandon Davis (CA Solar), Michael Carroll (HeliosAtlas), Amber Harris (SARTA) and Dr. Richard Philpott (Burst Laboratories).

“It was exciting to see so many tech companies at the event, many of whom expressed how grateful they were to connect with other companies and resources,” said Amber Harris, CleanStart Program Director for SARTA.  “SARTA is pleased to support economic growth in the Sierra Foothills region through hosting events such as this Clean Tech Mixer.”

The event combined major players from the Clean Tech industry with local experts in the field and was open to the public.  SARTA teamed up with local organization Sierra Commons in order to reach a broader audience and to get folks from other regions of California up to Nevada County to see what is happening in the foothills.

“I think this event really showed people that you don’t have to be in the Bay Area or Sacramento in order to have a successful, thriving business in the Clean Tech Industry,” said Brandon Davis of California Solar Electric.  “It was great to see people from other areas at the event.  It was good to make connections with others that are in Clean Tech.  Those connections will help us move the industry forward.”

SARTA and Sierra Commons plan to maintain their partnership and hopes to bring more events to our local region throughout the year.  For more information about Sierra Commons and/or upcoming events call Sierra Commons at 530-265-8443 or email info@sierracommons.org.

For more information about SARTA visit www.sarta.org.

Sierra Commons is working with the City of Nevada City to implement a Community Development Block Grant.  You may qualify for grants or loans.
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In addition to offering our signature Ignitor Classes, Sierra Commons is working with The City of Nevada City to help implement a Community Development Block Grant. Classes are available for qualifying sole proprietors and small business owners who are hoping to be eligible for grant money and/or business loans through the City of Nevada City. You must complete the classes in order to qualify for the grants or loans. The money can be used for furniture, fixtures, inventory, equipment and more! The classes are designed to make participants ready for the application process to obtain the grants and loans. Some restrictions apply. For more information call SierraCommons at (530) 265-8443.

 

Sierra Commons is excited to announce that we have named Nevada County resident, Hilary Hodge, as their Executive Director. Hilary Hodge is the first Executive Director for Sierra Commons since founder anddirector Robert Trent resigned last year. Hodge has been volunteering with Sierra Commons for the past two years and joined the Board of Directors in March of 2014. Before moving to Nevada County four years ago, Hodge had lived in Sacramento and had sat on the Board of Directors for Sacramento Pride and the California National Organization for Women. Hilary Hodge has nearly 20 years’ experience working for and running non-profit organizations.

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“Hilary Hodge has shown her commitment to the Sierra Commons’ mission and to bringing together a diverse population so that each can learn from one another,” says Board President Samantha Hinrichs. “Along with Hilary Hodge, the Sierra Commons staff, faculty, and volunteers will continue to be able to assist the continued growth of our small business community in Nevada County.”

“Hilary Hodge has been a pleasure to work with and a real driver behind the continued success of Sierra Commons”, reveals Coryon Redd, Sierra Commons Board Member. “Her attention to detail and leadership have been a real asset.”

Sierra Commons continues to offer business mentoring, classes, a work-share community and the “Ignitor” course, their signature business incubator and class series. They have a coworking facility where freelancers, contractors and remote workers can rent desk space daily and monthly. Their vibrant coworking campus fosters collaboration, peer-to-peer mentoring, support and camaraderie in a professional environment. Sierra Commons also offers conference room rentals as well as day use services.

“Sierra Commons offers an infrastructure and community that no other facility or work environment in Nevada County can offer,” says Hilary Hodge. “We are a vibrant and fun place to work where the work gets done. I’m looking forward to serving Sierra Commons in a leadership role. As a volunteer and as a board member, I have had the privilege to see Sierra Commons thrive and grow in the past two years. Our coworking facility and our classes offer an incredible resource to our community.” Hilary Hodge adds, “I’m excited to take Sierra Commons to the next level.”

In the next year, the Nevada County public, creative class and business community can look to Sierra Commons for single subject classes, the “Ignitor” course, social events and ongoing support of Nevada County’s small business community.

On Thursday November 13th, Sierra Commons will be offering a two-part class on LinkedIn, a business-oriented social networking service, with 300 million members. LinkedIn is a website that is free to join and has two people join its network each second worldwide. Sierra Commons will be hosting the two-part class in a single evening starting at 5:30pm with the first ninety minutes focused on beginning skills and the second ninety minutes taking a more in-depth and goals-focused approach to profile-building.

From Mommy Bloggers to Fortune 100 CEOs, LinkedIn is the site to use for managing and growing your personal professional network. According to Forbes Magazine, “Linkedin is, far and away, the most advantageous social networking tool available to job-seekers and business professionals today.” LinkedIn is one of the oldest social networks, having started in 2003. Sierra Commons is excited to offer the class and wants to help our local professionals join LinkedIn and standout among the crowd.

“To do well, its important to have a strategy,” say Sari Hale-Alper who will be teaching the class. “LinkedIn is an incredible resource that anyone can use with the right training and strategy. Most people don’t know how to use LinkedIn in a way that serves their goals. I want to help people figure out what the right way is and what’s right for them.”

The class is a strategy-based class designed to help LinkedIn users achieve specific goals. Do you want to get noticed in your field? Do you want to collaborate? Do you want to get noticed by a recruiter? Many people who use LinkedIn aren’t using the site for its optimum features. The class at Sierra Commons will help people achieve more and move forward with the right focus. If a person uses LinkedIn systematically and effectively, it is a tool that is worth the time.

“There are many people in Nevada County who feel comfortable using local, isolated internet groups to frame conversations about local businesses. But there is a relevant internet world outside of Nevada County that contributes to the local business conversation through websites like Yelp, Foursquare, and LinkedIn,” says Hilary Hodge of Sierra Commons. “If people in Nevada county want to hone their internet business skills and start using available websites to frame conversations on a local, national and international level for local business we can start with LinkedIn.”

For more information or to sign up for the class, email info@sierracommons.org or call (530) 265-8443

I heard some great advice today at a workshop in Grass Valley hosted by Score, an organization dedicated to small business, similar to Sierra Commons and based out of Sacramento.  One of the workshop presenters advised business owners to find a buddy and have a conversation or, at the very least, “take yourself out to coffee once a month.”

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Community members come together at Sierra Commons.

Running a business is no easy task. It’s good to have friends to talk to.  Sierra Commons can help.

Do you want to network casually and learn from other members of the business community? Do you need a few business buddies? Do you need a few folks to bounce ideas off of? The Sierra Commons “Lunch and Learn” is open to the public and allows folks to come together for an hour once per month for a casual, low-pressure, participant-driven round table.  We meet every first Thursday of the month from 12noon-1pn at the Sierra Commons Campus: 792 A Searls Ave in Nevada City.

Our next lunch and learn is on November 6th, 2014.

This is a chance to share ideas, brain storm and voice concerns in a relaxed environment. Bring a lunch! Please join us!

Sierra Commons is thrilled to announce the latest addition to our board of directors: Magdalena Coronel. Magdalena, or “Magui,” brings a unique perspective to the Sierra Commons Board of Directors and makes an incredible addition to our already successful, energetic, and well-rounded board.

Magdalena Coronel

Magdalena moved from Uruguay to Nevada City, where she now lives full time. She works in Sacramento for SARTA, the Sacramento Regional Technology Alliance.. She is the AgStart’s and VentureStart Program Manager at SARTA. AgStart promotes innovative sustainable agricultural technology and supports companies that are bringing those products to market. VentureStart provides hands-on, customized guidance to assist tech companies working towards venture capital funding. In addition to these responsibilities, Magdalena supports the Sacramento Angels investment group in managing their monthly selections process.

Prior to joining SARTA, Magdalena had more than seven years in the early stage venture capital industry in Latin America and the United States. Since 2007, she worked as a top analyst for Prosperitas Capital Partners, a financial management company that established venture capital in Uruguay. In her role, she reviewed hundreds of potential investments and was in contact with the largest investment and venture capital firms from Latin America. In 2011, she was selected as a Partners of Americas’ Business Fellow, a program form the US Department of State, to work in a venture capital firm in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She has the passion for developing innovative and globally high-potential ideas which could transform the world. Magdalena is still a partner in an Angel Club in Uruguay.

During her free time, you can find her enjoying outdoors activities up in the sierras or catching up with her Spanish-speaking friends by phone. Feel free to approach her either in English or in Spanish.