Category: Networking

Why work in an office? If you are a freelancer or telecommuter who could work anywhere, why would you want to cowork in an office space? Quite simply, it’s about the people.

Nick Santos and Abe Miessler

At Sierra Commons, many people come for the high speed internet. But they stay for the community.

Most office spaces have desks, internet, coffee, and a kitchen. Sierra Commons has all of those things plus a porch, patio, and tire swing. The tire swing is cool but that’s not why people work here.

Sierra Commons is Nevada County’s best coworking space because some of the best people in the world work here.  From freelancers to scientists, Sierra Commons’ diverse and intelligent community makes it a great place to work.

There are a lot of people out there these days marketing themselves as business coaches and charging a lot of money for their support services.  You do not have to attend the first workshop that comes along and you do not have to hire the first coach you meet.  You don’t have to use your friend’s recommendation either.  There is no shortage of coaches and coaching events.

Business Coach

Making the decision to hire someone is important.  It is an investment of your time and money.  Take the time to find the right fit.  Here are some tips:

  1. Find someone you trust. Ideally, find someone in your network who has a good reputation. There are a few certifications for business coaching but it is a fairly unregulated business.  Almost anyone can hang out a shingle and call themselves a “business coach” or “life coach.” Do your research. Do not hire anyone who makes you feel uncomfortable.
  2. Identify exactly what you want to gain from having a business coach before hiring one. If you do not have a specific focus or goal in mind, you will likely spend far more time and money than you need to trying to reach an end game.
  3. Read at least one classic business self-help book before spending a lot of money on a coach you may not need. There is a lot of great advice out there.  What you are looking for may already be written down somewhere.
  4. Find someone to be accountable to (besides yourself) before hiring a coach. A lot of folks find that the biggest benefit to having a business coach is having someone to be accountable to. Most of us procrastinate and most of us set goals and timelines and then set them aside.  Team up with a friend, coworker, or colleague and create a structured system for setting goals and checking in.
  5. Be ready to commit fully. Do not hire a coach only to miss appointments and ignore your coach’s advice.  Like most things in life, you will get out of it, what you put into it.  Be ready to dive in, take direction, and stick with it.

One or two months from now you will be thinking about the goals you set for 2016 and, if you are like most people, you will be wondering where the time went and what you could have done differently to help yourself be more successful. Let Sierra Commons help “Future You” by offering advice to “Present-Day You”: Get together with a community of people who have a drive to succeed. Stay actively involved with a support system and a team of people who keep you accountable.  Dedicate a schedule to allow for setting goals and meeting timelines.  Coworking may offer you the support in a structured environment that you are looking for.

sierracommons
Sierra Commons, Nevada City’s Coworking Space, offers desk rental, membership, classes, workshops, mentoring and a community of fun, determined people who work in a professional environment with a friendly and casual atmosphere.  Come for the high-speed internet.  Stay for the community.  To find out more about coworking, call 530-265-8443 or click here.

yelp300The people of Nevada County, and all small towns, need to start using Yelp.

I love that the people of Nevada County would rather ask a neighbor or browse a local forum for a restaurant recommendation before consulting a website or an app for dining advice. It shows that we have small-town pride, and that we are willing to support our small businesses on a peer-to-peer level. I have enjoyed many nights out based on friends’ recommendations.

With that said, the people of Nevada County really need to start using the mobile app, “Yelp,” on a regular basis to rate local businesses, with accolades, and to make our voices heard about our incredible Nevada County small businesses.

For those who aren’t familiar, Yelp is a mobile app that allows people to review businesses. Yelp uses GPS tracking to ensure that people who wish to make a review have actually been close enough to a business to review it. Many business owners and community members complain about Yelp because they feel like Yelp doesn’t accurately depict the merit of many of the places listed. It’s a fine line to walk. But Yelp is a crowd-sourced website so the crowd makes the call.

I’m imploring our community members to take a more attentive approach to the online health and the online reputations of our local businesses. Apps like Yelp can make a huge difference in our community. When we forego using apps like Yelp, (and other popular apps that are used all over the United States by millions of people), we allow tourists to tell the story about Nevada County and our small businesses.

I’m asking everyone who reads this article to: Check into Yelp for all of our local businesses and post an accurate review.

Many of us are comfortable getting restaurant reviews from our friends, neighbors, and coworkers. That exchange doesn’t have to stop. Our willingness to listen to local recommendations is an asset to local business. But we can’t let outsiders continue to write the conversation about our local stores and restaurants. Using apps like Yelp heeds accurate and friendly community input. We have a local responsibility to stick up for the small businesses we love. All of our local community members should be participating in the online conversation.

Write a Yelp review today.

 

What is a Coworking Space?

As one of the world’s few rural coworking offices, we get this question a lot.  It is rare to find a coworking space in a town with a population of just over 3,000 people.  Most coworking spaces are found in large cities.  Coworking in San Francisco and coworking in New York City is quite popular.  Coworking in Nevada County is something some folks might not expect.

IMG_5448

A coworking space or, coworking facility, is a brick-and-mortar office space where people come together to work, exchange ideas, and share in a regular professional social environment. Unlike in a typical office environment, those coworking are usually not employed by the same organization.  A coworking space offers a common roof for people who want to work with others but who are working as individuals or small groups.

Coworking is a legitimate business model used all over the world to provide structure and resources to independent working professionals. The model is attractive to work-at-home professionals, remote workers, freelancers, and independent contractors. At Sierra Commons we have many members who do off-site or field work such as farming, well-inspection, web design, and real estate appraising, but who need an office in order to complete administrative tasks such as accounting, recordkeeping, marketing, and web management. We have twelve Resident Members at Sierra Commons and over twenty Nomadic members.

Our members’ employment varies widely. Currently at Sierra Commons we have software engineers, IT directors, a travel agent, a real estate agent, copy editors, freelance writers, farmers, a lobbyist and more. Some of our members are self-employed and some of them work remotely for companies located in other cities throughout the world.

With membership, all of our members enjoy a desk rental and use of our facility which includes high-speed internet, printing-faxing-scanning capabilities, and utilities. We have private conference rooms for consultants and coworkers to meet with clients. We provide all of the overhead of a professional business environment for our members, including coffee, paper, lighting, and supplies like pens, staples and toilet paper. Membership is open to the public and available to those seeking office space. For our services, we charge a monthly fee.

Membership costs at Sierra Commons are divided into two categories: Resident Member and Nomadic Member and we also have drop-in rates.  Resident members are people who are typically working 40+ hours each week and who have a designated desk space at Sierra Commons where they can keep their computers and other office equipment as needed at their own workstation. Resident members have their own key code and can access the building 24/7. Nomadic members are those who come and go, usually bringing in their own laptop when they come in. Nomadic members have access to the building during open business hours, Monday-Friday 8:30am-5pm. All members can schedule time in our conference rooms as needed and they may use Sierra Commons as their office/business address.

IMG_5645

Coworking offers people a community while working in a professional situation that may be individual, remote, and/or sometimes isolating.  As Nevada County’s coworking space, Sierra Commons is dedicated to the health of our economy while maintaining a sense of community.  If you are interested in coworking, please feel free to contact us.

Social media can be both an asset and an incredible liability for small businesses. More and more business people are turning to platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest to promote their business, to reach target customers, and to generate leads. It is important to adhere to certain guidelines in order to maintain your reputation—both online and off.

mouse

If you are a small business owner or an employee of a small business, your online reputation matters. The way that people see you online can greatly help or greatly hurt your business. What you post on Facebook matters. The information in your LinkedIn profile matters. The pictures you post to Instagram or Pinterest matter. The internet is a public forum and what you say and do there matters. Your online social media profiles are a reflection of you and therefore a reflection of your business.

Here are a few tips to help you navigate the world of online media and maintain your reputation as someone who people want to do business with.

 

  1. There is no difference between what you post online and who you are in real life. Ten years ago, it was realistic to think that you could get away with having an online personality separate from your in-person existence. Today’s internet is completely public and completely traceable. Every post comes from somewhere. Almost all pictures posted on the internet have a GIS stamp indicating where the picture was taken. Even people with remedial computing skills can look up an IP address to track the location of a computer or review information to retrieve the location of where a picture was taken or uploaded. Online social media profiles, even using the strictest security options, are still easily found on all search engines just by looking up a name, business name, or email address. Think before you post. Even if you think that what you are saying is something you are sharing privately, or with only your friends, the internet makes it infinitely accessible to almost anyone. Anything you write down can be read. Words can be copied. Posts can be reposted. Emails can be forwarded. Content can be shared. When you are sharing something online, picture yourself standing on a chair in a crowded restaurant and shouting whatever you are saying, or holding up a giant poster of whatever picture you are uploading. If it’s not appropriate in a crowded restaurant, it’s not appropriate online. That’s the reality of today’s internet.

 

  1. You Will Be Googled. Having no online reputation is almost worse than having a bad online reputation. The early adopters of online media knew what they were doing. The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have had web publication since 1996, a full decade before Facebook was available to the public. Both publications knew that having a presence online was an essential business move and both publications are still heralded among the most reputable news sources in the world today. The fact that all your content online can be read by anyone should be a point of caution but it shouldn’t be a point of fear or deterrence. For many small businesses, access to free online media marketing has been one of the greatest assets of the 21st century. When done correctly, online marketing and social media can boost sales and visibility for small businesses and, in many cases, create a successful platform for taking the business to the next level.

 

  1. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. This isn’t just a wise quote from Grandma. It is sound advice. Most people know that they shouldn’t post incriminating pictures of themselves online. It is equally important that what you say online generates a positive response from people. If you are small business owner, the head of an organization, an employee in a small company, the head of an affinity group, or some other public personality, don’t ever post anything negative online. Don’t say hateful things about your siblings, your parents, your exes, your neighbors, your bosses, your elected officials, anyone. Every time you post something negative online, you alienate a potential customer. It doesn’t matter if what you are saying is true. It doesn’t matter if most of your friends agree with you. Your quippy dig about your neighbor’s dog keeping you up at night just makes you look like a complainer. Saying something hateful about someone gives you the reputation of being an irritating or contemptable person. If you have to complain, complain about the weather or complain about Mondays. The weather and Mondays are the only two socially acceptable topics to complain about. If you feel compelled to provide commentary on a social issue or current event, make sure that your commentary is in line with your business plan. For example, if you own a gun shop, commenting about second amendment issues in a public forum makes sense. If you run a produce stand, your stance on gun rights isn’t likely to help you recruit new customers. Be nice. This rule applies to every person in every situation, with only two exceptions: Running for office and writing Yelp reviews. If you are running for office, go ahead and say all the awful things you want. If you are writing a one-star Yelp review about the terrible service you received somewhere, be honest but use as much diplomacy as possible. What if the restaurant owner you are about to skewer is one of your customers?

 

  1. Create separate profiles for your personal posts and for your business posts and keep them separate. A business profile should be used for business only. For example, James Hobart’s Instagram account should be separate from the Instagram account promoting Hobart’s Antiques. Hobart’s Antiques should contain only posts about the store, antiques, and issues relating to the business. If James Hobart feels compelled to post pictures of a recent dinner party, those pictures should be posted to a personal account.

 

  1. Ask yourself, “Is it nice? Is it appropriate? Is it necessary?” Ask yourself these questions and, unless you answer yes to two out of three, don’t post. This is important for both your personal and business accounts. For example, a local business recently posted an article about predatory lending. The article wasn’t nice but it was appropriate and a necessary piece of information for local businesses. For another example, a local nursery recently posted several pictures of bees on flowers. It wasn’t necessary but it was appropriate and nice. If you follow these guidelines, you will improve your visibility, your reputation, and you’ll maintain the right focus.

 

  1. Clean Up Your Act. Take the time to review your online profiles and delete anything that doesn’t fit the n-a-n test. If there are unnecessary pictures or posts on your business pages, delete them. If there are negative comments in your personal profile that may tarnish your online reputation, delete them. Go through all of your online profiles with a fine tooth comb and delete anything that may become a stain on your reputation and your business.

 

Online marketing has incredible potential for all small businesses when executed appropriately and maintained properly. Use the internet to your advantage.   Make smart choices and watch your business grow.

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 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.

1b

“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.

Sierra Commons along with the City of Nevada City is teaming up with SARTA, the Sacramento Regional Technical Alliance, to bring the Epic Beer and Geeks event to Nevada County on Thursday November 20th 6pm-8pm to be held at ol’ Republic Brewery in Nevada City.  Thursday’s event in Nevada City is being held in conjunction with four other locations in Northern California including Sacramento, Folsom, Davis and Roseville and will connect local entrepreneurs, hackers, techies, computer nerds and small business owners throughout the Northern California region.  The event is a part of Global Entrepreneurship Week and the public is invited to participate.

ol' Republic Brewery is located on Argall Way in Nevada City

ol’ Republic Brewery is located on Argall Way in Nevada City

“Nevada City is thrilled to serve as a host city for the Epic Beers and Geeks networking event in celebration of Global Entrepreneurship Week,” say Mark Prestwich, City Manager for Nevada City. “We are home to incredible technology talent in this region and hope budding entrepreneurs, technology professionals, and others will participate in this tremendous and cost-free opportunity.”  The City of Nevada City issued a proclamation at the City Council meeting on November 12th celebrating Global Entrepreneurship Week and acknowledging Sierra Commons for the organization’s dedication to connecting and engaging technology entrepreneurs in our community.

The Epic Beer and Geeks event is a casual mixer designed to help techies around the region connect, learn, and engage.  The event is designed to foster comradery and to help connect the Nevada County tech community to the greater tech community in the Sacramento region and in Northern California.

“This event is going to be fun but it additionally gives our local talent the opportunity to connect and network with other professionals on a regional level,” says Hilary Hodge of Sierra Commons.   “We have a lot of tech savvy people who live and work in our county.  Teaming up with SARTA for Thursday’s Beer and Geeks event gives Nevada County an opportunity to showcase our talent.”  A representative from SARTA will be at the event.  The event will include video conferencing with the other events and locations.  For more information contact Sierra Commons at (530) 265-8443 or info@sierracommons.org.

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