Our Blog

I recently traveled to Sacramento.  I love the foothills but it’s nice to have a change in pace.  I had a lot of work I had committed to and needed to spend the morning being professional and productive.  Even though I’m a huge fan of coworking and love it, I thought about spending my morning in a coffee shop trying to get work done.


I was only going to be in town for the day and I was only going to need to work for a few hours.  I thought to myself, “sure, a coffee shop might be fine”, hoping that the wi-fi would be reliable and the clientele would be respectful.  Instead, I found The Trade, a coworking-space-coffee-shop located on K Street in midtown Sacramento.  For me, it was a perfect happy medium.


I’m glad I chose coworking.  I was able to get a cup of tea and sit down to a friendly and professional workspace.  I met a few wonderful people while coworking and I got the work done that needed to get done.

If you are ever visiting Nevada County and thinking about spending the day in a coffee shop or restaurant trying to get work done, consider instead spending the day at Sierra Commons.  Coworking can offer the best of both worlds—a friendly atmosphere and a wonderful place to work.


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.


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.

Deadline for applications: February 1st, 2016

feb 1

feb 1

First day of class: February 4th, 2016

Class is held on Thursdays 6pm-9pm for 8 weeks starting on February 4th and ending on March 31st. (No class on March 3rd.)

Please submit (in PDF format) a cover letter and an outline of your business plan or proposal to:


Please include (in PDF format) a list of references, current organizational affiliations, and/or any community service projects you have worked on.

Please use the title “scholarship” for your email.

This scholarship is open to students of all ages who are currently in enrolled in classes.  Applicants must be in the process of starting a small business, or currently working on a pitch idea, a solo project, or start up.

Please indicate in your cover letter why you are interested in taking Sierra Commons’ Business Ignitor and if you would be interested in pursuing the coursework, even if not awarded a scholarship.

Starting on Thursday, January 14th and running through Sunday, January 17th, the South Yuba River Citizen’s League (SYRCL) presents the Wild and Scenic Film Festival in Nevada City and Grass Valley.  For any outdoor enthusiast, environmental activist, or inhabitant of planet earth, the Wild and Scenic Film Festival provides a weekend of non-stop fun and education for all in attendance.  There is something for everyone—movies, music, beer, wine, food, art, and more.


The festival always provides entertainment for a great weekend.  Sierra Commons’ members will often meet up at different locations to talk about the films, get a bite to eat, and give reviews.


Sierra Commons, Nevada County’s coworking space, is open Monday-Friday 8:30am-5pm and offers day-use rates for locals and for out-of-towners looking to get a jump start on their weekend but still needing to get work done.  We have high-speed internet and all the coffee you can drink.  Join our community for a productive work day before heading to the festival.

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.

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.

If you are sitting at your desk in Sacramento or in the Bay Area wishing you could pack up and head to the snow, do it. Don’t wait. Hit the road. Spend a day in Grass Valley or Nevada City and work at Sierra Commons, Nevada County’s coworking space.  You’ll finish your work day and be able to hit the slopes just an hour away.


Outside magazine released its 2016 Ski Report and things are looking good for winter sports this year, especially in the Tahoe/Truckee Region.  This afternoon, the National Weather Service issued a Winter Storm Warning for the Tahoe area claiming “Snow accumulations above 7000 feet, 1 to 2 feet with locally up to 3 feet near the Sierra crest. Below 7000 feet, 7 to 14 inches except 12 to 18 inches west of Highway 89.”


Enjoy the beauty of Nevada County, affordable lodging, and, for just $20 for day use, Nevada County’s coworking space with all the coffee you can drink.  Stop by, relax, get work done and jumpstart your weekend.

In a sudden and unexpected move, the Sacramento Area Regional Technology Alliance (SARTA) announced yesterday that it would be closing permanently. Employees arrived to work at SARTA on Tuesday morning only to be sent home.  Employees were told that they were out of a job and wouldn’t need to come back.

sac square

Like Sierra Commons in Nevada County, SARTA has been a pivotal force in economic development in the Sacramento region.  Focusing on the tech aspect of many industries, SARTA has been instrumental in connecting people to resources and helping small business owners with support and education.  Many businesses in the Sacramento region have used SARTA’s resources to network, find funding, and to take their businesses to the next level.  Sierra Commons has partnered with SARTA for multiple events in the past and has enjoyed the resources that SARTA has offered.  The loss of SARTA in Sacramento will have a lasting impact on small business development in the region.

In a statement about SARTA’s closing, CEO Howard Bubb said, “The region has evolved to the point that businesses and individuals are putting their support elsewhere.  There is only so much funding available for economic development.”

Sadly, Howard Bubb is absolutely right.  Sierra Commons, Nevada County’s non-profit business education center and coworking space, supports its overhead with rental income from desk and office rental in our coworking facility.  Our staffing and education programs are entirely dependent on the support of donations, volunteers, and, occasionally, grant money.  Sadly, this support has declined dramatically in the past two years.

Sierra Commons has helped to start and support a number of business locally and regionally in Nevada County.  Some of our past clients and graduates of our signature course, our “Business Ignitor,” include Shana Maziarz of Three Forks Bakery and Brewery, Victoria LaFont of Truly Healthy Protein Powder, Dave Myler of Boga Paddle Boards, Erin Noel of Community Legal, and many, many more.

Don’t let Sierra Commons face the same fate as SARTA.  Support your local economic development center.  Help Sierra Commons support your local businesses and local economy.  Donate now.


I had a problem at work today that surprised me.

hiring the right people square

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

Sierra Commons Celebrates Their 100th Ignitor Graduate, Invites the Public to a Business Mixer

Sierra Commons, Nevada County’s coworking space and business education center, invites the public to celebrate small business in Nevada County. Sierra Commons just finished teaching its 9th Business Ignitor, an intensive incubator for small businesses and start-ups in Nevada County. To celebrate, Sierra Commons is hosting a free business mixer and celebration on Thursday July 30th at 5:30pm. Join in the fun at the Sierra Commons campus at 792 A Searls Ave in Nevada City. Food and drink will be available.



Sierra Commons has been teaching their “Business Ignitor” for five years and has taught over 100 students. The graduation of this Business Ignitor class will mark over 100 students who have completed the course. Past graduates include local business owners Erin Noel of Community Legal, Rowen White of Sierra Seeds, and Shana Maziarz of Three Forks Bakery and Brewery. The current graduating class is diverse and includes an enthusiastic group of entrepreneurs, business owners, artists, and managers. Sierra Commons has been contributing to the economic health of Nevada County and supporting small business locally for six years.

“Sierra Commons provides invaluable services to new and existing businesses,” says student and coworker Evelyn Soltero of All About Wells. “Formal classes on business operations are user friendly and truly inspiring. My favorite thing about Sierra Commons is the comradery and the collegial support I receive from other members.” Sierra Commons offers a supportive environment for independent contractors, small business owners, freelancers, and anyone who is seeking to have a community-supported work environment or a community-supported business.

Erin Noel, founder of Community Legal, is an attorney who graduated from the Business Ignitor program in 2013. She says of her venture, “Community Legal is a proud “Business Ignitor” project, dedicated to supporting the legal needs of disadvantaged people in Nevada County. Like the Business Ignitor course, we believe in people’s capacity to contribute to our economy and community. We help to provide clients with education and know-how.” After three years of development, Community Legal plans to open in August, and is currently engaged in a crowd funding campaign to give the venture a strong foundation.

Sierra Commons is excited to host a celebration of small business in Nevada County. “This event is designed to bring together small business, big business, new business, and established business in Nevada County,” says Hilary Hodge, Executive Director of Sierra Commons. “Nevada County is known for its innovation and for its support of local business. Our goal is to see businesses in Nevada County continue to thrive and we know that coming together as a community is essential to that mission.”

Sierra Commons will be celebrating its sixth year of community support this August and holds an open door to all skill levels. They house a vast range of business professionals in their coworking facility. Sierra Commons is currently enrolling for their next Business Ignitor course which will be offered in September of this year. Sierra Commons offers coworking space, conference room rental, high-speed internet, business classes, business mentoring, and daily or drop-in rates. For more information visit www.sierracommons.org or email info@sierracommons.org.