The West Center is accepting applications for StartUp Mendocino 2023. This free program offers local entrepreneurs the opportunity to participate in an intensive training program – stimulating new thinking about business, community and county economic possibilities.
According to West Center Marketing Director Alison de Grassi, participants build stronger, longer-lasting business and community connections that help them become more self-sufficient and resilient.
“StartUp Mendocino 2023 builds on West Center’s successful startup program, which began with a pitch competition in 2019 and continues with a business accelerator program in 2022. The program put 13 early-stage entrepreneurs on a path to success . This year’s program offers the same format,” she continued.
Sponsors of StartUp Mendocino 2023 include Tri Counties Bank, Umpqua Bank Charitable Foundation, Savings of Mendocino County, Redwood Credit Union and County of Mendocino.
Applications open in October. 3 will be closed in October. On November 23, the announcement of eligible participants will be announced on November 23. 23. Up to 12 entrepreneurs will take the course to gain the tools to make their businesses more efficient, effective, efficient and profitable.
Participants will be selected by a committee of business and community leaders and stakeholders. Applicants come from all areas of the county and a variety of businesses – retail, wholesale, transportation, hotels, etc.
To qualify as a StartUp Mendocino participant, the business must be located in Mendocino County and must have been in operation for one to three years. Currently, the program does not apply to cannabis-related businesses.
The 21-week course begins in January 2023, with weekly virtual classes every Tuesday starting January 1. 16. “The program includes participation in groups that provide participants with ongoing support, peer-to-peer networking and assistance after the course is completed,” continued de Grassi.
The West Center provides participants with experts in marketing, financial planning, technology and goal setting. They will have the opportunity to conduct community outreach with planning departments, media contacts and local organisations. They study five separate business modules, including financial planning, time management, branding, best practices and pitching your business.
Lead Instructor Rachel Clark noted, “Knowing that the future of your business is going the right way, participants can dream bigger and do more. Mendocino County needs more leaders like this.”
Laura Brooks, Program Director at StartUp Mendocino, said, “I’ve been very impressed with our 2022 participants. Seeing their progress gives us hope for the future of small businesses in Mendocino County.”
Some 2022 graduates applied to the California Dream Fund. One of the graduates, Ukiah native Adam Goldberg, received a $10,000 grant to help grow his business, Mendo Grass.
Goldberg took a circuitous path to his successful sun-grown microgreens business.
A 1999 Ukiah High School graduate, Goldberg left the area for about 15 years at the age of 18. After earning a degree in Global International Studies from UC Santa Barbara, he traveled extensively in Latin America, Japan and Europe, working and studying abroad, eventually returning to the United States to earn a Masters in International Education.
“I finished writing my master’s thesis in Malawi. It cost 50 cents per page to print a piece of paper, so my parents came to visit and brought my second draft,” he said with a laugh. “I interned at the Permaculture Demonstration Center, doing organizational work and strategic planning, and was in the garden every day.” He decided to heed the call to return to California.
“I love the culture, the land, and the people, but I don’t know how I’m going to hire myself. After returning home, I got a job at a nonprofit in Sonoma County, working with people from the Bay Area, Nicaragua and Ecuador. Students conduct cross-cultural student exchange programs. Part of the program involves high school students working on garden and reforestation programs.”
From there, Goldberg worked in the Solar Living Institute’s internship program, coordinating solar courses. “There was a land manager there who sold wheatgrass and vegetables to Ukiah Natural Foods. Back then, we were just growing wheatgrass. I remember thinking, ‘Wheatgrass costs $1 to produce and sells for $16.’ For It seems like a good profit for a small business, and I’m intrigued by the idea and product.”
Goldberg left Real Goods to work on the farm relations team at cannabis distribution center Flow Kana — another business that combined his executive acumen with gardening. “We lead METRC courses, accounting seminars, training and farmer support programs.”
When he left Flow Kana, Goldberg realized he now had an opportunity to start fulfilling his personal dream of building his microgreens business.
“I have experience growing wheatgrass. My mother died of cancer when I was at Flow Kana. She lived a rich life — dedicated to pursuing what she was interested in. That’s what motivated me to get out there. Although I was drawn to that lifestyle, I didn’t set out to be an entrepreneur. But the microgreens business is an idea I really believe in, and I feel like there’s mileage there.”
“Before StartUp Mendocino, I put my ideas into practice, conceptualized the Mendo Grass name, and got certified organic.” His first sale took place in February 2021. Despite the pandemic, Goldberg has called 2021 “the year of microgreens,” offering him a unique opportunity at the time.
“People are becoming interested in their health. Everyone needs to eat. Home delivery has become ubiquitous. Ukiah Natural Foods became a customer after trying my first plate of wheatgrass. The amount of juice they extract is comparable to They got quite the same before.”
Goldberg started growing other microgreens. “I started selling to Mariposa Market, family and friends through Facebook Marketplace and several restaurants.” He developed a unique method of growing microgreens, which now include wheatgrass and radishes, pea sprouts, sunflower, buckwheat and broccoli sprouts, in Outdoor growing in a greenhouse – this is not the usual method.
“I went through one summer, acclimated and went through the second to confirm that I could grow a consistent, high-quality product.”
Goldberg began a relationship with the West Center and received instructions to build the greenhouse. “The advisors have given me a lot of support but the responsibility and timing is up to you. You learn by doing. Then I heard about the business plan. When I signed up and started selling at the Ukiah and Willits farmers markets, I was already Been in business for a year. Everyone in my class is at a different stage of the business. I’m focused on using the sun to grow these greens and believe the sun is the differentiator that microgreens are generally touted as a high-quality product. Today , I’m 18 months in. I’m exiting the proof-of-concept phase and setting monthly sales goals and targets. I’m already very clear about our brand identity and product. I’m integrating with the program and working for my business, not me Business.”
The Entrepreneurship Plan helped Goldberg revisit and refine his business plan. “I’m stepping on the pedals and watching our business grow. I need that time for this program to help create a space for learning and thinking.”
Goldberg sells his mixed greens at the market, along with “kitten grass” and pea sprouts pesto.
“We sell a plate of wheatgrass to juice bars and also sell juices at the market. Our kombucha/wheatgrass/OJ mocktails are very popular and we offer ‘live cuts’ in the market. We now have a Set of product categories that go beyond wheatgrass. Our product identity is very clear. Now it’s about building capacity and taking business to the world. Our goal is to participate in farmers markets, build community presence, engage with the public, and be part of building more businesses A springboard to corporate relationships.”
He started selling at the farmers market in Healdsburg, applied in Sevastopol, and is selling to the Big John Market in Healdsburg. “We only make $5,000 a month from Ukiah and Willits. I will spend more time on the ground, walking into restaurants and bringing samples of our products to potential customers.”
In 2023, Goldberg envisions an expanded collaboration with Namaste Café. “We have a connection to Bottle Rock. The only limiting factor is us. My wife is involved in marketing, design and product development and we have an intern who just arrived. We will be handing out more recipes and information cards to people who are new to microgreens .”
Because of his long time at StartUp Mendocino, Goldberg was eligible for a California Dream Fund grant and received $10,000, which he used to build a new climate control structure and purchase additional supplies for the business.
“It’s been a great adventure. I can spend time with my family and drink wheatgrass whenever I want. The StartUp program helps us grow our ambitions with practical tools and information,” he concluded.
“We are growing our economy together, one creative, courageous small business at a time,” Brooks concluded.
Visit https://www.westcenter.org/programs/startup-mendo-2023 to learn more about the program or contact Laura Brooks, email@example.com.