by Natalia Kopelman
You know them as West Company and if you don’t, now is a good time to learn about this dedicated organization. After thirty years of providing free services and support to small business owners in Mendocino County, the non-profit organization is changing their name to West Business Development Center (WBDC).
Mary Anne Petrillo, the CEO of WBDC says, “while many residents of Mendocino County have taken advantage of our services, there is a large group of business owners in our community who didn’t really understand or know about West Company and the name wasn’t working to our advantage”. Their goal is to be a well-used resource, so they conducted a survey to gain feedback on how they should present themselves and many of the respondents said, “Your name should say what you do.”
Amy Collins of the Village Sock Shop in Mendocino says she likes the new name, as it clearly expresses their goal and “she would’ve been less apprehensive initially”. As a new shopkeeper, she didn’t have a budget for counseling and felt very protective of her finances. She was surprised when she learned that West Company’s services were free and found that experience to be very refreshing, “The difference between for profit and non-profit is a big deal.”
Business Development is what they do. By offering services such as one-on-one counseling with experts in their fields, workshops and webinars in topics from marketing to accounting and tax law, WBDC is committed to helping small businesses grow.
Carmel Angelo, CEO of Mendocino County, says it’s important to remember that a lot of our larger businesses started small, in garages even. “Having the ability to support small business is a boon to our economy and we look to West Center to do that. We refer many start-up business to them. They’re an integral part of our economy.”
Mary Anne Petrillo says that now is a very exciting time for small business. “Technology is allowing entrepreneurs to live where they want and still access global markets.” With the new name, new website and expansion of services, she hopes to send the message that WBDC is moving with the times. She says, “We’re still here. Changing, growing and making a difference. We are in a new economy and even established small business owners are facing new challenges every day. They have to be more flexible and resilient than ever before. We are listening and understanding theses new needs. We may not always have all the answers, but we will find them.”
Many small business owners throughout the county agree that the name change is a good thing and they are eager to support West Business Development Center, as they feel they have been supported. Kiersten Hanna of Braggadoon in Fort Bragg says they helped her in many ways, but most paramount was the time and energy her advisor spent helping her understand her finances. Marc Saavedra of the Airport Barbershop in Ukiah says they helped him write a business plan and he would not a miss a workshop.
Of all the services they provide, one-on-one no cost counseling is still WBDC’s most valued resource. Mary Anne Petrillo says, “That’s our mission and primary service. It’s always about the individual. It’s about helping people to grow.”
The new website and the new name are just the first steps in an effort to maximize WBDC’s visibility, while also expanding their services and programs. “When we begin to see more people coming to us seeking and using our advice, we will know the local economy will become more resilient and entrepreneurs will begin to thrive.”
About West Business Development Center: WBDC is a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) funded non-profit business development center that provides reliable non cost confidential counseling and relevant training programs to entrepreneurs throughout Mendocino and Lake County. West Center hosts the Mendocino Small Business Development Center and the Mendocino Women’s Business Center.
phone: 707 964-7571