By Laura Carrithers

I joined West Business Development Center this year as Director of Strategic Programs and Director of the Women’s Business Center. As a recent Bay Area transplant, I’m thrilled to be here and have hit the ground running on all of our exciting programs, including our training.

Thirty years ago when Sheliah Rodgers founded West, the formal term was technical assistance training. The focus was on lifting women out of poverty by giving them the training and advising they needed so they could start their own business in the community. We’ve come a long way since then. Our focus now is empowering both women and men with every tool they need to start and run their businesses. We’ve grown to two full-time advisors and 21 specialty advisors who can advise and coach on topics including lending, permitting, marketing, accounting, and human resources. 

As I reflect on West BDC’s history and the various external changes impacting small businesses today I think about one of the most powerful actions we can take together as a business community—the open sharing of ideas. Communication between isolated businesses and townships about their needs and offerings is not only useful, it takes seemingly separate businesses and turns them into a force to be reckoned with. One small business alone may feel like an island, but when we come together in support of each other we suddenly become part of an economic development movement that has real agency. To that end, West Center has been hosting monthly Merchant Meetups that bring together local merchants with the city council and guest speakers to talk about topics like– how to use social media to support each other’s businesses, and how to unite the coastal and inland business communities. Part of the thanks for this inspiring exchange goes to Una Wirkebau from the Ukiah chamber. 

West is not just for new businesses – we help businesses at every stage of the game. We’ve overhauled our entire training program this year, using the feedback we’ve gotten since Mary Ann Petrillo took the helm in 2017, to create programs and recruit experts to deliver some of the best basic training available in Mendocino County. While our wonderful Mendocino College offers full semesters of in-depth study on business topics, our low-cost training workshops can get you started and on the right path for whatever business challenge you might be working through.

Rachel Clark has been an integral part of our training program this year. She’s a phenomenal teacher as you’ll find when you sign up for one of the workshops she teaches.  With a background in marketing and economics and years of experience in executive recruiting, she’s been a business coach for more than ten years, coaching everyone from management at large corporations to CEO’s of startup enterprises.

Rachel is teaching our new Marketing Basics workshop, which is designed to give you a three-hour baseline to start from when you are asking yourself – “now, how do I find customers for my business?!†She’s also teaching our Business Basics, our most popular “Business 101†class, and Foundations of Finance, which helps you unravel the mysteries of your financial statements. One of my favorites for businesses that already have employees is her People: The Art and Science of Managing Employees. Rachel also helped create our Emergency Preparation workshop – which is a must-attend for business owners in Mendocino and Lake Counties given the PG&E shutoffs and increasing wildfires every Fall. 

We’ve also introduced Webinars – which are a wonderful way to get training in an interactive setting – without leaving the comfort of your own home. You can tune in either on your phone or computer and go through all of the exercises sitting in your pajamas if you wish! We also send you a recording in case you want to go back and review.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention our monthly Mendopreneurs meetup this month as well. On Friday, February 28th at our Ukiah offices, Violet Ortigosa and Manny Jimenez, owners of Moxie Cleaners will be hosting our monthly meetup designed to foster fun networking in a casual environment. Moxie is a cleaning company that uses natural, environmentally and pet-friendly cleaning products and as you’ll hear from Violet, West has been a big part of her entrepreneurial journey. 

I hope to see you in person soon, either at our next workshop or Mendopreneur night!

Free Business Advising at West Business Development Center

If you are a business of one or a company of 100 employees, at any stage from startup to established, WestBDC offers free business advising on whatever topic you might need. If it’s finding the right loan to expand, staffing your business with the right people, or even just wading through new minimum wage requirements, we have experts ready to help you right now. 

Click here to sign up for free advising. We’ll schedule a free, thirty-minute call and then we’ll assign you the free expert advisor you need.

See how these successful businesses set up, grew, and expanded with West Business Development Center Free Advising services:

Frosted: Cupcakes & Goodies, Fort Bragg

Seagull Inn, Mendocino

Peace and Plenty Farms, Kelseyville

Smithwood Mercantile, Mendocino

To see more Client success stories check out our Client Stories and our YouTube channel.

Are you a woman-owned business? 

Please join us for our monthly networking events where you can meet other women entrepreneurs and share best practices, knowledge and make friends.

If you are a women-owned business and are interested in hosting Women’s Mendopreneurs Empowerment Night we would love to hear from you! Send us an email at