We met up with local entrepreneur Adam Goldberg on the rooftop terrace of Namasté Cafe to talk about his business growth and plans coming out of trainings in the StartUp Mendocino program he’s part of. Let’s go!
To start, what does your business offer and what are you most known for?
My business is Mendo Grass and we produce microgreens and wheatgrass. We’ve been operational since February 2021. We grow organic certified living foods, and we grow them under the sun. We focus on high quality and sell to restaurants, hospitals, juice bars, grocery stores, and individuals, and we also do farmers markets.
Your most recent training topic with StartUp Mendocino was on Branding. What was your top take away from it?
In the Branding training, we created a brand commitment statement. We each identified 20 words that represent our own brands, and then distilled an identity statement to help guide our brand. I was already clear on my brand and had written a statement two years ago, so I revisited it in the training. As our instructor Rachel said, it’s a living, moving thing.
What’s been most inspiring so far since starting the business management program?
Most inspiring have been two different things:
- Values — The reason I got into the work was to be an entrepreneur, but different entrepreneurs can be driven by different things. This process has reminded me to revisit why I do what I do. I’m reminded that it’s MY business and it’s important that it’s ME holding my personal values, letting those values guide my business.
- Processes — And from there, developing processes to organize and focus myself and my work is important. It’s gotten me to look at every aspect of my business and write all the steps required in six of the categories that make up leadership — so far I’ve now organized my Google Drive differently and developed lists of clear actions required.
To date it’s been mostly me running my business and the shift to growing a team has been important to identify who’ll do what and how.
Before the Branding training we focused on Financials, and that was enlightening and helpful to make informed decisions. So far I’ve been growing organically and now want to put more petal-to-the-metal.
I’ve now had a year with four full seasons learning to grow well and deliver on my commitments. Now it’s time for more focused business growth as well as setting financial and sales goals. And understanding my budget and making decisions based on that looking forward.
What’s starting to change for you as a result of this business management program?
They gave us a book that I’m reading called Your Next Five Moves: Master the Art of Business Strategy, and I think that what’s changing for me is big picture thinking and seeing myself as a leader, and what leadership requires. I’ve always seen myself as a leader but after a year of doing it all myself, this program is giving me the opportunity to approach this from a higher level or perspective to make informed decisions. I was confident already, but now I’ve seen the results and am getting more organized in relation to management and leadership. That’s exciting — to think about the future. My thoughts and approach are different than they were.
Do you have some special talents you lean on?
I’m good with plants and good with people. Those are my superpowers. Being authentic in who I am and relating to people and finding the right people.
What’s something we wouldn’t otherwise know about you?
I’ve traveled to almost 50 countries. Not so much recently. My 20s were spent traveling a lot. My thirties were spent coming home and establishing myself and building a family. Traveling helped me with some of the greatest lessons in my life, through immersing myself in other cultures.
I lived in Japan for 2.5 years and learned a lot about indirect communication. I went to teach English. Once I arrived, my boss at the English school left to go to Australia for a couple of weeks. I had thought I was going to start working right away. She said, “Here, take the keys to my car so you can drive while I’m away.” I was there with a girlfriend and she had a friend in the country also teaching English, who could show us around. She was four hours from where we lived so we thought we should go visit her. We looked at train schedules but with mountains in the way it would have taken a long time. My coworkers knew what we were doing and they were nervous as it turned out — they wanted to make sure I returned the car by a certain date.
Then another time when I wanted to borrow the car, my boss said, “I hear you have a great sense of direction” and let me borrow it — she never said anything specific about the long trip I had taken, or that I might have overstepped her generosity. In some weird way I had earned her trust and she indirectly let me know she knew about the trip.
What’s a good question to ask you that I haven’t yet?
“Why micro greens and wheatgrass? Why are you focused on it?”
Because of their health benefits. My favorite jobs in the past have always had a balance of growing things and admin / management tasks. At the heart of it, a lot of my focus is owed to my mother who passed two years ago. She died of cancer with a stage 4 diagnosis and it taught me we only live once. So follow your dreams. She lived a full life. Travel and gardening were key parts of her life. A lot of this is to honor her and produce something healthy … and living foods are healthy. They help people heal and keep people healthy. I drink wheatgrass daily and eat microgreens.
A microgreen is a baby vegetable. I grow 5 varieties — radish, pea shoots, buckwheat, broccoli, and wheatgrass. They are harvested after 10 to 14 days. Because of the young stage they are at, they are extremely nutritious — 4 to 40 times more nutrient dense than their older counterparts.
What’s a moment when something took seed for you in your career?
When I was working at the Solar Living Institute, I saw the writing was on the wall. We were spending down our budget beautifying the property. I thought we needed some income. They used to grow wheatgrass and microgreens, so I suggested we do that again. That’s how I started. Then I realized it could be a profitable endeavor while doing something I enjoyed. So that moment planted the seed though it took me a couple years to get there. I first went to another job for a year, and then focused on starting this brand.
I’m now expanding to Sonoma County. There are so many doors to knock on. We collect emails at farmers markets so we can do some home deliveries to individual customers. I assumed we’d have more home delivery customers by now but that hasn’t happened. Digital marketing is probably where I could build out home delivery. And reaching out to customers at grocery stores and yoga studios and gyms.
Individuals care a lot about health, and that inspires me, but it’s more economical to sell to businesses. For example Black Oak Coffee Roasters buys 3 lbs a week, which would take about six home customers to equal that.
One other exciting thing is … I was just looking at a property to put an offer on next week. Right now I’m renting and it doesn’t feel long term. The potential new place is a very raw property. The location is good, the size is right, and there’s a barn with electricity. If we do it, then my business has a home. The security of having it and for the long term — that turned on a light bulb in my mind because we’ll be able to invite customers to come have a picnic or potluck, or play a little ultimate frisbee there!
Stacy Starkey is the President of Savings Bank of Mendocino County, one of StartUp Mendocino’s generous sponsors. Stacy is a big supporter saying, “We have worked closely with West Center over the years. The training, support and resources you provide your clients are absolutely top notch.”