Local nonprofit, Sierra Commons, celebrates a decade of operations | TheUnion.com

Local nonprofit, Sierra Commons, celebrates a decade of operations

Sam Corey
Staff Writer


What: Sierra Commons

Where: 792 Searls Ave., Nevada City

Website: http://www.sierracommons.org

The focus for Sierra Commons, a Nevada City nonprofit incubator, has three legs: business education, coworking and a partnership with the Sierra Small Business Development Center, which allows for free mentoring to entrepreneurs.

“Our local economy is built on small businesses,” said Robert Trent, the nonprofit’s executive director. Trent added that “small” includes an operation with about three to five employees.

The nonprofit will be celebrating its 10th year, and will host a party that coincides with the graduation of individuals from its ignitor business education course. Festivities take place from 6 to 9 p.m. Sept. 25 at Sierra Commons, 792 Searls Ave., Nevada City.

Sierra Commons has its roots in Velocity7, a company founded in 2001 by Trent, who had hopes of engaging social media and website design. Trent, the company’s CEO, was excited about community collaboration.

Velocity7 was managing clients like Amy’s Kitchen, at the time one of the largest organic frozen food companies, said Trent. Velocity7 also worked with local nonprofits like the Sierra Nevada Conservancy and the South Yuba River Citizens League.

But, seven years later, the economy fell into a free fall, and few were left untouched.

“In 2008, people didn’t have a bunch of money to spend on websites,” said Trent.


Velocity7 wasn’t able to retain its employees when the recession hit, but Trent said everyone wanted to continue working together. They decided to end Velocity7, but to work in the same space, conducting different entrepreneurial activities.

When a friend of Trent’s came from out of town, the team had yet to realize they were doing something that would soon become trendy: operate a coworking space.

During the nadir of the Great Recession, the group of individuals eventually coalesced into a nonprofit, but money was tight, said Trent.

“We had to really practice what we preached about resiliency and sustainability,” he said.

Today, Trent said the nonprofit is proud to host its flagship program, the business ignitor course, a six-week boot camp in business education.

“It’s very motivational and collaborative,” said Trent.

The course currently holds 13, six or seven of whom will be launching their own businesses after its completion.

Trent is happy to be celebrating 10 years of the nonprofit in a more stable economy, and to offer entrepreneurs a dog friendly, home-like environment for work.

“I think it was the first coworking space in the entire Sierra Nevada,” said Trent.

Sierra Commons’ next business ignitor course begins March 4.

To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey email scorey@theunion.com or call 530-477-4219.

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