Mendocino SBDCFort Bragg California

“West Company is a fabulous low-cost one-stop for local business owners."

Bruce Erickson and Maggie Watson

Mendocino Solar Service was started in 1994 to provide sales, installation, and service of solar systems to Mendocino County residents. Bruce Erickson and Maggie Watson bought the business in 2005 from its founder. Erickson and Watson now employ four people and to help them design, sell, install, and service solar systems all over the county. They are also solar contractors for GRID Alternatives, a non-profit that provides solar systems on low income homes.

When Bruce Erickson and Maggie Watson bought Mendocino Solar in 2005, they knew they needed to transition from being employees to being business owners. They had little previous experience running a business, and needed to get up to speed on how to price their services and products, how to manage cash flow and make financial plans, and, once they were ready to bring some new people on, how to handle employees issues. Financing and marketing were areas they wanted to explore as well.

Bruce and Maggie started meeting with the SBDC, who assisted them with financial planning and employee management, as well as helping them obtain a $12,000 stimulus grant and a $95,000 business loan. They also worked with the SBDC on social media marketing. Bruce also attended Profit Mastery classes to learn how to apply the Profit Mastery concepts to Mendocino Solar.

The stimulus grant provided a great opportunity for training, and the business loan allowed Bruce and Maggie to refinance and build their new shop. Armed with the tools they needed for effective business management, Bruce and Maggie have been able to increase Mendocino Solar’s sales by over $730,000, and they have recently reported an increase in profits of over $70,000—and this during an economic downturn. Since starting the business they have been able to hire 4 additional full-time employees and part-time workers as well.

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Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA or HSU Sponsored Programs Foundation.