To whom it may Concern:
My name is Lauren Vier and I am Starting a new business here in Fort Bragg called “Mendocino Made Local Marketplace.” Before I tell you about my business, let me introduce you to myself a little bit, and tell you my story;
My family and I just moved to Fort Bragg in April 2013, From Windsor, in Sonoma County, CA. We are actually lucky that we had family here to stay with otherwise I think we would have been homeless. But let me explain why, I am the kind of person that has to learn everything for myself the hard way, to learn it right. So of course as a teenager I left my home at 17 thinking, I would rather have the resistance of a homeless person than the spoiled ego of a child living in a home paid for not by myself. In other words having my mom on Welfare my whole life not working much showed me that I wanted better things for myself and whatever family I may have in the future.
So fortunately I met my now husband, when I left home in 2006 and have been Learning with him ever since. We were homeless from 2006-2010. We started a better life for ourselves still on the streets. I sold artwork on park benches to get money everyday and even started having regular clients in Sebastopol everyday. My husband eased into the Santa Rosa Junior College and started a few classes while still homeless. Next thing I Knew I was allowed to set up a makeshift booth at the Sebastopol Year Round Farmers Market, I actually had a weekly gig selling art off the streets. It changed our whole perspective on being homeless when he was getting up to go to college every morning and I was making enough in a Market Weekend to make up for what we didn’t get on Welfare.
We got pregnant in 2009 and got into our first place after Welfare decided we needed more $ with a child coming. And we had our beautiful son in 2010. I actually had graduated from a skateboard to a small table at the Farmers Market and had plenty of new friends and clients buying artwork from us and keeping us positive. So After Elijah our son was old enough for daycare, about 7 months, I started going to the Santa Rosa Junior College. My one Goal in mind in going to school in Business Administration is my family. I didn’t want to sacrifice my time and energy and happiness to find a job that I didn’t want.
Right before I left my home I held a steady job working as a YMCA camp couselor/Teachers assistant, I loved working with the kids. I was in charge of designing, implementing and teaching a new art project every week for the class, and it was a lot of fun. But the tolls of having a job made me leave the job itself. I was taking the public bus from Windsor into the heart of Santa Rosa Urban Area, Bennett Valley, around going to High School and taking an art class at the SRJC. I got stretched too thin, I wanted to do everything all the time and I was getting to be late to work from the buses being late and that was unreliable so I didn’t sign on for another summer season for the YMCA. Working there taught me that you have to be very clear about your schedule and to account time for public transportation is very important. I have learned from that job that I always wanted to be working in the arts and kids are a plus to be working with. I also learned that it is easier to make your own hours to have time for other things.
So I started going to the SRJC and taking classes towards a certificate in Business Management and Business Marketing, the truth is that Welfare didn’t allow an art certificate as a legitimate sector, so I landed in the business department, because what good is making art if you cant sell it. I was already doing the table at the Sebastopol Farmers market and a business certificate would help me further my art selling.
I went to the SRJC for 2 ½ years and before my last semester I found a place that changed my life completely. I stumbled upon the Share Exchange, one day walking downtown when I noticed that the old Arts council building had been transformed into something amazing and new, The Made Local Marketplace. I walked in and met Kelley Rajala, signed up as Maker # 94 and finally had my art on consignment in a store. And not just a store but a 100% local store, with only items produced from Sonoma County, I was a part of a Local Revolution in Santa Rosa and I didn’t even know it.
In July 2011 Kelley ran an amazing block party called the “Share Faire” Every Maker had their own booth, my first booth to sell everything. It was beautiful. I even got my free booth from the Share Faire and got to use it at the Sebastopol Farmers Market for years after. She had all of 5th street Santa Rosa blocked off for the day. She had an upcycling artists showing kids how to make recycled art and I even had “Chalk Spray” and sidewalk chalk at my booth and everyone was happy to play. I got a taste of my new share community at the Share Faire and have been living off that feeling ever since. I love the sense of community that being a part of the Share Exchange meant and the Share Faire embodied that into a tangible event. I had to be more a part of this local revolution.
My last semester at the SRJC I did a unpaid for credit internship at the Share Exchange, Kelley was happy to have more volunteers as long as she didn’t have to worry about paying me. So I signed up for Work experience at the srjc and added the Share exchange to the volunteer list of places to go. Kelley and I sat down one day and discussed what I would be doing for her as a marketing intern, but the first question she asked me was of course the most significant ones in anybodies life ” What do you want to do with your life” I answered her I would love to own my own art gallery, and that goal does still hold true it has just expanded a bit. I did a lot for Kelley over the summer, I came up with a Marketing Plan for the Made Local Marketplace, I put together her public relations address book into a spreadsheet, I helped set up and coordinate 6 different artists a week at a 3 tent booth at the Wednesday Night Market in Santa Rosa, I helped her develop a Maker To Do list so every maker is on the same page with social media, all while running a Sebastopol Farmers Market booth every weekend by myself just to survive and eat everyweek.
I was a part of something better but I still wasn’t where I wanted to be with my family and income. My son was now 2 ½ and although he ran around the Farmers Market like a vendor kid and was happy and content to play with everyone in Sebastopol and Dance around, I knew still that he deserved more.
So I got approached to Start a Business from the ground up, A Seed Bank, in Laytonville from some people we knew, that had a building, a Plan and the money. And we jumped at the opportunity to better our sons life and income with a new store. I had only 4 more classes away from a SRJC Small Business Management Certificate and 1 class away from a Marketing Certificate, but I thought that this business, the Seed bank, would be successful enough that I could finish school later. We renovated the building in laytonville and even started purchasing seed catalougs for the store. We moved our stuff into a storage in Ukiah and planned to move to laytonville in the next couple days, when our relationship with the buildings owners took a bad turn for the worse and we decided going into business with unstable people probably is a bad idea.
That’s where our family in Fort Bragg came in and rescued us. We moved all our stuff from storage into our new home in Fort Bragg within record time and were already settled in a place.
I went searching for a gallery like the Made Local Marketplace and their was none. All I found was Art Galleries and coops that wanted 200$ a month on top of space fee and consignment. At last I Found one gallery the Gallery Depot that took my art on consignment without a membership or annual fee. But of course having one thing in one gallery isn’t going to support me like a booth at a farmers market. So I mustered up some courage and without even thinking applied to work with West Company on a better gallery for Fort Bragg, a Made Local Marketplace.
To get to the point now, I have been working with West Company since August 2013 and really see great things coming from my idea. The Idea has expanded a lot since August and I have a real Working business plan and financial projections to back it up now. But the main thing I hope to achieve is that feeling I wanted to bottle up at “The Share Faire” that feeling of community, of self-sustainability, of LOCALISM. Our Vision at the Mendocino Made Local Marketplace is ” A community that is localized” meaning we can all be supported and happy on goods and services made within our regional area.
I am still a newbie to Mendocino County but I do see a need for localism. We may have established resources like Noyo Food Forest and The Grange Hall, but I want to be a central place downtown for all those resources to meet and work together on change for this community. Places like the Made Local Marketplace and events like the Share Faire are only tips of the iceburg for localization but they are the first steps to change our soiciety.
Personally I would like to live and have my family live in a place that knows how to take care of itself and its community members in all walks of life, from homeless to not. I feel like Santa Rosa and Sebastopol gave me a foundation of what we need more of here, more communication of what the community needs and actually getting it done locally.
I propose a lot of ideas for my store, not only would I like to have the Mendocino Made Local Marketplace, but I am also going to have a Fort Bragg Co-Work space, for individual businesses to rent out desks and work spaces, Mendocino County Time Bank, a time-time barter system that is based on the Thrive Lake county model of time sharing, A Center for Heirloom arts, where we will facilitate locally run classes on homesteading skills, homemade skills and heirloom art practices. AND last but not least I will continue the seed bank idea and run Nor Cal Seed Bank from only the reselling of organic and heirloom seeds.
I am still working with West company and am going to propose to go underneath North Coast Opportunitys Non profit umbrella to get started before I can afford being my own non-profit. We are going to be approaching the Economic Development Funding Center soon for some capitol and I am also in contact with some key partners locally.
I just wanted to let everyone know what I am doing here in Fort Bragg, and why I am looking into changing our community for the better. I watched a video recently that refocused me on this idea of a new sharing economy called “the economy of happiness” basically stating that this economy will and cannot change until we change the systems it is founded on and start building better systems and sharing for a greater future.
That’s all I want for Mendocino County, to have a perpetual economic system that supports everything local to the person with chickens in their backyard to the community gardens to the Made local Marketplace. I just want to feel that “Belonging” and “acceptance” I felt at the Share Faire, here in Mendocino County.
When we create the Mendocino Made Local Marketplace and everything inside of it, I Know that the feeling of bettering our community will be so tangible that anyone, even my son will feel it. And that’s the whole point, if our children can feel our happiness in our community and a sense of belonging and being accepted, then they can feel happy too.
I am hoping that with a lot of community and individual support we can have the Mendocino Made Local running even better than the Share Exchange in Santa Rosa, catering to more of our youth and rallying community non-profits together to create the society that our children deserve to be a part of.
I am asking for any and all support for this store and that’s why I told you my story and where I came from, I am not some Corporate entity trying to change this town. Not at all, I am a real person, a very low income person at that, that just wants a better life for her family and happiness for everyone. Especially the struggling makers in this county, because I know how they feel struggling to make it on homemade art. It doesn’t have to be a struggle for any artist to survive with a supportive community, I know we can make localization happen. So please join me in making the Mendocino Made Local the go to place for all things local and great and together we can have localization for this community.