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Sonoma County's SHARE EXCHANGE

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Incubating a Sustainable Future

By Sylvia WynnLindeman

Kelley Rajala, founder of Sonoma County’s Share Exchange, has believed that localization is the best way to generate jobs and mitigate environmental problems for 20 years.  With a degree in environmental studies, Rajala became a land use planner for Santa Barbara County before joining the family business in Pleasanton.  There she learned how to saturate a regional market with one’s product and when the company sold, she turned to the question of how to focus communities on the issue of Sustainability.

Since – she’s relocated to Sonoma County where she runs the two small businesses she founded and has designed several of this region’s original Sustainability models, including one for Sebastopol’s Basso Building in 2005.  While her proposal was not adopted, she notes that many elements of it are “sort of spontaneously happening” there – even without her.

In the meantime, Rajala kept moving – co-founding our Sonoma County Go Local Cooperative (which is part of the national Business Alliance for Local Living Economies), the collaboratively inclined network of small business people, and then moved on to establishing Share Exchange as part of her passion to support local entrepreneurs.

Perhaps best known for Made Local Marketeplace where each locally crafted good is displayed alongside a photo and short bio of its “maker, Rajala is now developing another facet of her vision – incubating businesses that provide other types of goods and services.  In the name of providing new jobs via economic localization, the Share Exchange affords fledgling start-ups a sort of professional “nest” where they can mature until they can self-sustain.

Current examples include the Sonoma County Time Exchange (a barter system for expertise and time); the Sonoma County Production Company (producing food locally vs importing it); Pathways Solar Energy Brokers; Doing Business Today Business Coaching; North Bay Community Organizing Group; the Language Truck (tutoring in English, Spanish and computer literacy); and Brew Engine Mobile App Developers.

For an annual ($400) or quarterly ($110) fee, Share Exchange provides members with a light-filled co- work space, video conferencing; color printing; use of the wi fi; events space ; and more!  Rajala’s goal is to grow a socially networked group of entrepreneurs and non-profits and proudly names projects like the 350 Garden Challenge, North Bay Climate Adaptation and even Sonoma County’s Sustainable Enterprise Conference (Oren Wool was the first member of Share Exchange) who regularly use the co-work space, bringing what they need and taking it home at the end of the day. 

Other members, such as Green Bough Health Co-Operative, are located “upstairs” in one of six private offices.   Additionally many one-person shops and collaborative efforts utilize the Share Exchange as their meeting space or a place to work between meetings elsewhere - for a drop-in fee of $15.00/day.  The Share Exchange is currently offering free use of its light-filled space from 9-6 on Fridays as a sort of test drive or “Try Day” for potential members or day users.

Beyond affordable space and collective marketing, the Share Exchange partners with SCORE to offer its members free consultation with seasoned professionals in marketing, finance and business operations. 

And –Rajala is about to launch a means for finding financing when traditional funding may not be available.   Enter “North Bay Slow Money” – a sort of crowd funding opportunity.  Her goal is to build a  Local Investment Opportunities Network  - people looking for a productive outlet for $1,000-$5,000 who want to help small, local companies.  While Rajala will not turn away venture capitalists wishing to diversify, she expects most members to be grass roots investors who want to pull some of their money off Wall Street or just explore alternative ways to grow their nest egg.  The first meeting will be later this month and Rajala welcomes inquiries.

Finally - the Share Exchange hosts workshops to help small business succeed. For $95 ($80, members), you can spend 9-1 on Saturday, 2/18, with an expert in David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” system and come away more organized, on task and priority-driven.   Or – on 3/10 from 10-1 - learn how to build your web presence at Website Boot Camp for $50 ($35, members).

For more information and to sign up for any of the above, call 707-583-7667, e-mail Kelley@shareexchange.coop or visit www.shareexchange.coop.