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Mendocino Solar Service, Little River

BACKGROUND
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 4 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.

CHALLENGES
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.

ACTIONS
Bruce and Maggie started meeting with Mike Carroll, 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 Johanna Jensen on social media marketing. Bruce also attended Profit Mastery classes and met with Nancy Banker to learn how to apply the Profit Mastery concepts to Mendocino Solar.

RESULTS
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.

“West Company is a fabulous low-cost one-stop for local business owners,” says Bruce. Maggie adds that looking back on their work with Mike Carroll, West Company has been like a “mentoring resource” in business management. On the topic of social media, Maggie says that Johanna Jensen’s “knowledge and experience really opened that world, which has been important for our business.” Bruce and Maggie care deeply about their clients and employees, and are committed to bringing solar energy into the mainstream. Mendocino Solar has been designated as a SunPower premier dealer and their goal is to become the largest volume solar installer in Western Mendocino County. Looking ahead, the future is sunny indeed.

Mendocino Solar Service
Bruce Erickson and Maggie Watson
PO Box 1252
Little River, CA 95456
http://www.mendocinosolar.com