“We can’t really compete with cupcakes,” says Ryan Coonerty, a trifle wistful. The former mayor and current City Council member is sitting downtown at NextSpace, the shared office space and networking center he co-founded with Jeremy Neuner. He’s here to talk about their newest project, a series of classes for freelancers, consultants, and entrepreneurs, meant to teach people how to create and grow their businesses. They’re being held at NextSpace, through a partnership with Cabrillo Extension. But he acknowledges that they’ve got serious competition from other extension courses: “The cupcake decorating class has, like, 70 people already.” Business classes are always going to be a tougher sell than sweet treats, but Coonerty is hopeful that these courses will provide needed training and education for Santa Cruz’s self-employed entrepreneurs, as well as the city’s small-business owners. He says that as more people become self-employed, the need becomes greater for them to learn how to manage all aspects of their professional lives.
“In the past,” he explains, “corporations traditionally provided an infrastructure in terms of offices, job training, health-care, all these different pieces. Now, we’re moving towards a more freelance, outsourced economy, so we have to create this infrastructure ourselves.”The self-employed are a huge proportion of the Santa Cruz workforce – the Cruz Business website estimates that of the city’s 6,000 business licenses, 4,000 are held by solo entrepreneurs. “Santa Cruz is a beautiful place, and you have a lot of people who try to figure out how to make it work here so they can live here,” Coonerty says. “One of the ways they do that is by piecing together a bunch of different gigs. There are not a lot of big companies here that provide an employment base, so people have to be pretty creative and entrepreneurial in order to keep their business going.
“But if you’re going to be a successful consultant and freelancer, you have to be good at marketing,” he adds. “You have to know how to do accounting. You have to know how to set up a legal corporation.”
The courses begin in late September; they will be “Start-Up 101”, taught by Jim Weisenstein, who serves on the NextSpace board of directors, “Using Social Media to Grow Your Business” and “Freelancing & Consulting 101: Law, Accounting, Finance & Insurance,” both taught by Neuner. With small class sizes and a focus on strengthening students’ individual business plans, it may not be dessert, but it still sounds pretty sweet.
For more information, visit http://www.nextspace.us, or the Cabrillo Extension course catalogue online at http://www.cabrillo.edu/services/extension/business.html.