Image: Erica Fielder Studio owner

Mendo Coast Biz: April 2019


This article was originally published in the Mendocino Beacon
and Fort Bragg Advocate-News


Focusing on the successes and challenges of Mendocino Coast businesses

A few days ago, while running errands on a weekday in downtown Fort Bragg, I noticed a lot of foot and car traffic – people going in and out of stores, trucks making deliveries. Hopefully, it’s an upward activity trend for businesses on the Coast.

Spotlight on Erica Fielder Studio

Poised and innately graceful, Erica Fielder excels in showcasing nature and history for the benefit of hikers, trail users, and other visitors to parks, open space, and visitor centers. Along with her team of specialists at Erica Fielder Studio, she creates interpretive displays and trailside panels that educate and inspire.

The projects that Erica works on are primarily funded by grants. With an extensive background in natural sciences, an MFA in visual art, and experience as an interpretive text writer, she helps her clients identify the message they want to convey, understand ecology, and work with their experts such as botanists, geologists, and historians.

After 30 years in business, Erica is climbing out of a business slump as a result of the destruction of her Fort Bragg studio in the Café del Mar structure fire 1 ½ years ago. She’s thinking about expanding her business to accommodate enough work to support an additional employee. Erica is considering working with wineries, land trusts, and botanical gardens – all new areas of opportunity.

Erica promotes her business with seminars and webinars and attends conferences (such as the regional conference for the National Association of Interpreters). On her Facebook business page, she posts samples of interpretive panels as well as short videos of interesting natural phenomena discovered while hiking.

In addition to maintaining her website, she’s active on social media: Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest, and soon Instagram (once she takes the workshop offered by the West Business Development Center later this month. To help in growing her business, I recommend that Erica expand website content with regular blog posts, do more keyword research and content integration, technical SEO, and backlink campaign in order to raise the search engine optimization (SEO) value of her online presence.

Erica values her membership in Coast Women in Business.

“It inspires me to be with women who are in business like me and dealing with similar issues as well as the support and camaraderie,” she says. She adds that she likes to come to as many events as possible because she gets a broader vision of business-related concerns.

She also uses the resources of the West Business Development Center, which she has frequented since its inception. Another helpful resource for Erica has been Mendocino County Supervisor Dan Gjerde, who notified her about the future Great Redwood Trail being planned, “turning rail into trail.” Erica’s current motto is “Onward and Upward.”

Local Government/Business Organizations

Over breakfast at local favorite Home Style Café, Mendocino County Supervisor Dan Gjerde emphasized that he wants to “try to get the word out” about County housing incentives. These consist of a single-family home (no cap in size other than what’s supported by water and waste and setback requirements) as well as a second unit that can be rented out (capped at 1,200 sq. ft. – equivalent to a pre1980-built Fort Bragg house). In addition, a detached bedroom is allowed that’s associated with other units or a cottage without kitchen (as long as the sewer doesn’t have to be expanded) and a one-bedroom second unit (junior accessory of maximum 500 ft.) with efficiency kitchen (no gas or large oven, but microwave and stovetop would be OK).

Dan acknowledged that “we live in a world that’s driven by market forces…with a fairly high cost of housing construction.” In order to build a municipal water system (like Westport), communities would have to tax themselves and complete financial needs with grants, as it would need a significant infusion of funds.

Mendocino County applies for Community Development Block Grants, according to Dan, but has to compete with other small communities due to its smaller size (in comparison with the City of Santa Rosa, which regularly gets a grant every year). Open to suggestions for improvement, Dan invites feedback from local community members at gjerde@mendocinocounty.org.

Upcoming Business Workshops

Following are opportunities to further your professional development on the Coast.

  • April 11, 7:30 a.m.Building a Team, panel discussion with Becky Parrish (Eggheads Restaurant), Christie Olson Day (Gallery Bookshop), and Susie Plocher (Sea Rock Inn) at Coast Women in Business (Caspar)
  • April 16, 5:30 p.m.Optimize Your Cash Flow and Lower Your Expenses, with Steve Lamb at the West Business Development Center (Fort Bragg)
  • April 23, 6 p.m.Learn the Business Basics to Turn Your Ideas into Action, with Stephen O’Mara at the West Business Development Center (Fort Bragg)

Do you have news about your business? Suggestions for future articles? Please share – we can all learn from each other.


Marinela Miclea runs Mendo Digital, a local resource for SEO, eCommerce, social media, and website optimization. She also serves as communications director for Coast Women in Business, and advisor for the West Business Development Center. Comments are welcome at hello@mendo-digital.com.


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