Picture courtesy of mi chiel under a Creative Commons License

One of the things VEG likes to do, is to organize coworking popups for members and interested people. They’re generally quite simple: we post a date and time and a local café or coffee shop on our Facebook page.  When the event arrives, everyone who is interested is welcome to show up, just for an hour or for however long you want to stay.  No need for reservations, you just get yourself your drink of choice and start working and when you get hungry you order yourself some food.

Why coworking?

Because working alone, in your home office or from your kitchen table can get lonely. Because going outside and being in public spaces can be grounding. Because having colleagues is valuable, even if you only see them for a morning every week. Because it is important to have people in your life that know what it’s like to be self-employed, to freelance or to work remotely. Because having people to share your stories with is awesome. Because other people also have clients and deadlines and negotiations and we will listen.

 When and where?

That depends. We organize coworking popups based on our own needs and schedules in locations that are close to us and that welcome people that stick around for a while. We try to rotate days and times to ensure that different people are not excluded if they have fixed commitments. All our members (and you’re pretty much a member the moment you decide you’d like to be one) are welcome to organize coworking popups. Just let us know the date, time and location and we’ll post the event on our page.  Then, you just show up and hope others do too.

Want to see when we will next meet for a coworking popup? Look at our Facebook group here.

berkeley trailing professionals social TRANSPARENT backgroundNOTE: Come to the Trailing Professionals Social
on 12th December!

We’re having a meetup with cocktails and we’d love for you to join us. It’s an opportunity to connect with likeminded people and learn more about career opportunities for spouses and partners.

FlickrCC image by Marya

FlickrCC image by Marya

Not everybody wants to work from home. For that matter, not everybody can. Part of the process behind getting a business license in Albany involves getting the permission of your landlord, if you plan to work in a rented home. There are various reasons why you or your landlord might prefer that your business be conducted elsewhere:

  • Sometimes, liability risks are at play. For example, if you’re preparing food there are laws governing the safety and hygiene of your work space. Premises outside the home are often easier to keep up to the required standards.

  • Maybe you need a space for consulting with clients. Your home might not be an appropriate setting, and not all landlords are happy for a property to be used this way. You might want to be located in a particular area to make things easier for your clients or to enhance your reputation.

  • It can be difficult to work at home, especially if your energy is being divided between different responsibilities. Having a separate premises for work can help you to focus. Similarly, it can be difficult to relax at home if you are constantly surrounded by work. Leaving work behind in the office can be a good way of managing stress.

  • Having a space to meet other entrepreneurs can help you to get access to valuable resources and expose you to more business opportunities. It’s also less lonely when you have other people around all the time.

  • You might have to regularly receive mail as part of your work, and not want to use your home address for security reasons. Or, you could need to know that packages will be delivered safely even if you are out doing something else.

There are lots of options out there when it comes to renting desk space, and I’m going to focus on the kind of spaces where you could, theoretically, walk in tomorrow and immediately get started. They range from the simple to the luxurious, and this list is just a few examples of the kind of things that are available reasonably close to University Village.

FlickrCC image by John Morgan

FlickrCC image by John Morgan

Arty spaces

There are lots of art studios in our part of town, and some of them are used by mixed groups of people doing different things that require some space to be loud and messy. For example, Transmissions is a little red building across the street from McDonalds which houses an eclectic group of artists and designers, with some fairly impressive workshop facilities. The last time I went to speak to them they didn’t have any space available, but if you drop off your business card they will let you know if and when something frees up.  Further south, the Kala institute is renting out studio space, and then of course there’s the Crucible in Oakland if you don’t mind travelling.


Kala studio space is $300/month unless you have a residency or fellowship with them. Access to studios at The Crucible starts at $125/month, but renting a studio space of your own costs $625.


If you’re a maker, an artist space might be an ideal way for you to get access to workshop equipment. Spending time around artists opens up possibilities for collaborative work, and can be a good way of learning about opportunities for funding and exposure. I’m not an artist, but I’ve rented desk space in art studios before, and found it very creatively stimulating.


Art collectives are sometimes selective about who they admit to their spaces. The cost of an entire studio will be high, so if you only need a small amount of space then this might not be the way forward — though it’s possible that someone might want to rent you a table in their studio to subsidise their own costs. Some art studios rent out their premises for events; depending on the situation this could potentially interfere with your practice.

FlickrCC image by William Hock

FlickrCC image by William Hock

Startup spaces

You don’t have to commute to SoMa to find tech people to cowork with, but startup spaces are hard to find among the bungalows of Albany. Downtown Berkeley has some more offerings; Sandbox Suites and Impact Hub both offer coworking spaces tailored to the needs of those of us working in digital media, software development and internet stuff — complete with inspiring talks, empowerment workshops and networking events. For a cheaper and more down-to-earth option you could go a little further down Martin Luther King Way to the super friendly Sharespace@Ashby.


For desk space, Sandbox starts at $175/mo for unlimited off-peak access; Impact Hub starts at $70 for ten hours’ desk use per month; and you can use Sharespace@Ashby for three days a week for $100/month. All offer cheaper packages for services that don’t involve regular desk access, so check the websites for details.


This is an easy way to get started, and depending on what kind of business you have, the networking opportunities could be priceless. Tend to have coffee on tap, which may or may not be important to you (it’s very important to me).


Memberships start to get expensive when you want to use a desk every day, especially if you would like to leave things behind overnight. Each place offers different things in its price structure, so be careful to compare what you get for your dollar.

FlickrCC by Victor1558

FlickrCC by Victor1558

Executive suites

Business centers provide professional environments and a wide range of services — they’ll not only rent you an office suite in a swish high-rise building, but take care of some of your admin tasks too. Regus is one of the most well-known providers, and has locations in Emeryville and Oakland. Their packages are built for small- to medium-size companies operating internationally; one of the most impressive things they offer is the ability to walk into any of the 1,500 Regus branches anywhere in the world and request office space for the day. Da Vinci in Oakland offers many of the same things, with branches across the US.


Pricing is complicated; Regus will give you a quote based on your needs, and Da Vinci charges on a modular basis.


If you’re looking for an impressive location to meet clients, this is probably the answer: fully-serviced offices in shiny downtown buildings. If you regularly need help with admin work, membership to one of these plans could be a real timesaver.


Given that their pricing is so opaque, it’s safe to say that this is not the cheap option. You’ll have to pay travel costs too: their fancy city-centre locations are unlikely to be close to home.

berkeley trailing professionals social TRANSPARENT background


VEG is cooperating with the Partners @ Berkeley LinkedIn group to set up a networking event for career and entrepreneurship minded trailing spouses and partners connected with UC Berkeley. If you are interested in meeting other professionals supporting their loved ones in their work or study at UC Berkeley, then you are invited to come and join us for drinks on December 12.

More information and tickets are available under the link .


In order to legally own and operate a business anywhere in the city of Albany, you need a Business License.

If you want to run this business from your home, you need an additional permit: the Home Occupation Permit. In this post I’ll tell you how I went about obtaining both the permit and the license.

Once I had figured out that I needed these two documents, I spent some time looking around the website that the city of Albany has. Under the header ‘Doing Business’, I found the content I needed. As it turns out, there are different types of licenses for different types of businesses.

Occupy Home!

If, like me, you will be working from your home, you will need the Home Occupation Permit. The process of getting this permit is relatively straightforward. First, read the regulations for these permits here, and see if the business you plan on running does not violate any of these regulations. Then, click here to download the form to request the permit.

Screenshot of a fragment of the actual form.

If you own your home, you will need to know if your home is a condominium. If it is, then you are a member of a Home Owners Association [HOA]. A representative of the HOA needs to sign the form with which you request the permit. You don’t live in a condominium? Cool, you can sign your own application and submit it.

Do you rent? In that case, the owner of your place (the landlord) will need to sign your application. The best way to obtain that signature is to fill out the entire form, but hold off on signing it. Then hand it off to your landlord. When they have signed it, take the form – still unsigned by you – to the Albany City Hall (1000 San Pablo Avenue).

Once you’re there, pay the fee (I paid $70), sign the form and hand it in.

The Actual License

In order to get the Business License that goes along with your Home Occupation Permit, you need to present yourself in person at the Albany City Hall. Now that’s convenient, because you needed to give these people your Home Occupation Permit anyway. So, walk up to the window that says ‘Finance and Administrative Services’ and tell them why you’re there.

They will provide you with a sign-off sheet, which instructs you to get three different signatures. One from the Fire Department, one from Community Development and Environment Services and the last one from Building Inspection.

Two of the three signatures you need, you can get by simply moving over to the next window in the city hall building. There you will find both Building Inspection and Community Development and Environment Services.

NB: It is possible that the person who does building inspections is not in, but his colleagues will happily tell you when he is in and how to reach him to make sure you get your signature as soon as possible. They will not let you leave your form behind for him, you keep in mind that you may have to make two trips. Helpful rumor: Your best bet is to go in early in the morning.

The third signature was my favourite one. It takes you to the Fire Department, which is just around the corner from the city hall. Again, explain why you are there, then answer a few questions about your apartment regarding smoke detectors and such. In order to get a signature from one of the firefighters, you will likely have to sign a declaration in return, stating that you have photoelectric smoke alarms and a fire extinguisher in your apartment.

With the third signature now on your list, go back to the first window in the city hall builing. There, pay the fee for the business license itself. This fee is $256 for a full year, but since 2013 is almost over already, you’ll only pay a fraction of that amount.

All set

A few weeks later, you will received the license in the mail. All is well that ends well. Until January, that is, because that’s when everybody needs to get their license renewed.

Pro-tip: Keep your receipts and file the costs as business expenses.

Hello VEG!

Here I am. I currently live in the University Village in Albany, California with my partner, who is a graduate student at UC Berkeley. We moved here in July 2013 from my home country, The Netherlands. We knew that when we came to the United States, my partner would devote all his time to studying. While previously we both worked full-time jobs, I alone would now be responsible for bringing in all income for our family. Hello, pressure!

I better start making money, or else this will be all we eat for a very long time.

Fertile soil?

Before we came to the United States I worked for a Dutch publishing company where I wrote and edited textbooks, developed online learning tools and assessments, exams and tests. I started looking at the San Francisco Bay Area job market a few months before we left and quickly learned that a fair amount of my skill and expertise was too specific to The Netherlands to make me a perfect fit for an American company. Still, I did a lot of work in the field of English as a second language and routinely wrote, edited and translated Dutch and English texts. Surely there would be an employer who would see the use in that?

The tools of my trade.

The week before we got on the airplane to San Francisco, I sent out my first job application. A little over a week after that airplane landed, I sent out the second. Then set a rule: every week I had to apply to a minimum of six jobs. Many of these applications I never heard back from, which I found very frustrating and demoralizing.

After several weeks of writing chipper-souding letters and doggedly tweaking resumes, I received a positive response. It followed out of a rather unassuming Craigslist ad in which an agency requested speakers of Dutch to work on a project. I sent the agency my resume and they sent me information on the project. When I visited the client this agency had dispatched me to, I began looking into what to do with the money I would make.

VEG roots

So, I had the papers that allow me to work. I found a client and got a first project. All good to go, right? Except that I had no idea about taxes, social security payments and whether I was doing things legally. While I was somewhat familiar with freelance work in The Netherlands, I had not looked into self-employment in the United States. So when my first US client offered me my first assignment, I set out on a long process of internet searches to get my plans off the ground.

Photo by PT Money under a Creative Commons License.

During the same period, I went to a meeting of the Village Resident Association and joined a meeting of the Berkeley Spouse Partner Association. During these meetings I learned two things:

#1 many people struggle with their financial situation while they or their family members study at UC Berkeley

#2 there are many clubs and associations, but none focus on self-employment

When I spoke up, asking about a way to meet other (future) entrepreneurs, I was told there had been talk of starting such a group, but that it had never happened. The meeting was barely over when I was approached by Zoya Street and Eiko Kielty. They told me that they were both very interested in setting up a group for entrepreneurs. We agreed to meet again to explore what we could start with. We exchanged some e-mails, drank some coffee and came up with the concept of VEG: a group for people somehow connected to UC Berkeley who are currently entrepreneurs or are looking to become entrepreneurs. While the name of the University Village is prominent in our name, other UC Berkeley affilliated entrepreneurs are also welcome.

A budding venture indeed

As already mentioned in the official opening post of the VEG blog, VEG is very much a new group. There are many plans and many ambitions and with the help of you, we hope to see many of them come to fruition.

As my business grows, I hope to see VEG grow alongside it. I hope that VEG can provide a place where we can share our knowledge and combine our forces, where we can support each other, spend time together and benefit from what each of us has learned.

IMG_0218My business card has a lot of words on it.

Design historian, games writer, art technologist, researcher… it’s a bit of a mess. I got them printed a year ago. Since then, I’ve been more or less succeeding at directing that eclectic jumble of freelance jobs and creative projects into something resembling a career.

I get paid to write about video games — sometimes that’s through contract work, and sometimes it’s through entrepreneurial ventures such as crowdfunded projects and digital content start-ups. I’ve self-published a book about the Dreamcast (a games console released in 1999), I work for various outlets as a correspondent journalist, and I am Deputy Editor at business site Gamesbrief.

All of my writing is an investigation into how economic and technological change is affecting the way we live and work; and how ordinary people like you and me can influence that change.

I really love coworking

coworkingBefore moving to University Village, my partner and I lived in one small room in somebody else’s house. It was manageable, though I really hated living under someone else’s house rules. One thing that helped me to cope was renting a desk in a cheap coworking space five minutes walk away. It got me out of the house, and allowed me to connect with other people while working in a foreign country.

Coworking spaces are a relatively new phenomenon, but already they come in different shapes and sizes; from the lush, expensive, all-inclusive packages of Regus suites to something altogether more approachable. The space I used to rent fit in the latter category, and it was perfect for me. It was affordable, friendly, and had drip coffee on tap. People who didn’t want to make small talk used headphones, and the rest of us chatted about the frustrations of web technologies and shared advice on marketing and social media in between getting work tasks done.

I really miss coworking

When we moved up to Albany, I knew I couldn’t afford to rent a coworking space anymore. That’s not a major problem; for the first time in my life I have an actual living room, and I’m perfectly happy using it as a work space. Still, I quickly felt sad no longer having anybody to talk to. I’m no more focused in the quiet little haven of this lovely new apartment than I was in that friendly coworking space, because I just end up trying to use Twitter to satisfy my social needs.

Sat alone at my desk, I started pondering; surely there are dozens of other people in the village who feel the same way? There must be lots of people working from home, who would like to occasionally share a work space. How do I find them?

The Village Entrepreneur Group is a way of reaching out. It’s a chance for us to find each other and create more supportive conditions together. Those supportive conditions will include a weekly coworking date, but it encompasses so much more. It’s a way for entrepreneurs in the village to share information and help each other to get professional advice on the myriad challenges that face home businesses. Confused about taxes and immigration? So am I! Let’s go and find help on that together, and share resources with others who may also need them.

FlickrCC image by Girlingearstudio

FlickrCC image by Girlingearstudio

University Village Albany is never empty. Yet if you work from home while your partner is on campus, you know that things can easily get lonely around here. Those quiet apartments are somehow too quiet.

Running a home business can be fun and rewarding, but it brings a lot of challenges, especially if you are new to America and unfamiliar with its bureaucracy. You might be wondering how other people in the village navigate this confusing terrain.

The Village Entrepreneur Group (VEG) is a new resident-led initiative that aims to support home businesses. With coworking opportunities and monthly roundtable discussions, we hope to help you to build connections with other entrepreneurs, and learn how to run a successful independent business in California.

We need your input. Do you want to help shape VEG’s growth? Get in touch via email or on Facebook.