Author Archives: mariastoop

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 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.