Mershon Enterprises is in many ways what some call a social enterprise. We are actively engaged in stimulating the local economy through a variety of direct sponsorships, event hosting, and our partnerships with MESH Cowork and Kern Innovation and Technology community. Below are just some of the stories we have to share about our work within the community.
2014 - Mesh Cowork
It all began June, 2014 with this post on Reddit.com about the local need for a coworking space. Freelance web developers Scott Burton, Tabari Brannon, and Kevin Mershon all had a common goal: provide a home for technology experts in Bakersfield. After a handful of exchanges online, the three met and coordinated on the needs of technology businesses in Bakersfield. Scott and Tabari elected to form MESH Cowork and seek to acquire property, while Kevin Mershon committed to the first 3 months of dues as a founding member and helped promote the space, recruit new members, and co-lead some of the events.
Bakersfield Ruby Meetup
During the time MESH was starting up, the first tech-oriented meetups began to get started. The Bakersfield Ruby Meetup was the first such meetup, boasting a meager 7 attendees at its first meeting and a whopping 19 at its second. Before MESH was able to open its doors, the Ruby meetup struggled with finding a venue, underscoring the need for MESH to exist. At times they were hosting at Rusty's Pizza or Wiki's Wine Bar, only to be faced with loud karaoke music and no wifi access. MESH's opening was a godsend to the Ruby meetup, and one of the reasons it continues to exist to this day. Attendance has fluctuated over the years, but the meetup is still going strong, and it wouldn't have been possible without the tenacity of MESH's founders.
2015 - Building Bakersfield
Why Not Bakersfield?
In March of 2015, The Atlantic published an focus piece Bay Area, L.A., San Diego, and ... Fresno?, wherein BitWise of Fresno was heavily promoted, with Fresno being heralded as a new beacon of hope in the central valley of California for tech enthusiasts and businesses. We decided to answer this article with our own blog entitled Why Not Bakersfield?, which led to a short series of introspectives on the opportunities and challenges that exist in Bakersfield. Performing a comparative analysis of Bakersfield to rival cities of Stockton, Fresno, and Riverside, we ultimately came to the conclusion that Bakersfield and Kern County have nothing inherently wrong with them preventing tech from flourishing, but the community needs to be louder in promoting itself.
2015 - MESH Programs
Bakersfield Startup Meetup
After MESH opened its doors, one of the earliest meetups established was the The Bakersfield Startup Meetup. Hosted by MESH co-founder Tabari Brannon, this meetup is geared toward establishing a clear path from idea to successful business. While the meetup has changed its strategy several times, from startup ideation exercises to hot seats to entrepreneurial course study, this meetup continues to be a valuable asset to the tech and business community alike.
Kids Coding Classes
In November of 2015, after the first pilot course taught by Professor Eddie Rangel of Bakersfield College (then employed by Theta Oilfield Services), Kevin Mershon took over teaching the Kids Coding Classes hosted at MESH based upon MIT Scratch. After several successful months of teaching 4-session classes of 7 or more students, the course was compressed into 2-session classes. After the winter break, online campaign efforts to draw more students were unsuccessful, indicating we'd collectively reached some kind of market saturation, so the program was ended.
2016 - Kickstart My Startup
In March 2016, Kevin Mershon decided that while the Bakersfield Startup Meetup was certainly meeting a critical need of the community, it wasn't meeting his personal needs of examining and avoiding common pitfalls once a business is established and well underway in its operation. To address this, Kevin founded the Kickstart My Startup meetup, geared to appeal to work-a-holics and late-night doers. Hosted exclusively at 10 PM on Sunday nights, Kickstart continues to this day to ask difficult questions, hold its members accountable for getting their goals accomplished, and removing the word "fear" from one's vocabulary.
2016 - Kern Innovation and Technology
In February of 2016, at a Stanford event on entrepreneurship, Alyssa Haas had a crazy idea...
Kids Drawing Contest
As its inaugural event, during March of 2016 a contest was held by KIT to draw a picture of KIT's mascot, the San Joaquin Kit Fox, "using technology." This was an open-ended challenge intended to draw out the creativity of children, and it worked exceedingly well. Mershon Enterprises contributed Amazon gift cards to the winners, and MESH Cowork hosted the award event.
Coding for the Future Sponsorship
In March, 2016 a local 4th grade teacher by the name of Sandra Johnson posted a campaign on DonorsChoose.org entitled "Coding for the Future" wherein she hoped to raise $800 for the goal of purchasing 8 Ozobot Bits for educating her classroom kids with the help of these learning robots. Mershon Enterprises found the campaign and decided to help by donating toward the cause directly, and then also promoting the campaign to local businesses.
Donations poured in from KIT, MESH Cowork, and another local tech business named The Vuln Mine, and all donations were matched by BEST School Day. Within just two days' time, the campaign was fully funded, and by the start of the next semester the kids had the robots in class to facilitate their learning.
Think Tank Tuesdays
As part of the need for the community to gain awareness of technology opportunities and local vendors and resources, it became obvious KIT would need to start hosting regular events. Stepping into the role of a trade organization, KIT started hosting recurring Think Tank Tuesdays at various businesses locations in order to bring the discussion directly to them. Each Think Tank brings a new pool of participants, new topics to discuss, and new ideas shared. Several of the Think Tanks have been attended by Bakersfield Mayor Karen Goh, and the January 2017 Think Tank hosted at The Padre Hotel was also attended by city council members Bob Smith and Andre Gonzales. Mershon Enterprises has attended and helped facilitate every KIT Think Tank to date.
To date, KIT has hosted three community-action oriented hackathons to raise awareness of local issues and to draw together talented tech-focused minds. The three events, entitled Distill Your Idea, Tech Fighting the Wildfires, and Electric Bookworm, have all centered around using technology to provide direct solutions to particular needs of the community. MESH Cowork hosted the first two hackathons, and Mershon Enterprises has been a Gold Level sponsor, judge, and coordinator at each event.
Distill Your Idea
This was a hackathon held in April of 2016, focused on alcohol safety and local events. The winning team, "What's Happening?" set out to define a locally curated list of accessible events. Read more...
Tech Fighting the Wildfires
This hackathon was held in August of 2016. The theme of the hackathon was conceived after the Erskine Fire destroyed most of South Lake, CA just up Highway 178 from Bakersfield in the Kern River Valley. The winning team "Beacon" created a fully functional mobile app to help survivors find safe shelter and send out distress beacons to the community in the event they were unable to get to safety. This event was co-sponsored by Community Action Partners of Kern and ARRC Technologies. Read more...
This hackathon was held in November of 2016 and focused on creating innovative solutions to support our local library systems. The event was hosted by California State University Bakersfield, and co-sponsored by local IT Solutions provider IDI-Tech. The winning team, "Team Goat" created a library study room scheduling prototype. This has been our largest hackathon to date, boasting 47 enrolled contestants in 7 teams. Read more...
Are you a part of the community?
With or without your business, we aim to continue doing these great things for our community. If we are the type of company you would like to support, please take a look through our testimonials and solutions, and let's do great things together.