Jayme Powers admits she doesn't "work well at desks."
Powers, 31, this month opened her own business, Sigh, a champagne and sparkling wine tasting bar off the Sonoma Plaza.
A native Sonoman, Powers was working at a winery and a restaurant until she left to launch her own business. She is the company's sole staffer, opening the shop six days a week, greeting customers, paying the bills and stocking the bubbly from both local wineries and producers around the world.
The best parts of her new endeavor, she said, are engaging with customers and "just the independence, knowing that it's mine, that it's my baby."
Powers has joined the ranks of the self-employed, a sizable part of the Sonoma County workforce. Economists and other experts expect more people to join her as the economy improves.
Self-employed workers in Sonoma County accounted for nearly $2 billion of the county's $22 billion in gross output in 2010, according to data published recently by the U.S. Census Bureau.
"What it generates to the economy is serious money and job opportunity," said Gene Fairbrother, a spokesman for the National Association of the Self-Employed in Washington, D.C.
Sonoma County has a slightly higher proportion of self-employed workers than most places. Roughly 35,000 people, or 15 percent of the county's workers, are self-employed, compared with 12 percent statewide and 10 percent across the United States, according to Census estimates.
Precise numbers are difficult to measure. The size of the self-employed workforce would be considerably larger if you include people who work in full- and part-time payroll jobs but also run their own side businesses to bring in extra income. And the Census Bureau cautions that its estimate of self-employed workers in the county could be off by 5,400 people, higher or lower.
The self-employed belong to the larger group of "microbusinesses" that make up the majority of the nation's enterprises. Roughly 55 percent of U.S. businesses employ fewer than five workers and nearly three-fourths have fewer than 10, according to Census data.
Among such small companies is TeamLogic IT, a Santa Rosa franchise that offers computer network support to small and medium businesses.
Its owners, Steve and Nicki Hinch, started looking to start a business after Steve Hinch decided to retire in 2009 as a longtime manager from Agilent Technologies rather than accept a job transfer to Colorado.
"Nicki told me that I needed to get a job," said Steve Hinch, 61. But he concluded his opportunities for employment in the county "were pretty much nonexistent."
The couple opened their business more than two years ago and since have expanded to employ three technicians and one part-time telemarketer.
Running their own company has given them the chance to meet many local business people, Nicki Hinch said. It also has driven home how different it is to be the people who control a company rather than its employees.
"The success of this business in 100 percent dependent on how well we do as owners," Steve Hinch said.
The largest number of the self-employed in the county work in the professional, scientific and technical sector, followed by real estate and leasing, construction and health care/social assistance.
Real estate and leasing produced the most revenue, $415 million in 2010, or about one fifth of the total generated by all the self-employed.