Starting a Business

O'Brien Financial Planning

We are a small financial planning firm focused on individuals, families and small businesses. We have a focus on comprehensive financial planning and institutional investment management for individuals as well as qualified plans for small businesses – 401(k)s and profit sharing plans. I started this business after eighteen years as a senior leader at GE, in a number of businesses
and industries.

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Owner/Founder
David J. O’Brien
My Location
3761 Westerre Parkway, Suite C
Richmond VA 23233
United States
My Successes

We have a focus on comprehensive financial planning and institutional investment management for individuals as well as qualified plans for small businesses – 401(k)s and profit sharing plans. I started this business after eighteen years as a senior leader at GE, in a number of businesses
and industries.

What's Great About My Mentor?

Right off the bat, I learned how my corporate experience was only partially applicable to my new business. My counselors provided me with critical assistance in filling my knowledge gaps.
I was very fortunate to have been given two counselors at SCORE, Shelly Shapiro, who had significant corporate experience and was a past SCORE chapter president, and Fred Esposito, who had experience in my industry. Both were very experienced counselors and combined to give me support and guidance I couldn’t find anywhere else. One thing that really set SCORE apart from the myriad of “business coaches” out there was the personal nature of the coaching I received. These gentlemen really wanted to learn about my business and deliver the advice that was appropriate for me. I saw a lot of businesses ready to sell me a packaged solution, but never got the impression they were aligned with my best interest the way SCORE is.
Perhaps the most important guidance I received from Shelly was that a new business like mine needed a plan that focused on the first one to three years. I showed up with a business plan that had a five year outlook, and a ten year outlook, like we always did at GE. That advice is one of the things I point to when I identify early milestones in this business.

How SCORE Helped

When I was first starting out, as many entrepreneurs know, it was pretty lonely. I didn’t have much business, so I had time to plan the business, but also time to worry about the prospects for success. Shelly and Fred were excellent cheerleaders for me. They helped put things in perspective, and keep me focused on the progress I had made – measuring that progress was extremely important to keeping forward momentum. I needed unbiased feedback and support, and they certainly gave me both.
They also delivered tough messages I needed to hear, helped me get out of my own way when it came to conquering fears of developing my business. While I don’t view sales as my core competency, they made it clear that I had to get out there and sell myself and my business in order to grow. Without their well-placed advice, I would have had a much tougher time growing my business in the early days. I still rely on that advice every week.
Even after the first year of the business came to a close, I felt like the coaching I received from my SCORE counselors was important. While they had helped me identify critical success factors early on, my challenges were changing, and their insight and candid feedback was still important.

Memphis Best BBQ-National SCORE Success Story

As a young man I started researching how to write a successful business plan and what you need to get going. Several years before I retired from the Marine Corps, I relocated to Peoria Arizona. I had heard from several friends in Okinawa, Japan, that Phoenix was the new place to be and that it was growing faster than any other state.

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My Location
Buckeye AZ 85326
United States
My Successes

So I decided to take a trip to the area from Japan and check out the real estate. It caught my eyes and so my decision was to sell my condo in California and purchase in Peoria. I moved my family to Peoria and remained in California to f inish out my term. Doing this time I was zeroing in on my dream. I continued working on my business plan and attending numerous business classes and seminars offer in San Diego, California. Every time people would ask what type of business I was opening and I mentioned BBQ, their eyes would light up.

What's Great About My Mentor?

This was my personal reward for all my hard efforts and it has paid off. My restaurant is doing great and we are approaching the one year mark. Thanks to Jim Batz and all of you at SCORE and Marva Booker at Wells Fargo Bank. It's God that knows I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for these great people. 

How SCORE Helped

Goodyear had a SCORE Counselor. I called and made an appointment and met Mr. Jim Batz. I remember that day very well because of his face and his look as I introduced myself. I think he immediately felt sincere about my business plan and immediately went to work counseling me on my vision and what I needed to do before going to a bank. This was a well-executed effort for over two years working with Jim. My last meeting with Jim was simple, “Okay, what else do you need from me”, were his words. “I think you are well on your way. Keep
me informed.” I also attended the Self Employment Loan Fund course at Glendale Community College.

Unkle Timz Salsa

For more than 15 years, Tim Blake had been making homemade salsa for himself, family and friends. Over the years, people became more outspoken about how great his salsas were. Tim realized he might have something special. He did not share his recipes or processes. With much encouragement and support, Tim decided to go after his dream of running his own business.

My Successes

Tim consulted with Newark SCORE who helped him develop a business plan and made sure he had all the necessary licenses, insurance and inspections. Tim found a commercial kitchen and began his quest. He made his first commercial batch August 13, 2007. The salsa, produced under the name “Unkle Timz” Gourmet Salsa, is made in small batches weekly so it will always be fresh and just like homemade.

How SCORE Helped

A slow start was followed by steady growth. Continued growth and promising sales have recently allowed Tim to take another step; securing his own commercial cannery.

His goal, for the time being, is to offer quality, fresh, all natural, gourmet salsa in the central Ohio area. Unkle Timz salsa is available in 16 varieties and can be found in local farmer’s markets and restaurants,  as well as a number of stores. It can also be purchased on line at www.unkletimz.com .

Tim says: I am thankful to SCORE for encouragement and helping me get started properly. By helping me avoid some of the typical startup pitfalls, I was able to keep moving in a positive direction. I know that, if further growth allows me to pursue my dream to higher levels, SCORE will be there to help and guide me.

FoxTale Book Shoppe

Ellen Ward had run an ad agency for 18 years. Jackie Tanase had worked as a corporate paralegal. Karen Schwettman was a freelance interior designer. All three shared a lifelong passion for writing, books and independent bookstores.

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Owner/Founder
Ellen Ward, Jackie Tanase, Karen Schwettman
My Location
105 East Main Street, #138
Atlanta GA 30188
United States
Year Company Formed
2007
My Successes

The trio thought back to the encounter with the fox near Denver and decided that “fox tale” would make a great name for their new bookstore. Since opening in June 2007, FoxTale Book Shoppe has been embraced by the community. The mayor of Woodstock declared opening day “FoxTale Book Shoppe Day.”

“It’s amazing how much the bookstore has helped bring about a sense of community,” Karen says. Jackie adds, “We greet our customers as they come in and try to make them feel welcome. We’ve made friends, and you know just what they need the more you get to know them.”

In addition to books, the store also sells greeting cards, knickknacks and writing tools. “Our customers can get things they can’t buy anywhere else,” Ellen says. “We’ve also been in just about every publication in the Atlanta area, including the Atlanta Journal, Atlanta magazine and the Fox 5 morning show.” They also reach out to job fairs and local schools, and even talked about being an entrepreneur with students at Woodstock Middle School.

When the final Harry Potter book was printed, they held a party in the gazebo across from their store and more than 100 people showed up. “When we opened the boxes at midnight, the people rushed in, bought their books, and rushed out,” Jackie says.

Ellen, Jackie and Karen are proud of their growing business. “An independent bookstore puts money back into the community and not back into a corporation,” Ellen says. “We support the community, and it instills a sense of ownership in our customers.”

The three continue to receive mentoring and advice from Atlanta SCORE and Hooper Wesley. “SCORE will shine helping people who wouldn’t go into business without a strong support base,” Karen says.

What's Great About My Mentor?

"SCORE mentor Hooper Wesley said, what a great idea, this could work. It really encouraged us. He was with us every step of the way. He even went to meetings with us at the bank. SCORE will shine helping people who wouldn’t go into business without a strong support base." says Karen Schwettman, co-owner, FoxTale Book Shoppe, Woodstock, GA.

Hooper formerly worked for the governor’s office and he has a lot of experience in financing and the government. Last year, Atlanta SCORE clients secured more than $1.5 million in SBA-backed loans. Hooper’s clients account for almost half that amount. “If he gets excited about a client, he goes to the nth degree,” says Atlanta SCORE Vice Chair.

“We told Hooper our idea and concept,” Karen says. “He said, what a great idea, this could work. It really encouraged us.” Hooper began working with them on their business plan. “He was with us every step of the way,” she adds. “He even went to meetings with us at the bank.”

How SCORE Helped

SCORE will shine helping people who wouldn’t go into business without a strong support base.

Patriot Taxiway Industries Succeeds By Using Advice From SCORE Mentor

Kevin McDermott and Steven Smits originally intended to operate a small company producing aviation lighting systems. They soon grew their business when only 20 months into operations, the company was awarded a $7.7 million contract from the Air Force to supply lighting at 28 bases. Kevin, vice president of business development, says, he and Steve, the president of the company who is a service-disabled veteran, made a conscious decision to hire veterans for the workforce they’d need to meet the contract.

Attending meetings at their local SCORE chapter, Kevin and Steven met with Milwaukee mentor Joan Burke for small business help.

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Owner/Founder
Kevin McDermott and Steven Smits
My Location
290 Pleasant Hill Road
Lomira WI 53048
United States
Employees
10
Year Company Formed
2007
My Successes

"There was an awful lot we didn't know" about starting a business, Kevin says. They must have learned a lot quickly, because Patriot Taxiway Industries received the 2010 SCORE Award for Outstanding Veteran-owned Business.

What's Great About My Mentor?

Attending meetings at their local SCORE chapter, Kevin and Steven met with Milwaukee counselor Joan Burke, and they were given checklists to understand what it takes to start a small business and to understand what they'd be up against.

How SCORE Helped

SCORE, Kevin says, gave them the framework to ask the right questions that would help them succeed regarding banks, liability insurance, marketing to the federal government. "In the military, we have a role, we have a task. The environment doesn't bother us; we fix airplanes," Kevin says. "It's different when we have to go out and hire people."

Education

Kevin and Steven each have more than 20 years’ experience in the Air Force National Guard. They met in 1988 and have been deployed together all over the world including Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq, Kosovo and Somalia. Nevertheless, Kevin calls starting a small business one of the most challenging, albeit rewarding, things he’s ever done.

With Kevin's background in electrical engineering and optical design, and Steven's in avionics manufacturing, the two had strong credentials for producing their aviation lighting systems, which makes lighting systems for aviation customers, from the overhead lights in an airplane cabin, to the runway and anti-collision lights utilized by airports.

SCORE Mentor Advises Just Like Family Home Care Towards Success

Two women co-workers and friends, Nikole Stillman and Elisabeth Nassberg, decided it was time to take their expertise and open their own private-duty home care business. After researching several markets, Nikole, Elisabeth and Elisabeth's husband, Jacob, settled on Naples.

To help acclimate them to the new market and get their business started, the young entrepreneurs turned to Naples SCORE mentor Chick Heithaus. Other SCORE mentors helped them develop advertising and marketing, and look for additional financing sources. "It was a match made in heaven," says Elisabeth. "They were there with us in the very beginning stages."

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Owner/Founder
Nikole Stillman, Jacob Stillman & Elisabeth Nassberg
My Location
Naples FL
United States
Employees
4
Year Company Formed
2006
My Successes

"We utilized some SCORE mentoring sessions to move forward, even if it was not as quickly as we had planned; we had to adjust our business strategy to keep up with the economy," says Elisabeth.

Through it all, Nikole, Elisabeth and Jacob continue to give back to the community, both monetarily and with their own time. "When we first moved here to start the business, the YMCA was the best child care in town," says Nikole.

Recognized as the YMCA's Volunteers of the Year in 2009, Nikole says there are about 20 different programs there the three of them are involved in. Just Like Family Home Care is the recipient of the 2010 SCORE Award for Outstanding Woman-owned Business.

What's Great About My Mentor?

"Even with all my business background, I really needed someone to help bounce things off of. (SCORE was) there with us in the very beginning stages. SCORE Counselor Chick Heithaus always came up with ideas."

—Elisabeth Nassberg, co-owner, Just Like Family Home Care

How SCORE Helped

Unfortunately, soon after Just Like Family Home Care was founded, the economy floundered, and Nikole, Elisabeth and Jacob needed to adapt. They turned to SCORE again to help them be successful in a tough economy.

National Small Business Week 2011

Date
Mon, 2011-02-14 19:42

National Business Week, May 16-20, recognizes the contributions of small businesses to the economic well-being of America. In 2010, National Business Week will honor the estimated 27.2 million small businesses in America.  Learn more about National Small Business Week 2011.

Mountain Glory Creations Succeeds With Help From SCORE Mentor

www.mountainglorycreations.com

Jan Seale and Bob Brandenburger had big plans for their retirement years--travel, visits to family members, and perhaps a small business that would provide some extra income without cramping their newfound freedom.

But just ten days before bidding farewell to the nine-to-five routine, an automobile accident restricted Jan’s mobility for several months.

Suddenly faced with more down time than they’d expected, Jan and Bob began experimenting with their new digital camera.  They photographed the scenic natural beauty and architecture near their Charlottesville, Va., home, and used their home computer and printer to create note cards for friends.  As the distinctive note cards got around, Jan and Bob began receiving more and more requests for additional sets.

“This looked like the interesting and flexible business opportunity we had hoped to find,” Jan says of the enterprise they named Mountain Glory Creations.  “However, both of us had been public-sector administrators.  We had a lot to learn about running a small business.”

 

My Location
Charlottesville VA 22903
United States
Employees
2
Year Company Formed
2003
My Successes

SCORE’s counseling and seminars have helped Jan and Bob grow Mountain Glory Creations at a comfortable pace. Their regular appearances at the summer Charlottesville City Market have led to new products such as prints, calendars and computer screensavers, as well as commissions to photograph area homes, farms, restaurants and vineyards.  The couple also learned how to create a web site that exposes their products to an even wider market.

What's Great About My Mentor?

 “Steve Cooper introduced us to a number of marketing paths, and how to evaluate their potential value to our business.  He also gave me tips for approaching store owners about selling our cards, which was important since I’m not a natural salesperson.” says Bob.

Cooper also offered suggestions managing large influxes of orders, and cost- and labor-saving measures such as using an area printer for some of the more popular note cards.

How SCORE Helped

Jan and Bob discovered that the local chapter of SCORE offered a series of low-cost seminars for new and prospective entrepreneurs.  While the formal presentations gave the couple valuable information about business planning, financial management and other start-up issues, SCORE Counselor Steve Cooper provided free advice on specific aspects of their business idea.

Jan and Bob have a ready answer to anyone who admires their success and expresses interest in getting a business started.  “We send them all to SCORE,” Jan says, “and we’re pleased to hear that many have indeed called them.”

New-Age Preparatory Academy Finds Success With SCORE Mentor

Tanya and Chris Furlow had a passion to create a quality day-care center in their community.  This husband-and-wife team planned to combine their talents, Tanya bringing her experience in childcare and Chris his experience in building renovation.

In 2005, they came to SCORE seeking advice on how to develop a business plan for their day-care facility.  However, their plan required a substantial amount of money since they wanted to purchase a building on a spacious lot. Their primary counselor was Kisoon Park who introduced another SCORE counselor, John Costello, to help them with the financial section of the business plan.

www.newageprep.com

Owner/Founder
Tanya and Chris Furlow
My Location
8938 S Cottage Grove Ave
Chicago IL 60619
United States
Employees
16
Year Company Formed
2006
My Successes

Their loan application was approved later that year, which Tanya and Chris attribute to the strength of the business plan that SCORE helped them develop.  They believe that in-depth demographic research combined with detailed competitive analysis for each and every day-care center in their target market was a key to their success in obtaining the loan.

Building and facility renovation took almost two years to complete, and the New-Age Preparatory Academy opened its doors in late 2007. 

Tanya and Chris’s strong business plan, close teamwork and meticulous execution paid off.  New-Age has already opened a second location and total enrollment in their academy reached over eighty children by late 2010.

What's Great About My Mentor?

“SCORE counseling helped us in doing detailed market studies with emphasis on competitive analysis," say Tanya and Chris. "This enabled us to develop business strategies that separate us from the competition and, most importantly, helped us in securing the building loan.  Working with SCORE counselors over a period of time helped us in the successful implementation of our business plan.”

Fast Bags Corporation Raves About SCORE

“There has to be a better way.” That’s what Jack Licata used to think during his days as a U.S. Air Force missile officer.

Owner/Founder
Jack Licata
My Location
Basking Ridge NJ
United States
My Successes

On his mandatory monthly day of office duty, the chore he least looked forward to was emptying the trash. “It was both messy and inefficient having to dump the bins and replace liners,” Jack says

Following his discharge in 1988, Jack pursued several successful careers, first in truck sales, then as head of an environmental company that recycled auto oil filters, antifreeze and motor oil. But the idea of handling trash more efficiently stayed in the back of his mind. He frequently watched the problems encountered by fast-food workers when they emptied the large bins found in most restaurants. As the father of two young children, he also understood the hassles and potential messes that came with getting the trash ready for pick-up in the home.

By 2006, Jack was ready to devote more attention to the product, which he called Bag Ups. The biggest challenge—raising awareness of Bag Ups among his target commercial and retail markets—would require a more sophisticated marketing and distribution strategy. That’s when he decided to contact New York City SCORE.

What's Great About My Mentor?

One of the first things SCORE Counselor Elliott Merberg encouraged Jack to do was to focus on his business plan for Bag Ups. “It not only crystallized my thinking but made it easier to explain my idea to the outside world,” Jack says. “Over the next several months, I’d refine the plan and share it with Elliott, who would always give me new things to think about.”

Elliott also kept urging Jack to think of ways to get the product to market as quickly as possible.  “His mantra was ‘Get it out there,’” Jack says.  “I gained so much confidence from that because I know he sees a lot of ideas—some good, others not so good. For him to give that kind of support and say I have a good product was a tremendous boost.”

Jack’s strategy included visiting a Chicago housewares trade show, where he gave a presentation on Bag Ups before a panel of purchasing agents.  That led to a spot on the QVC cable shopping network and instant exposure for Bag Ups to complement his Web site.

Jack is working on taking Bag Ups to the next level, including getting the product into a broader range of stores and establishing links with Web sites that promote green products.  Elliott is helping Jack craft a proposal for a regional supermarket.  SCORE Counselor Howard Geltzer, whose experience includes promoting the Sony Walkman, is advising him on a marketing campaign that may include producing a 60-second TV commercial.

“I wasn’t a neophyte when it came to starting a business, but everybody needs to think outside the box,” Jack says. “And the only way to do that is to have someone from outside take a look at what you do. That’s what the people at SCORE do best. The level and breadth of their expertise is great.  Even if you’ve done all this before, they’ll give you insights and ideas that you might never have thought of.”

How SCORE Helped

I wasn’t a neophyte when it came to starting a business, but everybody needs to think outside the box. And the only way to do that is to have someone from outside take a look at what you do. That’s what the people at SCORE do best. Even if you’ve done all this before, they’ll give you insights and ideas that you might never have thought of.

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