50+ Entrepreneurs

Backyard X-Scapes

While setting up national distribution of faux waterscape products more than 6 years ago, Jamie Kocher and Steve Raketich became convinced they could streamline the process by purchasing direct from the factories. As a result, they started Backyard X-Scapes, a landscape retailer/ wholesaler specializing in fountains, pottery, bamboo fencing, bamboo products, thatch palapas, thatch products, artificial turf, artificial rocks and rock waterfalls. 

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My Location
San Diego CA
United States
Employees
5
Year Company Formed
2003
My Successes

In need of financial planning and marketing guidance, Kocher and Raketich contacted SCORE San Diego and attended several workshops, including Internet Marketing, Small Business Marketing and Business Plan 101: How to Develop Your Competitive Advantage. The Internet Marketing workshops proved especially beneficial as the Backyard X-Scapes and their Bamboo and Tikis web sites currently account for more than 25 percent of total sales. To further expand their horizons, Backyard X-Scapes has hired an online marketing team to increase sales and awareness of the Backyard X-Scapes name. 

What's Great About My Mentor?

Kocher and Raketich received financial planning guidance from SCORE San Diego counselor Paul Hollenbach. "Paul explained how important it is to have open lines of credit for future expansion. We supply bamboo fencing, carved tikis, and faux rocks to more than 120 Home Depot stores nationwide, and when The Home Depot wants us to supply more stores, we now have the ability to finance this expansion immediately," said Kocher. "Having great cash flow and this solid line of credit has also allowed us to purchase our products in container load quantities directly from the manufacturer and sell at wholesale prices, which gives us an advantage over any and all competitors. We guarantee the lowest pricing of everything we sell, plain and simple."  
 

How SCORE Helped

Kocher and Raketich continue to use SCORE San Diego's services to stay in touch with the latest developments in the business world. Kocher states "Six months ago, Steve and I handled most aspects of the day-to-day business, but with Paul's guidance, we hired Ray Valdez as controller and general manager to solidify operations for the future. SCORE San Diego has been a great source for information and guidance. I cannot say enough good things about them and how much they have helped us."  
 
Even in the current economy, Backyard X-Scapes continues to prosper, with sales up 27 percent this year. Due to this success, Torrey Pines Bank has nominated Backyard X-Scapes for the Small Business Administration 2009 Small Business of the Year award.  

 

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.

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.”

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