Persistent listening is a frequently neglected skill, both in business relationships and personal ones, but it’s crucial for mutual understanding and success. From a business standpoint, persistent listening is empathetically listening to consumers in order to learn about them, understand their sentiments and values, and put that knowledge to productive use.
By Stephen Monaco
Listening, really listening, is hard. We’re often too preoccupied by our own life situations to devote our full attention to what our spouses, family members, friends, and co-workers have to say, but failing to listen is detrimental to any relationship.
Giving a twist to the adage, "you can't teach an old dog new tricks," SCORE has as its motto: "We teach new dogs old tricks."
The "old tricks" come from seasoned business people, mainly retirees, who volunteer to offer their expertise to the next generation.
Turning your passion into a business is a fantastic endeavor, but it also includes a great deal of work and risk. Charlotte entrepreneurs don’t have to take the journey all alone. SCORE, a national nonprofit organization, offers numerous resources to support entrepreneurs.
Job losses that occurred during the recession spurred many into action as entrepreneurs. Davida Jackson is one of the many who suffered a job loss. She had experience in the communications field, but after her job loss, she didn’t take the often-traveled path toward public relations.
A checklist to make sure that your customers can find your business through all the available avenues.
If your customers can't find you then your business will fail. This eGuide from Yext and SCORE will help you make sure that you are doing everything to make it easier for your customers, current and future, to find your business. Ensure you have the correct listing on all the available platforms from Yelp! to social media. Download the Location Information Check List and don't get lost.
Small business owners are a practical bunch. So when it comes to digital marketing – websites, search ads, digital banners, email, mobile ads, and others – they approach it with a decidedly practical bent. “Generating leads and sales is very important to us,” says Jack Groot, owner of JP’s Coffee & Espresso Bar in Holland, MI. "Without real traffic and ultimately profit, there is little or no value for us in digital marketing.”
The Worcester Business Resource Alliance (WBRA) is a loose network of business professionals, technical assistance providers, lenders, and community development organizations that provide services to entrepreneurs, small business owners and managers in Central Massachusetts. Each month, representatives meet to collaborate and update each other on upcoming events. Current WBRA member organizations are outlined for the convenience of prospective clients at http://wbra.wordpress.com/organizations/.
The latest update of upcoming WBRA business events is found at http://wbra.wordpress.com/upcoming-events/.
Upon her graduation from Virginia Tech, Leslie Crews decided to upgrade her lifestyle and nutritional habits through new routines and by eliminating unhealthy elements in her diet. She began brewing kombucha as a substitute to junk-food drinks of all kinds, and began taking her bottled kombucha to potlucks, socials, and other events. It was a hit and soon she found herself receiving orders! Kombuchick: A Kombucha Bar & Microbrewery Co. was not far behind.
Kombuchick is a kombucha bar and microbrewing company. Kombucha is a nonalcoholic, probiotic fermented tea that has been touted for its numerous health benefits. Kombuchick is one of a handful of kombucha microbreweries on the east coast; one of three registered Minority and Woman- owned kombucha companies in the region; and their goal is to become the Mid Atlantic region's premier female- owned kombucha microbrewery by 2015.
They have been able to spread their message and product through vending the nonalcoholic drinks at music festivals, parties and galas, trade shows, and other avenues - key pockets in the market discovered with the help of their SCORE mentor to be strategic for telling their story and selling their brew.
Buzz is certainly building around the business; it has recently been featured on BlissTree and in Veer Magazine's "Summer Beers/ Brews to Watch For" July 2012 edition. Leslie says of this feature, “This juxtaposition of a non-alcoholic, woman-owned brewing company alongside prominent, male-dominated brewing icons was monumental for us.“
How SCORE Helped
Leslie says, “Through our relationship with our local SCORE office, we have been able to successfully set reachable yet challenging growth goals and benchmarks, have been able to expand our customer and networking base, and have helped to encourage young women in our community to follow their dreams. Kombuchick, with help from SCORE, has successfully been able to discover and fill our niche market within the urban scene of coastal Virginia, which has been the first step towards becoming the premier woman- and minority- owned kombucha company in the Mid Atlantic region.”
You might wonder what an architect is doing opening a pet daycare business. For Megan Prather, it was a classic case of identifying a problem and developing a solution that worked for herself and that she knew would work for countless others with busy schedules – a pet daycare that offered flexible hours, extensive interaction and affordable prices. The journey to launching that idea into a full-fledged business venture took over 2 years and steadfast resolve. But with the tenacity of a bulldog, Megan Prather made it happen.
You may have heard that entrepreneurs are dedicated to their ventures but Megan’s commitment goes even beyond the typical. She spent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, taking no salary throughout her first year in business. That hard work has certainly paid off.
For starters, Megan developed a robust website that helped her secure 50 client commitments before even opening the doors to the business. And business has certainly been booming ever since – Dogtown quadrupled their number of full-time employees and more than doubled their number of part-time employees in just their second year in business.
Megan also took advantage of the services offered by fellow SCORE client, Bad Girl Ventures, attending an intensive 9-week business bootcamp. Future goals for the business include adding a 24-hour veterinary service.
Dogtown was named SCORE Cincinnati Client of the Month in April 2012 and SCORE Cincinnati Client of the Year in 2012. In December 2012, Dogtown was chosen as the recipient of Sam’s Club Holiday Cheer, receiving a $1000 gift card and travel expenses to Dallas to attend a high-speed Marketing workshop.
What's Great About My Mentor?
“Working with SCORE and Dennis Murphy my SCORE Mentor has provided a foundation to help my business grow,” said Megan. “He has worked with me since December of 2009 on every aspect of my business from my business plan, to financial planning, to finding a building, to HR issues, marketing, meeting with bankers with me, to negotiating my lease, introduced me to my accountant, etc.
Frank Raeon was a great help in helping me find the right building and location for my business and helping me lease/purchase agreement terms.
Greg Noe was a great help to me with my financials and working out the terms of my Lease Purchase Agreement, and he also introduced to my attorney who has been a great help to me.”
1113 Canal St
How SCORE Helped
SCORE helped me refine a business plan and cash flow to determine if my ideas added up to a viable business. The helped figure out start-up costs, how to incorporate, how to surround myself with people whose skills compensated for the ones I did not have. As I hired an architect, a contractor, did a build-out and opened Bear Dance Boutique, SCORE was with me advising me every step of the way. They have continued to be an awesome business resource as my business expands.
Transformed an idea into reality.
Owner: Kim St. John
Only in her early 30’s, Candace Klein has quite a life story to tell. She grew up as 1 of 5 children living on welfare in a trailer park and was the first in her family to attend college, earning 4 bachelor degrees from Northern Kentucky University in just 4 years, with a 4.0 GPA. She planned to go to law school in San Diego after graduation and packed up her Geo Metro to drive across the country but was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in April 2003. The burden of treatment and medical bills delayed her goals but she was soon put in touch with Alice Sparks who sat on the Board of Regents at NKU. After a single lunch meeting, Alice agreed to pay $40,000 for her law school education that day. When asked how she could ever repay such an incredible gift, Alice simply replied, "find a way to invest in women." And Candace has done just that.
With a law degree in hand, Candace began serving clients with a focus on real estate and government affairs. In June of 2009, she started her own law practice serving woman-owned business clients. She saw these clients struggling financially and “became obsessed” with alternative forms of lending, trying to get money into the hands of her clients. She quickly realized that none of the options out there were enough, her clients also needed financial education. That’s when she sought out the help of SCORE. In March 2010 she launched Bad Girl Ventures and has since educated over 300 women and helped them raise over $2 million in financing.
BGV is dedicated to its mission of building and sustaining well-managed, profitable women owned businesses by providing female entrepreneurs with guidance, education, and access to capital. Perhaps most importantly, BGV provides these services in a unique woman focused environment that facilitates collaboration. BGV’s programs and projects serve three primary objectives: 1) helping female entrepreneurs access the capital needed to start their businesses; 2) providing female entrepreneurs with the education needed to manage their business successfully; and 3) surrounding female entrepreneurs with the support networks needed to sustain their business.
The work has revealed even more opportunities in the field of small business financing and Candace has since launched SoMoLend, an internet debt-based non-equity crowdfunding platform. Candace has become a leading expert on crowdfunding and has been written up locally, by Forbes Magazine and The NY Times. She was called in to testify by Congress on the Jobs Act and she is chair of a committee working with the Security Exchange Commission to establish regulations for crowdfunding.
How SCORE Helped
In addition to utilizing SCORE mentors to educate its clientele, Bad Girl Ventures also seeks the advice of its own SCORE mentor, Carlin Stamm, to guide the organization’s development and growth.
This mentor relationship has helped BGV handle the rapid growth they experienced in their first two years in operation. SCORE has assisted BGV in developing a strong business model, developing a strong funding model and implementing internal infrastructure to strengthen the organization.