Women Entrepreneurs

California Gardens Utilizes SCORE Mentor

Closing an office and laying off employees is not an easy decision for any business owner to make. But in late 2001, Li Vellinga had few other options. Either she could trim the size of California Gardens, her 10-year-old landscape design business, or watch it disappear entirely.

Owner/Founder
Li Vellinga
My Location
San Carlos CA
United States
Year Company Formed
1991
My Successes

A native of Sweden, Li was co-owner of a successful San Francisco-area home and garden center when she decided to start a new business in 1991 that would capitalize on her garden design talents. It didn’t take long for California Gardens to attract a number of commissions for commercial and residential garden projects, many of which involved high-profile locations around the Bay Area. To keep up with the company’s growing workload, Li took on employees and leased office space.

Then came September 11th, 2001, and the tragedy’s ripple effect through the nation’s economy. California Garden’s four-month backlog quickly evaporated as clients cancelled their landscaping plans. Knowing she had to make some tough decisions, Li remembered her bookkeeper talking about SCORE’s small business mentoring services. If there was ever a time to get expert advice, she decided, this was it.

Li took John’s advice and based California Gardens in her home. John helped Li set up the technical tools for the business, from developing a Web site to setting up her business computer. He also encouraged Li to attend SCORE’s business seminars on building a business plan and using advanced accounting software. 

By the end of 2002, California Gardens was blooming once again with a 350-percent increase in net income. Li once again enjoying the feeling of success, accomplishment and inspiration, designing project ranging from small front yards to several acres of planned landscape. She has also developed management skills that enable her to focus more closely on her clients’ needs without compromising her personal life—another benefit of her monthly meetings with John Edwards and SCORE.

What's Great About My Mentor?

Li began working with volunteer mentor John Edwards, a veteran of California’s technology industry. Based on a meticulous review of Li’s overhead, John recommended that she convert California Gardens into home-based business and rely on contractors when needed. 

“This was one of the hardest things I’ve faced, and it wasn’t until January 2002 that I could bring myself to do it,” Li says. “Fortunately, my employees were very understanding and supportive.”

Perhaps most important, John regularly reviewed Li’s financial statements and provided guidance on how to analyze trends and forecast income. “It’s been three years, but we still do this,” Li says. “Now I’m better able to set reasonable business goals. John is also teaching me how to spot potential financial problems, and develop clear communications materials. If I encounter a stumbling block, he’ll suggest good books to read on the subject.”

How SCORE Helped

“One of the best things about working with John is that he always allows me to take my time to make each decision,” Li says. “He will ask what I think is best for me, while also offering suggestions on what he thinks might work. Yet he always supports me, no matter what I decide. As long as I’m in business, I plan to continue utilizing the wonderful support John and SCORE provide.”

Bridal Trousseaux Gets Off the Ground With Help From SCORE Mentor

Penny Timmons purchased Bridal Trousseaux as an existing business after seeking financial planning help from SCORE. The store had been open for eight years and she saw room to diversify garment selections and extend marketing to grow this specialty clothing business. SCORE helped with Penny's loan application, business plan and future financial planning.

Owner/Founder
Penny Timmons
My Location
Moline IL
United States
Employees
4
Year Company Formed
1996
My Successes

When Penny and a friend went searching for bridal fashions, but could not find that perfect gown, Penny decided there was a target market that could use more in bridal wear selections. The quest for the perfect gown for a perfect wedding day led Penny Timmons to become the owner of a bridal and formal wear boutique in Moline, Ill. In 1997, Bridal Trousseaux increased total revenues by 12 percent.

Since we last spoke with Penny Timmons, she has graduated from college and bought a second bridal store in Moline. She reports that things at both locations are going well, although she says "like many other small businesses, I'm finding it hard to hire and keep good employees. Still, everything is great."

Since purchasing Bridal Trousseaux, Timmons has fine-tuned the company's marketing structure and traveled to Paris to conduct bridal fashion research. She is now exploring the possibility of opening a second Bridal Trousseaux store in a nearby city.

What's Great About My Mentor?

Penny says, "Dale helped me bring my ideas out of the clouds and down to earth for some realistic thought."

To help Bridal Trousseaux navigate growing pains, Penny has set up meetings with her SCORE mentors. "I want to do some long-term planning and find out what skills or education I'll need to carry it out," she says. "I've also had the opportunity to visit with some of SCORE's national directors and other chapter leaders. I think I'll always have questions about my business, but I know that SCORE will always have the answers."

How SCORE Helped

With the assistance of SCORE, Penny applied for an SBA-guaranteed loan. She used the chapter's business-planning disk to prepare a complete business plan, which detailed past sales history for the business and projected future growth. SCORE Mentor Dale Hankins helped her prepare her business plan—together they reviewed cost and revenue projections to develop a realistic operating budget to support operations and staff salaries. Dale is a volunteer with the Quad Cities SCORE Chapter, the national SCORE Chapter of the Year. He helped Penny secure a $70,000 SBA-guaranteed loan and a $20,000 economic development loan from the City of Moline.

SCORE Mentors The Saucy Chef to Success

What do you do when you're an empty-nester with no business skills who wants to start a business? "I always had a passion for cooking. I taught my kids how to cook. Then I read an article in a women's magazine about chefs who make house calls, and I said, 'That's me!'" remembers Karen Wetch, owner of The Saucy Chef. In 1997 after seeing SCORE mentioned in in an American Personal Chef Association brochure, Karen sought out her local SCORE Chapter.  She was introduced to SCORE mentors Bill Perehudoff and Bill Scown. The combination of Karen’s drive and focus blended with Perehudoff and Scowns business expertise was a winning one and this empty-nester with now business skills is now a successful small business owner. 

Owner/Founder
Karen Wetch
My Location
Santa Rosa CA
United States
My Successes

In the beginning, Karen cooked once or twice a month for seniors. She used that time to develop a rhythm. Now, she has consistent days she works and consistent clients. She cooks three days a week at most, dedicates one day a week to research and development, and reserves Sundays for paperwork. Along with her newfound business skills and former knowledge, Karen says a good personal chef is organized, personable and resourceful. "I spent six months conducting research, trying freezing and food replacement techniques. I never cook from memory and I always clean up before I leave a client's home.
"Because of the experience she's gaining, Karen not only works for seniors, but also working couples and new parents. In addition, she finds time to enter her new recipes in the local fairs and always walks away with awards. A local paper featured her in an article about personal chefs in June 2000. As her popularity and business grow, she is pondering a different business direction.
Choosing the days and times she works are what she considers the best part about being a small business owner. "I love being personal with a client and bringing joy to people's lives. I'm always looking for a better way of doing things. I love what I do."
 

What's Great About My Mentor?

Bill Perehudoff and Bill Scown were counselors in Santa Rosa, CA. The former was most helpful because he was a restaurant owner at one time. On the other hand, Bill Scown had never heard of a personal chef. Scown says while Karen did the basic start-up work, he got her to focus on that one slice of the market: seniors. "It's important to find your target and concentrate," he says.
"Karen was a very positive person with a very unique and interesting idea. I live in a retirement community and knew it was a great potential market," says Bill Scown. "Today, if you need cooking help, you can depend on Karen to bail you out."
 

How SCORE Helped

They advised me on advertising, teaching me that frequency wins out over ad size. I wanted to get into senior communities so they helped me with referrals and taught me patience. It worked and I'm still getting calls today from those original ads," says Karen. “I continue to rely on SCORE’s services. I attended it’s Women in Business conferences in ’98, ’99 and ’00, the latter on the Internet. They keep me abreast of marketing workshops and seminars. I have learned that business is a whole different language-no emotion-just business. That’s very different from the operation of a personal chef.” 

The Treats Truck

For Kim Ima, it was love at first sight – not with a person, but with the idea of the Treats Trucks. Kim wanted to spend her days baking delicious cookies, brownies and other treats and then serve them on the streets of New York, her adopted home town. “It combined my love of baking, my love of treats and my love of the city,” Kim says. “The more I thought about the idea and how it could evolve, the more I wanted to do it.” There was only one problem; Kim had no idea how to get her idea rolling. Kim went to SCORE and researched potential volunteer mentors before she requested a meeting with Elliot Merberg. It was then that Kim’s vision was closer to becoming a reality and ultimately did become just that. 

 

See video
Owner/Founder
Kim Ima
My Location
New York NY
United States
My Successes

Kim literally put the Treats Truck on the road in June 2007. Her treats, prepared in her Brooklyn bakery, immediately became a hit with New Yorkers who now look forward to the arrival of the Treats Truck (nicknamed “Sugar”) in their neighborhoods. Recently, Kim was among several small businesses from across the nation tapped by Visa to be featured in a commercial showcasing the innovation and commitment of entrepreneurs. “I still love seeing my customers and they’re supporting me as best they can, even though they’re dealing with economic problems too,” Kim says. “They want me to succeed because they see me working hard and know that I care about the quality of the food and the Treats Truck experience.”

What's Great About My Mentor?

“I hit the jackpot with Elliot,” Kim says. “His background was ideal for what I needed. Plus, we hit it off personally, which was very important to me. Starting a business is like a cookie recipe. Sometimes a dash of naiveté can be good, but you also need to realize the importance of decisions, because what you’re doing is big. I believed in my idea and Elliot believed in me.”

How SCORE Helped

Kim worked with SCORE mentor Elliot Merberg on a wide range of startup issues and other things she needed to consider as she put together the business plan for Treats Truck. “Sometimes when I met with Elliot and he didn’t know the answer to a question, he simply asked someone else to come over and help us,” Kim says. “There were always plenty of people with specific experience to draw on.”

Merberg also helped Kim manage the emotional ups and downs that come with starting a new business. “When I got over-enthusiastic, such as wanting to start with two trucks, he’d advise me to slow down and focus on starting with one,” Kim says. “When I got frustrated about something and was too hard on myself, he’d show me how things were actually going OK.”

Stitch Succeeds with advice from SCORE Mentor

Holly Aiken, entrepreneurial small business owner of STITCH, a handbag shop located at 20 E. Hargett Street in downtown Raleigh was guided to success by a SCORE mentor.

Owner/Founder
Holly Aiken
My Location
20 E. Hargett St.
Raleigh NC
United States
My Successes

Raleigh, NC

Holly Aiken, entrepreneurial small business owner of STITCH, a handbag shop located at 20 E. Hargett Street in downtown Raleigh was guided to success by a SCORE mentor.

Aiken, 35, a graduate of North Carolina State College of Art and Design said, "I started out making handbags for friends and slowly my designs became popular. I decided to do it full time. I didn't really know how to start a business. My mom mentioned SCORE and I made an appointment about 18 months ago. I didn't have a solid plan or money for growth."

Lou Martin, a retired project manager, worked with Aiken. She brought a whole bunch of 'stuff' with her not knowing what was required.

Martin interviewed Aiken ascertaining her need for a formal business plan and a small line of credit.

Manufacturing the handbags from a small space when she began her venture, Aiken's success has allowed her to relocate to downtown Raleigh where she achieves more local exposure. Her handbags are now sold on-line and at small boutiques around the United States.

"Being able to get advice, asking a variety of questions and having a person like Lou to help, has been an amazing experience. Not having to worry about paying for it gave me peace of mind. But having someone say, 'Yes, you're on the right track,' was the best," concluded Aiken."

This template can be used to calculate the projected profit of 3 years. 

A long term forecast is not a necessary part of a basic business plan. However, it is an excellent tool to help you open up your thinking about the company's future. Furthermore, venture capitalists will almost always want a long term forecast to get a feel for growth prospects.

The further out you forecast, the less accuracy you can maintain, so use round numbers, except where you know exact amounts; e.g.: rent expense if you have a long term lease.

This template can be used to calculate the opening day balance sheet.

This template is for the loan amortization schedule.

Charleston Cookie Company Finds Success WIth SCORE Mentor

Her search for the “perfect” chocolate chip cookie recipe lead Judith Moore's son-in-law to suggest that she start her own business. After making a deal to supply an advertising agency with cookies for a year in exchange for the development of a brand identity, Judith was ready to get started; and she did. Judith contacted Coast SCORE in North Charleston, S.C. and was introduced to SCORE mentor Greg Kopatch. With Greg's help Judith found a lot more than a chocolate chip cookie recipe; she found the recipe for small business success! 

Owner/Founder
Judith Moore
My Location
N. Charleston SC
United States
My Successes

Charleston Cookie Company has seen plenty of successes since its inception in October, 2003. Aside from the profitability of its online cookie ordering and corporate gift business, Charleston Cookie Company has been featured on MSNBC’s Your Business and is the proud recipient of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce 2011 Dream Big Small Business of the Year Blue Ribbon. Also, Judith recently entered into a new partnership with Dean & Deluca, a retail and catalog gourmet food company based in New York City.

What's Great About My Mentor?

When speaking about her SCORE mentor, Greg Kopatch, Judith says his encouragement and enthusiasm helped to keep her going forward.  She also says “I could not have accomplished this much without SCORE’s help. It’s been a pleasure working with Greg, and a thrill to have all that information available to a small business, like we are, at no cost. Having the expertise of SCORE counselors is invaluable!”

How SCORE Helped

Judith contacted Coast SCORE in North Charleston, S.C., for advice on her business plan. SCORE mentor Greg Kopatch helped her focus her vision. Greg also recommended that she create a spreadsheet and produce cash flow projections for three years of business. Judith says Greg’s guidance was crucial to the completion of Judith’s business plan, as well as the necessary financial data to support it. Greg continues to advise Judith on her ongoing business and its structure, business management and growth. 

Piece, Love & Chocolate - Success Story!!

Mmmmm… I never realized opening a real-life brick and mortar chocolate shop (Piece, Love and Chocolate, in downtown Boulder, CO) had so little to do with chocolate…

Long before the sledgehammers began swinging, there was work to be done. In order for this chocolate part of the business to succeed, the business itself must succeed first. I needed to channel my passion on the business development and sustainability first, foremost and always – the chocolate part is the fruit of the labor – the “gravy”. I will touch a little on that, because in my opinion, you cannot fully appreciate my pile of rubble until you’ve peeked at the inertia that created it – my pile of rubble is a result of years of hard work.

I knew that in order to make this endeavor successful, it would take a whole lot of research, legwork, money, sacrifice, persistence and patience. “Work smarter, not harder,” as Chef Genny always quotes. It took a very long time, indeed, and I definitely have worked harder than smarter some of that time. But, I have learned oh-so-much!

Owner/Founder
Sarah Amorese
My Location
805 Pearl Street
Boulder CO 80302
United States
Employees
14
Year Company Formed
2011
My Successes

After 27 sessions of “non-candy coated” SCORE advice (and a few tears) Piece, Love and Chocolate was born.  Opening in February 2011 on a “Wing, Prayer, Business Plan and SCORE”, this chocolate lover’s dream has continued to grow.  Piece, Love &Chocolate has grown from 4 employees to 14, increased revenues 45% in 2012 and is on track to increase another 26% in 2013. Most importantly, I love my job!  

The Boulder community has embraced the love, oh and the chocolate.  See what they have to say: Boulder 2140.

9News featured Piece, Love & Chocolate and one of my mentors, Larry Storms, for Small Business Saturday: 9News.

How SCORE Helped

First off, (and do forgive me if this morphs into an Oscar-like gratitude speech) let me start with my local Denver chapter of SCORE (affiliated with the SBA) and the value of a good business plan.  These people are AMAZING!  I could not imagine having started this business without them! I enrolled in almost every workshop they offered and they helped me to create “Bodacious Bertha” my business bible, aka my business plan.

My SCORE advisers were so eager to share with me their years and years of cumulative business experience; this is the kind of stuff you just can’t put a price on. I got comfortable, really quickly, with the fact that I do not know it all and I will continue to make mistakes along my journey. These beautiful people of SCORE were willing to share with me the mistakes that they have made – I listened, I learned, I laughed, I cried. Let me tell you though, not everything they have to say is positive – they didn’t candy-coat anything!

All my cherished advisers were and continue to be supportive, honest, caring and blunt. Enrique, food service specialist – emotionally prepared me and continues to support me (big hugs!). He came up to Boulder to visit my new shop and sat with me amongst my rubble on a gnarly old hunk of concrete. We discussed where I could get the best deals on used kitchen equipment. Tom, accountant extraordinaire – taught me how to create and understand financials, no small task let me assure you (he has the patience of a saint). Larry, banking specialist – scared the bejeebers out of me – yikes! But, scared is a good thing when you’re talkin’ the kind of funds it takes to create this kind of a business. (Luv ya, Larry!) I couldn’t possibly thank you gentlemen enough!

SCORE helped me to create a working business plan that really works. “Make a plan. Work a plan,” my granddaddy used to say. I cannot imagine I would have made it this far without them and I will continue to use their services. What a fantastic business resource! No doubt, they are surely improving our local economy by helping one entrepreneur to succeed at a time! You are all my heroes!!!!

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