Women Entrepreneurs

SCORE Mentor Advices Solmate Socks

As a lifelong knitter, Marianne Wakerlin knows all about the intricacies of creating multi-colored patterns for sweaters, hats and scarves. She never dreamed that turning her hobby into a successful business would prove to be just as tricky.

Owner/Founder
Marianne Wakerlin
My Location
South Strafford VT
United States
Year Company Formed
2000
My Successes

 

When the former financial planner moved from Chicago to Vermont in 1999, Marianne searched for a way to generate a modest income and still have time to enjoy the low-stress environment of her new home. Her distinctive handmade socks had always been popular among friends and acquaintances, so she began exploring ways to manufacture them for sale via stores and clothing wholesalers. However, Marianne had no history to draw on for production costs, distribution, or whether the textile technology existed to accurately reproduce the designs. She didn't even know if there was a market for socks priced at more than $20 a pair.

Marianne kept in close contact with SCORE during the two years it took to identify manufacturers and wool supply sources, modify the sock designs, and fine-tune the production process—a task that many textile industry experts deemed impossible. Marianne's patience and persistence paid off, resulting in a cost-efficient production process.  

Along with trying to perfect the production process, Marianne has been busy attending trade shows to attract the interest of potential vendors. Fueled by the socks' popularity as Christmas gifts, she saw sales jump from $8,000 in the first year to $110,000 in 2001. Because the socks can be produced only in limited quantities for now, she's taking a measured approach to expanding her business—an approach that includes working with Stuart Pompian and SCORE.

What's Great About My Mentor?

Marianne faced many hard questions before she could start her business. Luckily, she didn't have to find the answers on her own. SCORE Mentor Stuart Pompian helped Marianne identify a wide range of start-up issues such as developing a business plan, preparing financials, and identifying potential accounts. He then provided Marianne with the resources and guidance that helped her uncover the answers she needed, and coached her through the sometimes intimidating process of applying for a line of credit to finance supplies and inventory.

How SCORE Helped

“Each step in the process of developing my business was overwhelming,” says Marianne. “SCORE helped me focus on the important issues. I can honestly say I don’t know how I could have done it alone. I really think I would have given up.”

LaurieL Photography Succeeds With Help From SCORE Mentor

Behind every closed door lies a new opportunity. No one knows this better than Laurie Ludes, owner of LaurieL Photography. After being laid off in May 2002 from Verizon Wireless, where she had worked in marketing and sales, predominately as a graphic designer for 15 years, Laurie was determined to take control of her destiny. “The lay-off forced me to a fork in the road and required me to make a quick decision as to what I was going to do next,” says Laurie.

Laurie was excited by the possibility of turning her photography hobby and graphic design experience into a business. The only catch was that she didn’t have prior business experience.

Owner/Founder
Laurie Ludes
My Location
Vancouver WA
United States
Year Company Formed
2002
My Successes

Today, Laurie’s business—LaurieL Photography—is busy and thriving. The skilled photographer and graphic designer has found a niche in photographing pregnant women and has a number of unique products, including DVD slideshows, customized photography coffee table books, holiday cards and note cards.

Laurie now lives in the Greater Portland Oregon Metropolitan Area and has a regular clientele. She has expanded her business to include Maternity and Newborn photography and photographs children upon request. Laurie still works out of her home and has grown her business to over $100,000 in yearly profits. Laurie continues to do frequent business in Orange County as well as keeping up with her SCORE counselor. She says, “I still stay in touch with my counselor, Joe DiStanislao, who continues to be the most wonderful, caring, and concerned about my success person I have ever met.”

What's Great About My Mentor?

Laurie’s dream of starting a photography and graphic design business took a major step forward when she visited the Orange County SCORE Chapter and met SCORE Mentor Joe DiStanislao, a former marketing executive. “Meeting with Joe that day was one of the most wonderful encounters I’ve made in this endeavor to meet my dream. Talking to someone who had been successful and who knew what it took to make a business thrive gave me confidence that I still draw on today.”

Following her first visit to SCORE, Laurie attended a number of SCORE workshops and returned to meet with Joe several times to discuss start-up plans, marketing, selling and pricing. "Joe helps me stay focused on the important things and encourages me to get to the next level. He really pushes me to succeed," says Laurie.

How SCORE Helped

During the summer of 2002, Laurie immersed herself in research and visited the Orange County Chapter Web site, where she found a treasure trove of small business information. Laurie explains, “I read and read, printing out almost every page on the Web site and reading it again. I found everything I needed to get my business started—everything except someone right there answering my questions in person. Then, I noticed that I could set up an appointment to meet with people who would office advice and mentoring—and there was no charge! I called right away.”

As her business grows, Laurie knows that when she needs future help she can contact SCORE Mentor Joe DiStanislao and other mentors at the Orange County SCORE Chapter. “SCORE is wonderful. I can’t say enough good things about the organization. I am privileged to have such a wonderful group of people who not only stand behind me, but who also guide me on this endeavor.”  

Beverly Designs Works to Success With SCORE Mentor

The story begins in 1994, when a class in painting on clothing led Beverly Bartel to begin selling her hand-painted clothes at a local weekend farmers' market. The strong response led her to the art show circuit, attracting even more attention, but also forcing her to make some hard decisions. "Everyone kept saying that I ought to do this for a living," she says. "I just couldn't see how I could make it work."

Owner/Founder
Beverly Bartel
My Location
Oconomowoc WI
United States
Year Company Formed
1997
My Successes

In 1997, Beverly Bartel learned that a small downtown retail location would soon become available. Acting on her instinct, she asked her family for financial support and signed a three-year lease on the site. Displaying her creations and lines of manufactured women's and children's clothes in the front, Bartel set up a studio in the back room and waited for the customers to call. And call they did—creating so many distractions that Bartel often found herself spending more time at the cash register than in her studio.

Being one of only two women's clothing stores in the small community of 10,000 residents, Beverly Bartel's store has become a popular shopping destination. She just moved from her cramped quarters to a more spacious location across the street. Bartel also makes every effort to keep her store in the public eye, through advertisements, community involvement, and, recently, a Mothers' Day photo spread of her designs for Wisconsin Woman magazine.

What's Great About My Mentor?

Beverly Bartel was shocked when she learned that her SCORE mentor would be Yoko Gochinas. A well-known figure in the fashion and design industry, Gochinas seemed to be the perfect match for Bartel, an artist trying to figure out how to turn her talents into a business.

Gochinas was there to help me refocus my energies. "Yoko is a very demanding person, but she also understands that not everybody is a born risk-taker," Bartel says. "She helped build my self-confidence and kept me moving forward."

How SCORE Helped

Beverly Bartel heard about SCORE and enrolled in the Milwaukee Chapter's four-part seminar on business start-ups. Although the idea of making a living off her talents became increasingly appealing, it seemed that behind every silver lining lurked a dark gray cloud. "There seemed to be so many unknowns about running a business," she says. "I was also dealing with a divorce and the prospect of having to raise two kids on my own. I began to wonder whether this was such a good idea after all."

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Simply Beautiful Interiors

SCORE was contacted to discuss ways for the business to grow and expand their customer base. The discussion immediately started with the need for a business plan and definition of their Unique Selling Proposition (USP) In addition, their initial attempt at developing a electronic marketing presence was discussed.

At the same time the business was working to relocate to another location.  This took place in the summer of 2009 and has proven to be a great success with increased store traffic and existing clients continuing to patronize the business. 

Their website is http://simplybeautifulinteriorserie.com
 

Owner/Founder
Marcie Senita and Carol Smith, Designers/Owners
My Location
2630 West 8th Street
Erie PA 16505
United States
How SCORE Helped

The discussion has yet to result in a formal business plan but it is clear that the discussions have focused the owners business direction. Because of the increased sales volume, the web site presence is being revised and expanded resulting in the site being more accessible and product life focused. Counseling will continue with focus on the formal business plan, content review for the web site and attention on new issues that present themselves with business expansion .

LifeStyle Physical Therapy and Balance Center Succeeds With Help From SCORE Mentor

Dr. Michele Kehrer wanted to launch a new leading edge physical therapy clinic to facilitate rapid recovery of neurological dizziness and balance disorders, as well as musculoskeletal disorders. When planning to open her clinic, Michele quickly realized that while she understood the art and science of vestibular treatment, she didn’t know the business side of launching her practice, such as business planning, budgeting and cash flow projections, sales, marketing, management and financing. Michele contacted her local SCORE office for guidance and start-up help.

Owner/Founder
Dr. Michele Kehrer
My Location
Chicago IL
United States
Year Company Formed
2006
My Successes

 “LifeStyle Physical Therapy and Balance Center has achieved its financial goals in the first seven months of operations. The response from patients, neurologists and orthopedists has been excellent,” Michele says. “More than 90 percent of the clinics patients experienced a marked decrease of symptoms within 4-8 weeks.”

What's Great About My Mentor?

Michele first met Elliot Shear, a Chicago SCORE mentor in February 2006.  First, Elliot helped her clarify and refine a business plan to obtain start-up financing. Elliot explained all the parts of the business plan that a bank would require to provide financing for the start-up working capital and acquiring the sophisticated equipment Michele needed for her clinic.  He also provided a lead to a banking affiliation at Fifth Third Bank, which eventually provided her line of credit. 

As the counseling continued, Michele worked with Elliot in developing a marketing plan that would influence medical practitioners to refer their patients to Lifestyle.  The plan included inviting prospective patients to the clinic for a free review of methodology and state of the art equipment. To arrange a visit, potential patients could call the clinic or visit the Web site.

How SCORE Helped

Michele continues to enjoy a mentoring relationship with SCORE “This would have been remarkable as a paid source,” she says, “but it was a dream come true to know that there are business professionals who want to give part of their successes back to the public by sharing their expertise for free.”

Ashtae Products Finds Success With Help From SCORE Mentor

In 1996, Michael and Ramona Woods decided to turn their mutual experience in the salon-servicing industry into an opportunity to become business owners. They launched Ashtae Products, which sells multicultural hair products to professional salons and beauty schools.

Owner/Founder
Michael Woods and Ramona Woods
My Location
Greensboro NC
United States
Employees
9
Year Company Formed
1996
My Successes

Unlike many other newcomers to the world of business management, the couple had no problem attracting customers. Thanks to their previous experience, Michael and Ramona doubled Ashtae’s sales each of the company’s first three years. The problem was that the couple had little profit to show for their efforts. “We failed to realize that knowing how to sell and make money doesn’t mean you know how to keep it,” Michael recalls.

Michael and Ramona have been able to augment their sales know-how with sound business planning and management. Ashtae has moved to its own location in Greensboro, added staff members and increased its market share—despite the nationwide economic slowdown of the past two years. More importantly, the company’s financial picture is very strong, rewarding Michael and Ramona with a healthy profit. The couple can now focus comfortably on building an aggressive long-term strategy for Ashtae, and their own future as entrepreneurs.

What's Great About My Mentor?

Michael and Ramona made an appointment with SCORE volunteer mentor Eric Indermaur, a CPA and former corporate vice president of finance. A review of the company’s financial and accounting data helped Eric pinpoint Ashtae’s problem: The company was growing too fast.  Its inventory supply chain was out of sync with the normal ebbs and flows of the business cycle.

Eric helped Michael and Ramona better understand where Ashtae’s money was going, how to scrutinize the financial data and how to calculate sustainable profit margins. He also helped them secure a loan from the Greensboro Venture Capital Fund to provide a stable source of funds to finance inventory growth and turnover.

How SCORE Helped

Michael and Ramona continue to have regular meeting with Eric and other counselors at SCORE. “Their greatest asset is the ability to help a company understand the business cycle, and to plan for the various stages of growth,” Michael says. “Eric and SCORE opened our eyes to the real deal about running a business instead of the business running you. If we had never met them, we’d probably be unprofitable—and out of business.”

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