Women Entrepreneurs

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Business Plan template sources from SCORE, Western Washington SBDC, Palo Alto Business Plans and other business plan information including an Amortization Calculator to provide monthly interest and principal payments for the life of the small business loan.

Mainstreet Art Centre

In 2006, Frankie Johnson, a professional artist and business owner, faced an unexpected challenge when her business partner decided to dissolve the partnership. Frankie quickly sought guidance from her local SCORE chapter and learned how to successfully organize a buyout and new business plan.

Owner/Founder
Frankie Johnson
My Location
Lake Zurich IL
United States
My Successes

While Frankie felt confident that she could run Mainstreet Art Centre as the sole owner, she had no idea about how to proceed with the buyout, particularly since the partner wanted the stake to be paid out in cash. She assumed that it’d take a business loan to execute the buyout, but even that was unknown territory for her.

As the new owner of Mainstreet Art Centre, Frankie reports that the company has been able to maintain a healthy level of profitability. The growing business provides a wide range of classes that are popular for professional artists, budding talents and children just discovering the fun of art.  In addition, the center also sells frames, equipment and art supplies and hosts demonstrations, workshops and other art-related events.

What's Great About My Mentor?

Volunteer mentor Seymour Stoller met with Frankie and carefully examined Mainstreet Art Centre’s financials. He felt that the buyout could be funded entirely from company profits and recommended a structure for the buyout proposal.  The details were worked out over two meetings and, after a series of negotiations; Frankie’s partner accepted the proposal.  Four months later, Frankie owned Mainstreet Art Centre free and clear.

How SCORE Helped

"Buyouts were a complete mystery. I was a member of the chamber of commerce, which sponsors the local office of SCORE, so I went to SCORE," says Frankie.

SCORE Mentors Heart to Heart Gifts, Inc.

Before import businesswoman Yi Ping Lai connected with SCORE, her giftware and decorative accessories business specializing in silk butterflies, bees, dragonflies and flowers was marginally successful. But after attending one of San Diego SCORE’s regular workshops on Internet marketing and being taken under the wing of SCORE Mentor Marty Weiss, it was as if the silk butterfly business suddenly underwent a stunning metamorphosis, sprouted wings and literally took off.

Owner/Founder
Yi Ping Lai
My Location
Oceanside CA
United States
My Successes

“I was a bit discouraged, lacking confidence in myself and having fears about expanding my business,” Lai says about the early days of her business, Heart to Heart Gifts, Inc.  “When you feel that way, you tend to think small, settle for less and stay in your comfort zone where you feel safe.”

Lai used her beloved butterflies to launch Heart To Heart Gifts’ Web site in October 2004.  Since then, she’s gradually added other product lines such as costumes, accessories for parties and weddings, nylon flowers, and themed room items.

“Sales had been relatively flat,” she says, “but after working with the SCORE team of counselors, things seemed to change literally overnight.  Sales steadily increased week after week, and within five months of working with SCORE, they had jumped an incredible 1,900 percent. We’ve grown four times in less than four years, and we are projected to top $1 million in sales in 2008.”

Her uniquely-designed products have since been featured on ABC-TV’s Extreme Home Makeovers program, Discovery Channel’s Party Show, and MTV’s Spring Break at Disney World. They are in demand by some of Hollywood’s hottest set and costume designers.  Business is on the rise so much that she projected a 100 percent increase in sales for 2005.

“Having my own business gives me the freedom to choose who I want to work with or for,” she says.  “My business is a also a channel for me to express creativity in a very positive way.  I am the artist of my business, starting with a blank canvas and my own vision.  These are all the good things of having your own business.”

What's Great About My Mentor?

Following her first SCORE workshop, Lai met personally with SCORE Mentor Marty Weiss, who asked her questions about her business and helped formulate an action plan.  He followed up with encouraging phone calls and emails and set up regular appointments to meet again to check on her progress.  He assured her the journey she was embarking upon wasn’t easy, but it was doable with some help.  Those were the words she needed to hear.

“Marty’s experience in online marketing and business in general is incredible,” Lai says.  “He taught me how to take things in stages to conserve my budget, rather than doing everything at once.  Marty also helped me understand the importance of disciplined financial management and analysis, something that I hadn’t been doing up until then.

With the help of Weiss, Lai refined her business plan, took additional business skills workshops in sales and marketing, and sent employees for software and bookkeeping training.

With help from additional SCORE mentors, she started looking at her business in a bigger and different way–building her brand and pursuing licensing contracts with artists and designers–which she feels was the key to taking her to that next level. “I can’t say enough thanks to Ron Woodland, Jerry Greenspan, Ken Abraham, and Arnold Jaffe,” Lai says.  “All of them are wonderful.”

How SCORE Helped

“Suddenly I was feeling more empowered and had more faith in myself and my abilities,” she says.  “I not only got valuable knowledge and business skills from SCORE, but also emotional support and someone to stand by me as well, even if I made a mistake.  At the end of the day, I didn’t feel so alone in my business.  SCORE coached me and cheered me on.”

“There’s no question that SCORE changed my life and direction,” Lai said.  “They are a source of inspiration, empowerment and wisdom, and are great role models.  It is intellectually stimulating and energizing being with them.  They have changed my world for the better.”

Lai considers SCORE a valuable business partner that motivated her to work hard and stay focused and disciplined on her tasks.  The reward for her efforts as a small business owner is independence, complete control of her direction, and the opportunity to be creative.

Looking back now, Lai says the rapid success she has already achieved under the tutelage of SCORE and its mentors would have otherwise taken her many more years had she done it by herself.

“I would highly recommend SCORE to anyone thinking about launching or expanding a business,” she says.  “People don’t get the whole SCORE concept until they go through it.  They helped me keep an open mind, have the patience to stay with it, and believe in myself.  Finding SCORE was the turning point for me and my business.”

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 .

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