Women Entrepreneurs

Kamdyn's Kloset Business Plan Complete With Help of SCORE Mentor

If you are looking for a source of high quality, fashionable clothing for children, and a source of unique toys and gifts, you should plan a trip to downtown Guthrie and visit Kamdyn’s Kloset at 124 West Oklahoma Avenue.

 

Jessica Stout opened Kamdyn’s Kloset as a children’s clothing store in October 2009.  She was looking for a way to build her career while still being able to provide full-time care for her daughter, Kamdyn, who was born with special medical needs.  Owning her own store and being able to adjust her schedule as necessary allows Jessica the freedom and flexibility to take part in her son Caden's activities as well as other important family events. 

 

Jessica comments: “It is really the best of both worlds because I get to go to work and interact with expectant mothers, women who already have children and grandparents of all types.  So, I get to keep up on current issues with kids, and be involved with some of the best parents and while being an activist for kids at the same time.  I recently had a costume contest to support a family whose son was born requiring open-heart surgery days after birth.  Currently, I am working on several different promotions that are all part of a toy drive to collect toys for children who, without donations, may have nothing for Christmas.  In my business I am very LUCKY to be able to be active in causes for children that are dear to my heart, while greatly enjoying children's fashion and shopping… and still having the time to be with my family.”

 

The location in downtown Guthrie, a unique historical community, was picked because it was next to a toy store, and because of the traffic generated by special activities in the town, as well as the proximity to Jessica's home.  Jessica sought SCORE assistance to develop an initial business plan and eventually financed the store herself. 

 

Experiencing cash flow problems after a couple of months, Jessica again came to SCORE and developed a short term marketing plan using e-mail and direct mail to bring shoppers in for excellent end of season values on fall/winter items.  In turn, this enabled Kamdyn’s Kloset to move into much needed spring clothes.  This approach has succeeded several times since.

 

A few months later, the owner of the toy store next door came into some difficult times and began to sell toys at Kamdyn’s Kloset on consignment, thus keeping their product available, and allowing the owner of the toy store to sort some things out and still move her merchandise.  This period also allowed Jessica an opportunity to experience the "toy world" with no upfront costs of risks of simply ordering toys.

 

In the summer of 2010, the owner of the toy store had a change of heart and Artisan toys became available for buy out by Kamdyn’s Kloset. After seeing how well the toy store and clothing paired over the consignment period, Jessica immediately jumped on the opportunity to own the toy business.  She once again sought SCORE advice and eventually applied for an SBA loan via one of the large Oklahoma SBA lenders who recognized her success and her opportunity.  With the loan in hand, Jessica moved into the toy business, and has been successful, due to the support of her husband, her extended family, and with the continued expertise of the previous toy store owner who continues to advise Jessica on her purchases. Jessica brought a training merchandising and fashion, as well as, management experience background to Kamdyn’s Kloset, but has had to learn the ins and outs of being a sole proprietor.

Owner/Founder
Jessica Stout
My Location
124 W. Oklahoma
Guthrie OK
United States

Ameravant

Ameravant, Inc. was established as a web design and development company by Michael Kramer in 2001. No stranger to business, Michael had an impressive track record in real estate sales and business consulting. The name Ameravant - a combination of America and “avant garde” – was intended as a symbol of the forward-looking business he was creating.  Michael had already identified an important business opportunity arising from the rapidly expanding role of the internet in commerce - hence his decision to set up a company which would design and develop customized websites and, specifically, empower owners to maintain their own content without paying a webmaster. Websites would be faster, cross browser compatible, and most importantly, search engine friendly, and customer support would be offered.  Ameravant also commenced its own web hosting operation, and thus enabled the company to support its customers even more effectively.

By 2004 the company began hiring, and the number of employees grew to seven as the business became increasingly successful.  However, by late 2008 the market was declining, and where previously the company had been able to turn a very high percentage of enquiries into business, the closing rate had dropped to 20%. The company was running into difficulty.  As the key salesperson, all of Michael’s time was spent on selling, and he had less time to work on daily operations or even send out business quotes.  This resulted in fewer sales and less business.

At this point Michael met with SCORE. He attended a business seminar where he listened to various presentations, and subsequently met two of its counselors, Henri Bainou and Gary Kravetz.

One of the best pieces of advice I was offered by SCORE was that when a client walks through the door with money in his hand, make sure you sell him something.

The advice was simple. See if you can come up with a product you can offer on a turnkey basis at a very competitive price. For Ameravant, this meant offering a basic website package, which offered all the important features required for a simple business, at a low price. To this, additional customized options could be added according to the clients’ business requirements.  The effect of this was twofold.  Firstly, the cost of the basic package made Ameravant extremely competitive in the local market. Secondly, by standardizing the package on offer, Ameravant was able to streamline its quotes, and make these available to customers almost immediately. These changes had an immediate impact, and Ameravant was able to convert a higher percentage of enquiries into business. Now the company was able to readily quote a price for everything from the most basic package to the most sophisticated, with any number of “add on” options, e.g. billing and payment systems, 360 degree panoramic tours, testimonial systems, event registrations, catalogs, online stores, etc.  This range of choices enabled the needs of a wide range of industries to be met.

As a result of this business turnaround, the company was able to retain almost all its employees and Michael was able to devote more time to business growth.  This led to the development of business-to-business operations. Because of the level of sophistication of Ameravant’s products, local competitors are now purchasing these to sell to their clients. This is particularly beneficial to Ameravant as this lowers support costs.

Now Ameravant combines the most advanced technology with the most rapid of turnovers.  New websites can be created within three days (in some cases even less) and its clients now include some major Santa Barbara institutions. The company website at www.ameravant.com illustrates the wide range of customers who have used its services. Michael continues to draw on the services of SCORE periodically.

And the future? Michael is optimistic. The company’s goals now include plans to expand its business-to-business commercial activities and also target more clients who need larger, more complex websites for their business operations. He has no doubt much of the company’s current success is due to SCORE.

“SCORE’s professional advice came at a crucial time for the company. It changed everything, and set us on a great path to further business success.”

  

My Location
Santa Barbara CA
United States

FoodCALC Seeks Advice From SCORE Mentor

Seven years’ ago Lucy Needham was sitting in a restaurant with her father looking at menu items and wondering how these compared for calorie and fat content.  This triggered a brand new business idea. Through extensive research, she discovered that to obtain food nutritional analysis and create nutrition labels, food professionals had to depend on sending food samples to a laboratory, which was very slow, or using CDs or other third party consultants. CDs were hard to use and geared to nutrition specialists only. She conceived the idea of creating a cutting edge web based technological model as a solution to the food industry’s problem, where the user could easily access the information via a website and produce FDA compliant food product labels and nutritional information in minutes. FoodCalc was born.

In 2005 the initial company product LabelCalc was launched, designed for small to medium-sized food manufacturers and retailers. This proved successful, business grew, and within two years two hundred food manufacturers were using LabelCalc to generate their own nutrition labels. With these developments, Lucy recognized the need to plan much more systematically for company growth and expansion. At this critical moment she came to SCORE in Santa Barbara for advice, and met counselor, George Rusznak.

“George forced me to think big. He told me I should visualize my company as creating a product to meet the needs of the entire food industry, building a brand which would meet all USDA and FDA regulatory requirements, and meeting growing consumer demand for better nutritional information. Our ongoing discussions led me to a much greater understanding of how to set goals, create a meaningful business plan and how to go about marketing my business effectively.”

In 2008, George Rusznak successfully encouraged Lucy to enter the SFentrepreneur Challenge competition for new entrepreneurs. To her surprise, Lucy was voted as one of five finalists, who then each made their pitch live to a panel of three influential entrepreneurs. She won! This opened up a whole network of important contacts, including the California Restaurant Association, which wanted to work with FoodCalc and offer an exclusive deal to their members. 

"After the contest last year, I was interviewed by the San Francisco Business Times and two other local publications that led to national interviews with my industry trade publications," said Lucy at the time. "My company's revenue in the past quarter tripled, making the revenue close to the amount generated from the previous full year. The contest was one of my best experiences!"

Now the food industry is changing, and food professionals are becoming much more accustomed to obtaining nutritional information using web based products. In 2007 the company launched a second, new product, MenuCalc, designed for chefs, restaurateurs, dieticians, food writers and recipe authors, to enable nutritional information for menus and recipes to be easily calculated.

Both company products have been extremely well received. LabelCalc now has an impressive client base which includes snack manufacturer Energy Club, airline food service provider Gate Gourmet, and soy yogurt producer Whole Soy & Co. MenuCalc has been utilized by top-level media, e.g. NBC's Today Show and multi-unit restaurants such as Asian Chao and Speciality's Bakery.

FoodCalc, now based in San Francisco, is now anticipating steady growth and employs five full time and two part time workers. The next stage is to set up business partnerships, to facilitate cross marketing and alliances with complementary vendors. In April 2009, FoodCalc entered into partnership with Tundra Specialities, a leading national restaurant equipment and parts supplier. Tundra will offer discounts to its customers off MenuCalc’s fees. As more diners seek to make informed and healthy choices about what they eat, the services provided by MenuCalc are likely to be much in demand for the foreseeable future.

Lucy is very grateful to the ongoing assistance provided by SCORE counselor George Rusznak.  “He always asked the difficult questions. He forced me to work not only IN the business but ON the business. Critically, he made me look ahead, and focus on long term development and expansion which has been so essential to our recent growth.” 

 

My Location
San Francisco CA
United States

This business resource guide will cover many different aspects of starting a company here in town and will help you think about many of the questions one should ask before opening a business.

Rebecca's Family Restaurant

Barb Hogan as a child sat in the old Linesville Islay's Ice Cream Shop and often wondered what it would be like to own and operate a restaurant. Now with the help of SCORE, she is doing just that, in the exact same location as the old Islay's Ice Cream Shop.

After taking an early retirement from the State's labor and Industry Department, this Harmonsburg native started Rebecca's Family Restaurant in May 2007.

Owner/Founder
Barb Hogan
My Location
144 West Erie Street
Linesville PA 16424
United States
What's Great About My Mentor?

From the start, SCORE was able to assist her. leading the SCORE assistance team was Art Cocolin, a restaurateur armed with over 60 years of restaurant experience. His team mates included Dan Leech and BJ Smith from the Meadville Branch of the Erie SCORE Chapter.

How SCORE Helped

Together they helped Hogan bring many business principles into light. SCORE was able to assist this business owner in menu selection, controlling food costs, kitchen design and layout, insurance requirements, advertising and marketing, pricing, equipment selection, and incorporating some of the latest technology impacting the restaurant field. Despite the high wash out rate in the restaurant field,

Rebecca's family Restaurant has constantly held a steady market share. The owners owe a debt of gratitude to the entire SCORE organization. 

Descriptions for every section of a Business Plan

Vera Bradley Designs Finds Financial Success With SCORE Help

It's a long way from the basement to the big time, but Barbara Bradley Baekgaard and Patricia Miller have taken their line of women's luggage, accessories and clothing from trunk sales in their homes to major markets around the globe. The story began when the two new neighbors discovered they shared an interest in fashion design. They soon noticed that women lacked functional, attractive luggage form business trips.  With $500 and the name of Barbara's mother, they developed some prototypes for soft, quilted duffel bags and purses.

The items were the hit of an in-home clothing show, and demand grew. Barbara and Patricia soon found themselves searching for experienced seamstresses, deals on wholesale fabric, and -- perhaps most important -- sound business advice.  The two designing women contacted the Ft. Wayne chapter of SCORE.

Owner/Founder
Barbara Bradley Baekgaard and Patricia Miller
My Location
Ft. Wayne IN
United States
Employees
285
Year Company Formed
1982
My Successes

The good business habits we learned from SCORE served Vera Bradley Designs well as the company began to take off.  In just three years, the firm topped $1 million in sales and has enjoyed steady growth ever since.  In 1987, Barbara and Patricia received one of Ernst & Young's coveted "Entrepreneur of the Year" Awards.

Today, Vera Bradley Designs' 200 employees produce over 800 products from a 25,000 square-foot manufacturing center in Ft. Wayne.  The number of buyers has grown from local stores to thousands of retailers throughout the U.S. and overseas.  In addition, Vera Bradley products are prominently exhibited at over 20 industry tradeshows each year. Barbara was one of the first women on the board of the prestigious Chicago Gift Show and serves on the Board of Directors of the Gift Association of America. Barbara and Patricia's success story has also been chronicled in numerous newspaper and magazine articles as a proud example of other aspiring businesswomen to follow.

What's Great About My Mentor?

We contacted the Ft. Wayne SCORE and found our match in volunteer mentor George Cook, who applied his extensive background in corporate finance to help Barbara and Patricia develop a business plan, and establish bookkeeping and an inventory procedure. "From the very start, George insisted on a balance sheet, profit and loss statement, and inventory report every month, no matter how tiny the list of figures," recalls Patricia.
"George never told us what to do or how to do it. He would ask questions that helped us find the solutions for ourselves. We were very lucky to connect with somebody whose business expertise complimented our creativity. I'm sure SCORE does that for everybody. They are a fantastic organization."

How SCORE Helped

Even with their many business accomplishments, Barbara and Patricia never hesitate to contact SCORE and George for advice. "George's help is invaluable," Patricia says, "and he's never too busy to offer guidance."

SCORE Mentor Illinois Business Journal

Kerry Smith was looking for something new so she moved from Texas to Illinois in order to be closer to her family and friends. Smith began working at a local newspaper but something was missing.  “I realized that I was living in a six-county region with 30,000 companies that had no business journal.  I was working at a small daily paper looking for a place to write business news, but none existed,” she says.  Smith decided she would start her own Illinois Business Journal, but before launching, she did her research contacting chambers of commerce and SCORE. She and her SCORE mentor, Richard Rook, spent countless hours perfecting all aspects of her pending journal launch.

Owner/Founder
Kerry Smith
My Location
Alton IL
United States
Employees
2
Year Company Formed
2000
My Successes

The Illinois Business Journal has a circulation of 20,000 and a survey revealed that an average of four people read each issue, which pegs their readership at closer to 80,000. Kerry is also actively moving to provide all of their articles online. Unlike other older papers that depend on subscriptions for much of their revenue, the Illinois Business Journal is more dependent on advertisers. She sees that as a major plus, as journalism begins to move away from traditional print media.

What's Great About My Mentor?

“I didn’t even know what a business plan was, but veteran Southwest Illinois SCORE mentor Richard Rook helped me develop one.  He has been with me all along asking if there was anything that they can do to make my business even more successful. I would go in and ask, ‘How much will this cost?’ or ‘Is this a good idea?’ and they would tell me honestly,” she says. “They provided literally hundreds of hours of support, especially during the initial stages. They didn’t know much about newspapers, but they knew everything else.”

Through their weekly one-hour meetings and countless faxes, Richard led Kerry through the process of creating a business plan, including three-year cash flow projections, insurance, distribution and marketing. “Richard treated me so well, it was like he had adopted a family member,” Kerry says. “He was so helpful. It’s still hard to believe that I received all that advice and assistance for no charge.”

How SCORE Helped

“These days, more newspapers fold than get started,” Kerry says. “Richard Rook and SCORE are the reason this publication continues to prosper. At no cost, I gained expertise that you cannot put a price on. And the caliber of SCORE’s volunteers is amazing. The local chapter has CEO’s, Ph.D.’s, and other experts who willingly give up the free time they’ve worked so hard for to help people like me get started in business.”

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