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Though my wholesale building supply business is profitable, I can’t help feeling we’re not operating up to our potential. As the company’s leader, what can I do to give us the needed push?
The “Hot Dog Waggin’” will be serving customers this summer at the town beach in Bridgton, Maine. This new startup enterprise is off to a great start and shows what can be accomplished in a short time. The “Hot Dog Waggin’” offers three types of hot dogs, toppings from chili to baked beans, and lots of condiments. They also have chips and drinks to complete the meal. Located at the town beach on Highland Lake, there will be plenty of customers from the lake as well as downtown Bridgton which is just a block or two away. Business owner Linda Hamilton started with an idea and did a lot of research on her own. But, she wasn’t sure how to move her plans into reality. That’s where Oxford Hills SCORE came in.
The “Hot Dog Waggin’” opened for business May 20, 2011 to a warm welcome from the community. It looks like things are off and running.
How SCORE Helped
In April 2011 Linda took advantage of SCORE’s free counseling. She met with mentors and, with their guidance, developed a business plan and cash flow projection. She also discussed licensing, permits, regulations, insurance, and incorporating. When she was satisfied everything was ready, she made her move.
Her idea is now reality. Here’s what Linda has to say about the help she received from SCORE. "So many great ideas are never actually put into action. SCORE made the difference for me. John Huffman and Mary Ann Brown made me realize how important it is to think things through and look at the numbers. They helped me in making some important start-up decisions. In addition to the reality check, I greatly appreciate John’s enthusiasm, support, and willingness to help me work on the financial plan. For anyone wanting to open their first business--SCORE is a great place to start!"
Jody and Zoltan Matolcsy have long shared an interest in gems and geology. They even spent part of their honeymoon at the famed Herkimer Diamond Mines in upstate New York where visitors can dig for the area’s famed beautiful double-terminated quartz crystals. Inspired by the Herkimer’s success in luring families and fellow collectors for tours and prospecting expeditions, the Matolcsy’s decided to pool their passion and knowledge with some partners to launch a similar operation near their home in southwestern Maine, an area with a rich mineral history of its own. Jody knew that SCORE provided help with preparing business plans, so she contacted the Portland chapter for help in creating what would become Maine Mineral Adventures.
While many aspiring entrepreneurs can look to similar types of businesses as guides, the Matolcsy’s start-up needs were, in a word, unique. There were issues with gaining access to the long-dormant gem mines, long-term cash flow considerations given the seasonal variations in revenue, and marketing the wonders of mineral prospecting to prospective visitors.
“This was the first time a business like this had been tried in Maine, so we had nothing to base it on,” Jody says. “And as a seasonal business, most of our income would be generated two months out of the year. We had to be sure that we could cover year-round expenses as well.”
The Matolcsy’s have since expanded their business to include a location where visitors can pan for their own gemstones. Despite the pressures of the economic downturn, Maine Mineral Adventures has seen attendance grow every year, along with its profits. “It’s hard to say how much the recession is affecting us, but we’re making enough to sustain the business,” Jody says. “While Zoltan and I both have other jobs, we hope to grow Maine Mineral Adventures and add features such as an indoor facility for visitors.”
Although Maine Minerals Adventures is all about exploring the wonders of the natural world, the Matolcsy’s have found broadband to be an invaluable tool for their business. Along with giving them faster access to the web and making them more efficient, broadband provides them with the fastest and best access to their web site and customers online.
What's Great About My Mentor?
Volunteer mentors Glenn Davis, Dave West and Steve Veazey developed a cash flow projection to help the Matolcsy’s begin conducting mine tours in 2006. The mentors also provided regular critiques of their business plan to help refine the business concept, advised them on getting the proper permits, and offered guidance for managing both long-term and day-to-day management concerns. SCORE also assisted Zoltan and Jody in transitioning the business from a corporation to a limited liability company when their business partners dropped out of the venture.
How SCORE Helped
Jody and Zoltan will continue to look to SCORE for help as they look for ways to continue expanding their business. "SCORE gave us the confidence that we could make it on our own,” Zoltan says. “They helped dissolve the fear of the unknown of going into business for ourselves. Developing a niche business has been key to our success."
Jody also appreciates the fact that her mentors talk up Maine Mineral Adventures, and senses their pride in how far she and Zoltan have come. “I think they’re very happy with what we’ve done with a pile of rocks,” she says with a laugh.
UPDATE: SCORE National award's local SCORE Client,
Raising Cane's, with prestigious award for Outstanding Socially Progressive Business
All entrepreneurs should write a business plan, but if you are trying to raise investment
capital, a written plan that conveys your vision to potential investors is a must.
The truth is that many successful businesses were started without business plans. While that may be fine for the likes of a few people, it’s generally not a good idea. If you're going to start a business, the smartest approach is to write a business plan.
The Business Plan
A business plan provides you with a comprehensive, detailed overview of all the aspects of your business. This overview is the skeleton of your business—the underlying structure that provides the basis of your entire operation. Prepared in advance, a business plan allows you to review the pros and cons of your proposed business before you make a financial and emotional commitment to it.
There are three reasons to create a written business plan: