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Petit Music Finds Success in Rochester

Rochester SCORE, “Counselors to America’s Small Business”, helps Eyota business move.

Ann says that she and Larry long ago agreed they would only have a business that they both love, and that is what they are building. They want to offer a complete piano business—sales, service, and lessons. Ann says, “It is important to support the community. This is a long-term thing for us.”


Larry and Ann Petit
My Location
2765 Commerce Drive NW
Rochester MN
United States
Year Company Formed
My Successes

Rochester, MN— Ann Petit believes in angels. She believes that Marc Carpenter, local entrepreneur and SCORE counselor, is the angel that sparked her and husband Larry to move their business, Petit Music, to Rochester.

Larry spoke to the Charter House Men’s Group about their business and services. Marc was there. He talked with Larry at the end of the session. Then he showed up one day at Petit Music in Eyota.

Marc told Ann and Larry that they had a unique business, that it would do better in Rochester, and that Rochester needed them. Ann said, “He was very gentle about making his suggestions, but he was very serious and insistent.”

Ann and Larry had already given some thought to moving to Rochester. Ann said, “We were almost there anyway. But we would not have done it as quickly, if at all. Marc was adamant.”

Ten years before, when they were starting the business, Ann went to SCORE for counseling. And her father, Lyle Seebach, was a SCORE counselor in Cresco, Iowa, Ann’s hometown. When she told him about Marc’s insistence that they move the business, he said, “Listen to him.”

Because of her father’s counseling, Ann had already done most of the things needed to analyze a business move, such as the business plan, financial statements, and cash-flow analysis. “This move was meant to be,” Ann said, “not to be easy, but to be.”

Piano restoration was the business in Eyota. Larry belongs to the Piano Technicians Guild. Ann taught music and had worked at Hamilton Music in Rochester for five years. So she knew the music business and the businesses in Rochester and had friends in those businesses. She and Larry knew the business would change when it moved, and Marc had suggestions for how it should change.

Marc came to see the progress as the building housing Petit Music was being built adjacent to West Circle Drive at 2765 Commerce Drive NW. Now, after three years in Rochester, the business is considerably different. Restoration is no longer the heart of the business. Ann says, “It’s off due to the economy, but there’s not much profit in restoring pianos.” She says that it costs so much to do quality restoration that people will not pay the price. All you can charge, she says, is enough to cover costs and labor. But Larry continues to perform restorations in their building in Eyota.

Retail sales of new, used, and reconditioned pianos is now the heart of the business. You can find a piano at Petit Music for as little as about $1000 (sometimes less), as much as $180,000 (coming from Steingraeber & Söhne this summer), and nearly everywhere between. They are one of only six businesses in the US that sell some of the 70 handcrafted pianos Steingraeber builds each year. Other limited-production pianos they carry are Petrof and Grotrian. And they have pianos from many other makers at considerably lower price points. Ann notes, however, that everything they sell produces quality sound. Petit Music is a member of the National Association of Music Merchants and employs six people in sales, moving, and restoration.

Ann says their offering of pianos, “makes a huge difference for the Rochester community.” People here no longer have to feel that they have to shop in the Twin Cities to have a sufficient selection of top quality instruments. “The sales tax can support this community,” Ann says, rather than going to the Cities.

And Larry’s knowledge of the insides of pianos is a big help to customers looking for the right instrument. Also customers can trade in a piano they bought at Petit Music on a more expensive model, and Petit Music will give them the full purchase price on the trade-in.

Besides restoring and retail sales, service is a major part of the business. Moving pianos is becoming a larger part of the business, although not necessarily by choice. Ann explained that Rochester did not have enough high-quality piano movers to satisfy customers paying for high-quality instruments, so Larry began moving them from the store to customers’ homes. Then he got more calls to move pianos from one house to another. Fortunately he has found another strong angel to help in that part of the business. Ann says that’s another service they want to offer so that the instruments important to the people in Rochester get the care they deserve.

Piano lessons are a major part of the business but a minor source of revenue. Petit Music has four music rooms available to teachers. Ann chooses the teachers, and all have music degrees. But they operate as independent teachers. They pay Petit Music $3 for each half hour they use a music room. Ann believes that teachers are entitled to a reasonable income for their efforts. She is satisfied to have the students and parents come through the show room as potential customers. There they can also select music books and sheet music that is for sale to the public. With all the activity of scheduling, sales, purchasing, and taking care of other aspects of business, Ann is no longer teaching, except for a few long-time students.

Ann says that she and Larry long ago agreed they would only have a business that they both love, and that is what they are building. They want to offer a complete piano business—sales, service, and lessons. Ann says, “It is important to support the community. This is a long-term thing for us.”

As part of supporting the community, they offer showroom for recitals, auditions, and competitions. Bella Voce, the local young women’s choir, holds its auditions in the showroom and has its business office within Petit Music. Ann and Larry may have already been declared angels by some of those who have used the facility or have been touched by them in other ways.

Some suggestions Marc made for the business have not been implemented because Petit Music has good relations with other local music businesses. If those businesses change for any reason, Ann says they may reconsider Marc’s suggestions.

And how is business since their move? Ann says sales are up a lot, even in a down economy. But it was expensive to move. And it is much more expensive to operate in Rochester than in Eyota. But they have a place to be seen by a much larger audience, and profits are up some. While no one can accurately predict, Ann believes the business will continue to grow as the economy recovers.

Marc Carpenter and other Rochester SCORE counselor angels assist area entrepreneurs with advice on managing their business challenges by providing confidential, free counseling—last year to more than 250 people. They also provide seminars about starting and operating businesses throughout the year.

Rochester SCORE is one of 389 chapters in the US that have assisted more than 7.8 million entrepreneurs. For more information call Rochester SCORE at 507-288-8103.

Before you launch into your own business, there are dozens of details to be considered - from the momentous to the almost (but not quite) trivial.  Here is a checklist covering many items you need to take care of.

Preliminary Research

  • assess your strengths and weaknesses
  • establish business and personal goals
  • assess your financial resources
  • identify the financial risks
  • determine the start-up costs
  • decide on your business location
  • do market research
  • identify your customers
  • develop a marketing plan

Business Transactions

  • select a lawyer
  • decide on business organization-proprietorship, partnership, corporation
  • create your business-register your name, get incorporated
  • select an accountant
  • prepare a business plan
  • get financing
  • establish a line of credit
  • select an insurance agent
  • obtain business insurance

First Steps

  • design and order business cards
  • obtain a lease
  • get furniture and equipment
  • review local building codes
  • obtain a license or permit (if applicable)
  • send off for federal and state tax forms
  • apply for Employer Identification number (if applicable)
  • join a professional organization
  • line up suppliers if needed
  • set a starting date

 Business Plan

The most important reason to do a Business Plan is for you to become convinced that you can turn your idea or dream into a real functioning business. Until you have satisfied yourself that your plan "makes sense", you shouldn't even think of trying to sell anyone else. Once you're convinced you can make your idea work then you can show it to lenders and prospective investors. A Business Plan is not a "one-time" document just for obtaining investors or financing. You should consider it to be a "living document" which you will update and upgrade from time to time as information and circumstances change and as appropriate as you thus make changes in your business.

A Business Plan/Financial Plan is an absolute necessity in applying for a loan for a start-up business and is highly recommended in applying for a loan for an existing business.

How do you do it? It's not easy. And it's unlikely you can just sit down and produce a good plan in one sitting because a lot of trial and error and testing of ideas is involved. It will most likely evolve over a period of time.

How? Think about your business idea often and ask yourself these questions about every aspect of it. Who?, what?, where?, when?, why?, how?, how much?, how many?, how often? Write down the answers. Look for "holes". It's easy to list all kinds of ideas. Do you have the knowledge and resources to carry them out cost effectively? Are you "double counting" your resources, counting on them to do two different things at the same time?

Why do you want to pursue a particular part of your plan? Who will carry it out? When? Where? How much will it cost? How many sales will each marketing campaign generate? How does the cost to acquire a prospect, make a sale, or provide the product or service compare to your product or service pricing parameters?

Visualize some "typical days". What is being done? Why ? Who is doing it? Ask and answer these questions over and over until you are convinced you know how your business will function day-to-day. Now capture this knowledge in your plan and show how it will work financially. Make changes in your plan until you have a plan where all the elements fit together and work from a marketing, operational, and financial perspective.

There is no single prescribed format for a Business Plan. However, we believe many of you will find the format shown below to be helpful. You should feel free to adjust it to your unique circumstances.

A SCORE Counselor will be glad to assist you by reviewing your business plan draft(s) and giving you constructive comments. This can be accomplished in face to face meetings or by exchanging emails of sections of the plan as you write them. Use of a word processor such as Microsoft Word or Works is recommended.


BeLaro Jewelers

“SCORE gave us the confidence to overcome our fears of opening our own store…and helped us understand the business side of the operation”
Laura Imhof

Two visionary entrepreneurs with a passion for the retail jewelry business came to SCORE seeking guidance to start their new business. Becky Clifford and Laura Imhof had been employed by Lockhart Jewelers of Downingtown, Pa. for many years having become skilled artisans in custom jewelry design and repair, and in inventory selection and counter sales. After the untimely death of their employer, Ronald Lockhart and subsequent liquidation of the business, Becky and Laura were left with a major career decision… “What do we do now?”.

Lockhart Jewelers had been the only jeweler located in downtown Downingtown and many loyal customers were asking Becky and Laura where to go now that the business was closing. The prospect of starting their own business appeared overwhelming. They set up a counseling session with two SCORE counselors, Charlie Espenlaub and Jim Freidman, after having heard about SCORE from a local business owner. After listening to Becky and Laura talk about their passion for opening their own jewelry store, Charlie and Jim discussed the business issues to be addressed when starting up a retail business. SCORE assisted Becky and Laura in understanding the potential profitability of the various retail jewelry product and service lines and therefore the products and services they should focus on in a startup business. SCORE also assisted them with the selection of their business location, counseled them on borrowing money to finance their startup, and apprised them of other support services they would require to become a successful retail business.

Becky and Laura opened their store in October 2009. What makes this story most remarkable is that their business continues to grow, and is now prof- itable when many small retail jewelers are closing or facing operating losses in these difficult economic times. Laura says “SCORE gave us the confidence to overcome our fears of opening our own store”.
Becky and Laura believe that another factor of their businesses’ success is personalized customer service. They continue to see many old customers or “old friends” from their days at Lockhart Jewelers plus a growing base of new repeat customers. Becky says, “Attention to detail and going that extra mile to meet our customer’s needs has been our secret to success”. She says “For in- stance a customer needed a piece of jewelry repaired within 24 hours of her wedding and we met the challenge”. Laura says, “Becky and I had the passion for the selling, crafting and repairing jewelry and SCORE helped us understand the business side of the operation”.
Becky Clifford and Laura Imhof
My Location
31 E Lancaster Ave
Downingtown PA 19335
United States

Hive Creations Receives Advice From SCORE Mentor

Owners and artists Justin Kingsley Noyes and Rachel Vanatta Noyes established The Hive Creations in 2007, and began by creating 100% of their merchandise for the first few years of business.  Their concept eventually evolved to represent numerous talented artists from all over the world, which has most recently grown to over 300. 

Justin Kingsley Noyes and Rachel Vanatta Noyes
My Location
Bradenton Beach FL
United States
Year Company Formed
My Successes

Rachel's line of jewelry, Nectar Jewelry ( is sought after by jewelry collectors looking for something unique, which just happens to be her signature slogan, "Bee Unique". The jewelry line has been featured internationally in additional galleries, and more recently fashion events. Justin's illustrations and portfolio of commercial art accounts continue to gain momentum. His work has been featured in everything from magazines, books and restaurants, to major motion pictures in Hollywood, CA. Both hold degrees from th prestigious Savannah College of Art & Design.

What's Great About My Mentor?

It started with Rachel, who was searching for a way to market her jewelry line, but lacked the tools and info to do so herself. She contacted SCORE back in 2005, and was paired with SCORE advisor Jon Stuart. The two had weekly and bi-weekly meetings, and began by discussing how to create a better web presence. Over the next few years as positive stride were made, Rachel and her husband Justin came to the decision to work together and open their retail store and gallery.

How SCORE Helped

SCORE played a major role in beginning their endeavor by guiding the duo through the process of financing, creating a business plan, finding a retail space, just to name a few aspects.

Dabney Properties LLC Finds Success With SCORE

Meet Slayton Dabney, President of Dabney Properties, a corporate housing firm he started about four years ago. His niche is satisfying folks in need of upscale temporary housing. His clients include individuals on temporary business assignments and those who have their job relocated. Also, people displaced due to a property insurance loss, and Virginia legislators while the General Assembly is in session.

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Slayton Dabney
My Location
Richmond VA
United States
My Successes

Dabney leases fully furnished apartments and condos at such downtown Richmond addresses as Vistas on the James, the Miller & Rhoads Residences, and the River Lofts. They also have properties listed in Richmond’s West End as well as Fredericksburg and Charlottesville.

Dabney says “I wanted to own investment property. When I was still working at IBM, I bought a townhouse and lived in it for
6 months. I furnished it and set it up to be a corporate unit. I advertised on Craigslist and an executive from Mead Westvaco contacted me, and signed a 6 month lease.”

Ownership is expensive, so the majority of properties are rented by Dabney Properties from property management companies
or their owners. Dabney then furnishes the apartments and subleases them to their clients. “Right now we have about 50 individual units, and all are rented”, says Dabney.

What's Great About My Mentor?

Dabney, age 33, received his master’s degree in business from Georgia Tech and completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Virginia. He says “Initially a financial advisor and friend suggested I contact SCORE for guidance. In 2007 I called the Richmond SCORE office and was referred to counselor, Hank Farrell. At the time my business was less than a year old and Hank and I met several times. He offered me good advice in creating a viable business plan, website and promotional literature”. 
“I came to realize it was important to have a business line of credit if I was to continue to grow the business. Although the economic climate was deteriorating, we were able to secure a fairly substantial credit line from two banks”.

How SCORE Helped

“Hank Farrell has proven to be a real friend. I have always felt like I could pick up the phone and Hank would be willing to meet with me at a moments notice. Dabney properties is grateful for the support we have received from the Richmond SCORE Chapter. You have made a real difference”, states Slayton Dabney.

FoxTale Book Shoppe

Ellen Ward had run an ad agency for 18 years. Jackie Tanase had worked as a corporate paralegal. Karen Schwettman was a freelance interior designer. All three shared a lifelong passion for writing, books and independent bookstores.

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Ellen Ward, Jackie Tanase, Karen Schwettman
My Location
105 East Main Street, #138
Atlanta GA 30188
United States
Year Company Formed
My Successes

The trio thought back to the encounter with the fox near Denver and decided that “fox tale” would make a great name for their new bookstore. Since opening in June 2007, FoxTale Book Shoppe has been embraced by the community. The mayor of Woodstock declared opening day “FoxTale Book Shoppe Day.”

“It’s amazing how much the bookstore has helped bring about a sense of community,” Karen says. Jackie adds, “We greet our customers as they come in and try to make them feel welcome. We’ve made friends, and you know just what they need the more you get to know them.”

In addition to books, the store also sells greeting cards, knickknacks and writing tools. “Our customers can get things they can’t buy anywhere else,” Ellen says. “We’ve also been in just about every publication in the Atlanta area, including the Atlanta Journal, Atlanta magazine and the Fox 5 morning show.” They also reach out to job fairs and local schools, and even talked about being an entrepreneur with students at Woodstock Middle School.

When the final Harry Potter book was printed, they held a party in the gazebo across from their store and more than 100 people showed up. “When we opened the boxes at midnight, the people rushed in, bought their books, and rushed out,” Jackie says.

Ellen, Jackie and Karen are proud of their growing business. “An independent bookstore puts money back into the community and not back into a corporation,” Ellen says. “We support the community, and it instills a sense of ownership in our customers.”

The three continue to receive mentoring and advice from Atlanta SCORE and Hooper Wesley. “SCORE will shine helping people who wouldn’t go into business without a strong support base,” Karen says.

What's Great About My Mentor?

"SCORE mentor Hooper Wesley said, what a great idea, this could work. It really encouraged us. He was with us every step of the way. He even went to meetings with us at the bank. SCORE will shine helping people who wouldn’t go into business without a strong support base." says Karen Schwettman, co-owner, FoxTale Book Shoppe, Woodstock, GA.

Hooper formerly worked for the governor’s office and he has a lot of experience in financing and the government. Last year, Atlanta SCORE clients secured more than $1.5 million in SBA-backed loans. Hooper’s clients account for almost half that amount. “If he gets excited about a client, he goes to the nth degree,” says Atlanta SCORE Vice Chair.

“We told Hooper our idea and concept,” Karen says. “He said, what a great idea, this could work. It really encouraged us.” Hooper began working with them on their business plan. “He was with us every step of the way,” she adds. “He even went to meetings with us at the bank.”

How SCORE Helped

SCORE will shine helping people who wouldn’t go into business without a strong support base.

Mountain Glory Creations Succeeds With Help From SCORE Mentor

Jan Seale and Bob Brandenburger had big plans for their retirement years--travel, visits to family members, and perhaps a small business that would provide some extra income without cramping their newfound freedom.

But just ten days before bidding farewell to the nine-to-five routine, an automobile accident restricted Jan’s mobility for several months.

Suddenly faced with more down time than they’d expected, Jan and Bob began experimenting with their new digital camera.  They photographed the scenic natural beauty and architecture near their Charlottesville, Va., home, and used their home computer and printer to create note cards for friends.  As the distinctive note cards got around, Jan and Bob began receiving more and more requests for additional sets.

“This looked like the interesting and flexible business opportunity we had hoped to find,” Jan says of the enterprise they named Mountain Glory Creations.  “However, both of us had been public-sector administrators.  We had a lot to learn about running a small business.”


My Location
Charlottesville VA 22903
United States
Year Company Formed
My Successes

SCORE’s counseling and seminars have helped Jan and Bob grow Mountain Glory Creations at a comfortable pace. Their regular appearances at the summer Charlottesville City Market have led to new products such as prints, calendars and computer screensavers, as well as commissions to photograph area homes, farms, restaurants and vineyards.  The couple also learned how to create a web site that exposes their products to an even wider market.

What's Great About My Mentor?

 “Steve Cooper introduced us to a number of marketing paths, and how to evaluate their potential value to our business.  He also gave me tips for approaching store owners about selling our cards, which was important since I’m not a natural salesperson.” says Bob.

Cooper also offered suggestions managing large influxes of orders, and cost- and labor-saving measures such as using an area printer for some of the more popular note cards.

How SCORE Helped

Jan and Bob discovered that the local chapter of SCORE offered a series of low-cost seminars for new and prospective entrepreneurs.  While the formal presentations gave the couple valuable information about business planning, financial management and other start-up issues, SCORE Counselor Steve Cooper provided free advice on specific aspects of their business idea.

Jan and Bob have a ready answer to anyone who admires their success and expresses interest in getting a business started.  “We send them all to SCORE,” Jan says, “and we’re pleased to hear that many have indeed called them.”

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