One month after its grand opening on May 15, 2013, Cloth Interiors of Kennebunk, Maine has been nominated by the Seacoast Chapter of SCORE as a small business success story for 2013.
Teri Cardinelli, proprietor of Cloth Interiors, spent over 25 years honing her skills in the design and craftsmanship of custom window treatments and furniture coverings before she decided to open her own shop in October 2012. At the time, she was working at two part time jobs while designing and producing custom window treatments out of her home for a few customers. She decided that she needed to commit full time to serving her customers, so she started looking for a space in the Kennebunk area to locate her business.
106 York Street
Year Company Formed
Cardinelli attended two evening workshops offered by SCORE, one on marketing and the other on finance. She says, “My shop opened in May, 2013, with the help and support of the Kennebunk Chamber of Commerce and SCORE, and I am totally supporting myself with the sales I have generated. This could not have been done without the assistance of my mentors and the inspiring workshops that I participated in. They were a springboard to my creativity and development. I believe my website, which I made myself, speaks highly of the skills I learned in the marketing workshop. (www.clothinteriors.com) - clients continually compliment me on it.”
With SCORE’s help, Cardinelli started making a plan for her business, found a perfect location, organized her bookkeeping, contracts and pricing, and got ready for her grand opening in May. She did all this while completing jobs, adding new customers and showing a solid profit and positive cash flow in every month of 2013.
What's Great About My Mentor?
Like many SCORE clients, Cardinelli has tremendous talent and technical skill, but needed help getting the business details organized. She had experience working in a similar business and Sandy Carlisle recognized the value of this. He pointed out, “Teri has an extensive background in her craft, which she now needs to recognize and draw upon. Most of her issues are in the areas of business management and marketing, which SCORE is exceptionally well equipped to address. As we discussed these issues, her responses and insights made this apparent. She is actively pursuing both local and trade networking, is establishing trade relationships with the major fabric suppliers and production shops, and is working on developing her own web site.”
Mentor Lisa Allison says that Cloth Interiors fills an important niche. “Teri’s skill is transforming her clients’ visions into reality. Whatever look the client wants, Teri can create it. She has the experience and know-how to create three dimensional effects, to obscure any problem areas, to bring in light or emphasize a beautiful view. She can even repurpose old fabric and blend the new with the old.” Recognizing her strengths, skills, and networking abilities, Cardinelli is now marketing her services to decorators and other third parties, for whom she has created a professional level trade package.
How SCORE Helped
Cardinelli contacted SCORE and was connected with mentor Sanford “Sandy” Carlisle, a retired executive who volunteers as an online mentor for SCORE. After many email and phone exchanges, Cardinelli arranged to come in to the Portsmouth office of SCORE, where she met with Sandy Carlisle and Lisa Allison, another SCORE volunteer. As Cardinelli explained, “From that first meeting I got the validation I was on the right track, experience to point me in the right direction, wisdom to guide me through my ideas and suggest better ones, and encouragement to know what my real value is to myself and my clients. That is a lot to have on my team. Because of Sandy and Lisa, my confidence just kept on building and my business began to grow.”
Upon her graduation from Virginia Tech, Leslie Crews decided to upgrade her lifestyle and nutritional habits through new routines and by eliminating unhealthy elements in her diet. She began brewing kombucha as a substitute to junk-food drinks of all kinds, and began taking her bottled kombucha to potlucks, socials, and other events. It was a hit and soon she found herself receiving orders! Kombuchick: A Kombucha Bar & Microbrewery Co. was not far behind.
Kombuchick is a kombucha bar and microbrewing company. Kombucha is a nonalcoholic, probiotic fermented tea that has been touted for its numerous health benefits. Kombuchick is one of a handful of kombucha microbreweries on the east coast; one of three registered Minority and Woman- owned kombucha companies in the region; and their goal is to become the Mid Atlantic region's premier female- owned kombucha microbrewery by 2015.
They have been able to spread their message and product through vending the nonalcoholic drinks at music festivals, parties and galas, trade shows, and other avenues - key pockets in the market discovered with the help of their SCORE mentor to be strategic for telling their story and selling their brew.
Buzz is certainly building around the business; it has recently been featured on BlissTree and in Veer Magazine's "Summer Beers/ Brews to Watch For" July 2012 edition. Leslie says of this feature, “This juxtaposition of a non-alcoholic, woman-owned brewing company alongside prominent, male-dominated brewing icons was monumental for us.“
How SCORE Helped
Leslie says, “Through our relationship with our local SCORE office, we have been able to successfully set reachable yet challenging growth goals and benchmarks, have been able to expand our customer and networking base, and have helped to encourage young women in our community to follow their dreams. Kombuchick, with help from SCORE, has successfully been able to discover and fill our niche market within the urban scene of coastal Virginia, which has been the first step towards becoming the premier woman- and minority- owned kombucha company in the Mid Atlantic region.”
Suntactics started in a garage in 2010 with a prototype product and a founder that realized he needed help to develop and launch his business. He immediately contacted SCORE and found the support required for getting the business off the ground and soaring. The result is a growing successful profitable American company with eco-friendly products manufactured right here in the USA.
Suntactics focuses on portable solar and off grid solar energy products. Their current products are a unique 5-watt handheld solar charger called the sCharger-5 for solar charging smartphones like the iPhone and the powerful dual port 14-watt solar charger called the sCharger-12 for solar charging multiple remote devices including tablets like the iPad. These compact, high power and durable solar power chargers meet the needs for a wide range of portable devices and are designed for long-term value, not obsolescence. The units are manufactured at Fastrak, a veteran owned contract manufacturer in San Jose, CA.
Suntactics is meeting an increasing customer demand by increasing production so they can provide this critical resource to all their customers for a large number of everyday applications as well as emergencies like tsunami, earthquakes, floods and hurricanes where power is interrupted for days or even weeks. With increased demand they have been able to increase their workforce from 1 to 3 employees and nearly double their revenues in just a year’s time.
The company was recognized as one of the 10 Best Eco-Inventions of 2010 by The Green Market, one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment.
What's Great About My Mentor?
SCORE counselors Ray Muzzy and Frank De Turris are helping the company in sales and marketing and also in the manufacturing area. Now the issue is to continue this successful start. Web development and sales support will be required to expand the market opportunities and overall sales for current and future products. And here they need continuing on-going support from SCORE. Dean Sala said, “We continue to work with SCORE counselors on marketing to help us as needed.”
How SCORE Helped
Dean says, "With SCORE’s help, I have taken an idea (invention) and actually turned it into a tangible product that produces positive cash flow. My advice to the new entrepreneur, people should look into outfits like SCORE, follow their program, listen to what they say and you will be successful.”
Juggling a full-time career as an emergency helicopter pilot and raising 5 boys between the ages of 1 and 8 is a tall order for any family. Add buying and growing a new business venture to the mix and only the strong will survive. Sherri and Larry Hansen have done just that, growing Culinary Kids into a thriving business that truly has a positive impact on its community. From a simple childhood memory of working together in the kitchen alongside her mother and Grandma, Sherri envisioned a place where family and friends could connect over meals—a place where people of all ages and walks of life could participate in the cooking process and experience the traditional values of family and friendships amidst the face pace world we live in.
If anyone knows how to effectively engage and influence children and families, it must be a mother of 5. But, Sherri also brings professional experience as an educator and a former manager of a Boys & Girls Club to the business.
The mission of Culinary Kids is to connect children and families in the community by creating bonding and learning opportunities exploring the art and science of cooking. The programs teach life, social and academic skills while encouraging creative expression and critical thinking. The culinary school has become a local favorite for school trips, and the events it provides for children
Culinary Kids reaches out to and collaborates with many other small businesses in the area, creating partnerships and complementary programs including adult cooking classes with local chefs, fitness programs with gyms and trainers, senior programs with area hospitals and many more joint ventures with businesses that support healthy, positive lifestyles. They also dedicate their time and resources to support local non-profit organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, ACCESS, SOAR and UP21 (all dedicated to assorted special needs populations in the community) as well as local schools and many other fundraising events in the area.
Culinary Kids was chosen in December 2012 as the recipient of the Sam’s Club Holiday Cheer small business grant and training. Sherri has been recognized by Sophisticated Woman, a popular magazine in the area, as their Enterprising Woman of the Month for July.
What's Great About My Mentor?
Of mentor Mack Deloney, Sherri says, “Our mentor has taken our passion and anxious energies and given us professional focus, helping us achieve our goals. Our business is fueled by our heart, but our mentor helps us see the clear picture of success based on logical principles that allow us to be financially sustainable, thus allowing our passionate programs to grow with direction and purpose. Neither of us as owners possesses the academic or experiential knowledge needed to run a business, so our mentor has helped define our needs and has provided a wealth of support, and advice. Other specialized mentors have filled in those gaps even further, allowing us to succeed. We have increased our efficiency, defined a more clear business plan, and improved our human resources and hiring strategies. We feel supported, knowing that in those moments of excessive stress, there is someone to call who "gets it" and who will be there to coach us through the rough patches. This business would not exist in its expanding form were it not for our mentor's influence and we can't wait to one day serve others in the same capacity!
As a service-based business, providing customized programs for our community, we needed to learn which of our program ideas would succeed and which would not. Naturally, we believed all of our ideas to be fantastic; however, our mentor helped us streamline those programs by evaluating their feasibility and profitability in a very clear fashion. Doing this allowed us to increase our efficiency, save time in program development and decrease the stress placed on staff in these developmental months. We also experienced human resources and staffing issues as our target employees must meet very specific qualifications. Our mentor suggested a human resources expert (also a SCORE volunteer) to assist us in defining our staffing challenges (retention and payroll predictability) and brainstorm ideas on how to re-structure our program offerings to suit both the community AND the staff we wanted to retain. We changed the offerings, created new job descriptions and the energy of our team shifted immediately and became more stable with a clear direction.”
How SCORE Helped
Of SCORE Sherri says, “We sought SCORE support just as we opened our business, knowing that we needed assistance to make it work, but would not be able to afford a hired coach. SCORE was the answer to our challenges and we truly would not be here without this support. We are dedicated to spreading the word about what SCORE has done for us and we continue to recommend these services to other business owners in our community.”
Multiple careers in small business, education, and community service provide the foundation and desire to engage in continuing community service, mentorship, and leadership development for individuals, small business, and communities; more than 40 years of experience in the operating and growing a lifestyle, retail business, including marketing, finance, and organizational leadership; community collaborations, visioning, and non-profit development; facilitating and developing curriculum in community college classrooms and online for business, leadership, personal selling, entrepreneurship, management, marketing, and business law classes; guided and molded non-profits in numerous leadership roles, as well as participated in organizational development, funding, and community visioning initiatives.
When the hospital she worked at was bought out, Christine Osborne, an occupational therapist and marketing director, went home one day and told her husband, “My creativity’s gone. I can’t do it again for another company.” The antidote for Christine and colleague Dan Morrisey was to open a retail toy store that showcased the “wonder and magic of fun.” Since those early days in 1990, Wonder Works has become a model citizen of the Charleston community with 4 locations that greatly enhance the enjoyment and success of locals' lives.
Everything about her Wonder Works toy stores is one-of-a-kind. With an amazing and knowledgeable staff, over 2,500 hand-picked toys, creative free events that draw thousands and thousands of people in the community, and providing children with a platform to follow their dreams and charitable endeavors, Wonder Works creates an experience like no other for its customers. The mission of Wonder Works is four-pronged: to inspire its employees, customers, community and charities.
Wonder Works was named the 2013 Small “For Profit” Business of the Year by the Coastal chapter of SCORE.
And in 2013, Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr., announced recently that Thursday, May 16 would be “Christine Osborne Day” in Charleston, due to all the contributions she has made over the years to the Charleston community, its children and its local charities. To celebrate the honor, the four locations will collected even more donations for the four charities the store works with the most: Happy Wheels at MUSC Children’s Hospital, Abby’s Friends, Hugs for Hope, and Keys for Hope.
What's Great About My Mentor?
Knowing very little pertaining to “retail,” Christine Osborne and her former partner, Dan Morrisey, reached out to volunteer SCORE mentor Bud Garforth in 1990, and he helped them lay the groundwork for the store's continued success. “We took his advice and contributing elements to the next level, and now have a business model that is so unique … and full of momentum,” said Christine.
Bud’s advice became invaluable from a business standpoint to include exceptional customer service tips, of which Wonder Works is known for in the region. For the first 3 years, Wonder Works did not make a large business decision, without first consulting Bud. Without Bud’s guidance, Wonder Works would currently not be in its present position with 4 successful stores. The groundwork and support provided was crucial in establishing Wonder Works mission and branding within the community.
The decision to begin growing the business came early on with a store catalog, then a physical store expansion into a location two doors down (tripling the selling square footage). Then the team decided to open a second location. With each growth initiative their SCORE mentor, Bud, assisted Wonder Works in reviewing the pros and cons of each choice, while sharing his “retail insight.” Bud’s ability to listen, provide necessary support when initiatives did or did not meet their intended targets, was a constant light. Christine says, “The unending support in these early years was EXTREMELY formative in helping develop Wonder Works into what it symbolizes for the community today…a place of wonder for individuals of all ages, where hopes and dreams do become reality.”
In 2010, new mom Cindy Prince created LooHoo Wool Dryer Balls as a reusable, energy-saving alternative to dryer sheets to help protect her family's health and the environment. The product quickly caught on with friends and family who also wanted to limit their exposure to toxic chemicals, reduce laundry time, conserve energy and save money. In no time, the high quality dryer balls were a hit with retailers and customers across the country.
Within 2 years in business, LooHoo had over 50 retailers carrying their product, including major outlets like Whole Foods. The business and founder, Cyndi Prince, have been featured in InStyle Magazine, Green Child Magazine and as a cover story in Maine Biz. In addition to being chosen as a Top Ten Green & Healthy Gift Idea by FOX channel 23's Good Day Maine, Cyndi was also chosen as a Leg Up winner by Spanx founder Sara Blakely. The win allowed LooHoo brand to be exposed to the millions of Spanx customers across the country via the company's catalog, website and social media channels.
The next goal for LooHoo is to target business customers like hospitals and nursing homes. Cyndi has plans to increase production capacity by 4x which she says would allow her to employ 20 people.
What's Great About My Mentor?
Cyndi met Portland SCORE mentor Nancy Strojny at a women's networking luncheon and a strong mentoring relationship quickly ensued. During the pair's monthly meetings, Nancy provides support and guidance on various challenges such as defining the long-term goals of the company, changing the layout of the website, dealing with legal issues around trademarks, changing the company name, developing a new brand, pricing, and recently, creating strategies for working with larger retailers. Cyndi says that Nancy is "an invaluable mentor who is committed to her success." She says she "continues to receive advice and expertise that helps her business grow and move in the right direction."