Giving Back to the Community

Our workshops are seen as a way to bring hope and insight about the business and employment world to ECCF clients.

By Laurie Christiansen, SCORE Accredited Business Counselor, Score NE Mass Chapter 411

In 2008, our SCORE Chapter gave four workshops to a total of 60 participants at the Essex County Correction Facility (ECCF) in Salisbury, MA. The program was devised and initiated by Denise Sullivan, Job Developer/Life Skills coordinator and James Higgins, Clinical Director. Three-hour companion workshops were developed, staffed and facilitated by experienced SCORE counselors.

In 2009, with an increase in clients being serviced by ECCF and cuts in its staffing levels prompted by budgetary constraints at the State level, we were asked to put an estimated 91 participants through the “How to Start Your Own Business” workshop. A total of five separate workshops were conducted. The SCORE counselors participating in 2009's program have been Jack Clauson, Bob Munnelly, Ken Kramer (a new SCORE applicant), Bahar Thompson, Bob Curtin and Laurie Christiansen. We have also been asked to do another series of workshops this coming spring. These workshops are seen as a way to bring hope and insight about the business and employment world to ECCF clients.

REGISTER A BUSINESS

Here is how it works. After an explanation of SCORE--what we do and how it works--we go through a quick review of the initial steps needed to:

  • register a business,
  • obtain the proper tax ID numbers, and
  • determine any other legal requirements,

the group then gets down to the following process.

BUSINESS STRUCTURE

Each participating SCORE counselor guides a group of 10 or so attendees who work on the process of developing a small business. Areas covered include:

  • determining (by consensus) what business they want to go into,
  • electing a president, treasurer and marketing person, and
  • setting the location for their business.

FINANCIAL COSTS TO STARTING A BUSINESS

After a break (during which some drug testing might be scheduled) the groups reconvene in separate work rooms to determine the start-up costs for their business; i) rent, ii) inventory, iii) vehicle costs, iv) advertising and v) any other imaginable costs associated with getting the entity off the ground. With guidance from their SCORE counselors a picture begins to form of what it takes financially to start the business.

Next, each group works to determine the on-going monthly costs of running the business and the anticipated income. These calculations are then used to assemble profit & loss projections. Once all these numbers are known, as a group, they then develop a simple graph to illustrate their break-even point.

INSIGHTS GAINED FROM THE EXERCISE

It can be a less than perfect exercise. Last year one group needed $650,000 to get started, another had to fire all the employees they initially believed they could employ because they had no money to pay them. The “We-Like-Pets” store group determined they needed to sell way more fish than they originally estimated if they were to make a profit. However, although hypothetical, each participant comes away from the exercise with a better understanding of how one might go about the process of going into business.

SOME STATES EMBRACE BUSINESS STARTUPS

The Essex County group is in a good State to start an enterprise as 23 percent of business owners in Massachusetts are sole proprietors. Nationally, one in every two people works for a small business. Many persons before them have taken their ideas from a dream to an actual functioning enterprise, and many will do so after them. It is the American entrepreneurial spirit that motivates large numbers of folks.

SCORE IS THERE TO HELP ALL COMERS

One thing is for sure – if and when any of the attendees decides that he or she wants to go through the exercise for real, SCORE stands ready to help them. To date we have had one client come to SCORE after custodial release, complete with business plan and income and expense projections. We further anticipate helping this person and are preparing to do the same for additional motivated ECCF clients in the coming year.

The positive feedback we have received from the participants in 2009 makes this, for us, a worthwhile and rewarding form of counseling. At the end of a recent session one woman said in a very small voice, “You gave us hope". Many of these folks are truly challenged in their lives, are unemployable once they are CORI checked and have a long road ahead of them. This ECCF/SCORE initiative shows them hope and possibilities for reaching worthwhile personal goals after they have passed through this stage in their lives.