A fleece jacket is ideal for staying warm during Eugene, Oregon’s cool, damp months. University of Oregon student Scott Jones couldn’t afford to buy such a jacket, so he did the next best thing—he learned how to make one himself. Encouraged by the comments of friends, he began making more jackets, first as a hobby, then as a small solo business he subsequently named Beyond Fleece.
Scott continued the business after graduation and taking a new job as Oregon’s crew coach. Despite the tremendous demands on his time, he developed patterns that enabled him to offer a broader line of custom-made products and earn a small profit.
With Beyond Fleece attracting more attention locally and from its new Web site, Scott realized that he needed to take a more professional approach to managing the business. “I was barely making ends meet and did not have the money to invest in counseling,” he recalls. “Fortunately, there was SCORE—an organization that could provide the help I needed for no charge.”
After an extended trip to Europe followed by a move to California in 2001, Scott felt that Beyond Fleece had reached a crossroads. The time-consuming business offered little in the way of financial security. That’s when a phone call from Backpacker magazine literally changed his life. A self-described “hard to fit” staff member had raved about her custom-made Beyond Fleece jacket, leading to a glowing review in the high-visibility publication.
The upsurge in orders enabled Scott to relocate Beyond Fleece back to his beloved Eugene, hire his first employees and step up production and product offerings. Subsequent reviews and Backpacker’s coveted “Editor’s Choice” award for 2002 have built further momentum for the business, including a 2,500-square-foot warehouse/production facility and 13 employees. Scott’s accomplishments as a business owner were recognized in April 2003, when he was named the SBA’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
Working with several volunteer mentors at SCORE’s Eugene Chapter, Scott fine-tuned his business plan and assembled additional information needed to apply for an SBA-backed loan. He also learned the fundamentals of bookkeeping, business taxes and how to identify and reach new markets for his products via traditional media and the Internet. “Instead of telling me what to do, they brainstormed with me,” Scott says. “We would discuss what I wanted to, and evaluate alternate approaches. That helped me learn much more, and develop my expertise as a business owner.”
Scott credits the trust of his customers and confidence of his friends in helping him turn what started out as a hobby into a worthwhile enterprise. He also appreciates the role SCORE played during a critical stage in the evolution of Beyond Fleece. “The people at SCORE were very smart, very helpful and willing to share their experience,” he says. “They made it possible for me to move the business forward.”