Judy Crosby loves helping children learn. She’s worked as a science teacher, directed the education department at the Children’s Museum of Maine, and has even completed education training with NASA.
But when the museum where she worked stopped hosting science camps, Crosby knew the business opportunity she had been waiting for had arrived. She started The DaVinci Experience summer camps in 1999 to offer science and art appreciation programming to kids aged 4 through 15. Since then, her business has grown to seven camp sites in Maine, with a staff of expert teachers and enthusiastic camp counselors.
Her SCORE mentors have been with her the whole way, from the first workshop she took in 1999 after seeing a newspaper ad. While her teaching background was strong, she didn’t have the business background she knew she would need to grow her new venture.
“So many people are excellent at what they do, or their product, but having that business background is just as important,” Crosby says. “SCORE really helped me out with the beginnings of logistics of how you start a business, how you get a license, and how you do all the different things you have to have when you’re getting your ducks in a row to start.”
Crosby still meets with mentors at the Portland, Maine chapter. “Hall Thompson is a retired banker and Natalia Robbins is a financial advisor,” Crosby explains. “They taught me to do my numbers and cash flows and really have helped me learn that I can make better business decisions if I’m paying attention to my numbers and reports.”
As for marketing, she leans on Ernie Weiss, who has a background in sales. “The three of them have helped me together as a team over the past five or six years,” she says.
Crosby recently worked with a colleague from the Maine Women’s Network to redesign her website. It’s come a long way since her son built the first website for The DaVinci Experience in 1999. The new site has allowed her to streamline the payment and registration process. Parents appreciate being able to complete forms and pay online, and Crosby’s bookkeeper has found that the new site saves her entire days she would normally spend on data entry.
She experiments with marketing techniques, and says her mentors have taught her to analyze the results. “We track where people are finding out about us so that we have good information on where we want to spend our marketing dollars for next year,” Crosby says. And after all these years, she still places local newspaper advertisements she knows her target demographic -- parents and grandparents -- will see.
Crosby recommends taking as many SCORE workshops as possible, while pacing yourself as your business grows. “You don’t have to know it all at once,” she says. “Take what you need to know as you need to know it.” She recommends working with a SCORE mentor throughout the learning process. “You sort of get tied up in your own little world,” she admits. “Having an objective mentor who knows about the business but not particularly your business, they’ll ask questions that just didn’t occur to you.”