Women Entrepreneurs

Ventavia Research Group Succeeds wtih SCORE

Having over 10 years of research experience in various areas such as: psychiatric trials, vaccine studies, hypertension, smoking cessation and so much more,Olivia Ray who recently became a new mother, knew she needed flexibility in her schedule if she continued working. Instead of working as a contractor for various projects or working in a large clinical research group, this new mom opted to start her own clinical research center, Ventavia Research Group. Ventavia Research Group was the perfect fit for her new lifestyle, allowing her the freedom to be able to take care of her child.

Oliva Ray, CCRC
My Location
Fort Worth TX
United States
My Successes

Because of her diligent networking skills, after 3 short months of opening, Olivia successfully secured her first client. Olivia and her staff are participating in a study for a Clostridium Difficile vaccine. Clostiridium Difficle is a disease that hospitalizes 350,000 individuals each year.



How SCORE Helped

Olivia's mentors helped the research professional turn her four page business plan into a solid 50 page plan that consisted of a budget and estimated cash flow. With the complete business plan for Ventavia Research Group in place, Olivia was able to successfully receive a $150,000 line of credit that was used to launch her business.

Cheryl Newton Architect, LLC

It seems like yesterday. It was February 4, 2010. I had been working for various architect firms for the previous 15 years and was kicking around the idea to start up my own business. I live in Glastonbury, Connecticut and was visiting our Chamber of Commerce and was asking the people there some basic questions dealing with setting up my legal entity. They suggested I meet the two mentors from SCORE who provide free business mentoring in the community. I set up a meeting. I met Jim Cirilli and Mark Cutler and it was the beginning of an amazing journey which continues to this day. I remember looking at the SCORE logo on the documents they had with them; “For the life of your business” and thinking what that really meant. 

In my business, I get the greatest compliments from those clients who have referred their friends and family to me. Over the last year, I have referred 6 of my friends and associates to SCORE. This is the greatest compliment I can give.

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Cheryl Newton
My Location
Glastonbury CT 06033
United States
How SCORE Helped

Over the last two years I have been blessed with the advice, friendship and support of my SCORE mentors. Mark and Jim continued to be my primary mentors but there were dozens of other specialists brought in to assist me with everything from business planning, to sales planning and execution, to putting together a marketing plan and then assisting me to find the right tools to reach my target audience to planning and executing a public relations plan. I found SCORE specialists in every functional area there to support me under the umbrella of my two main mentors who have helped me double my business the last two years.

I am a woman wearing many hats. I am a wife. I am a mother. I am the owner operator of a growing architecture firm in Connecticut. I am often asked how I have been able to grow what is often a one person show as chief cook and bottle washer. I tell them about SCORE. I tell them that on my team is an army of experienced people who volunteer their time and who have been there and done that and help me discover the right ways to grow my business and grow it profitably. 

Among the team of SCORE volunteers who I have worked with over the years, included David LaBeau who had retired from SLAM, the largest firm in the area, a firm I had worked for and a man I had great respect for.  There was Jim Cirilli, a sales executive who gave me the courage to go for it, who taught me the power of positive thinking. Through this power of positive thinking, a lesson he was teaching me while he battled against the terrible cancer, I have exceeded the goals established in my strategic plan. Jim and David are now gone but their learnings stay with me every day.

I am still growing and I am still relying upon Mark and the Greater Hartford Score team, my army of specialists I can call upon during my time of need. I am still out there telling the world about SCORE. It’s the best compliment I can give. 


I have a deep passion for helping women advance and have put this passion into my business which I have named Shoptimize . Shoptimize is a shopping website where customers can advance women as they shop. Women aged 35-64 come for the cause and come back for our cool products ranging from eco-friendly items to luxury handbags. Women have 80% of the purchasing power in this country. On Shoptimize they can use it to shop women to the top.

In addition to advancing the women-led companies whose products we exclusively feature, we give back 1% of our after-tax profits to nonprofits that advance women. When women profit, we all profit, including Shoptimize.

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Donna Haghighat
My Location
West Hartford CT
United States
How SCORE Helped

As a brand new small business, I was thrilled to learn about SCORE.  SCORE is amazing in many ways, but the most important two are that it is a free and confidential service that connects the entrepreneur with mentors with the expertise we need when we need it.

The Greater Hartford SCORE has connected me to several great mentors with special expertise that helps me in my particular line of business.  Mark Cutler, my lead mentor and the Chairman of Greater Hartford SCORE has amazing connections and the ability to quickly determine who to bring in as a mentor for a particular entrepreneur.

In my case, I have worked with a couple of amazing resources at SCORE in addition to Mark  including Barry Pilver re social media,  Kathy Rocha on strategic planning and business framework and Jeff Brine on Legal. In addition, Mark was actually able to bring on a fellow SCORE mentee as my mentor due to some similarities in our business model. I am grateful for having Azam Saeed from New England Mercantile Group on my team.

As a solopreneur just starting out, I am literally doing it all, from the most mundane of clerical  and bookkeeping tasks to strategic business decisions. SCORE mentors help me tremendously to stay focused on the higher level decisions.

I have been fortunate to have been exposed to SCORE’s role in Northeast Utilities Supplier Development program and can only applaud them for their contribution to minority business growth in the region.

I can’t recommend SCORE highly enough both for entrepreneurs as well as mentors.  I have already told several entrepreneurs that they must check into their local SCORE which can be a critical resource for them. It certainly has been and continues to be, for me.

Project Genesis

Project Genesis was founded in 1991 as a non-profit corporation dedicated to serving Connecticut adults and students who have disabilities. While our main office is located in Willimantic, our services are available in every county in the state. We serve over 200 individuals per year, some of whom participate in short-term job supports and many of whom receive long-term educational, vocational and life-skills supports. 

We believe in…

Individualized Services: Each person receiving services is unique and deserves to have our support focused on their own, specific dreams and goals. Since our inception in 1991 Project Genesis has been committed to individualized services and this has set us apart.

Trust: One of our strongest guiding principles is the belief that the relationships between our consumers and our staff are key to the development of productive services. When there is a relationship of trust people are better able to strive and to achieve their best.

Honesty: We have a commitment to open and honest communication. No organization is perfect and we at Project Genesis try to own our mistakes just as we celebrate our successes. We welcome the opinions of our consumers and we regularly request information about how we are doing. Both informal communication and satisfaction surveys provide us with information about how we can do our jobs better.

At Project Genesis we never stop trying to do our best. It is, simply, what you deserve. 

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Virginia Kerensky
My Location
Willimantic CT 06226
United States
Year Company Formed
How SCORE Helped

"They valued what we did [here] as strongly as we did.....You will never find such a broad group of experts."

Replacement Lens Express

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Stephanie Bealing
My Location
Plainville CT
United States
How SCORE Helped

"I've been blown away by all the help I've gotten..... I'm hoping there's no last meeting!"

Small Businesses SCORE Big

Fri, 2014-04-18 10:28

If it wasn't for the encouragement of a few retired business mentors, the Great Display Company in Bloomington may not have grown to where it is today.

Aaron Hambleton and Jacob Duquenne wanted to start a printing business and approached the Central Illinois SCORE chapter for help about four years ago.

SCORE Opening New Doors

Thu, 2014-04-17 10:27

Establishing a private practice has been Renee Keller’s dream for the past 18 years.  When she decided to start formulating a plan to accomplish her goal, she only had lots of notes, pictures and ideas but no clue on the next step.

Keller, a licensed psychotherapist, certified in Rapid Resolution Therapy and an educator, is the founder of Mosaic Unlimited, Inc., a psychotherapy based practice in Glen Carbon that specializes in treating trauma. 

Dance School Owner Took Right Steps

Fri, 2014-04-04 10:55

It was 1978 and 22-year-old Valerie Gooding, an administrative clerk by day and professional dance instructor by night, knew it was time to move with the tempo of her class of ballet, tap, jazz and musical theater students and open the doors to her dream.

So, the Philadelphian, who has lived in Delaware since 1973 and now Newark, did just that.

          I recently completed development of a new item for the pet industry and will be receiving
the first shipment of product shortly. Though my background is in engineering, I now need to go
out and sell the product to distributors. Any tips on how to become a successful salesman?

          Among the many titles you take on when owning a small business is Chief Salesperson.  Your business literally cannot live without sales growth, and it’s up to you keep start—and keep—those customers coming.

About the Author

          This column is brought to you by the Merrimack Valley Chapter of SCORE, with nearly
70 current and former business executives available to provide free, confidential, one-on-one
business mentoring and training workshops for area businesses. Call 603-666-7561 or visit
merrimackvalley.score.org for information on mentoring, upcoming workshops and volunteer
opportunities. SCORE is a national, non-profit organization and a resource partner of the U. S.
Small Business Administration.

Kenwood Entrepreneur Nabs Award

Thu, 2014-03-27 08:56

It’s no surprise that a bowl of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich is a national comfort food.

What may be surprising is that grilled cheese has created a sustainable business for entrepreneur Emily Frank, owner of C’est Cheese Food Truck Inc. of Cincinnati.

Frank, 39, of Kenwood, has been selected a SCORE Client Success for her hard work, profitability and vision to form and organize the Cincinnati Food Truck Association. Her 2-year old company was a 2012 finalist in the Bad Girl Ventures micro-lending class.

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