Women Entrepreneurs

Baby Otter Swim School dives in for a makeover

Fri, 2015-02-20 04:56

Baby Otter Swim School made its first steps with their  five-day “Turn, Kick, Reach” program. In the early days, their instructors traveled to the home pools of their students. Then for many years, the company leased pool space to offer lessons.

The Event Planner and Pressplae

Can you imagine creating not one, but two successful businesses? Elizabeth Reed did just that. While earning her Master’s degree at Norfolk State University, she worked as an event coordinator for the college radio station. This experience inspired her to create her company The Event Planner.

Elizabeth’s love and pride for her community runs deep, and she wanted to showcase the neighborhood. She created Pressplae, a video blog which highlights local talent, music, events, fashion, arts and news. She describes the vlog as “a show designed to positively exploit the unexploited.” She and her crew visit a local business or event weekly, and Pressplae’s episodes recently debuted on Cox11 in Hampton Roads, VA.

As if growing two businesses wasn’t enough, Elizabeth also manages #LocalLove, a successful pop-up shop. It sells the local brands, art, photography, clothing, and jewelry featured in Pressplae episodes.

To learn more about Pressplae and The Event Planner, please see Elizabeth's Facebook and Twitter pages.

Elizabeth Reed
My Location
Norfolk VA
United States
My Successes

“I believe success is subjective.  Some measure their success according to their monetary value or tangible assets.  Although I desire those things for living and sustainability, I do not base my success on them. I base my success on the amount of people I inspire and assist in achieving their goals. I base my success on the positive notoriety of my brand.  I want people to know that my company brand is one that can be trusted not only for quality servicing but most importantly for our dedication to the betterment of the community.”

How SCORE Helped

Elizabeth says her mentor, Tom Vaughan, offered insightful, objective advice from his years of experience. He helped her prepare a budget, develop a business plan, and implement a marketing strategy.

“[SCORE Mentors] were consistent, patient, honest, knowledgeable, and optimistic.  It was like having my own personal business genie. They assisted me with the creation of my business plan and gave so many helpful recommendations on what organizations I should join and helpful contacts.  At first, I was quite intimidated by the task of drafting a business plan.  But with the help of my mentor Tom Vaughan, as well as a few other helpful SCORE mentors, I conquered that dragon!”

Magic Memories, Phoenixville, PA

Neydary Zambrano
Year Company Formed
How SCORE Helped
Neydary Zambrano, Owner of Magic Memories


Magic Memories Child Development Center had been in business for 19 years when Neydary Zambrano acquired it in 2006. In the nine years since then, Magic Memories has seen truly impressive growth and improvement.  As a Keystone STARS program, Magic Memories receives a rating based on the STARS criteria:  Standards, Training/Professional Development, Assistance, Resources, and Support.  An initiative of the Office of Child Development and Early Learning in Pennsylvania, the Keystone STARS performance standards provide the foundation for participating programs.  With possible ratings of STAR 1, STAR 2, STAR 3, and STAR 4, Magic Memories has jumped from being a STAR 1 program to a STAR 4 program since Zambrano purchased it.  She has grown the business by over 30 percent, increased staffing from 16 to 46 employees, and added a Kindergarten Enrichment Program.  Magic Memories has a current enrollment of 96 children from six weeks old through fifth grade, with before- as well as after-school care for school age children, and 240 children as part of their collaboration with the Phoenixville School District to provide Kindergarten Enrichment for their full time students.  In addition, the Center offers a summer camp for children ages 3 through 10.


It’s clear that what sets Magic Memories apart and makes it such an outstanding facility is its focus on quality assurance, which is Zambrano’s top priority.  She considers excellence in staffing to be the key to the quality improvement she has achieved at Magic Memories.  Under her ownership, each staff member has a degree in early childhood development, with a ratio of one lead preschool teacher per 10 children.  Magic Memories’ mission is to provide children with a loving, caring and stimulating environment.  It strives to provide not only a safe and healthy environment, but one which nurtures each child’s self-esteem and social development, and it teaches a value system of respect, courtesy and love.  Child-centered learning is focused on each child’s needs, abilities, interests and learning styles, which encourages each child to have a role in determining the learning process.  Magic Memories’ ultimate goal is to provide a strong foundation for children to achieve their highest level of cognitive, physical, social and emotional development.


Zambrano came to Magic Memories with a wealth of experience.  She holds a Law degree from Venezuela, a Masters of Law Degree from Temple University, and a Certificate in Executive Leadership from Bryn Mawr College.  Prior to her acquisition of Magic Memories, where she now serves as president, she managed the Chester County Healthy Start Program, which specializes in children's health and development.  Her background, together with her obvious love of children and passion for the field of early child development, has clearly helped her to make Magic Memories the success that it is today.  Despite Magic Memories’ remarkable growth and success, Zambrano is constantly looking to the future and exploring ways to expand and improve even further.


Zambrano first met with SCORE when she was considering acquiring Magic Memories.  She credits Score counselors Robert Wingerter and Randy Hove with providing both guidance and perspective throughout the process.  Since she was raised in a different country, SCORE’s guidance was particularly valuable in helping her to understand the culture of business in the United States.  In 2011, Zambrano met with SCORE counselors again to evaluate options for expanding Magic Memories’ facilities, using the SCORE financial model to assist in her decision.  At that time, Magic Memories underwent a renovation and expansion of its physical space.  Now, three and a half years later, with her business near maximum capacity, Zambrano has again contacted SCORE to discuss plans for further expansion, which may include acquiring another facility.  She says of her experience with SCORE, “It’s amazing that you can get the benefit of so much knowledge and experience free of charge!”


SCORE is a non-profit national organization of business volunteers dedicated to providing free counseling and educational service to small businesses. SCORE volunteers are seasoned business experts who apply their life experience and business knowledge to mentor individuals planning to start a small business, or small business owners who seek assistance in solving business issues. To schedule a personal session with a counselor or learn about small business education programs, call Chester and Delaware County SCORE at 610-344-6910 or click here to visit us online Chester County SCORE.


February 13, 2015

Whisk Culinary Services LLC

I have wanted to start my own business for many years; I have a culinary arts degree and have worked in several aspects of the food industry over the course of 20 years. In 2013 the circumstances seemed opportune as well as the fact that I no longer feared failure. I enjoy many aspects of food preparation, and am marketing myself as a culinary services provider so that I can stay in touch with the spectrum of food preparation that I enjoy, such as catering and instruction, but I am open-ended to involve myself with anything related to food!

Laura Cochran
My Location
York PA
United States
Year Company Formed
My Successes

While I am still an emerging business, I feel that the past 18 months have been successful every time a customer provides positive feedback. This reinforces my measure of success. It makes me happy to have met and generally exceed a customer's expectations. I put my heart into every meal I plan and prepare; into every class I instruct. There have been moments where an experience was not as ideal as planned; however, I would not say that was a failure, but rather a learning opportunity. I have high hopes for the future, with several projects in the works and with new customers reaching out to me regularly.

What's Great About My Mentor?

My mentor, Kellie, has always responded quickly and kindly to all of my questions. If she is not able to be of direct assistance she can generally provide me with someone's contact information who can better address the topic at hand. We are not in the same line of business, but she is a fellow female business owner, so there is a camaraderie in that respect.

How SCORE Helped

Through SCORE, I have had the opportunity to meet and network with business persons with a diversity of interests and levels of experience. On the whole, mentors and others I've met through SCORE are always happy to help and offer guidance unselfishly. I think we all just want to see each other succeed!

Positive Life Connections

How SCORE Helped

Jane Meyers, Therapist and Minister

In 1993, Jane Meyers started a business to provide counseling and hypnotherapy to people in need of those services.  She had high hopes of helping people cope with the trials and tribulations of life and making herself a fair living in the process.
With help from her friends and associates, Meyers developed a popular business fueled by some effective ads in the local weekly.  Prospective clients responded well to her message and her pretty face in her ads.  They were happy with the results and very thankful for the guidance and activities she provided.
After 15 years, Jane felt she needed to give the business a second look developing a more expandable business model and organization, deciding on improved ways to show the public that what she had to offer is desirable and worth paying for, positioning the business favorably against current competitors, and possibly taking on a new partner.
To help with this review, she called on the local chapter of SCORE (Senior Corps of Retired Executives) for their free mentoring with experienced retired executives.  She and her SCORE counselor reviewed values of different ways of organizing such as S-Corporation versus LLC.  They discussed pluses and minuses of bringing in a partner versus hiring a contractor; designed a new logo; discussed how to use cost accounting to analyze profitability by session, by therapist, etc.; and they discussed how to apply for an operating loan, and the probability of success.  According to Jane, “I am so grateful for an organization like SCORE that makes business mentoring readily available for those of us who are inexperienced in many of the business matters.  Gerry Smith was so easy to work with.  He was very approachable and offered me a different perspective without being condescending.  He made it easy for me to work with him.”
The decisions made at that time have paid off.  Today, Ms. Meyers’ therapy business has continued into its 21st year while she has started the Unity Community of Central Oregon Ministry. She has integrated her counseling abilities with her deep spiritual commitment to help people with troubled lives.  She reaches more people than ever before with a fully rounded program to become more positive about life and overcome the many problems life throws at all of us.
Positive Life Connections is located at 265 NW Franklin Ave., Suite 203, Bend, Oregon,  541-388-2929


IRS launches an online public directory of tax return preparers

Sat, 2015-02-07 08:31

The Internal Revenue Service has announced the launch of a new, online public directory of tax return preparers. This searchable directory on IRS.gov will help taxpayers find a tax professional with credentials and select qualifications to help them prepare their tax returns.


            I recently opened a sports memorabilia shop and now want to add an online component to sell my merchandise via the Internet. I plan to hire someone to design my website, but am looking for advice to provide that person with guidance and direction

           Nearly every small business has a website today…and no wonder. A 2011 Pew Internet study found that nearly half of all searches for local businesses are conducted online (newspapers finished a distant second). And usually, a company’s website is the first place prospective customers go when those search engine results come up.

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

Hemowear, LLC

How SCORE Helped

SCORE Mentorship Aids Small Businesses With Big Dreams

Nonprofit offers free one-on-one business advice

By Jasmine Rockow / The Bulletin / @JasmineRockow

Standing beside her well-used "green beast" sewing machine, Dana DeCaire holds up an example of her altered, comfortable dialysis clothing that she sells through her business, Hemowear. (Peter Clark / Lake County Examiner / Submitted photo)

Dana DeCaire’s business grew out of an act of love for her father, Bill Hermann, in 2004.

Three times each week she watched dialysis machines pump blood out of her father’s shirtless body, purify it and pump it back in through a catheter in his chest. The process made his 95-pound body so cold he often shivered and turned blue, but for safety reasons, his catheter, and his chest, needed to remain uncovered. A heated blanket in his lap did little to ease his discomfort, she said.

DeCaire used her sewing skills to design a sweatshirt with a zipper in the front. It allowed nurses to access his port and sterilize it without removing his clothes. Before long, other patients were asking her to alter their clothes, too, which she did free of charge. Shortly before his death in 2007, DeCaire and her father started Hemowear, a clothing line designed for patients undergoing dialysis or chemotherapy.

Today, DeCaire operates the business out of her rural home in Adel, 46 miles east of Lakeview in Lake County. Her husband, John DeCaire, helps out between a full-time highway maintenance job with the Oregon Department of Transportation and occasional carpentry work.

They earn a small profit, but Dana DeCaire wants to expand her business into a warehouse with employees, so she enlisted the help of Robert Cone, a volunteer mentor with SCORE. The nonprofit offers free one-on-one business advice to entrepreneurs and small-business owners, and has offices across the country.

SCORE is trying to engage more established startup companies that want to take their business to the next level. With a viable business showing potential for growth, Hemowear is exactly the type of client SCORE wants to reach.

SCORE has 15 mentors in Central Oregon with a broad array of expertise, such as operations, finance, marketing, sales, manufacturing and more. Mentors are either working or retired small-business owners and executives.

“Our primary focus is to create a sustaining business,” Cone said. “To do that, you have to create a business plan, which thoroughly vets the idea and creates strategies and tactics to achieve the goals. That’s what I am working on with Hemowear. She wants to grow the business, so we’ve had a lot of conversations about, what does that mean.”

Global ambition

Dana DeCaire credits Cone with bringing structure and focus to her business. When she reached out to SCORE in August, she thought she had a solid business plan. Cone gave her a long list of questions and asked her to rewrite it.

When DeCaire compared her two business plans, she realized she wasn’t following through with the goals she had set for herself.

“He has taken each step of the plan and broken it down so I can understand it and work on it,” she said.

Her ultimate goal is to be the “Nike of dialysis,” but Nike doesn’t manufacture its products out of a craft room in the middle of cattle country. Hemowear has two employees — Dana and John DeCaire. In addition to managing finances and sales, Dana DeCaire handles every aspect of the business, right down to the sewing.

When Hemowear gets an order, she sews in a zipper using a commercial sewing machine named the “green beast,” a hand-me-down from her grandmother. John DeCaire inspects the final packages before shipping.

Last year, Dana DeCaire almost gave up on the business after orders increased eightfold, from 20 in October to 150 in December. She was working two 24-hour shifts a week just to get them out, she said. Exhausted, she would sleep half the following day, allowing orders to stack up. The stress drove her into a tantrum that had her throwing things across the room and threatening to give up completely, she said.

John DeCaire couldn’t believe she wanted to walk away now that the business was finally working, she said. That’s when he stepped in and they found a way to share the workload.

“It’s just me, and my hubby in my back pocket,” said Dana DeCaire. “The holiday season is coming fast.”

This year, Cone suggested she focus on increasing sales and hire someone else to sew. She hopes to find a part-time worker in Lakeview before the holiday rush.

Meanwhile, she checks in with Cone every month by email to address other obstacles. With his direction, she recently registered the business to sell to federal agencies like the Department of Veterans Affairs. And DaVita Kidney Care, which has more than 2,150 clinics across the nation, lists Hemowear as a suggested gift for family members on dialysis. In 2015, she plans to become a wholesale retailer, selling bulk orders of her product to dialysis clinics.

Hemowear has already doubled last year’s revenue, and Dana DeCaire’s busy season is just about to begin. She’s still a long way from going global, but she believes if next year is as profitable as the current one, anything is possible.

“You have to understand the human aspect of it,” Cone said. “The thing that is sobering for most people, is having a good idea is just the price of ambition. … The door is open, but executing on the idea, in so many different ways, is the hard part.”

Reaching more Mom-and-Pop businesses

Every Tuesday night, a volunteer SCORE mentor offers free business counseling at the Downtown Bend Public Library. Most who seek the counseling come in with little more than an idea. Some of the ideas are good, said Cone. Others, not so much.

SCORE will continue to offer drop-in counseling because it’s a valued resource, Cone said. But the association wants to engage more with established small businesses that need help getting to sustainable and profitable levels.

SCORE is taking a two-pronged approach to attract clients like Hemowear. In January, the association plans to launch a series of seminars in partnership with the Deschutes Public Library. The first Wednesday of each month through April, the downtown library will host a free 2-hour workshop led by SCORE mentors. The series kicks off in January with business planning and goal setting, followed by financial fundamentals, maximizing marketing and managing operations in the following months.

“The idea is this will pick up the people who have started hobby businesses. We’re excited to see how this will work.” Cone said.

Mentors also give a presentation targeted to newer businesses at the monthly Bend Chamber of Commerce Membership 101 meetings, which provides new, current and prospective members an overview of chamber membership.

“With all the different mentors and backgrounds they have, there is a great representation of many industries,” said Shelley Junker, chamber membership specialist. “It’s nice that when someone signs up, they can be placed with someone who is experienced in their area.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0358, jrockow@bendbulletin.com

For more information on Hemowear, go to www.hemowear.com, or call them at 1-888-836-4366


            I’ve operated a local convenience store for almost seven years, never taking off more than an occasional weekend or holiday. Every time I plan a vacation, something comes up. How do I break this pattern before I burn out?


            I’ve operated a local convenience store for almost seven years, never taking off more than an occasional weekend or holiday. Every time I plan a vacation, something comes up. How do I break this pattern before I burn out?


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.

This document walks you thru the steps for starting a for profit business in Southwest Michigan.  It includes URL's for the various websites you will want to visit. While a few of the the items are specific to Berrien County, most of the  information applies to any part of Michigan

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