Women Entrepreneurs

Pumpkin Maternity

While touring the Netherlands in a converted fish truck, rock musician Pumpkin Wentzel thought, "It may be time to settle down. There are plenty of grunge bands out there combing the continents, but what isn't here, that needs to be?"

Nearing 30 years old, she wanted a new, more stable career that could put some food on the table. She thought of her sister and her best friend, both pregnant and complaining that they had nothing to wear. She knew exactly what was needed—hip, quality, maternity clothes that reflected today's fashions. She wanted to design maternity wear for the overly refined. "Pregnancy," she thought, "should not mean a radical break from personal style."

Owner/Founder
Pumpkin Wentzel
My Location
New York NY
United States
Year Company Formed
1997
My Successes

Pumpkin set out to create this new, barely-touched market. Although she knew nothing about business, she envisioned solving the "maternity-wear crisis" and being a great resource for moms-to-be around the world. Excited by the vision of her new "maternity empire," she went to SCORE for some advice on how to get started.

At the same time that she was planning her new business, Wentzel was planning her wedding. Feeling generous at this occasion, many friends and family offered gifts and loans to help start Pumpkin Maternity. With an original investment of $15,000, Pumpkin launched her business.

Two months after their first meeting with Abe, the first Pumpkin Maternity catalog was printed and Pumpkin was officially "in business." As newlyweds, she and Charlie were designing clothes, taking phone orders and warehousing their entire inventory in their fifth-floor New York City apartment.

Due to good press and word-of-mouth, sales quickly took off. In the first six months of business, Pumpkin was able to lease office space. "We were able to move shipping and receiving off the foot of our bed!" says Pumpkin. After the first year, she hired a company in Charlottesville, VA to handle all of the order placements, shipping and inventory.

Two years later, Pumpkin Maternity is a thriving mail order and e-commerce business that has been featured in VogueGlamour and Instylemagazines, to name a few. Pumpkin has also sold her designs to chic boutiques in Miami and Los Angeles. A total investment of $25,000 has led to $210,000 in sales. Pumpkin maintains a design studio and showroom in New York City.

Pumpkin's plan is to create a complete one-stop shopping mail order and Web store for pregnant women. A catalog will not only carry maternity clothing designed by Pumpkin Maternity, but other items that pregnant women have difficulty finding—such as undergarments.

"We have made a mockery of the 'no-profit in the first five years' rule," says Pumpkin. "Somehow we watched ourselves, a pair of rock-and-rollers, emerge from the underground to find a niche in the mainstream. We've also made some progress in solving the global crisis in maternity clothes—now pregnant ladies can no longer say, 'There's nothing to wear.'"

What's Great About My Mentor?

Pumpkin and her husband Charlie met with New York SCORE mentor and veteran of the garment industry, the late Abe Greenberg. Abe grilled her on her marketing strategy and questioned all of her design choices. He asked the "why" questions like "Why these clothes at these prices?" And, he asked the "what-if" questions like "What happens if . . . a stray pin pricks a pregnant belly?"

Pumpkin and her husband were forced to face the tough questions that were sure to meet them head-on before long. "I began to crumble," admits Pumpkin, "but I realized that these were the questions that had to be answered and Abe Greenberg thankfully had the gall to ask them."

PEx Personalized Exercise Inc. Succeeds By Using Advice From SCORE Mentor

There are many parallels between the sport of fencing and running a business. Both require preparation, mental agility and a commitment to being the best. Perhaps that's what led Jana Angelakis to start her own personal training business in 1990.

Owner/Founder
Jana Angelakis
My Location
New York NY
United States
Employees
20
Year Company Formed
1989
My Successes

Always interested in athletics, Jana took up fencing at age 10, and became the youngest female to win the U.S. National Championships seven years later. She went on to earn four All-America honors, two NCAA championships, and membership on the 1980 and 1984 Olympic teams.

Unfortunately, fencers have no pro leagues, endorsement contracts, or broadcast opportunities waiting for them when their amateur careers are over. So after working at several exercise-related jobs, Jana realized that there was a tremendous opportunity for providing personalized training and exercise services in her adopted home of New York City. She recruited a partner and began looking for ways to go into business.

Jana and her partner launched PEx Personalized Exercise. They began by conducting workouts in client's homes, at Jana’s apartment, and anywhere else they could find space. But just a few months later Jana and her partner had a falling out. "I realized too late that business partners need to formalize their expectations and responsibilities," she says. "You must have the right balance, and we didn't."

But good competitors don't stay down for long. Jana quickly returned to SCORE where her mentor Jules Eckstein and other experienced mentors guided her through the process of restructuring the business into an S Corporation. They also showed her how to select an accountant and make sure she protected both her business and herself from potential liability issues.

With SCORE's help, PEx has evolved into a "buffed" business. A second SBA-backed loan enabled Jana to open a 4,000-square-foot personal facility at Broadway and 21st Street in Manhattan. There, she and her staff of full- and part-time trainers work with a host of increasingly healthy clients. PEx also provides professional trainers to members of New York City's exclusive Union Club, and frequently helps with athletic-oriented fundraisers.

The company's remarkable growth has enabled Jana to add other services such as massage, acupuncture, nutritional counseling, and even a gourmet health-food delivery service. An impressive Web site provides current and prospective clients with a wealth of information on exercise and health issues. And more people are learning about PEx every day, thanks to dozens of articles about Jana in fitness, business, and women's publications; numerous local and national television appearances; and her ongoing charity work.

What's Great About My Mentor?

A call to the Small Business Administration led Jana to SCORE, where she met with volunteer Mentor Jules Eckstein. He reviewed Jana's ideas, discussed techniques for developing a business plan, applying for a loan, and other valuable insights that every prospective entrepreneur offered needs. Jules believed that the venture held a lot promise, except for one issue. "He recommended that I start the business on my own rather than with a partner because there might be problems down the road," Jana recalls. "I didn't agree with him. Like a lot of newcomers to business, I felt that I needed someone who could be a sounding board, and provide skills or insights that I might not have."

How SCORE Helped

Jana found her sounding board in SCORE, working with Jules and other mentors whenever she had a question or needed some advice. "You need to talk to someone who's been there and can give you an objective perspective," she says. "It may not always be what you want to hear, but it's almost always what you need to hear. SCORE has been a great resource for me and my business."

Jana says, “SCORE is great for start-ups because they open your eyes to a lot of issues you might otherwise not think of. It’s like providing a blueprint in words on how to start and structure a business.”

SCORE East Central Iowa - No. 1 in America

Date
Thu, 2011-05-19 16:20

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MAY 19, 2011

For Additional Information Contact:

Gregory (Greg) Tomsic, Chairman, 319-329-8431
SCORE East Central Iowa (Benton, Cedar, Jones, Linn)

P.J. Abramson, Inc. Succeeds By Using Advice From SCORE Mentor

After years of experience making hand-crafted jewelry and working as the chief buyer for a small jewelry store, gemologist Pam Abramson decided she was finally ready to go into business for herself. Her dream was to make money by writing appraisals of fine jewelry.

She contacted SCORE to learn more about the business basics. This led to an ongoing, 20-year mentoring relationship with SCORE Mentor Joe Lefkowitz.

Owner/Founder
Pam Abramson
My Location
Winter Park FL
United States
Year Company Formed
1985
My Successes

Pam is proud of her store’s staff and her reputation for honesty. “Credibility is everything,” she says. “My philosophy is to tell the customer the truth and let them make the decision.”

Pam has turned to her mentor time and time again as her business has grown from a second-floor office to an elegant retail store in Winter Park’s shopping district. Recently, Joe has been helping her position her store against big retailers.

What's Great About My Mentor?

Joe advised Pam that, in order to make a living in the Orlando market, she also would have to sell jewelry in addition to doing appraisals. He also helped her develop her business plan before she opened her first store.

“Joe understands the jewelry business,” says Pam. “He has gone out of his way to come into the business and offer advice. He’ll even get into details like suggesting that I put a piece of jewelry in a display case so that customers can see it better.”

“I talk to Joe at least once a month,” Pam says. “He will stop in, ask if I have any questions and offer some suggestions. He still advises me to this day!”

Museware Pottery

When asked what it takes for a creative person to start a business with no prior experience, designer Sheree Burlington once said "Jump, and learn how to fly before you hit the ground." And jump she did, right out of a successful 18 year career in kitchen design and right into the colorful world of Paint Your Own Pottery (PYOP.) For the next three years, she and her business partner owned and operated a trio of PYOP studios called You're Fired. When the urge hit to try something new, Sheree jumped again. In 2005 Sheree sold her share in You're Fired and opened Museware Pottery. At every stage Sherre has utilized the valuable and free resources of SCORE- for the life of HER business! 

 

 

Owner/Founder
Sheree Burlington
My Location
Manchester NH
United States
My Successes

As requests for her hand painted mugs and other gift items continued to grow, Sheree knew she needed help and contacted SCORE. With the guidance of counselor John Post, she secured a loan and line of credit from TD Bank, adding staff and equipment. In the next year, sales tripled - Sheree & her staff shipped over 8000 mugs to gift vendors nationwide.

Certain that the market for her "mugs with attitude" would only grow, Sheree was stunned when in the fall of 2008, orders dried up as American's watched the nation's most prominent banks fail. With adapt or die tenacity, Sheree & her now seasoned staff made a radical change. They discontinued mugs and other small items and poured their energy into a market that was sure to survive even the worst economic climate: Weddings & babies.

By focusing on a market that is at the core of virtually every culture in the world - weddings, new baby & family celebrations, Museware Pottery has emerged as the #1 hand painted, personalized pottery company in the nation. 

Museware Pottery - Hand Painted Personalized Pottery for Weddings, New Baby & Family Celebrations finished 2010 with sales up a healthy 46%. A similar increase is projected for 2011. With a staff of five, the women of Museware Pottery continue to work with SCORE as they develop and hone their product, marketing and production plans. 

In March 2011, Sheree was chosen to testify about SCORE before the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship at a roundtable. Her rise, fall then rise again story generated applause in the chambers.

"I was honored to be chosen to speak on behalf of SCORE. With their guidance, I have evolved from a pottery designer to a leading business person in my industry. I look forward to using the skills I've learned to volunteer as a SCORE counselor. I have a lot to share, and I have it because it was given to me - and it was given to me for free."

 

How SCORE Helped

Sheree and John Post discussed various marketing strategies, identifying the most promising segments to target and how to implement the plan they developed. Their efforts were so successful that by mid 2007, Sheree faced a different problem: how to raise production to meet the increased demand. SCORE counselors John Benjamin and Don Horadan, both experienced engineers, were brought in, developing flow diagrams and finding ways to raise kiln efficiency and capacity. Together, the SCORE counselors assisted Sheree in developing cash flow and production plans.

When the 2008 financial crisis forced her business into a corner, Sheree again consulted with SCORE. Through careful market analysis, they developed a radical new plan:  Eliminate low margin gifts to focus on the lucrative, high margin personalized market. Her business survived and in time, began to thrive. 

Together, the SCORE counselors assisted Sheree in developing cash flow and production plans for 2008, which they continue to fine tune in light of today’s challenging economy.

“The SCORE people gave me the courage to make decisions. They are high quality, experienced individuals eager to share what they know. You couldn’t pay for that knowledge, yet the most amazing thing of all is that it’s free.”

My Girl Friday Succeeds By Using Advice From SCORE Mentor

It was “one of those days” for Cincinnati pharmaceutical sales representative Julie Hagenmaier in 1999. With her husband away on business and some last-minute headaches at work, everything was running late. By the time she got her two-year-old daughter home from day care, the only supper she could scrounge up was peas and popcorn. 

Julie decided that the time had come to get help with her daily chores. A full-time nanny was out of the question, yet the kind of occasional assistance she could afford was not available on a part-time basis. The more Julie thought about it, the more she realized that other families faced the same dilemma. Perhaps instead of looking for help, she should be the one to provide it. That led to Julie’s idea for My Girl Friday, a personal concierge service.

Owner/Founder
Julie Hagenmaier
My Location
Cincinnati OH
United States
Employees
45
Year Company Formed
2000
My Successes

Indeed, there are few things My Girl Friday cannot do for busy families. By sourcing vendors and employees who have time to spare, Julie’s business offers services such maid service, lawn and pet care, catering, deliveries, setting up or taking down the Christmas tree, children’s birthday planning and taking the car for repairs. By the end of her first year, Julie had expanded My Girl Friday to serve local corporations with office management, computer training and food deliveries. 

With companies helping promote her services, Julie was able to keep her marketing budget low.
She also followed Ruth’s suggestion to pitch her story to the press, which led to articles in the local newspaper and Woman’s World magazine.

With My Girl Friday a local success, Julie began looking for ways to take the business to the national level. She hosted a lunch/brainstorming session for several business executives, which generated a number of great ideas, including using My Girl Friday’s expertise in travel planning and ancillary services to provide personal services via travel agents and the Internet. That led to several new ventures, the newest of which debuts this fall as Julie teams with Interactive Sites of Phoenix to collect local vendors of ancillary travel services that hotels can offer on their own Web sites.

Julie’s life is every bit as hectic as it was on that awful day in 1999. But like thousands of other harried families, businesses and travelers who count on My Girl Friday, she can manage the increasing demands of today’s busy world. And, her daughter’s dinners are a lot healthier too.

What's Great About My Mentor?

To get her business off the ground, Julie contacted the local chapter of SCORE and met with mentor Ruth van Gelder-Bochner, an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and an advertising and marketing expert. “If it wasn’t for Ruth, I’m not sure I would have made the jump to go out on my own,” Julie says. “We totally connected.  She gave me ideas on generating publicity—what to do and how to do it. 

Ruth also coined the company’s name, which originated in the 1950s when businessmen had women assistants ran errands for. “We brought the ‘Girl Friday’ up to date,” Julie says. “Now she’s educated and can do anything for you.”

Julie knows that Ruth van Gelder-Bochner is always available to provide advice and support. “Ruth has been both cheerleader and guardian angel, providing confidence and encouragement when I needed it,” Julie says.

How SCORE Helped

Julie says, “Without SCORE, the road would not have been as easily paved. They paired me with the perfect mentor.”

Perfectly Pennsylvania Succeeds By Using Advice From SCORE Mentor

History, scenery, recreation—Pennsylvania has it all.  And thanks to Karen DeKlinski, reminders of the Keystone State are now readily available to share with friends and family.

Owner/Founder
Karen DeKlinski
My Location
Middletown PA
United States
Employees
8
Year Company Formed
2004
My Successes

In August 2004, Karen opened Perfectly Pennsylvania, a store dedicated to the state’s rich mix of products, in the new terminal of Harrisburg International Airport.  Anchored by Brookmere's Wines of Belleville, Perfectly Pennsylvania carries a variety of unique, high-quality products ranging from Crayola Crayons and Slinky toys to clothing and Amish-country quilts and Hex signs.

The idea for Perfectly Pennsylvania came as Karen was looking for a new career following 20 years of serving in appointed positions for the state’s government. 

“Retail was the furthest thing from my mind during all those years,” Karen says.  “A friend and I staffed a kiosk at a local farmers market twice a week and I got hooked on promoting Pennsylvania products. Visitors are always looking for something special to take home from the area, so it made sense to open a store with everything in one place.”

With Harrisburg’s new airport terminal nearing completion, Karen knew she had an ideal location for her store.  What she needed was a business plan to make it work. 

“I had been working on my plan for three months when a friend at a chamber of commerce meeting told me about SCORE,” Karen says.  “They were in the same building, so I called to ask if someone there might have time to look at my plan.”

Karen received a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) backed loan for leasing space in the terminal and stocking her shelves with a variety of eye-catching items.  The store was an immediate hit among travelers.  The monthly sales increases have consistently exceeded projections, enabling Karen to open a second store in a major Harrisburg hotel and establish a Web site.

What's Great About My Mentor?

Karen soon found that SCORE mentors were not only ready to critique the plan, but also eager to advise her on making a good strategy even better.  “I couldn’t believe their response,” she recalls.  “They said I had done everything right, and provided valuable comments to help address issues the banks would ask.”

Perhaps more important, the mentors gave Karen a welcome dose of self-confidence.  “That was the biggest thing—having these knowledgeable business experts put their faith in me,” she says.  “Their moral support helped convince me that this can work and that I should move forward.”

How SCORE Helped

Karen says, “SCORE is one of the first places to go when you start a business. You’re dealing with something brand new, and their advice and moral support is critical to making it work.”

Despite the strong start, Karen knows that long-term success is by no means assured.  “We made an agreement that I’ll go back to my counselors to evaluate how everything’s going,” she says, “but I expect to be a student of SCORE’s for life.”

SCORE Mentors The Secret Chocolatier to Success

Andy and Robin Ciordia and Bill and Karen Dietz started test marketing the sale of chocolate and orange chocolate truffles at farmer's markets with good success in 2008 and 2009. With the families expertise they quickly expanded into more product lines that were also tested at regional markets. Along with this success game growing pains.  And that's when the family looked to SCORE for assistance. http://www.thesecretchocolatier.com/

Owner/Founder
Andy & Robin Ciordia and Bill & Karen Dietz
My Location
Charlotte NC
United States
My Successes

After nearly three years developing a following for its artisan chocolate confections at local farmers markets and retailers, The Secret Chocolatier, secured financing of an expansion loan and opened its first retail chocolate shop at Providence Plaza in Charlotte, NC.

What's Great About My Mentor?

When Andy came to see Charlotte SCORE mentor Chuck Sawicki in April 2010, he produced a well thought out business plan. Chuck also included Andy in communications with other compatible service sectors of the area.  In addition, Charlotte SCORE Food Service Business Mentor and retired College Professor Allen Friedman reviewed the business plan and provided his expertise. He has also been invited to other functions in Charlotte to help network his growing business.
 

How SCORE Helped

Andy says, "You helped me project a longer 5 year frame than the one year plan I had. You also helped me consider longer term thoughts on taking our business to much larger levels than I had envisioned. I look forward to coming back to you one day and making those thoughts a reality."

SCORE Mentors School House LLC to Success

2011 SCORE Award - Outstanding Woman-Owned Small Business

Rachel Weeks was a graduate on a Fulbright Scholarship living and studying in Sri Lanka. She was studying socially responsible apparel manufacturing. She had an idea to produce fashion forward, college fashions, manufactured through ethical means in Sri Lanka. By ethical, it is meant, to pay a living wage. www.shopschoolhouse.com

Owner/Founder
Rachel Weeks
My Location
Durham NC
United States
Employees
6
Year Company Formed
2008
My Successes

Rachel made her first presentation in late 2008 to Duke University.  Duke provided her with her first order that was the largest apparel order they had ever given one company. She then had to get production started back in Sri Lanka and schedule delivery for the Spring of 2009. While that order was in process, she bagan her tour of the other universities that were likely targets of her line. Since that first product in the Spring of 2009, Rachel has grown the business to over 102 universities, nationwide (and one in Canada), with a volume on target to do close to $2 million in 2011.

What's Great About My Mentor?

Jim Fields and Rachel Weeks first met via the internet in December 2007. They communicated via e-mail for many months while Rachel developed her business plan. They continued communication after she returned in the spring of 2008. As part of the plan they covered everything from marketing and manufacturing to financing. The projections for sales and expenses were the most time consuming part of the plan and she had to go to various sources to get funding.

A SCORE Success Story: Kangaring - LS Designs

Do you remember the days of having your cell phone plugged into the cigarette lighter in your car, but not knowing where to put your phone when you were not using it? Linda Anderson was one of many in the same situation, and would constantly lose track of her phone when in her car. When wanting to use the phone, she'd have to root around on the passenger side or when applying the brakes, the phone would come sliding out from under the seat and get in the way. Not exactly the safest driving strategies for anyone. After trying a variety of products, she knew there had to be a better way. And she not only found it, she invented it! www.kangaring.com

Owner/Founder
Linda Anderson
My Location
Phoenix AZ
United States
Employees
1
Year Company Formed
1996
My Successes

After facing the frustrating predicament of using her phone in the car, Linda dedicated herself to researching and developing a new cell phone storage solution that would come to revolutionize the industry -- and KangaRingTM was born.

Having received some mediocre feedback like, "it's a great idea, but we don't know if it will sell" from a few large companies, Linda took the challenge to prove it would sell, and decided to manufacture and market the KangaRingTM herself.  The first displays were created and assembled in her living room, featuring a large photo of the product in use and holding 24 units.  The very first customer was a local family-owned car wash, who sold two in the first two hours the display was on the shelf. After selling 17 units in the first month on display, KangaRingTM was off with a bang! In the first year, car dealerships and car washes became the focus markets and over 13,000 units were sold in the Phoenix area. Despite impressive sales numbers and positive customer feedback, Linda lacked the necessary subsidy to take the product to the next level, and KangaRingTM was put on hold for several years.

What's Great About My Mentor?

At a monthly Inventors Association of Arizona (IAA) meeting, Linda had the good fortune to meet a fellow inventor who helped her reconnect with the local SCORE office. The other inventor had successfully negotiated a licensing agreement with the assistance of SCORE mentor Chet Ross. Chet now assists Linda in providing her invaluable advice and guidance as she advances KangaRingTM.

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