Women Entrepreneurs

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A small business is a business that is privately owned and operated, with a small number of employees and relatively low volume of sales. Small businesses are normally privately owned corporations, partnerships, or sole proprietorships. The legal definition of "small" varies by country and by industry, ranging from fewer than 15 employees under the Australian Fair Work Act 2009, 50 employees in the European Union,[2] and fewer than 500 employees to qualify for many U.S. Small Business Administration programs.[1] Small businesses can also be classified according to other methods such as sales, assets, or net profits.

Small businesses are common in many countries, depending on the economic system in operation. Typical examples include: convenience stores, other small shops (such as a bakery or delicatessen), hairdressers, tradesmen, lawyers, accountants, restaurants, guest houses, photographers, small-scale manufacturing, and online business, such as web design and programming, etc

 

Though my wholesale building supply business is profitable, I can’t help feeling we’re not operating up to our potential. As the company’s leader, what can I do to give us the needed push?

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Edogz FInds Success Using SCORE as a Resource

Wendy Supino readily admits that as an entrepreneur, she’s been lucky.  And that’s what concerned her. A commercial real estate broker, Wendy established edogz.com in 2000 as a side business to serve as an online “Yellow Pages” for businesses and consumers who shared her love of dogs.  Always fascinated by the animal instinct for smell, she hit upon the idea for Stuff ‘n Sniff Companion Pals®, a toy that would double as a security blanket and training aid.

Owner/Founder
Wendy Supino
My Location
Lake Mary FL
United States
Year Company Formed
1998
My Successes

By incorporating a pocket for a sock or other item with the owner’s scent, the Stuff ‘n Sniff comforts the dog when the owner is away, and during a boarding or hospital stay.  It also helps newly adopted dogs adjust to their new families and surroundings, and gives puppies a chewing alternative to shoes and furniture.
   
Wendy located an overseas manufacturer who crafted some sample Stuff ‘n Sniff toys based on digz, her edogz.com mascot.  Virtually overnight, Wendy found herself in the manufacturing business when Stuff ‘n Sniff’s debut at the 2006 Global Pet Expo won 2nd place in the dog category.  Other awards and a segment on Good Morning America helped heighten interest in the product.  Wendy soon was scrambling to handle production, marketing and distribution issues, all while maintaining her real estate career.

“It’s amazing that I managed to do so much without a business plan,” Wendy says.  “It was only my experience in other business areas that helped me slide through.  There’s no way that I could have done it without any entrepreneurial experience.”

An opportunity to appear on MSNBC’s “Your Business” elevator pitch segment proved just how lucky Wendy was.  One of the elevator “riders” who listened to Wendy’s presentation on Stuff ‘n Sniff was SCORE CEO Ken Yancey.

“I had never heard of SCORE, but it didn’t take long for me to realize they offered exactly what I needed—a mentor who could help me with all these challenges,” Wendy says.

Wendy is confident that Stuff ‘n Sniff is on the right track.  She’s developing a multi-national dealer network to distribute digz and a new character, darbz, to pet stores, boarding facilities, and veterinarian clinics.  She also has formed an alliance with Animal Planet to advertise Stuff ‘n Sniff on the network’s PetsIncredible DVD “Training Your Adopted Dog,” which will be distributed to 10,000 selected shelters and rescue groups across the country.

What's Great About My Mentor?

A follow-up call to Ken Yancey put Wendy in contact with Orlando SCORE mentors Bob Shephard and Dr. Jan Mangos.  They helped her learn about business plans and SBA lending opportunities, the nuances of overseas manufacturing and export labeling, and the steps required to properly brand and safeguard her product logos and messages. 

SCORE also connected Wendy with another small business that crafted her Stuff ‘n Sniff press kit.  Dr. Jan also invited her to participate in an MBA class at Everest University, where students could provide more focused help on Stuff ‘n Sniff marketing issues.

“Bob and Dr. Jan are great mentors,” Wendy says.  “If they don’t know something, they know somebody who does.   And www.score.org is great too.  There are so many templates, incredible tools, and articles written by experts who are willing to share their ideas and advice.”

How SCORE Helped

“I hope that SCORE will be a part of Stuff ‘n Sniff’s growth, and that in years to come, I can return the favor by being a SCORE mentor myself,” Wendy says.  “As a small business start-up, there’s no better place to find great resources and people to talk to.  You simply can’t beat SCORE.”

SCORE Mentor Gives Advice to Custom Sewing

In this age of the Internet, cell phones and satellite television with hundreds of channels, the most effective marketing tool remains the simplest—word of mouth. That’s something Ellen Baxendale knows all too well.

Owner/Founder
Ellen Baxendale
My Location
Endicott NY
United States
Year Company Formed
1996
My Successes

When her son, Tristan, was born 12 years ago, Ellen was happy to trade her career as a licensed veterinary technician for that of stay-at-home mom. But with Tristan growing faster than most babies his age, Ellen found it increasingly difficult to find clothes to fit him. So she fell back on her old hobby of sewing and began crafting parts of Tristan’s wardrobe herself. The more she made, the more she enjoyed it. Soon, Ellen was making clothes for herself and her mother. But even though she gave in to the lure of a high-tech, computerized sewing machine, Ellen never gave any thought to making it a career. After all, it was just a hobby. And, with Tristan’s sister, Victoria, on the way, the job of full-time mom gave her plenty to do.

A few years later, however, a friend of her mother’s asked if Ellen would make some clothes for her, and help with some alterations. Ellen happily agreed. Her mother’s friend told her friends, who also came to Ellen with their sewing needs. Before long, Ellen found herself with a full-time home-based sewing business.

“By 1996, I had a solid customer base, and was making too much money to claim this as a hobby,” Ellen recalls. “One of my customers had started a business and suggested that I call SCORE. I had looked into other business assistance services, and figured SCORE would be a great option because it was free.”

Ellen’s business was doing well.  She now needed to consolidate her operations, which were spread out in several rooms of her house. Ellen was uncertain about moving to a storefront. “I enjoyed working at home because it allowed me to stay close to my family,” she says. “My husband and I decided to renovate our sun porch into a new studio for me. I now have a more spacious work area complete with changing rooms, countertops for my machines and a separate entrance for customers.”

The new studio gave Ellen an unexpected benefit: credibility. “Customers now look at me as a business owner, not someone who does sewing for extra money,” she says. “I have the look of a professional business, but also the flexibility to be home for my children. I’m also able to maintain my interest in my first love, veterinary medicine. I spend one day a week working at a local veterinarian’s office. He too is a customer and a fellow small business owner. We have a lot of fun exchanging ideas and experiences.”

Perhaps no part of Ellen’s career as an entrepreneur was as exciting as being selected for Rotary International’s prestigious Group Study exchange. In November 2001, she joined five other small business owners from around the country for a three-week expenses-paid trip to Japan. “The program is structured to provide experiences that will have an impact on my professional life,” Ellen says. “I spent a day at the Bluebird Kimono Sewing School, and visited a company that manufactures clothing beads, which is one of my niche markets.”

What's Great About My Mentor?

A call to SCORE’s Binghamton, NY, chapter led to a meeting with Volunteer Mentors Dick Hannis and Jack Kehoe. Ellen recalls that the two business veterans were supportive, but very direct. “Dick asked somewhat sternly why I wanted to start a sewing business,” she says, adding with a laugh, “I replied confidently that I already had a business; I just wanted to know how to make it legal.”

That icebreaker led to a wealth of advice for Ellen, who learned about the procedures she’d have to follow and agencies to contact. “Dick and Jack were very helpful and encouraged me to call back if I had other questions,” Ellen says. “As I was leaving, Dick said that his tailor had died, and asked if could I take him on. So along with getting a lot of great information from that meeting, I got a new customer.”

Since then, Dick has stopped by Ellen’s home every other month to check on her progress. “If I have questions that he can’t answer, he always sends me to the right person,” she says. “His advice is always on target. He has helped me with things like dealing with difficult customers, organizing my schedule and setting up an investment portfolio for my profits."

One person who eagerly awaits hearing about her trip is SCORE mentor Dick, who continues to serve as Ellen’s mentor. “He’s more than a teacher and advisor,” Ellen says. “He’s also a personal friend. He’s very dedicated to SCORE, which is great for other small business owners who need this kind of resource.”

How SCORE Helped

Just as Ellen never dreamed that she would find herself preparing for an extended overseas business trip, she also never expected to be a successful business owner. “I started out just wanting a little something for myself,” she says. “Making this opportunity work required a lot of effort on my part. But without SCORE’s help, I wouldn’t be here today. They helped me with a lot of issues that I probably wouldn’t have thought of. They also gave me a lot of confidence to make this opportunity work for me.”

Creative Cut-Ups Received Help From SCORE Mentor

What do you get when you cross ambition, a teacher, coach, lots of buttons, an Aerostar van and lots of giggles? You get Creative Cut-Ups. This promotional and advertising specialty business in Centerville, OH, is proof you can have fun and still be successful. Creative Cut-Ups was started in 1993 by Kathy Dane and Marcia Rose as a button-making organization. It began in their kitchens and has evolved into a busy store full of many specialty items that has built its network primarily through word of mouth.

Owner/Founder
Kathy Dane and Marcia Rose
My Location
Centerville OH
United States
My Successes

The company's origin is unique. Kathy was Marcia's daughter's fourth grade teacher. As they coached softball and Odyssey of the Mind together, they started making buttons to support their teams. Soon the button business started taking orders for coordinated pens, balloons, shirts and other items. "In the beginning the office was a kitchen table," Marcia said. "No one suspected that was our location because the service we gave was always so good."

In 1999, Kathy left teaching to be a full-time partner of Creative Cut-Ups. At the same time, the business started to exceed their current office space and they needed an office with a showroom. They decided they also needed some expert advice on how to run their burgeoning business. They decided that SCORE would be a good match for their needs.

Due to their success, they are expanding the business. They recently purchased the rights to two products: TRUETEE, a golf tee that uses three prongs instead of a concave head to hold the ball. TRUETEE can be customized with a client's name or appropriate saying. The second product, Es'steam, is a self-simmering potpourri packet. After placing the potpourri packet in water, it begins to simmer and releases fragrant scents. Ten scents are currently available. Kathy and Marcia are also considering the development of a sales force to market these new products.

Although they have worked very hard and their hard work is paying off, they would not be doing what they are doing if they did not have fun. "Combining the hard work and laughter makes the stressful time good," Marcia said. "The process to get you to the end point is as exciting as finally getting there."

What's Great About My Mentor?

"Both of us have been coaches and we believe in the benefits of this type of guidance. This is why we went to SCORE. People tend to go where their strengths are. SCORE helps us take care of the areas where we don't know about," Kathy said. "SCORE guides us in areas that we need them. They have years of experience; we would be crazy not to draw on this resource." SCORE Mentor Sue Anderson helped them navigate through the challenges an expanding business owner faces.

Carla Bella Contacts SCORE for Business Advice

1992 might not have been the best time to start a small business, particularly in New England where banks stung by the recession were reluctant to lend money to new ventures. But Carla Maddrell was determined to try so she contacted SCORE for business launch and management help.

Owner/Founder
Carla Maddrell
My Location
Portland ME
United States
Employees
2
Year Company Formed
1992
My Successes

Carla, who had worked in women’s fashion and retail for over 20 years, knew all the ins and outs of the apparel industry. Her current job as a buyer was rewarding enough, but the constant travel demands meant a lot of time away from home. Having just adopted a little boy from India, Maddrell decided it was time to pursue a long-time dream of owning her own clothing boutique. She had a good start with her knowledge, web of contacts, and dozens of potential customers. But she knew nothing about business plans, banks, or the other essentials of launching and managing a business.

With her business plan in hand, Carla began contacting banks. The first two were skeptical, citing the odds against the success of a women’s apparel store. Carla found the responses frustrating, but with her mentor Arthur’s steadfast encouragement she rebounded quickly and keep trying. The third bank heartily endorsed her plan, and in the fall of 1992, Carla Bella opened for business.

Carla's store is well-known and enjoys a steady stream of customers. Even with her success, however, Carla remembers the uncertainty of the early days. “It’s really scary at first because you’re putting everything on the line,” she says “I’ve been fortunate to be able to pursue my dream and have the freedom to spend time with my family. I just keep my fingers crossed that someone will come in the door every day.”

What's Great About My Mentor?

Acting on a friend’s suggestion, Carla contacted the local chapter of SCORE, where she met with Arthur Cook, a retired marketing executive. Arthur invited Carla to join a group of other aspiring entrepreneurs for a videotaped program about business start-ups. “Everyone introduced themselves, and it was neat to hear all the different dreams we had,” Carla recalls. “That and the video made me feel a lot better about what I was doing.”

Carla’s self-confidence grew when she started working with Arthur on the specifics of her business plan and loan application. “I had never dealt with banks or financing before; those were things I always I let my husband do,” she says with a chuckle. “Arthur was very encouraging. He kept telling me I was going to make it, and that I had more going for me than other people he’d worked with. His enthusiasm was infectious, and I began to believe it myself.”

 “Arthur is always calling to ask how I’m doing,” Maddrell says. “He’s even fretting because the retail space next door is vacant. It’s wonderful to have someone like him on my side.”

How SCORE Helped

The success of Carla Bella has also proven to be a model for other small businesses. At Arthur's request, Carla served as a spokesperson for SCORE in a public service ad that aired on the state’s TV stations. “That was great because it gave me free publicity, and allowed me to return all the help that Arthur and SCORE have given me. Hopefully, I’ve sent a lot of other people to see him and the other counselors at SCORE.”

Genco Organizes

Figen Genco Haigh always knew she had a knack for organizing things. But as a teacher in her native country, Turkey, she never dreamed that she could turn that natural ability into a profitable business.

Owner/Founder
Figen Genco Haigh
My Location
Langhorne PA
United States
Year Company Formed
2001
My Successes

Figen’s relationship with American Daniel Haigh blossomed into romance and they were married. Now married and in a new country, she needed to find a new career. Because it would have taken two years to be recertified as a teacher, Figen signed on with an area temporary help agency. Several assignments around suburban Philadelphia gave her the opportunity to untangle the harried clutter of files and equipment typical of many modern offices. Intrigued by the possibility of turning her organizing skills into a business, Figen surfed the Internet and discovered that professional organizers have their own association and certification requirements. She eagerly enrolled in a training course and was soon certified as a professional organizer. And by January 2001, Figen was ready to launch her business, Genco Organizes.

Knowing that she had to work hard to promote Genco Organizes, Figen joined the Lower Bucks County Chamber of Commerce (LBCC), where she landed a client at the first meeting she attended. Involvement in the LBCC and other business networking groups soon led to two newspaper articles about her business.

Genco Organizes has since become a model for successful start-up marketing. In between advising a growing network of clients and conducting seminars, Figen writes a monthly “Ask the Organizer” column for the local paper. She also teaches a course in organizing at the local community college, and was recently asked to teach Turkish language classes. Recently, Figen finished work on her first book, and already has ideas for two more.

What's Great About My Mentor?

A chat with another professional organizer led Figen to visit the local SCORE chapter in January 2001. There, Volunteer Mentors Burt Forman and Carlo Liberti helped her with start-up issues such as registering her company name and securing insurance.

Two months after her first visit to SCORE, Figen returned for a marketing consultation with Mentors Bob McCarney and Nat Matlin. Based on their advice, she revised her brochures and business cards.

How SCORE Helped

“SCORE provided the encouragement and support I needed to start a business based on something that I enjoy doing,” Figen says. “It is very meaningful to have these experienced business people believe in me and say ‘you can do it.’"

Young’s Special Occasion Apparel Receives Help From SCORE Mentor

Ms. Yong Suk Daley, a Korean-American, opened a clothing alteration shop in Springboro, Ohio, in 2000 and operated it successfully.  By 2006, however, growth had stalled.  So she moved to the Crosse Pointe Mall in Centerville and added the retailing of special occasion women’s apparel to her alteration business.  She named her renovated business, “Young’s Special Occasion Apparel.”  In August 2006, Ms. Yong contacted Dayton SCORE for mentoring, and mentor Roger Doty began working with her.

Owner/Founder
Yong Suk Daley
My Location
Centerville OH
United States
Year Company Formed
2000
My Successes

Ms. Yong wanted to expand her alteration business, outsourcing some work to independent contractors to free her time for retail store management. Roger helped her transition from a recordkeeping system appropriate for the original alterations business to one that accommodates her retail business as well, and helped her improve her relationship with an accountant for tax preparation purposes.  Finally, he is helping her develop a sewing lessons service, and to shift the legal structure of her business from sole proprietorship to limited liability company. 

In less than a year, Ms. Yong’s business has been transformed from a simple service operation to a specialty retail shop offering several revenue streams and growth opportunities.

What's Great About My Mentor?

Their initial focus of their mentoring sessions was on developing a business plan, preparing an application for a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) guaranteed loan to supplant the credit card debt, improving marketing for the business, and strengthening recordkeeping and financial management.  The SBA guaranteed loan closed in October 2006.

Following Roger’s advice, Ms. Yong focused her retailing on the wedding market, including brides, bridesmaids and mothers’ gowns and accessories, and the prom market.  He guided her in preparing marketing fliers, attending wedding expositions where she handed out her fliers, advertising in wedding planning publications, developing networking contacts in the local wedding industry, and arranging with her bank to accept credit cards.

How SCORE Helped

Ms. Yong says, “Mr. Roger has helped me build my business and provided answers to the many questions that came up.  I thank Roger and SCORE.”

WAMUware

You never know where a great idea is going to pop up.  For Ellen Waldman, it was while she was in a ski line in New England. Though she loved to ski, Ellen grew frustrated with the discomfort of her neck gaiter, the tubular piece of fleece that kept her neck warm and free of snow during the occasional falls. “It was too much trouble to remove the gaiter when I needed to cool off, especially during a long day of skiing,” Ellen explains. “I could unzip my jacket; why couldn’t I unzip my gaiter?”

Unable to locate what seemed to be a logical product in ski shops, the mother of two decided to make one herself. After some experimenting, she found that a diagonal zipper allowed her to open a large section of fabric away from her neck to let in cooling air. And so was born WAMUware, Ellen’s acronym for “where air meets utility,” and her husband’s long-standing family nickname.

Owner/Founder
Ellen Waldman
My Location
Flanders NJ
United States
Year Company Formed
2001
My Successes

After submitting a patent application for her product, called the WAMUgaiter, Ellen pondered her next step. A patent was a potentially valuable asset, but should she sell her idea to an established company or develop and market her product herself? 

On the suggestion of a reference librarian at the county, she contacted SCORE and discussed her options with mentors Michael Bozza and Claude Haggelberg. “They felt that with a patent pending, I should strongly consider starting up my own company,” Ellen recalls. “They gave me some manufacturing leads to investigate and helped me understand what to look for in terms of prices, sourcing materials and other manufacturing issues.”

In early 2003 Ellen attended national and regional trade shows and quickly found ready buyers among ski shops in the United States and overseas. Except for the manufacturing work, which took place in Pennsylvania, WAMUware was based entirely in Ellen’s New Jersey home.

Ellen’s biggest decision came when a Swedish-based company offered to purchase the manufacturing and marketing rights to WAMUware.  The opportunity was quite tempting, but once again, Ellen sought the advice of her SCORE mentors. “We discussed pros and cons, what to look for in the agreement, and things to address with a lawyer,” Ellen says. “It took several months to unfold, and Claude and Michael were with me the whole way.”

Ellen has retained the patent to WAMUware, but is working closely with her new partner during the transition phase. “I’ll never forget being tongue-tied at my first visit to SCORE,” Ellen says. “I’m grateful for all the help Claude and Michael have provided through the years. They truly wanted to help me succeed.”

What's Great About My Mentor?

Michael Bozza and Claude Haggelberg helped Ellen with manufacturing leads to start her own business. They also worked with Ellen on developing a marketing strategy, identifying and working with sales representatives and building awareness for the WAMUgaiter and other products she had in mind.

Whenever a new issue arose, Ellen calls on her SCORE mentors. “Keeping me focused is something that Claude and Michael do very well, as I have a tendency to stray from the topic of discussion, especially if it’s a difficult one,” Ellen says. “And because they have different backgrounds and perspectives, we could look at an issue from several sides and make a better decision for my business.”

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