Women Entrepreneurs

Union City Vet

In 1999, Hannah Guishard and fellow veterinarian Edward Mitchell developed a business plan for a 24-hour emergency veterinary clinic just outside Atlanta, Georgia. Both had the professional credentials to make the dream work. The former classmates at Tuskegee University’s veterinary school had gone their separate ways following graduation to work for other clinics. When Edward relocated to Georgia in 1998, he reconnected with Hannah and found that she too shared the dream of being a business owner.

Owner/Founder
Hannah Guishard and Edward Mitchell
My Location
Union City GA
United States
Employees
14
Year Company Formed
2000
My Successes

With the help of the Small Business Development Center at Clayton College & State University, the two aspiring entrepreneurs prepared what they thought was a solid business plan. Unfortunately, the loan officers they visited felt otherwise. “We would not get any positive response at all,” Hannah says. “Some wanted a lot of collateral while others simply said no.”

Hannah learned about SCORE’s free mentoring services and made an appointment to see Ray Silva, a retired business executive. “Ray reviewed the plan and told me that we had done everything right,” she says. “The problem was, we weren’t marketing it properly.”

And talk about instant success. On her first attempt after talking to Silva, Hannah secured a long-term, SBA-backed fixed-rate loan. She and Edward used the funds to construct and equip a 3,427-square-foot clinic near a busy mall in Union City. They also took advantage of a working capital loan from the Economic Development Center to cover some of their start-up costs.

Since opening Union City Veterinary Center and Emergency Clinic in 2000, two classmates-turned-business partners have watched their dream flourish. After starting out by trading grueling 12-hour shifts, they have added staff to handle the growing customer base. The practice grossed more than $1.2 million in 2004, outpacing even their most optimistic projections. 

What's Great About My Mentor?

Silva coached Hannah on presentation skills, and ways that she could sell both her plan and herself with confidence. “When I left the SCORE office, I was on Cloud 9,” Hannah says. “I felt so good about myself and what I had done.”

Hannah is grateful to Ray Silva and SCORE for helping her overcome what had been a perplexing obstacle to making the clinic a reality. “Ray gave me both ideas and the confidence to make our case to the banks,” she says. “Just about every week, one of our clients says something about starting a business. I always tell them to go to SCORE. When you’re starting out and have little money, why pay for great information that you can get for free?”

The Flag Lady, With SCORE Mentor, Finds Success

Mary Leavitt began selling “Old Glory” from the trunk of her car 25 years ago. Early on in her business, the Chicago Sun-Times wrote a story about Mary in their mid-week magazine. The article, “Meet the Flag Lady,” gave Mary the name many call her today—The Flag Lady.

Owner/Founder
Mary Leavitt
My Location
Columbus OH
United States
My Successes

As Mary’s sales grew, she called the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for advice. The SBA referred Mary to a SCORE seminar on “How to Start a Small Business,” conducted by Jim Rinehart. Mary says, “I loved the presentation and I knew I was in the right place at the right time.”

Today, The Flag Lady’s Flag Store is the second largest distributor of American Flags in the United States.

Mary was also invited to lead the Pledge of Allegiance at an Ohio event attended by President George W. Bush. And, Laura Bush toured her flag business. Mary’s story is a testament to the American spirit of entrepreneurship and the service of SCORE volunteers.

What's Great About My Mentor?

Jim Rinehart encouraged Mary to develop a plan for her business. “I told Mr. Rinehart I didn’t know where I was heading, but I loved selling the flag,” Mary says. “He was very direct and believed in crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s. Had it not been for SCORE and Mr. Rinehart, I don’t know where I’d be today.” Jim also assisted Mary with her financial records, short- and long-term planning and marketing.

Mary says, “I thank each of the countless numbers of volunteer mentors like Jim Rinehart, across the country. You are the ones who make sure that small businesses like mine stay strong. You give them the advice they need to succeed.”

How SCORE Helped

Mary Leavitt says, “SCORE helped me make my start and I count on SCORE advice today as a sounding board for ideas.”

Success for Stylease

Jennifer Hughes wanted a more sophisticated clothing style for her baby. She didn’t want to deal with the hassle of separate clothes, so she decided to create a design for one-piece garments that look like separate clothes.

Owner/Founder
Jennifer Hughes
My Location
Traverse City MI
United States
My Successes

Jennifer established the Stylease line of children's fashions. She found a manufacturer, arranged for distribution, hired an ad agency, trademarked and patented her product and funded the initial spring line of 16,000 outfits.  However, Jennifer lacked a business plan, a budget process and a financing mechanism.  Her ad agency suggested that she contact SCORE.

Over the years, Jennifer raised additional capital for the marketing and manufacturing of Stylease’s expanded spring line. Since contacting Phil, she has more than quadrupled the boutique stores that carry her line to nearly 200.

Jennifer still bounces ideas off Phil almost daily via email or phone. She has met with him several times while in New York for apparel trade shows. And, Phil's grandson joined Jennifer’s daughter as models on the cover of Stylease’s 2005 Spring Catalog.

What's Great About My Mentor?

Jennifer browsed SCORE's Web site looking for assistance on "venture capital & financing".   She found Phil Greene, a SCORE mentor in New Rochelle, New York, from the list of available mentors with this expertise.

"I hit the jackpot,” says Jennifer. “Phil helped me create a business plan, guided me through business scenarios and introduced me to potential investors.”

How SCORE Helped

"I thank SCORE for providing the resources that they do,” Jennifer says. “I am eternally grateful to Phil, my mentor and friend, for continuing to help me to build a strong and successful company."

SBA Honors Maryland Small Business Person of the Year

Virginia Williams was awarded the SBA “Maryland Small Business Person of the Year” on Friday, May 20. She was nominated by her SCORE Southern Maryland Chapter 390 Counselors.

Her “archSCAN” company ( www.archscan.com ) organizes, indexes and converts paper drawings and blueprints to electronic files.

Ms. Williams focuses on a specific niche market, offers a unique customer product, and provides both quality and a value which delights the customer. She has built an excellent business foundation by being creative, developing, and offering services that her customers recognize as being a true asset for their business environment. Ms. Williams has a specific targeted clientele which mainly consists of facility managers, vice president of operations, and anyone related to the construction industry. Many of the archSCAN projects are acquired through referrals and the company also has a good repetitive business.

Her archSCAN team is very dedicated to the company, as well as making sure a superior end-product is delivered to the customer and exceeds the customer’s expectations. Each employee is cross-trained and fully understands each phase of the offered services. There is minimal employee turnover and new employees are being hired when necessary. Through Ms. Williams’ dedication, confidence, and understanding that archSCAN’s services are truly unique, and that these services may be utilized by educational, healthcare, religious, state and federal agencies; plus, the architects, engineers and construction companies has equated to continued growth with very limited competition. archSCAN anticipates continuing its growth and expansion path, and predicts an aggressive growth forecast for the future.

In April 2002 Virginia Williams was terminated from her Regional Sales Manager position with a reprographic (blueprinting) company and shortly thereafter the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Facilities Division, contacted her requesting she assist them with their chaotic large format paper drawings plan room. After she spent a few months sorting, organizing, and labeling all the paper drawings in this room she sent the drawings to a scanning company to convert the paper into an electronic format. At the end of project twelve CDs were delivered to the Archdiocese of Baltimore. It was during this time Ms. Williams realized there were probably other organizations, businesses, etc. that were encountering the same dilemma with their paper large format drawings. She decided at that time to start her company, archSCAN, LLC, with the name being generated by combining the words archival and scanning. Since Ms. Williams did not really know exactly how to run a company she contacted SCORE Chapter 390 in Annapolis, MD in early 2003, and met with a SCORE counselor several times who guided her through all the aspects of starting a business ranging from writing a business plan through the financial details. Since her initial contact with SCORE Chapter 390 her counselors have changed during the years but she has always expressed how fortunate she has been to have an opportunity to utilize the guidance offered by this outstanding organization. Ms. Williams also applied for her State of Maryland MDOT certification and was granted this certification as small, women-owned business, and she has received her certification from the City of Baltimore too.

Ms. Williams’ main goal is to enter a disorganized plan room containing thousands of paper large format drawings and small format documents all relating to a building, or buildings, and transitioning this documentation into an electronic user-friendly end-product. At the completion of a project the customer will be delivered their data on CDs, DVDs, or external hard drives. All the information can easily be viewed on any computer screen and will provide access to all the electronic data within seconds, and readily available if, and when, an emergency or catastrophe occurs. The documents are generally scanned into an Adobe Acrobat PDF “read only” format, which creates an unaltered digital archival record. A database is structured in a file folder format and utilizes Adobe Acrobat’s book marks tools for additional layering and more rapid accessibility. Ms. Williams has determined that a PDF may be used and viewed from any remote location using the Adobe Acrobat Reader, a free service available through the Internet. She understands that if a customer wants to import the data archSCAN has created into a specific document management system it can generally be downloaded without any problem. Ms. Williams’ main objective is to keep the final end-product simplistic and user-friendly for all levels of computer skills.

archSCAN, LLC officially began in August 2002 in Virginia Williams’ home in Annapolis, MD, and she was the only employee. Today 10 employees work for archSCAN and since the company’s beginnings it has expanded into over a 4,500 square feet production facility where all the scanning and computer services are completed. In 2009, Ms. Williams’ efforts and diligence has started showing since a 69% gross sales increase occurred, and a constant steady increase is continuing in 2010. As the future approaches, and with archSCAN’s solid customer commitments, she hopes this will pave the way to exceeding $1,000,000 gross sales goal in 2011. The archSCAN customer base is varied and ranges from large government agencies (Smithsonian Institution), educational facilities (American University), many hospitals (Johns Hopkins Medicine Bayview Campus), to small private corporations. Ms. Williams has been very conscientious about not expanding too rapidly and taken cautious small steps not to over-extend archSCAN’s capabilities. She feels the customer is placing their trust and confidence in archSCAN’s services, and she wants them to recognize they have received an extremely beneficial and useful tool.

Owner/Founder
Ms. Virginia Williams
My Location
Annapolis MD 21401
United States
Employees
10
Year Company Formed
2002

Mid City Body And Frame

Owners bought this business from their employer and have 26 employees!

Owner/Founder
Susan and David D'Amore
My Location
Manchester NH
United States
Employees
26
My Successes

When David D'Amore had the opportunity to buy his employer's auto body business, the banker who wanted to help him sent him to SCORE for help with his business plan and financial planning. Shep Bartlett has a history of helping with these kinds of transactions; however, the deal became complicated when the existing owner suddenly died. Together, Shep and David worked with lawyers, bankers and the estate to keep the deal alive and ultimately carry it to a successful conclusion.

 

Today, David and Susan run Mid City Body and Frame together, with Susan managing the front office and David out on the shop floor.

What's Great About My Mentor?

"It was amazing how Shep Bartlett found solutions to some of our start up problems"

This is a template for a projected balance sheet.

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!”

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