Women Entrepreneurs

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.”

SCORE Advices Splashgear

Microbiologist Shereen Sabet fell in love with SCUBA diving the first time she tried it with her husband in 1996. As she became more devout in her Muslim faith, however, finding appropriately modest swimwear was a frustration. Shereen discovered that the diving drysuit gave her the coverage necessary to allow her to participate in water sports and still have full coverage dictated by her faith. She also realized that there must be women from many backgrounds who could benefit from such a garment—whether because of faith, physical issues or simple modesty. After testing several outfits, Shereen launched the Splashgear line, which offers colorful swim pieces—shirts, pants, skirts and hair covers— in a variety of colors and sizes.

Owner/Founder
Shereen Sabet
My Location
Huntington Beach CA
United States
Year Company Formed
2005
My Successes

As her business was getting started, Shereen applied for her business license and picked up a brochure about SCORE. At the urging of a contractor, she reviewed the brochure, researched SCORE online and turned to Orange County SCORE and mentor Tony Calderone, who had retired after serving as vice president of sales for Russell Athletics.

Shereen’s sales continue to grow. In her many media interviews, Shereen highlights SCORE as a contributor to her success. A story by the Associated Press went viral globally, bringing her new customers overseas.

Shereen has been a speaker at an American Express OPEN/SCORE Speed Coaching event, a SCORE Women in Business breakfast, and a SCORE chapter meeting. Moving forward as the economy improves, Shereen’s business is expected to continue its growth not only in the U.S., but around the world.

Shereen also uses broadband for her business. “We switched to high-speed Internet for the speed in accessing our e-commerce web site,” she says.

What's Great About My Mentor?

SCORE mentor Tony Calderone helped Shereen set up contracts with agents and distributors, figure out the appropriate commission rates and terms and conditions, and explore the possibility of expanding her online business into retail stores in the U.S.

“It’s just incredible having access to somebody like him,” Shereen says. “He’s helping me with the ins and outs of retail. It’s really awesome!”

How SCORE Helped

Shereen has attended several low-cost SCORE workshops. “I have no background in business—I’m actually a scientist,” she says. “These seminars are incredible. You get to hear from people in different industries who provide the basic info you need to get started.”

SCORE Mentors Samii Clothes to Success

Gay Ellis couldn't believe her good fortune as she left the New York Gift Show in 1990. Clothing buyers at the world's largest fashion trade fair had raved about her line of outerwear and accessories, all of which were inspired by the colorful costumes of Scandinavia's nomadic Samii tribes. For someone with no formal experience in fashion design, Gay was on the verge of making a childhood dream come true.

Owner/Founder
Gay Ellis
My Location
Sheffield VT
United States
Employees
10
Year Company Formed
1985
My Successes

"I'd always been interested in clothing and costumes, but my training was limited to classes in the basics of design," she recalls. "In 1979, a National Geographic article about the Samii featured a photograph of the tribe's traditional winter coats. The colorful, intricately patterned designs inspired me to craft one of my own. The result was so well received that I began developing adult and children's wear based on the Samii style."

The popularity of Gay's designs led her to start a small company called Samii Clothes and, eventually, make the fateful trip to New York. Returning home with orders from buyers across the country, Gay realized that expanding Samii Clothes from a home-based sideline into a full-fledged business would require expertise in finance, marketing, and human resources—skills that she simply did not have. "My instincts had helped me find a niche where I could apply my design talents," she says, "but I knew nothing about the nuts and bolts of building a business." Fortunately, Gay found a resource where she could get the answers she needed—SCORE.

Gay received a loan through Vermont Economic Development Authority, enabling Samii Clothes to exceed everyone's expectations. Since Gay incorporated the firm in 1992, annual sales have surpassed $1 million. The company's products are now featured in several well-known catalogues such as the Museum of Fine Arts of Boston and Orvis of Manchester, VT. Samii also provides employment for more than 10 people in northeastern Vermont.

The experience has broadened Gay's horizons in more ways than one. In 1995, she became involved with Aid to Artisans, a private organization funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, which helps overseas craftspeople find markets for their talents. Samii Clothes has since added a new line of clothing accessories called Lanya, which are based on beading and appliqué techniques found in Eastern Europe. Gay has also worked as a paid consultant to Aid for Artisans, advising textile groups in the remote villages of Uzbekistan.

And there's more to come. Gay is preparing to launch a line of bed throws, accent pillows, and other home furnishings based on her Samii designs, as well as a Web site that will keep the retail community up to date on the company's news and products. She also hopes to begin marketing Samii products in Europe. The company's growth has been almost dizzying, but Gay never forgets how her SCORE mentors provided both the advice and flexibility to make her dream come true.

What's Great About My Mentor?

In January 1991, Gay began working with SCORE Volunteer Mentors Ben Harris and Bill Mathers to develop a business strategy for Samii Clothes. "I couldn't have asked for two better mentors," Gay says. "Ben had long been involved with the operation of a chain of men's clothing stores in Vermont, while Bill was a former New York City corporate lawyer. Both had the experience and perspectives I needed to get my company rolling."

Over the next two years, Ben and Bill advised Gay on developing a business plan, identifying sources of financing, preparing presentations, personnel management and product lines. Along with sound advice and objective critiques, the two mentors were a source of unlimited encouragement. "Ben and Bill helped me through all the ups and downs that are a part of getting a business started," Gay says. "They also helped me address issues that I'd never thought of, such as providing home-based employees with workers compensation."

Gay also learned that not everything goes according to plan. "When I made my first loan presentation, I was certain I'd get the money," Gay recalls. "Ben and Bill knew the head of the agency, we'd prepared a solid business plan and I had a variety of samples to show. However, we'd been warned that the loan officer was a difficult person to work with and sure enough, he was extremely negative and rejected my application. I was furious when I left the meeting, but Ben and Bill helped me regroup and try again."

"Because Samii clothes are designed for winter wardrobes, Ben and Bill have always encouraged me to launch a summer line to help even out my cash flow," she says. "I've followed my own instincts, and am hopeful that the home furnishings will balance things out. Ben and Bill are supportive, but still like to tease me about it."

How SCORE Helped

Gay says, “Every business needs help getting through its growing pains, but I could count on having the wisdom and experience of two wonderful SCORE mentors at my fingertips.”

Quilters Alley Finds Success With SCORE

Few places would be more appropriate for a store devoted to quilting than Paducah, KY. Known around the world for its decorative quilts and skilled crafts people, the city is home to the Museum of the American Quilters' Society, the only national museum dedicated to the art.

At least that's what Pat English's cousin thought in the late 1980s when Pat and her husband retired and made plans to return to their old hometown. Pat had spent many years teaching quitting and needlecraft in the Chicago suburbs, and it was clear that her knowledge and talent would be a perfect for a store dedicated to quilts.

Owner/Founder
Pat English
My Location
Paducah KY
United States
Employees
2
Year Company Formed
1989
My Successes

Pat was receptive to her cousin's encouragement, but recognized that going into business required skills that she didn't have. "I knew what it takes to make a good quilt," she recalls, "but I didn't know anything about starting or running a business." After reading about SCORE in the local newspaper, Pat and her husband visited the organization's Paducah chapter and met with Clara Land.

Pat opened Quilters Alley in 1989 with a splash of low-cost publicity and a well-attended grand opening celebration. The next few months were slow, however, as the store was not in the best location. Things began to take off a year later when Pat moved the business to a more attractive site. For the next three years, Quilters Alley became well known to quilters throughout the region. Then in 1993, Pat had an opportunity to purchase a building halfway between the then-newly opened Quilting Museum and the Kentucky Convention Center. This location would not only maximize the visibility of Quilters Alley to English's fellow quilting enthusiasts, but also attract convention attendees and other visitors as well.

Pat took one of mentors, Clara, suggestions and registered Quilters Alley as part of an enterprise zone, enabling English to take advantage of several valuable tax breaks. With the help of a commercial bank loan, her store is now fulfilling its promise as a destination for visitors from across the country. "Each year, business gets better," says Pat, who chuckles when she hears friends suggest that it's time to expand once again. "That might be going a bit too far; I have plenty to say grace over right now."

What's Great About My Mentor?

Pat met with Clara Land, a retired marketing and service professional with a leading telecommunications company. Clara explained many of the key basics of getting a business started, and provided guidelines on setting up an accounting and bookkeeping system, developing a business plan, securing insurance, and marketing. They also received valuable information from the chapter's Pre-Business Seminar for aspiring entrepreneurs.

When Pat felt it was time to dissolve the business partnership with her cousin, she again she returned to SCORE where her mentor had the answers. "Clara has always been great at giving us pointers and ideas," Pat says. "If she wasn't sure how we should proceed, she'd know who to ask. And she always got the information to us right away."

How SCORE Helped

Although Pat credits two business basics—timing and location—for her success, she is equally grateful for the help she's received from SCORE and Clara Land. "Clara has always been there when we needed her," she says. "She has helped us a great deal over the past 10 years."

Lounge Pac Succeeds By Using Advice From SCORE Mentor

Daniel Pedemonte is one of those inventors who has been able to bring his invention - Lounge Pac - to fruition.  When Dan needed an experienced business advisor who could give him guidance in the manufacture, promotion and marketing of his product, he reached out to SCORE where he met Mentor Earl Shraiberg.

Owner/Founder
Daniel Pedemonte
My Location
Chicago IL
United States
Year Company Formed
2008
My Successes

Dan invented and patented Lounge Pac, a novel lounge chair with built-in coolers, speakers, headrest, removable pouches and an attached umbrella—the ideal lounge chair.  After having an order cancel with Frontgate in 2008, Dan stuck to his program and landed his first deal with Hamacher Schlemer in the spring of 2011.

Dan’s lounge chair was a success and won the Hammacher Schlemmer National Invention Competition.

Today, Lounge Pac is seeing a steady growth in sales due to Dan’s perseverance and ingenuity and, in large part, to Earl Shraiberg’s sound advice.

What's Great About My Mentor?

Earl Shraiberg helped Dan by acting as a sounding board for marketing, sales and negotiations with large prospective buyers.  After years of effort, Dan, with Earl’s advice, was able in the Spring of 2011 to work out a deal with Hammacher Schlemmer, which has since  been a major outlet for the product.

Dan says, "Earl  is a gem. His advice on all matters associated with this type of business is/was invaluable. He is a wealth of knowledge and experience. His help was always timely and his advice was always dead on."

How SCORE Helped

SCORE served as Dan's sounding board as well as helped Dan with factory negotiations.

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