Women Entrepreneurs

The Delicate Pen Finds SCORE Mentor Advice Successful

When it occurred to actress Jane Labanz that she did not want to spend countless hours at auditions or acting in productions that kept her away from her Manhattan home for extended periods of time, she turned her talent to entrepreneurship to give her the freedom she needed.
www.delicatepen.com

Owner/Founder
Jane Labanz
My Location
New York NY
United States
My Successes

To occupy her time while working as a “booth singer” off stage, Labanz began doing calligraphy after admiring the beauty of the art while leafing through a magazine.  She soon found herself applying her own expression to the calligraphy she was self-teaching.  When production cast members saw her work, they implored her to do their wedding and other one-off invitations.

It then occurred to Labanz that she could turn her talent into a business, giving her another artistic outlet, the income she needed, and the flexibility to choose acting gigs that fit her New York ambitions.

Labanz founded The Delicate Pen, which provides high-end calligraphy products for weddings and other special events.  The Delicate Pen’s products have been showcased by Barbara Walters on TV’s “The View,” displayed at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, and featured in numerous bride and wedding magazines, including Martha Stewart Living Wedding and New York Bride.

The Delicate Pen’s sales reached $150,000 in the first year and are now sold in more than 30 stores in the United States, Puerto Rico and Italy.  Even though sales and marketing take up increasingly larger chunks of her time, Labanz still manages to do all the product hand-lettering herself.  But she is now looking to hire a full-time marketer. 

Her newly evolving lifestyle allows Labanz to devote more time to her charitable passions such as participating in benefits for “Broadway Cares” and working for the “Little Seeds” program in South Africa.  “Little Seeds” provides holistic childcare instruction to teachers in extremely needy areas where underprivileged children have little more than papier-mâché desks and few, if any, books.

What's Great About My Mentor?

In 1998 Labanz visited the New York SCORE office to learn about entrepreneurship. SCORE mentors helped her create a product line of fine stationery. Armed with a product portfolio and new entrepreneurial skills, Labanz participated in her first trade show at New York’s Jacob Javits Center. It was there that well-known stationer, Kate’s Paperie, discovered The Delicate Pen’s products, and now sells them. Labanz’ products also can be found at Bloomingdale’s and Michael C. Fina & Co.

How SCORE Helped

Of her business artistic outlet Labanz states, “I make music with letters; I dance on paper.”  When it comes to advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, she emphatically states, “Go to SCORE!” She herself continues to take advantage of SCORE’s services as she grows her business.  Labanz’s other advice is, “Think big but start slow, and pick your passion.”

Enchanted Thyme Entertainment Finds Success Using SCORE as Resource

Fairy tales are all about happy endings.  Thanks to SCORE, Ariane Smith is writing a happy beginning to her dream of building a business that blends her experience as a children’s entertainer and storyteller with her fascination with fairy tales and culinary arts.

Owner/Founder
Ariane Smith
My Location
New York NY
United States
Year Company Formed
2007
My Successes

Ariane’s idea was simple, yet innovative—encourage healthy attitudes toward food among children by creating fun interactive stories called Enchanted Thyme, capped with healthy recipes that families could prepare together.  After exploring different avenues to develop her idea, she decided to bring Enchanted Thyme to life as a series of children’s novels.

Despite the uniqueness of Ariane’s idea, Enchanted Thyme still faced the formidable challenge of achieving visibility in a highly competitive book market.  Rather than rely solely on bookstores, Ariane decided to market the book through grocery stores where she would also offer interactive shows and culinary workshops.

Because her first Enchanted Thyme book had not yet been published, Ariane followed SCORE Mentor Abe Silverstein advice and, with book proofs in hand, began approaching nearby ShopRite grocery stores. “Three of them gave me the chance to do performances, which were very successful,” Ariane says.

ShopRite customers weren’t the only ones who were impressed.  The chain’s regional management agreed to sponsor Ariane at the FoodNetwork New York City Wine and Food Festival, enabling her to add high production value to her show at a high-profile venue.  ShopRite is also considering having Ariane perform at other stores in metropolitan New York and beyond.

As word of Enchanted Thyme has spread, Ariane is busy giving more performances at stores and libraries in New York City and the surrounding area.  She’s also at work on her second book, and working on animated shorts featuring Enchanted Thyme characters that kids can download to their iPods or cell phones.  “They can watch the short with their parents while grocery shopping, and pick up the ingredients for the recipe,” she says.

What's Great About My Mentor?

“Abe was a perfect fit for me,” Ariane says.  “He calibrated my approach, telling me when I was thinking too big, and when I needed to think bigger.” 

In assessing start-up financing options, Abe recommended that Ariane pursue a small business loan rather than seeking out investors.  “That allowed me to follow my own vision starting out, rather than having to answer to other people,” Ariane says.  “Abe helped me with my business plan, which led to an incredible loan with a great interest rate.”

Ariane continues to work with Abe, who frequently checks on her progress and provide a sounding board for ideas. “That he calls so regularly means the world to me,” she says.  “Starting and running a small business is not easy, especially these days.  It’s nice to have someone like Abe there to be a mentor and a friend.”

How SCORE Helped

 While attending an SBA seminar in Manhattan in early 2007, Ariane learned about SCORE and its free small business mentoring services.  She began meeting with New York City SCORE Mentor Abe Silverstein, a veteran of developing successful small businesses.

Country Meadows Receives Marketing Help From SCORE

Many aspiring entrepreneurs dream of running successful small businesses from their homes.  Harriett McFeeley has taken the concept one step further, turning her family’s 2.5-acre property in Hastings, Nebraska, into Country Meadows, a beautiful location for staging weddings, family gatherings and other special events.

Owner/Founder
Harriett McFeeley
My Location
Hastings NE
United States
Year Company Formed
1999
My Successes

Over the years, Harriett and her husband, Dick, planted numerous trees, created intricate rock and flower gardens, and added several water features such as ponds, waterfalls and a stream around their family home. In 1999, friends began asking Harriett if they could “borrow” her unique garden for social events. Suddenly, the opportunity to start a business became clear. 

“I’d been frantically searching for some kind of home-based business because I could no longer work outside the home and properly care for my ailing mother,” Harriett says.  “This was definitely the answer to a prayer.”  Harriett adds that while she had no business plan, no finances and no business management experience, “I did the only thing I could do—open the doors and go to work.”

Country Meadows began attracting customers, but Harriett and Dick knew that more people needed to know about their special oasis.  Learning about marketing was one of their motivations to enroll in a SCORE-sponsored small business workshop in 2003. “The publicity element was very important because we don’t have a large budget for advertising,” Harriett says.  “Most people find out about us through word-of-mouth.”

What's Great About My Mentor?

Central Nebraska SCORE Mentors Bob Portwood and Jim Svoboda, both of whom had backgrounds in marketing and retail sales, subsequently met with the McFeeleys to develop business and marketing plans, identify their trade area and target audience, and provide cost-effective ideas for enhancing Country Meadows’ visibility.

Portwood and Svoboda also provided suggestions for Country Meadows’ logos and slogans such as “Let us simply amaze you!” and “The Perfect solution for your Unique Event.”  “Bob and Jim offered positive, helpful, practical advice whenever we needed it,” Harriett says.  “They also gave us a lot of referrals—something that we really appreciated.”

How SCORE Helped

Harriett is confident that more people will be able to enjoy the special Country Meadows experience, thanks in large part to the help she received from SCORE.  “Bob and Jim really knew what they were talking about,” she says.  “They had worked in marketing their entire careers, yet were happy to take time from retirement sharing advice and ideas with us.”

Medical Specialty Solutions Succeeds By Using Advice From SCORE Mentor

Julie and Diana felt they knew how to run a company, but had no idea about how to buy one or set up a corporation. Julie's husband, a business broker, suggested she contact the SBA for advice. That call led to a referral to the Portland chapter of SCORE. "I explained that we needed help fast because time was of the essence," Julie recalls. "They immediately put me in touch with Harry Kane, the former CFO of Georgia Pacific. He was 100 percent fantastic."

Owner/Founder
Julie Karrasik and Diana Smith
My Location
Portland OR
United States
Employees
40
Year Company Formed
2000
My Successes

October 1999 was not a good month for Medical Specialty Solutions of Portland, OR. The company, which provided billing, collection, and other support services for area physician groups, learned that its largest client planned to dissolve at the end of the year. In a matter of months, Medical Specialty Solutions would lose almost half its business, leaving the future of the company and its employees very much in doubt.

Julie Karrasik, Director of Business Development, didn't panic. She simply put her job in high gear, touting the company's services and recruiting new clients. But Medical Specialty Solutions' management didn't share her confidence. Given the company's uncertain future, several clients decided to take their billing operations in-house. Before long, management decided that they had little choice but to split up the company and sell the various components to interested buyers.

That prospect left both clients and employees nervous, but it also presented Julie with an opportunity. She and Director of Operations Diana Smith could team up to buy the medical billing part of the business and keep Medical Specialty Solutions going. "We had never thought of ourselves as business owners," Julie says. "But we realized that we had invested too much time and effort in the company to leave. We had also made many promises to our new and ongoing clients; going back on our word at this point would not be good business."

Julie and Diana officially took ownership of Medical Specialty Solutions in June 2000, the company has not lost a client or a staff member. In fact, the company has surpassed its previous revenue totals, and has brought in a number of large clients in and around the fast-growing Portland area. "We're particularly proud that this growth has come without advertising," Diana says. "It has all been through recommendations from physician administrators who know our work."

Julie adds that looking back at the events of the past two years, it's hard to believe just how far she and Diana have come, and how much they have learned. They are also gratified that Harry Kane and Dan Williamson devoted so much time to assist them. "They made it possible for us to achieve the difficult goal of putting this deal together," she says. "We still rely on them for advice and guidance when we have a problem or a new idea. They are mentors in every sense of the word."

What's Great About My Mentor?

SCORE Mentor Harry Kane and his fellow volunteer mentor Dan Williamson, a former consulting engineer, helped Julie and Diana formulate their strategy for purchasing Medical Specialty Solutions. Because both women had to literally keep their day jobs to keep the company functioning, most of the mentoring sessions took place at night and on weekends. "Harry and Dan took a lot of time out of their private lives to help us," Diana says. "They knew we were making tough decisions, and they were always there to support us. They made sure we knew how the outcomes would affect the company."

Julie adds that the two mentors stuck to them like Velcro. "They were with us every step of the way," she says. "Harry sat in on our purchase negotiations, and joined me for my meeting with the loan officer at the bank."

Of particular importance to Julie and Diana was the guidance Harry and Dan provided that helped Medical Specialty Solutions successfully transition to new ownership. "There are so many things to consider, but Harry and Dan made sure we focused first on the mission-critical needs," Julie says. "That included reassuring our clients and staff, who were naturally nervous about whether the changeover would succeed."

Julie and Diana continue to work with their SCORE mentors on a monthly basis. They meet to review financials, fine-tune the strategic plan, and consider key decisions such as remodeling the company's offices to handle its growth. "Harry and Dan challenge us to think of things that we might not have considered," Julie says. "They want to be sure we spend our money wisely, and not commit some of the mistakes that cripple other fast-growing companies."

How SCORE Helped

Diana says, “Harry Kane and Dan Williamson gave unselfishly of their time and brilliant backgrounds to help Medical Specialty Solutions move forward. People often praise Julie and me for saving the company, but SCORE deserves an equal share of the credit."

Please go to our Official Silicon Valley SCORE website at www.svscore.org

Marketing Strategist Robbin Block Shares Her Expertise on the SCORE Small Business Success Blog in May

Date
Fri, 2011-05-06 09:40

Washington, D.C.SCORE, America’s premier source of free and confidential small business advice for entrepreneurs, announces that Robbin Block of Seattle, WA, appears as a SCORE guest blogger in May. Visit the SCORE Small Business Success Blog at http://blog.score.org/ to view her posts.

SCORE and American Express OPEN on the Road Driving Small Business Growth

Date
Mon, 2011-05-02 09:32

Tour Provides Boost for Small Business Owners Nationally with Coaching Program and Workshop Series

New York City – SCORE and American Express OPEN announce the 2011 schedule for “Small Business High Speed Growth,” a multi-city tour designed to help small business owners develop strategies to and provide them with educational and coaching programs to identify new opportunities for business growth.

 

This spreadsheet walks you through the process of developing an integrated set of financial projections.
 

 

This spreadsheet walks you through the process of developing an integrated set of financial projections.
 

Financing Resources for Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket and Southeastern Massachusetts

 

Well Point Veterinary Service

Well Point Veterinary Service has expanded to a new, modern facility.  Formerly housed in the same building as Responsible Pet Care of Oxford Hills, the new facility at 86 Roberts Road is much larger with expanded equipment and services.

Well Point Veterinary Services provides the services to keep pets healthy through all stages of life.  Well Point offers traditional medical and surgical services, as well as alternative treatments of veterinary acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine and massage.

The new veterinary office includes exam rooms, a surgery room, X-ray and developing rooms and other rooms to care for pets.

One difference in Dr. Best's approach is that pet owners enter the examination room and stay with their pet throughout the entire procedure to provide comfort and security.  You as an owner can feel comfortable discussing your concerns about your pet directly with the veterinarian.

 

 

Owner/Founder
Dr. Suzanne Best, DVM
My Location
86 Roberts Road
Norway ME 04268
United States
Employees
3
Year Company Formed
2007
How SCORE Helped

Veterinarian Suzanne Best began planning to expand her local practice several years ago, but wasn't sure where to start.  That's where SCORE comes in. 

Dr. Best worked with Oxford Hills SCORE to develop a business plan and cash flow projection.  Those tools helped her analyze her business needs and determine the extent of her business expansion.  SCORE also assisted with securing funding for the expansion.

Dr Best says of her experience with SCORE "I was at a point where I wasn't sure how to go about securing a loan or how to proceed in expanding my business.  The SCORE counselors helped me use programs to figure out my cash flow projection and business plan.  From there they encouraged me to move ahead with the plans and to find a way to secure a loan.  Community Concepts worked with me through the process as well.  I can't say enough about the good advice and encouragement that SCORE offered me."

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