Women Entrepreneurs

Success Story for Wings Unlimited, Inc.

In the start up phase of Wings Unlimited, Inc., more than 20 years ago, Ann Gilmartin attended a SCORE workshop on how to start your own business. She was so impressed with the quality of assistance being offered that she began working with several mentors at the local SCORE chapter on her own corporate meeting and incentive planning company.

Owner/Founder
Ann Gilmartin
My Location
Darien CT
United States
Employees
8
Year Company Formed
1986
My Successes

Ann’s business was off and running, providing meeting, team-building, incentive and logistics planning for Fortune 100 companies. 

In the mid-‘90s, as Ann’s company continued to grow and two of her daughters became involved, she talked to SCORE about expanding the business. Eventually she moved her business into outside office space to accommodate her growing needs. Ann continued to work with SCORE at different stages of her business growth, including attending various workshops.

The business continues to grow in both awareness and revenue, more than doubling its staff and office space in the past three years.

What's Great About My Mentor?

The SCORE mentors provided a wide range of advice, covering legal, financial, accounting and insurance issues. Over the years, Ann continued to meet with SCORE mentors at their chapter as well as at her then home-based business. As computers became more complex, she consulted with SCORE about her technology needs.

After her bookkeeper of 15 years retired, Ann’s daughter, Tara, took over the financials. Tara began working with SCORE mentors Bill Hall and Ken Futter on the transition.  “Ken is involved with a family business himself,” Tara says, “and he has helped me to handle issues in this area.” Bill and Ken meet with Tara and Ann quarterly to talk about marketing and financial management. The business continues to grow in both awareness and revenue, more than doubling its staff and office space in the past three years.

How SCORE Helped

Tara credits SCORE for helping her family’s business succeed. “The professional support from SCORE has been of great value as our business grows and evolves,” she says. “SCORE has never let us down.”

“The ability to get the right people, at the right time, has been phenomenal,” she adds. “The excitement and encouragement our mentors have shown for our business has been wonderful.”

Julie Morgenstern Enterprises Finds Re-newed Inspiration With SCORE

In June 1999, Julie Morgenstern appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show for Oprah's Spring Cleaning Day. This national appearance reached an audience in excess of 20 million. Julie returned to her office to find 1,100 email messages, numerous phone messages and skyrocketing book sales online.

Owner/Founder
Julie Morgenstern
My Location
New York NY
United States
Year Company Formed
1989
My Successes

Julie, who once described herself as a "personal disaster area" has turned disorganization into super-organization and a thriving consulting, organizing and speaking career. On April 21 of this year, she celebrated her birthday and the 10th anniversary of her business at the White House. Julie was recognized as a national SCORE client success at the organization's 35th anniversary celebration.

Julie's passion and career were in the theater. Directing off-Broadway shows in New York and attempting to become an organized mother, Morgenstern often dreamt of a "rent-a-mom," someone that she could hire to do all the chores she was too busy or overwhelmed to do.

In 1989, Julie's life reached a turning point when she divorced and became a single mother with a three-year-old daughter to support. Realizing she could no longer survive on an income from the theater, she decided it was time for a career change.

With a $100 dollar loan from a friend, she purchased an ad for $25 in Big Apple Parents Paper, a publication distributed throughout New York City at places working parents frequent such as daycare centers and grocery stores. The ad read, "Drowning in meaningless busy work?" and included a "to-do" list of services Task Masters offered. Chores on the to-do list included: errands, clutter control, cleaning kids rooms, party planning and moving management. The rest of the loan ($75) was spent on a business start-up special from a printer, which included business cards and stationery.

Julie received a call from her first client, an elderly couple who needed someone to organize and submit years of health insurance claims. She made $500 on this job and reinvested every penny into a half-page ad in Big Apple Parents Paper, believing a larger ad would make her appear to be a more well-established and successful company.

Her advertising investment paid off: She began to receive about five clients per month. Jobs included food shopping, renewing passports, organizing bedrooms, planning 40th birthday parties and weddings, designing closets and kitchen storage space, and creating photo albums and scrap books. Before long, she was extremely busy. Her eight-year daughter Jessi accepted the role of "Chief Business Advisor." Julie explains, "Jessi has always had the purist, most practical point of view."

But as a one-person operation, there was a limit to the number of hours she could work with clients. She also had administrative work to do and couldn't afford to take a day off. She saw a ceiling to how much she could make as a one-person operation and felt the need to expand. 

Julie learned that business was anything but boring. "I thought that business wouldn't be creative, but it is even more gratifying than theater. I can come up with my own ideas and make them happen." With all of the exposure, she gained many high-level clients such as American Express,Cosmopolitan Magazine, the New York City Mayor's Office, Merrill Lynch and NBC Television.

In October 1998, Julie released her first book, Organizing From the Inside Out. The book encompasses Julie's entire theory on organization, from the inside out-first analyze, then strategize; finally, attack. It was a New York Times Business Best Seller and an Amazon.com bestseller for 1999.

The future looks bright and busy for Julie. She is developing an idea for a half-an-hour weekly TV show about transforming disorganized lifestyles and is considering certifying organizers nationally to develop a nationwide network of Task Master representatives.

What's Great About My Mentor?

In 1993, three years after her original visit to SCORE, she returned frustrated and exhausted for more advice. She met with SCORE mentor Irwin Coplin, an expert in sales and marketing. "After I explained my business to Irwin, he told me that I had extraordinary potential. That validation gave me so much confidence and his encouragement re-energized me." Irwin discussed her options, such as franchising and certifying organizers, and gave her the pros and cons of each decision.

Irwin wanted to follow-up regularly. "He got so into it. I felt like I had a partner—a mentor. I wasn't alone anymore." As Julie developed a need for financial advice, Coplin referred her to another mentor, Harry Lowenstein. "I run to either one of them when I am stuck," says Julie. 

Coplin continued to help Julie generate business and media attention through creative promotional tactics. He developed the idea of holding "the messiest office in New York City contest." The winner was to win an office makeover from Task Masters. Coverage of the contest was so successful that she appeared on CBS this Morning to do an on-air office makeover and on Good Morning America, where she organized the office of the show's weatherman, Spencer Christian.

After six years, Julie still turns to Irwin and Harry for help with every new decision. "With Irwin and Harry I feel like I discovered a gold mine of support and wisdom that I've been drawing from ever since."

How SCORE Helped

Julie had no business experience nor had she ever held an office job. She made an appointment with SCORE with only one question in mind: How much should she charge for her service? Julie's mentor advised her to charge $10 more per hour than her competitors, explaining that customers would be impressed by a name-brand price tag. According to Julie, this worked like a charm.

Law Offices of Kyra M. Raimey Relies on SCORE Advice for Running a Business

After working in downtown Cincinnati for an environmental corporate law firm, attorney Kyra Raimey decided to go into business for herself. She realized she had a passion for family and labor law, and wanted to strike out on her own.

Owner/Founder
Kyra Raimey
My Location
West Chester OH
United States
Year Company Formed
2005
My Successes

While working to start her law office, she consulted the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Web site for information on business funding, and called the local SBA office. The SBA’s office in Cincinnati put her in touch with the Greater Cincinnati SCORE chapter for helping with obtaining a loan.

Kyra’s husband also pitched in to help. He worked with her to develop an eye-catching, informative Web site. She has received many compliments about it from clients and other attorneys.

Kyra already is looking to the future expansion of her business. She plans to move from her current one-room office to a larger office in a more accessible location.

Her long-term plans include growing the business and adding staff. She hopes to someday become a judge. In 2005, Kyra was named a “Rising Star” family law attorney by Ohio Super Lawyer and Cincinnati Magazine.

What's Great About My Mentor?

Kyra began meeting with SCORE Mentor Brien Hope at a local book store, as well as the chapter office, to discuss her new business. Brien reviewed her business plan and helped her through the loan process. This led to Kyra obtaining a BLX Express Loan to help pay for start-up costs.

Brien also worked with Kyra on her marketing strategies. “Some of the ideas we discussed included creating an information card about my business to give to other attorneys, contacting the local bar association for referrals, scheduling speaking engagements, and identifying business columnists who could write a story about my business,” Kyra says.

“Brien stressed meeting with other professionals to network as a way to get clients,” she adds. “It was great having the advice of someone who knows the business world.”

How SCORE Helped

For Kyra, the future is bright. And, she knows that SCORE is there to help. “The fact that a wealth of knowledge and expertise is just a phone call away is very comforting,” she says.

SCORE Mentors W. Laimon Interiors

Stephanie Mann had a lifelong passion for interior design. So she decided to start a second career as an entrepreneur by starting her own business, W. Laimon Interiors, which provides services for both residential and commercial clients, including three local churches.

Owner/Founder
Stephanie Mann
My Location
South Norwalk CT
United States
Year Company Formed
2003
My Successes

Stephanie follows a 5-step process to satisfy her clients’ needs. First, she provides a consultation to understand their vision and needs. Next, she visits the location to get a sense of the scope of the project, and to learn about any space requirements and limitations. She works on schematics to show what is possible and provides layouts that work within budget limitations or furniture arrangements required by her clients.

Third, she develops a final set of plans, including custom design work that may need to be done. Next is executing her design plans, and finally, she follows up with her clients to make sure they remain satisfied with the results.

Stephanie wanted to grow her business, get more clients, grow her sales and maximize profits, but she wasn’t sure how. Her brother, who owns an international human resources company in Michigan, told her he had visited a local SCORE office and found their advice quite helpful.

Stephanie has been working with the Fairfield County SCORE chapter and they have been so impressed with Stephanie’s success that they’ve asked her to appear as a panelist to offer advice to other SCORE clients. “I’ve benefited tremendously from these networking opportunities,” she says.

What's Great About My Mentor?

Stephanie began monthly face-to-face mentoring sessions with SCORE Mentor Elliot Baritz. “Elliot helped me be accountable to someone for my business,” Stephanie says. “Just having someone to talk to about my business helps me push myself to move to the next business area that I need to work on.”

Stephanie worked with Elliot to improve her marketing and advertising, which lead to increasing sales. “Elliot also taught me how to negotiate, which has paid off generously,” she says. “I apply his knowledge to my business and see real dollars and cents results.”

How SCORE Helped

Stephanie contacted Fairfield County SCORE and attended a workshop on developing a business plan. “I thought the information was very valuable, and I took home materials from the session to help put together my business plan,” she says. “Going to SCORE seminars has helped me meet other businesses. I’ve gotten several new clients!” Stephanie adds, “My client base has grown from three to 25, and sales and profits have increased exponentially.”

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.

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