Women Entrepreneurs

SCORE Ramps Up Training and Business Development Assistance; Offers Free Advice to Support Small Business Owners During Tough Economic Times

Date
Mon, 2011-05-09 17:56

New Client-Focused Website, Brand and Mentor Training Program Will
Leverage SCORE’s Success – Grow 1 Million Successful Small Businesses By 2017

Marketing: For Marketing Success…

Date
Wed, 2011-05-11 00:29

…Skip the Social Media Hype

Social media hype has hit epic proportions. The promise of its ability to make a success of even the shabbiest business model is everywhere. Business owners are no longer asking, “Should I run an ad in the newspaper or on Google?” They want to know, “Should I be on Facebook or LinkedIn?”

Use Discussion Forums to Build Your Reputation

Date
Wed, 2011-05-11 00:17

 

Discussion forums have been around a long time – so long that they may be overlooked for their power in connecting and networking.  So first a little review on discussion forum terms and structure:

Is a Cloud Right for You?

Date
Wed, 2011-05-11 00:08

April Films Expands With Help From SCORE

Picture this: a determined young woman from the Midwest comes to New York City to make it big in the world of filmmaking. Through her talent, dedication and hard work, she turns her dream into a small business that grows into a successful enterprise. The story closes with the young woman starting the cameras rolling on the set of her first feature film, with nothing but opportunity ahead.

Sound like the perfect feel-good movie plot? It’s actually the story of April Patrick, who has turned her childhood dream into an up-and-coming company called April Films.

Owner/Founder
April Patrick
My Location
New York NY
United States
Year Company Formed
1997
My Successes

Inspired by filmmakers Spike Lee and Oliver Stone, the Omaha native enrolled in New York University to study film production. After completing her master’s degree and gaining experience through various internships and media projects, she decided to get serious about growing her own film company. On the advice of her mother, herself a former small business owner, April contacted the New York City SCORE Chapter and began shaping her business plan with the assistance of volunteer mentor Harry Lowenstein. 

April Films was just getting off the ground when the tragedies of September 11th intervened.  One of the outcomes was a drastic change in business relationships that forced April to quickly close gaps in her production capabilities. Using her SCORE-based business plan, April applied for and won $20,000 from the Miller Urban Entrepreneurs Business Grant Competition. The funds allowed her to invest in state-of-the art equipment and accelerate April Films’ marketing program.

What's Great About My Mentor?

“Though I was confident in my technical skills, I was so naïve about business that I believed people would just seek me out and give me work,” April recalls. “Harry helped me make the connection between what it takes to start a business, and what’s needed to make it grow.”

April also worked with volunteer mentors Alvin Roselin and Al Korn, both of whom had vast experience in the media industry. Says April, “They mentored me in what Al calls ‘business therapy.’ Rather than telling me what to do, they provide guidance in deciding where to seek information and what questions to ask.”

How SCORE Helped

“The grant and SCORE enabled me to expand my network,” April says. “Along with pitching ideas to networks, we’ve stepped up our work producing electronic press kits and videos for the music industry. The revenue is just what we need to begin work on our first feature film next spring.”

With April Films on the verge of even bigger opportunities, April continues to visit her SCORE mentors for advice and guidance.  “They are great mentors and great people,” April says.  “SCORE is a big reason why April Films has made it this far, and why we’re on the verge of making some major leaps.”

Semiconductor Circuits

Teddi Ritchie liked her job and she liked the company she worked for. She never dreamed that one day she would own it. But when the owners of Semiconductor Circuits Inc. (SCI) planned to close down the electronics manufacturing plant where she had worked for 21 years, Teddi set out to do just that. "I had two choices," she recalls. "I could either look for gainful employment elsewhere, or go through the system and try to buy the company. We had good people, good products, and our customers liked us. If there was ever a place worth saving, this was it."

Owner/Founder
Teddi Ritchie
My Location
Windham NH
United States
Employees
25
Year Company Formed
1998
My Successes

Making the leap from materials manager to business owner would not be easy. Teddi's experience was in purchasing, not finance, and preparing a business plan for such a huge purchase would require extensive information and up-front analysis. However, Teddi knew her company well. Although she would have to keep her plans confidential, she was eager to give it a try. But time was of the essence. SCI's current owners couldn't wait forever, and Teddi still had her "day job" to think about.

For several weeks, Teddi worked well into the wee hours of the morning developing the business plan that would ultimately save SCI. The formidable task became increasingly frustrating because many of her resources didn't always provide the right answers. About three-quarters of the way through, Teddi realized that she needed to talk to somebody. The question was: who? That’s when Teddi reached out to SCORE.

The first bank Teddi approached was intrigued by her plan, but suggested that she explore getting assistance from the state. Teddi eventually received a bank loan and state-backed financing from a local economic development authority. The deal was closed on a Friday in December 1998. The following Monday, Teddi walked into Semiconductor Circuits as the new owner and CEO.

Teddi's first steps were to make some long-overdue policy changes. She implemented flexible work schedules and production incentive programs, and encouraged more employee involvement in setting operations and management goals. These and other moves resulted in a more engaged workforce and a healthier balance sheet. SCI was projected to make $2.5 million during Ritchie's first year of ownership. After the first nine months, the company was on track to earn $4.2 million, with the promise of even better times to come. Semiconductor Circuits also added five new employees to its payroll in the month's following Ritchie's purchase.

"We're achieving these wonderful results because we're focusing on the business," Teddi explains. "The previous owner had pretty much given up on us because we amounted to only 1 percent of a billion-dollar company. By being more flexible, our employees are motivated to do their best work, which allows us to produce a better product. Now, our old owners are one of our customers."

What's Great About My Mentor?

While scanning the Internet for help, Teddi discovered the U.S. Small Business Administration's (SBA) Web site, which in turn led her to SCORE's homepage. She contacted the local chapter and within a few days received a call from Shep Bartlett, a former owner of a furniture business. Shep met Teddi at the local library and reviewed the still-evolving business plan. "Shep was just the person I'd been looking for," Teddi says. "He understood my objectives and answered all my questions, making sure I understood each topic before we moved on to the next area. With his help, I was ready to present my business plan to the banks."

Teddi doesn't plan to rest on her laurels. She still meets regularly with Shep to discuss business opportunities and ways to keep SCI growing. "He's a great advisor and a wonderful person," she says.

How SCORE Helped

“I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life asking ‘what if.’ I believed in myself and in the ability of my fellow employees to make this dream succeed. But I couldn’t have done it without the help of Shep Bartlett and SCORE.” says Teddi Richie.

Pieh Tool Company Turns to SCORE for Assistance

Growing up in Burlington, Wisconsin, Amy Pieh thought everybody had blacksmiths and farriers for friends. And, for good reason. Her parents, Bill and Bonnie Pieh, owned Centaur Forge, which over the years had garnered a nationwide reputation for providing quality products to meet their customers’ needs. Amy helped to run the family business and turned to SCORE for assistance.

Owner/Founder
Amy Pieh
My Location
Camp Verde AZ
United States
Employees
2
Year Company Formed
2003
My Successes

After a tour of duty in the U.S. Air Force and starting a career as a metallurgical and energy systems inspector, Amy returned to Wisconsin in 2000 to help her mother run the family business after her father died. After her mother passed away 18 months later, she enlisted the help of SCORE volunteer mentors Jerry Carlson and Jim Reynolds to help her purchase the business.

After much consideration and advice, Amy decided to sell her parents company and start her own. Drawing on both the experience from her first attempt at entrepreneurship and email advice from Carlson, Amy launched Pieh Tool Company in May 2003, providing blacksmith and farrier supplies from a 4,000-sf store, by phone and over the Internet. 

Her debut as a small business owner was a far cry from her experience at Centaur Forge, however. “I had gone from being part of $4.5 million-a-year company to one lucky to gross $6,000 a month,” she says. “What’s more, my son, William Theodore, was born in October 2003, which was also our worst sales month.”

Though the frustrations and drain on Amy’s personal finances mounted, Carlson continued to provide long-distance encouragement and suggestion to manage her meager funds. “He suggested that I capitalize on my vendors’ trust in the family name to negotiate more favorable payment terms,” Amy says. “It worked. They had always been able to count on my parents, and they knew they could count on me.”

A year later, Pieh Tool Company has gradually quadrupled its monthly sales. Amy is fine-tuning her marketing strategy, and continues to build awareness about her company by participating in trade shows and other events across the country. In December 2003, she augmented the supply side of her business by opening a blacksmithing school. She hopes eventually to make the company a “full-service” shop by adding classes in knifemaking, gunsmithing and chasing/repousse, a form of sheet metal work.

Amy admits that Pieh Tool Company still has a long way to go. But whenever she has questions or needs some encouragement, she knows her SCORE mentors are only an email away.

http://azhorseconnection.com/CoverStory.pdf

 

What's Great About My Mentor?

Jerry Carlson and Jim Reynolds helped Amy develop a business plan and offered ideas for finding a loan.

“Jerry keeps encouraging me to contact the local chapter, but it’s hard to let go of someone who I trust, and who has been so helpful,” she says. “SCORE was there for me all the time when I needed help. It’s nice to know that I can call on them anytime, anywhere.”

Adorn Finds Business Success With Help From SCORE Mentor

Tawnia King was ready to give up. Having decided to fulfill her dream of owning her own furniture design studio and showroom in early 2004, the San Diego interior designer consulted software and books that claimed to make writing a business plan easy. 

But, says Tawnia, “The software kept taking me in too many different directions.   The books made the process look so overwhelming, especially for someone like me who has no business background.  All I did was become more and more frustrated.”

A visit to the SBA’s website introduced Tawnia to the many start-up resources available from SCORE.  She enrolled in the San Diego chapter’s business plan workshop and made a fresh start on her small business dream with the assistance of local volunteer mentor Frank Lewis.

Owner/Founder
Tawnia King
My Location
San Diego CA
United States
Employees
1
Year Company Formed
2004
My Successes

By fall 2004, Tawnia had prepared a solid business plan that earned her an SBA-guaranteed loan for her new business, and praise from the loan officer for the plan’s thoroughness.  As a bonus, the San Diego SCORE chapter selected Tawnia’s plan as the best of those prepared by its clients during 2004.

Within a few weeks of receiving her loan, Tawnia opened Adorn, a 3,700 square foot design studio and showroom on Kettner Boulevard in San Diego’s famed “Little Italy.”  Along with interior design services, Adorn showcases transitional to contemporary furnishings, accessories, jewelry, fashion, and original art designed primarily for the city’s growing population of condominium dwellers.

Tawnia reports that her first year in business has been successful.  “We’re doing everything we want to do,” she says.  “We’re building visibility for Adorn through art shows and charity events.  I’m also a founding member of the Kettner Art and Design District, a co-op program designed to attract shoppers to Kettner Boulvard’s many design studios and stores.”

What's Great About My Mentor?

“The course and mentors simplified the process,” Tawnia says.  “I knew exactly what to research and how to present information the way banks want to see it.”

Through a series of email exchanges, Frank Lewis helped Tawnia with her financial sections and projections.  A search of SCORE’s online mentor list put Tawnia in touch with Martin Kahn, a member of SCORE’s Spring Valley, N.Y., chapter.  A professional interior designer, Kahn drew on his more than 40 years of experience in retail to suggest specific organizational and tactical areas for Tawnia to present in her business plan.

“My SCORE mentors were great,” she says.  “Someone like me could have very easily been stopped early on, but they helped make things understandable and were there for me every step of the way.”

How SCORE Helped

SCORE continues to play a role in Tawnia’s new career, helping locate qualified professionals to handle her accounting and other business needs.

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.

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