Published Apr. 29, 2011
How to look at costs
How to look at costs
Published Apr. 27, 2011
The selection of a business entity (form) will affect your exposure to personal liability, how you draw profits and pay taxes, your ability to raise capital, how you run your business, and how difficult it is for business reporting.
Generally, all businesses fall into one of these broad categories: Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, Limited Liability Corporation, or Corporation.
A sole proprietorship is an unincorporated business owned by one individual. A partnership is a legal entity existing between two or more persons who join to carry on a trade or business.
Jobs beget jobs. When the Bellyrub Klub created eight new jobs to provide doggie day care in Lombard, a western suburb of Chicago, owners of the dogs were able to hold jobs they might not otherwise have been able to take. Sue Aikman is happy to make this leveraged contribution to our struggling economy with her growing business. And she is grateful to Bruce Zimmerman and Lee McFadden from SCORE for mentoring her through the process over seven sessions held over the past two and a half years.
“When I initially met with Lee and Bruce, I had started promoting canine care and training from my house and had developed a fairly sizable client base by word of mouth,” Sue said. “When I leased my first space for the business, I had to begin managing my time more effectively. No longer was I able to just say yes to everyone’s request. I had to start planning, putting costs together, hiring staff, creating pricing guidelines, defining services, making drop off and pick up schedules, etc.”
Sue quickly outgrew her first space and found a larger one that required a significant build out. “Lee and Bruce knew I was in desperate need of help managing finances, determining what services I could financially support, making budgets and business plans, and preparing loan documents for the bank. As they helped me prioritize, I was learning how to work ON the business instead of IN the business. They were also very good at holding me accountable.”
The Bellyrub Klub continues to grow, and Sue who comes from a computer consulting background, has proven to be a quick study as well as a dog lover. She is active in the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, the Animal Behavior College as an ABC Mentor Trainer, and the Delta Society with two dogs on a Therapy Dog Team.
Sue now does a lively business in dog-related retail items, as well as dog-specific seminars and workshops. Her new facility even provides for overnight boarding. And she uses an e-mail newsletter to offer canine tips and promote an imaginative stream of special offers and events.
“Lee and Bruce are always just a phone call or e-mail away,” Sue said, “and it’s comforting to know that. I expect to need them for a while to come and hope that someday I can do for someone else what SCORE has done for me.”
612 E. Western
In 1999, Emily McHugh needed one more class to finish her master's degree in business at Columbia University. The course—"Managing New Business Ventures"—required her to write a business plan for a new enterprise. While searching for a topic, Emily noticed that most of her classmates used the same black laptop cases for their laptops. On the other hand, Emily had a more stylish case that her sister, Helena, had made for her. "People were always complimenting Helena's bag," Emily recalls. "So, I developed a plan for a company that would make laptop and Palm Pilot cases, and custom logo handbags."
Emily got an "A" in the class and idea for starting a real business with her sister. She was unsure about pursuing it, however, because the real world of business is much different than a class assignment. "But when you wake up in the morning and in the middle of the night, and all you can think about is this business idea, that may be a clue that you should pursue it," Emily says.
Casauri has come a long way from Emily McHugh's class project, and there are still many steps ahead on this entrepreneurial journey. Whenever Emily needs help with a decision, she goes right to her team of small business experts at SCORE. "They are just like an advisory board for us," she says. "You can bounce ideas off them and get tangible feedback. If they didn't know the answer, they always guide me to someone else who does." Casauri relocated to Florida in July 2004 and continues to expand its sales and line of bags.
Casauri continues to grow and thrive, and the savvy business owners take advantage of all resources available to them. In 2010, they received an ARC loan from SBA. They also maintain contact with their SCORE mentors and tap them for advice as needed. In fall 2009, they got e-commerce advice from a SCORE mentor.
Another reason Causari, Inc. has maintained momentum on a growth trajectory is by using broadband, which they see as a crucial element of their business model. “Without broadband, our time was spent in utter frustration and total inefficiency,” adds McHugh. “Broadband access is as basic as electricity and running water. I firmly believe that every small business–make that human being–should have access!!”
What's Great About My Mentor?
As part of her project research, Emily had learned about many SBA programs, including SCORE. She visited Newark, NJ SCORE Chapter and began meeting with Volunteer Mentor Lou Zivi, who counseled her on business start-ups, setting priorities, and obtaining financing. Emily also had several sessions with Dan Frisch, a former accountant, who helped fine-tune her business plan.
A year into her business start-up project, Emily met SCORE Mentor Stephanie Farrar, an instructor at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. "It was wonderful to work with someone directly involved with the fashion industry," Emily says. "She offered many ideas on the creative side, and encouraged me to attend seminars and other meetings where she would introduce me to her industry contacts."
As the McHugh sisters began putting the pieces of her new enterprise together, Emily began seeking help on specific business issues from SCORE experts. When a fellow alumnus helped Emily identify an overseas manufacturer, SCORE Mentors Peter Nachburg and David Malka provided help with international trade and shipping issues. For marketing guidance, Emily relied on Mentors Al Pearl and Marvin Solomon. Former attorney Joseph Horowitz reviewed contracts and provided legal advice. And whenever she was at the SCORE office, Marvin Strauss always made time to check up on her progress.
How SCORE Helped
With SCORE's help, Emily and Helena had everything ready to debut their line of designer laptop and palm computer cases in time for the start of the December 2001 holiday shopping season. Their products can be found in several stores and boutiques in New York City, including Bloomindales and Sony Style.
“When I first started my business SCORE helped me in many ways, from preparing my business plan to applying for a loan. Now ten years later, my current SCORE mentor has helped me to clarify and focus on our core value proposition in order to maximize our web presence and better reach our target market online. SCORE provides and adds significant value throughout the entrepreneurial spectrum.” says Emily McHugh.
Desalene Jones’ career as an entrepreneur has gone to the dogs. And she couldn’t be happier.
Desalene is the founder and owner of Cha Cha’s Doggie Day Care of Sacramento, California. Modeled after daycare centers for children, Cha Cha’s provides dogs of all ages, sizes and breeds with a wide range of care services, activities, toys, and plenty of canine company while their humans are away at work.
In addition, Desalene and her staff ensure that their canine customers receive balanced diets, trim nails, groom coats, clean teeth and willingly clean up after the occasional “mistake”—a welcome relief to owners who don’t relish finding such surprises waiting for them when they get home after a long day.
While Cha Cha’s is a dream-come-true for busy dog owners, the business exists only because Desalene was unable to realize her dream of bringing her own dog to her former job. “I tried every argument imaginable to convince my boss that it’d be OK, but he never agreed,” she says. “I was 27 then, and figured that if I was ever going to strike out on my own, this was the time to do it.”
Desalene quit her job and began providing dog care at her client’s homes. Because many of them had other, sometimes exotic pets that were difficult to deal with, she decided it would be better for everyone if she cared for her clients’ dogs at a central location
While trying to understand the nuances of preparing a business plan for her new enterprise, Desalene attended an SBA seminar for start-up businesses that included a speaker from Sacramento SCORE. Seeing that he had brought his own small dog to the session, “I knew instantly that these were people I could connect with,” Desalene recalls with a smile.
What's Great About My Mentor?
Desalene visited the Sacramento SCORE office and discussed her business idea with a team of volunteer mentors who assured her that she wasn’t barking up the wrong tree. She began working with several experts with different business backgrounds to develop her business plan, calculate financial needs and formulate a management strategy.
“One of the most important aspects was mapping out where to invest money as my business grew,” she says. “They developed a big spreadsheet that has turned out to be a very valuable business planning tool.”
Desalene also discovered that the expertise of SCORE mentors goes far beyond their respective business specialties. While at a business planning session, she happened to mention some of the difficulties she was having hiring good employees and dealing with those who failed to meet their responsibilities. “The mentors gave me some tips and suggestions that proved very helpful,” she says. “It’s great to be able to talk with them about anything.”
Desalene plans to do a lot more talking with her SCORE mentors as she prepares to open a second Cha Cha’s location.
How SCORE Helped
“I don’t know how I would have made it this far without SCORE,” she says. “I started with a few hundred dollars, and there’s no way I could have paid for all that valuable advice myself. And I don’t simply mean clichés flung in my direction, but actual sit -down meetings and hands-on development of essential materials. There will never be a time in the life of my business that I could not use the assistance and expertise of the individuals at SCORE.”
Three times a week, Sarah Hill opens the door of her antiques store and welcomes visitors into a world of delicately crafted porcelain, linens and glassware. Such a career is appropriate for Hill, for her journey to becoming an entrepreneur is as colorful as the tales behind the exotic treasures that occupy her store.
When Sarah received her degree from Mt. Holyoke College in 1993, she faced a dilemma common to many liberal arts majors—finding a job in a world dominated by high-tech industries. She eventually joined a computer consulting firm, but found that things weren't all bad. The job was based in Lisbon, Portugal. "I think I enjoyed being in Europe more than having the job," she confesses. "For 18 months, I was able to do a lot of traveling and pursue my personal interests."
One of those interests was a love of antiques and old houses. Sarah used every opportunity to visit countries and locations that had fascinated her as long as she could remember. When her employer’s project ended, Sarah returned home to Alexandria, VA, and began looking for ways to capitalize on her experiences and education. A specialty antique store in the city’s historic Old Town district seemed like a perfect idea. But with so many established stores there already, how could a newcomer survive?
After Sarah opened Curzon Hill Antiques in November 1996, word spread quickly about her unique offerings and eagerness in helping customers locate hard-to-find items. Her success was so impressive, SCORE’s Washington, DC, chapter named her the Client of the Year less than a year later. A feature story on Hill in the Alexandria newspaper was soon followed by a high-profile article in the The Washington Post’s Home Section, in which she discussed the care and preservation of antique linen. The resulting publicity led her to launch a side business that specializes in the care and washing of treasured handbags, tablecloths, linens, and blankets. "It’s amazing what some publicity can do," Hills says. "I’ve received orders from across the United State and Europe. I’m also preparing to launch an Internet site."
What's Great About My Mentor?
Sarah’s grandfather, who had owned a successful advertising and printing business in Omaha, suggested that she contact the local chapter of SCORE. After attending seminars on start-ups and developing business plans, Sarah began working with Volunteer Mentor Eugene Rosen, a former small business coordinator for NASA. Rosen helped Sarah understand the nuances of cash flow, advertising, and expenses, as well as preparing and analyzing financial reports.
Another benefit of Rosen’s experience came when Sarah began evaluating potential retail locations for her store. “One site that seemed very promising had been vacant for two years,” Sarah recalls. “Mr. Rosen sensed that something was wrong and suggested that I first find out why it had been on the market so long. It turned out that the landlord didn’t have a good reputation. I found a much better location near the heart of Old Town while that other space has stayed unoccupied.”
How SCORE Helped
As Hill’s business has grown, so too has the value of SCORE’s expertise. Along with Rosen, Hill now works with Volunteer Mentor Herb Robinson, who formerly owned five dress shops in the metropolitan Washington area. "Mr. Robinson has brought some great insights into specialty retail markets," Sarah says. "Both he and Mr. Rosen have been wonderful about staying in touch and taking a personal interest in my business. Now, I’m doing something that I’d always dreamed about, but wasn’t always sure could really happen. I’m really having the time of my life."
Closing an office and laying off employees is not an easy decision for any business owner to make. But in late 2001, Li Vellinga had few other options. Either she could trim the size of California Gardens, her 10-year-old landscape design business, or watch it disappear entirely.
A native of Sweden, Li was co-owner of a successful San Francisco-area home and garden center when she decided to start a new business in 1991 that would capitalize on her garden design talents. It didn’t take long for California Gardens to attract a number of commissions for commercial and residential garden projects, many of which involved high-profile locations around the Bay Area. To keep up with the company’s growing workload, Li took on employees and leased office space.
Then came September 11th, 2001, and the tragedy’s ripple effect through the nation’s economy. California Garden’s four-month backlog quickly evaporated as clients cancelled their landscaping plans. Knowing she had to make some tough decisions, Li remembered her bookkeeper talking about SCORE’s small business mentoring services. If there was ever a time to get expert advice, she decided, this was it.
Li took John’s advice and based California Gardens in her home. John helped Li set up the technical tools for the business, from developing a Web site to setting up her business computer. He also encouraged Li to attend SCORE’s business seminars on building a business plan and using advanced accounting software.
By the end of 2002, California Gardens was blooming once again with a 350-percent increase in net income. Li once again enjoying the feeling of success, accomplishment and inspiration, designing project ranging from small front yards to several acres of planned landscape. She has also developed management skills that enable her to focus more closely on her clients’ needs without compromising her personal life—another benefit of her monthly meetings with John Edwards and SCORE.
What's Great About My Mentor?
Li began working with volunteer mentor John Edwards, a veteran of California’s technology industry. Based on a meticulous review of Li’s overhead, John recommended that she convert California Gardens into home-based business and rely on contractors when needed.
“This was one of the hardest things I’ve faced, and it wasn’t until January 2002 that I could bring myself to do it,” Li says. “Fortunately, my employees were very understanding and supportive.”
Perhaps most important, John regularly reviewed Li’s financial statements and provided guidance on how to analyze trends and forecast income. “It’s been three years, but we still do this,” Li says. “Now I’m better able to set reasonable business goals. John is also teaching me how to spot potential financial problems, and develop clear communications materials. If I encounter a stumbling block, he’ll suggest good books to read on the subject.”
How SCORE Helped
“One of the best things about working with John is that he always allows me to take my time to make each decision,” Li says. “He will ask what I think is best for me, while also offering suggestions on what he thinks might work. Yet he always supports me, no matter what I decide. As long as I’m in business, I plan to continue utilizing the wonderful support John and SCORE provide.”
Penny Timmons purchased Bridal Trousseaux as an existing business after seeking financial planning help from SCORE. The store had been open for eight years and she saw room to diversify garment selections and extend marketing to grow this specialty clothing business. SCORE helped with Penny's loan application, business plan and future financial planning.
When Penny and a friend went searching for bridal fashions, but could not find that perfect gown, Penny decided there was a target market that could use more in bridal wear selections. The quest for the perfect gown for a perfect wedding day led Penny Timmons to become the owner of a bridal and formal wear boutique in Moline, Ill. In 1997, Bridal Trousseaux increased total revenues by 12 percent.
Since we last spoke with Penny Timmons, she has graduated from college and bought a second bridal store in Moline. She reports that things at both locations are going well, although she says "like many other small businesses, I'm finding it hard to hire and keep good employees. Still, everything is great."
Since purchasing Bridal Trousseaux, Timmons has fine-tuned the company's marketing structure and traveled to Paris to conduct bridal fashion research. She is now exploring the possibility of opening a second Bridal Trousseaux store in a nearby city.
What's Great About My Mentor?
Penny says, "Dale helped me bring my ideas out of the clouds and down to earth for some realistic thought."
To help Bridal Trousseaux navigate growing pains, Penny has set up meetings with her SCORE mentors. "I want to do some long-term planning and find out what skills or education I'll need to carry it out," she says. "I've also had the opportunity to visit with some of SCORE's national directors and other chapter leaders. I think I'll always have questions about my business, but I know that SCORE will always have the answers."
How SCORE Helped
With the assistance of SCORE, Penny applied for an SBA-guaranteed loan. She used the chapter's business-planning disk to prepare a complete business plan, which detailed past sales history for the business and projected future growth. SCORE Mentor Dale Hankins helped her prepare her business plan—together they reviewed cost and revenue projections to develop a realistic operating budget to support operations and staff salaries. Dale is a volunteer with the Quad Cities SCORE Chapter, the national SCORE Chapter of the Year. He helped Penny secure a $70,000 SBA-guaranteed loan and a $20,000 economic development loan from the City of Moline.