Women Entrepreneurs

SCORE Mentor Advices Social Betty

With guidance from San Diego SCORE, entrepreneur Heather Nelson is using her Social Betty Web site to help ease tough economic times for the local hospitality industry.

Owner/Founder
Heather Nelson
My Location
San Diego CA
United States
Year Company Formed
2008
My Successes

Launched in January 2008, www.socialbetty.com connects venues and event organizers who are planning events, both private and corporate.  Organizers simply post their event’s details, free of charge, and tell the venues what they want and details about their needs.  In turn, venues fill the requests of the organizer in order to fill available space and generate more revenue.

“In addition to helping event planners, many venues benefit from using Social Betty because they now have greater opportunity to generate additional revenue that would otherwise expire at the end of each business day, especially during non-peak hours, slower weeknights and vacant times,” Leslie says.

In the first quarter of 2009, Social Betty Web site traffic increased by more than 200 percent over the previous quarter and the event organizer and venue registrations have nearly doubled.  Nelson is finalizing the second phase of her Web site design, which features a new look and more user-friendly components.  As Nelson prepares to offer Social Betty’s services nationwide, she continues to work with Dick Leslie on strategic planning, raising capital, and managing overall operations of her company.

Social Betty has been featured on the local FOX, CW and ABC news stations as well as in Pacific San Diego magazine and The Daily Aztec.

What's Great About My Mentor?

“When I was getting my first business off the ground, I attended the Tax Considerations for Small Business workshop and the Women’s Networking Breakfast, which led me to several free counseling sessions with various SCORE mentors,” Nelson says.  “After I started Social Betty, I contacted SCORE again and was linked up with San Diego SCORE Mentor Dick Leslie, who has been instrumental in helping me obtain financing, hire a team of sales contractors and create a pay structure and work parameters.”

Nelson continues to use SCORE’s services as Social Betty grows.  “I look forward to working with Dick and San Diego SCORE in the near future on the company’s strategy for growth as I will be expanding Social Betty’s reach to Orange County and Los Angeles and eventually expand the Web site nationwide,” Nelson says.

How SCORE Helped

Nelson recognized a need for increased communication among event planners and restaurants, hotels and nightclubs.  She had utilized SCORE’s service when starting her first business in 2004, and when she needed assistance with financing and hiring sales contractors for Social Betty, she contacted SCORE once again.

SCORE Mentors SCI Consulting, Inc. to Success

Energy, passion and a commitment to putting people first have helped Lynnette Spano build SCI Consulting Services, Inc. into a successful information technology firm, which won contracts valued at $239 million just last year. But the true secret to her success may well be her knack for asking questions.

Owner/Founder
Lynnette Spano
My Location
Vienna VA
United States
Employees
200
Year Company Formed
1983
My Successes

Intrigued by the federal government’s increasing demand for IT hardware and software support services, Lynette formed SCI in the basement of her mother’s Brooklyn home and moved to the nation’s capital in order to be closer to what she hoped would be a thriving client base.

Now with more than 200 full-time IT professionals located in 19 cities across the U.S., SCI is one of the largest woman-owned businesses in the federal marketplace. Earlier this year, it was added to Washington SmartCEO Magazine’s “Future 50” list of the area’s fastest growing privately held companies. Lynette was also among MEA Magazine’s “Fifty Most Influential Entrepreneurs in Business” in 2007 and has been nominated for the SBA’s 2008 “Women in Business Champion Award.”

Lynette has a commitment to help aspiring small business owners find answers to their startup questions. She’s sharing her ideas and insights about entrepreneurship and the federal market via a speaking tour, a new Web site (www.LynetteSpano.com) and a syndicated TV show. All will stress the value of working with a SCORE mentor.

What's Great About My Mentor?

“My SCORE mentors told me that it’s one thing to have dreams, but another to execute them,” Lynnette says. “They provided guidance for creating the infrastructure that would make things happen.”

How SCORE Helped

“I went to the SBA office in D.C. to learn about being certified as a Small Disadvantaged Business, and noticed this room full of older gentlemen having a lively discussion,” Lynette recalls. “I poked my head in and asked what was going on. They said it was the SCORE office and told me all about their free mentoring services.”

That was the first of what became many visits to SCORE for Lynette, who admits she was flying blind at this point in her career as an entrepreneur. They helped her acclimate to the federal business environment, provided tips on doing research and setting a vision and plan for her.

“SCORE is a wonderful organization with wonderful people who can provide lessons learned for avoiding the pitfalls that companies can face,” says Lynnette. “They’ve been there, they’ve done it, and they can help anyone succeed.”

Cash Flow and Pro Forma spreadsheets with all formulas already in the template

Business Plan generic template. Can be modified to fit your business.

SCORE Advices Global Advanced Technology, Inc.

Shirley Young’s first visit to SCORE’s Boston office in 2003 couldn’t have come a moment too soon. The owner of Global Advanced Technology, Inc. (GATI), an information technology engineering and management services firm, Shirley had tried without success to secure contracts with the federal government and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. She felt her business offered the necessary expertise, plus a stellar track record working with some of the nation’s leading telecommunications and networking companies. Unfortunately, much of that work had disappeared due to major shifts in the technology industry and Shirley urgently needed new business in order to keep GATI afloat.

Owner/Founder
Shirley Young
My Location
Scituate MA
United States
Employees
10
Year Company Formed
1995
My Successes

“Fred Larson’s insights and ideas provided GATI with an immediate—and much-needed—boost in business.” says Shirley. “Within a year, we had six contracts with the state and had become a subcontractor on a project for the Department of Defense,” she says. “And where once our proposals would generate no response, we regularly receive positive comments about the quality of their organization and content.”

GATI’s success has also enabled Shirley to share her knowledge and experience with other minority women entrepreneurs. She is an active member of the Outreach Committee of Massachusetts Affirmative Marketing Program, which works to help other woman- and minority-owned businesses participate in the state contracting system. She has also participated in a variety of high-profile events with Massachusetts’s legislative and business leaders.

What's Great About My Mentor?

Fred shared his wealth of knowledge about public contracting with Shirley, including some critical steps that she had overlooked.

“Fred helped me prepare an application to be certified under the SBA’s 8(a) small business development program and began reviewing my proposals to make sure I could justify my prices,” Shirley says. “He’s very detail-oriented, often playing Devil’s Advocate to help make my proposals as strong as possible.”

Shirley adds that Fred has also become a trusted mentor. Their meetings usually follow an agenda that covers action items for current or pending proposals; marketing, personnel and financial matters; and personal issues. “As a single mother who is the sole owner of a company, that’s very important,” Shirley explains. “Whatever affects me personally directly affects my business.”

 “We meet several times a month or even more often, depending what’s going on with GATI,” she says. “Fred is so accessible. He also passes along information that he feels will be helpful to me and my business. There’s no doubt that Fred has had a tremendous impact on GATI.”

How SCORE Helped

Attending a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) workshop on federal contracting helped introduce Shirley to SCORE and volunteer mentor Fred Larson, who had spent many years with a leading defense contractor.

Two Great Success Stories...

Two wonderful stories, brought to you through the magic of video.  One is a young woman's story, about starting a little business called Wildflower Linen--now immensely successful in California.  Another of a gentleman who started a unique restaurant called "Boneheads" which has boomed as well.  Watch and perhaps learn.

 

See video
My Location
CA
United States

Simple Steps for Starting Your Business”

 

Is Starting a Business Right for You?

Attend this comprehensive series of workshops to help you test your new business idea and gets you started on the right path. Free one-to-one counseling is also a part of the workshop process.

 

Join us for five three-hour sessions that help you understand the basics of:

  • the concepts involved with assessing a business idea,

  • marketing your product or service,

  • understanding business financials and how they work, and

  • how to fund and finance your business.

 

Session 1: Start-up Basics (Free) , October, 25th 4 to 7pm

This introductory workshop focuses on the basics of testing your business idea and identifying the key factors that influence start-up success. Start-up Basics provides you with an overview of the skills and tools you need when deciding to start a business. In this session, you learn about: the advantages and disadvantages of owning a business, the most profitable form for your business, and the fundamentals of formation, organization, marketing, cash flow and funding sources.

Session 2: Business Concept, Nov  1st , 4 to 7pm

The second workshop focuses on your business concept and step-by-step guidance in researching your idea, your market, and your competition. At the end of the Business Concept workshop, you are able to: identify your target markets, describe your products and services, and collect key competitive information to support your feasibility plan.

 

Session 3: Marketing Plan, Nov 8th, 4 to 7pm

The third workshop provides you with an introduction to marketing communication methods and tools to maximize your customer reach. The discussion in the Marketing Plan workshop covers pricing strategies, positioning, the difference between features and benefits, and different marketing strategies. At the end of this session, you will know how to: outline your marketing strategy, test your marketing message, choose the right sales channel, and exercise your marketing strategy.

 

Session 4: Financial Projections, Nov 15th, 4 to 7pm

The fourth workshop uses exercises to help you better understand financial concepts. This session reviews sales and prices, financial risks and rewards, true start-up costs, ongoing operating expenses, setting benchmarks for tracking progress and the organization of all your financial information. Using a hands-on approach, you learn how to use our financial model to forecast sales revenue and build solid pro-forma financial forecasts.

 

Session 5: Funding Sources and Next Steps, Nov 22nd, 4 to 7pm

The final workshop offers information on how to finance your small business. In this session, discussions include sources of funds, accounting the six C's of credit, banking relations, ratio analysis, and monthly preparation and review of financial statements. A bank loan officer will give an inside view of how a banker assesses the merits of business plans and loan application. At the end of the series, you have all of the tools necessary to decide whether or not to launch your small business.

 

First session free. Attend all five for $125.00.

 

Register for Simple Steps for Starting Your Business in Fort Wayne, IN  on Eventbrite

SCORE helps Jules Bakery Open Their Doors

“I always knew I would own my own business,” says Juli Hardin, a Cedar Rapids native and owner/CEO of Jules Bakery, Armar Plaza, Cedar Rapids.

“I had the desire, and I couldn’t wait to apply my own business theories.”

But making her dreams come true took some time. Like many of us, Juli began her career working for others. After graduating from Cedar Rapids Washington High School, she worked for ten years in retail management and bookkeeping before she had the chance to take her next step—earning her college degree in business at Mount Mercy. “After graduating from college I accepted an internship at the Cedar Rapids Chamber of Commerce and never left,” she says.

My Successes

JULES BAKERY

"SERVE DESSERT FIRST!"

 
“I always knew I would own my own business,” says Juli Hardin, a Cedar Rapids native and owner/CEO of Jules Bakery, Armar Plaza, Cedar Rapids.

Business Card

“I had the desire, and I couldn’t wait to apply my own business theories.”

But making her dreams come true took some time. Like many of us, Juli began her career working for others. After graduating from Cedar Rapids Washington High School, she worked for ten years in retail management and bookkeeping before she had the chance to take her next step—earning her college degree in business at Mount Mercy. “After graduating from college I accepted an internship at the Cedar Rapids Chamber of Commerce and never left,” she says.

CakeAt the Chamber, Juli learned about business and SCORE—the nation's counselors to small business—that would later help her start her business. In eight years on the job at the Cedar Rapids Chamber of Commerce, Juli Hardin had a chance to see businesses succeed and fail, to learn why, and to listen to and work with some of the best business minds in the community. She absorbed all that she could. 

Backstory

Juli Hardin’s individual outlook and determination are the keys to her success.

While enjoying her work with the Cedar Rapids Chamber of Commerce, Juli’s yearning to become her own boss grew greater each year. “I had worked for others my entire career,” she says. “I had developed some theories about managing businesses and wanted to try them out. Since they were driven a bit by my own perspectives as a working woman, I did not see them being tested until I could get out there to test them myself.”

As Juli grew more and more impatient to get started with her own business, she faced one major obstacle. She still wasn’t clear what kind of business she wanted.

“I considered doing a number of things including home-based businesses which were sort of attractive. But, I had to be honest with myself. I like being around people. Working out of the home, I realized, was just not me.”

But it took a kick in the pants from one of her colleagues to really set Juli in the right direction.

“I had always liked baking things for the office. One day I brought some of my new creations into work for people to try and someone asked the obvious question, 'Why don't you open your own bakery?'”

Suddenly Juli knew exactly what she wanted to do.

Juli

Getting ready, getting started

Even once Juli focused on a business that seemed tailored to her strengths, it would take three more years to get the business up and operating. Why? Juli was smart enough—and patient enough—to do her homework. She took the time to learn more, do her research, and make her plans. This is another attribute of the most successful entrepreneurs.

Juli also set specific goals for herself. She felt she needed six signature products before she could open her business. She attended the Kirkwood Community College Small Business Development Center's (SBDC) “Fast Track” program—a program she recommends as well worth it. “It forces one to focus and think through the process and a plan.” And, she considered buying a local baking shop that was looking to sell for about a year. “Fortunately,” she says, “that deal did not work out, and I had to start from scratch.” This allowed her to begin fresh and find the best solutions for her business.

The Patisserie

PastriesIn late 2001, with the help of a small business loan, Juli finally fulfilled a dream as she opened the doors to Jules Bakery.

Following through on her vision, the shop is an upscale, high quality gourmet pastry and cake shop, operated entirely by women. Juli describes it with the French term, “patisserie.” She caters to customer’s life events, like graduations, weddings, and other celebrations; and her staff turns out an impressive array of unique sweets. “I do all bridal cake decorating myself,” says Juli,” because I love doing it.”

Surprises and Lessons Learned

RollsAs Juli thinks back to her greatest challenges, “learning the business of baking,” is her first thought. Apparently, baking at home and baking as a business with commercial ingredients are two completely different things. “I cannot tell you how many garbage cans of failures we threw out before we got things right.” Being patient while learning is a struggle.

As was the capital to operate, and the vagaries of the weather and the marketplace. “This winter must have put a lot of folks out of business,” she says.

As to lessons learned, Juli has strong feelings:

  1. Research your business thoroughly.
  2. Have a business plan and ask as many people as possible to review it. “When you think you have had enough people review it, find more. And, never have family or friends review it!”
  3. Be sure to use SCORE and other resources like the Kirkwood Small Business Development Center.

 

“When I think about SCORE, I think of gratitude,” she says. “These people offered me a fountain of information. Their patient assistance and referrals helped me enormously. I had very useful conversations with and got good input from Jack Haney, my SCORE contact.”

And so it goes

“I have no second thoughts,” says Juli. “I am living my dream and I am happy.”
 
Juli attributes her success to a number of things. Maintaining the highest quality of product is one Juli's strongest principles. She applies a “flat” team management style and believes that mutual trust between employer and employee combined with team and individual goals are important ingredients to her success. She also gives particular praise to her two managers, Mandy the master of operations and baking, and Stacey, the “baking scientist” who perfects all the recipes.

Then there is Juli's super secret “butter cream frosting.” It’s a 30-year-old secret she guards very carefully. “This frosting is incredibly good,” she says proudly.   It is also a flavorful competitive advantage, one can’t help but notice.

One thing is certain.  It doesn't get any sweeter than Juli’s business and her level of success, though she aspires to do even more.  The worries about getting the business going and keeping it going when she started it in late-2001, a particularly challenging time, are now gone. All is well.

Trying Jules Bakery out ...

Sign

 

In need of a brownie, a beautifully decorated cookie, or even a wedding or graduation cake? Feel free to stop by Juli's place or visit her on the web at:
http://www.julesbakery.com

(319) 447-0943

 

 

Flower Connections

Linda Jack feels a sense of accomplishment each day when she opens the doors of Flower Connections in Victor, Iowa. Linda’s store is a one-of-a-kind shop that has done well for twenty years despite a "new economy" that has been rather unkind to the small towns of America. Towns like the picturesque Victor.

In fact, Linda beams with pride knowing she has bucked the trend. "Loving what I do and the people I do it for," says Linda, "is the reason I continue in spite of uncertainty." This is her story of success.

Owner/Founder
Linda Jack
My Location
219 Washington Street
Victor IA 52347
United States
My Successes

FLOWER CONNECTIONS

A "ONE-OF-A-KIND" IN VICTOR, IOWA

 

Bus Card

Linda Jack feels a sense of accomplishment each day when she opens the doors of Flower Connections in Victor, Iowa. Linda’s store is a one-of-a-kind shop that has done well for twenty years despite a "new economy" that has been rather unkind to the small towns of America. Towns like the picturesque Victor.

In fact, Linda beams with pride knowing she has bucked the trend. "Loving what I do and the people I do it for," says Linda, "is the reason I continue in spite of uncertainty." This is her story of success.

Backstory

Linda knows no other home than Victor. She was born and raised on a farm just three miles south of town. Her childhood dreams of being a teacher or a beautician required more schooling, and that was out of reach for this small town girl.  After high school, she held various jobs and experienced miles of driving to work in Grinnell and Brooklyn. Linda married and started her family.  Wanting to drive less and be near her growing family, she started her own cleaning business.

Bus CardIn a not-so-nice garage in downtown Victor, there was a flower shop, the only flower shop in town. More than twenty years ago, prior to Mother's Day, one of the busiest holidays for the flower business, Linda got a call for temporary help from the owner.  The woman owner agreed to let Linda work during the hours that did not conflict with her cleaning business.  Linda's talent for creativity, making things that are neat and clean, came to the surface.  She fell in love with the flower business.

Linda drove home in tears on her last day of work after six weeks in the flower garage.  There was a brief ray of sunshine when she discovered that the owners of the Victor flower store were opening another store in Brooklyn.  She hoped this would be an opportunity to continue her newfound vocation, but the owners hired someone else to manage the store.

Opportunity presents itself

She continued her own business of professional cleaning, which included cleaning men's toilets.  One night, in a particularly dirty toilet, Linda backed up to the wall, tears streaming down her cheeks; she called out "God, there has to be something more for me to do than this."  Less than twenty four hours later, the phone rang.  It was the husband of the Victor Flower Shop owner; he asked Linda if she wanted to buy the business.  He wanted her decision within a few hours; she begged for more time and they agreed.  This time allowed Linda to spend six weeks in training at the Chicago Flower Design Studio.

In February 1988, Linda bought the business including inventory, a cooler, and a cash register—only the cooler remains.  Linda had no money, but loads of ambition and excitement as she began to look for a location that would be better than a garage.  She wanted to rent space, not buy, but the owners of the building she chose only wanted to sell and they gave her a good price. 

Bus Card

Adapting to Change

The building at 219 Washington Street was big and empty.  Funerals, school activities, and holidays did not bring in enough income to keep the flower business alive.  Linda knew she must expand into other areas to make her business survive and to keep the citizens of Victor and surrounding towns as customers.  Gradually, Linda added home décor, pictures, Christmas decorations, candles, and gift items to accent a home during the holidays and changing seasons. 

Bus CardOver the past twenty years, Flower Connections evolved with the wants and needs of the buyers.  Linda did whatever it would take to make her business successful.

She had open houses, half price sales when necessary, and continued to vary the inventory.  Now, she offers personal items, such as lotion, jewelry, purses and some clothing.  She has created a children's area (pictured to left) that delights the little ones and of course, the grandmas. 

Challenges

Have there been problems?  Of course.  The local grocery store closed causing the Victor residents to shop in near by towns. Walmart opened in close vicinity selling similar merchandise at cheaper prices. It has not been easy and each day she asks herself, "What should, and can, I do next?" 

If you ask Linda what she would tell a stranger about her business, she would say, "I sell happiness, either something you wear on your body or enjoy in your home.” When you enter Flower Connections, you feel the warmth, the beauty, the excitement—all that represents happiness.  Linda and her staff enthusiastically greet you as you enter; their smiles let you know this is where you want to be.  It is very likely they will call you by name. 

Calling SCORE – Friendly help

Bus Card

In 2005, Linda (left, in picture to left) called SCORE after reading about the organization in a magazine.  She wanted to bounce her ideas off an unbiased counselor and ask for recommendations as to how to continue her business.  Linda says, “I was able to ask for a counselor I could relate to.

SCORE responded with the right one. As a woman client I was able to work with a woman counselor and that worked well for me.” Kathy McArtor was that counselor (above, right).  It was obvious to Kathy that Linda ran her business with her heart and she made suggestions as to how she might continue to do so.  Kathy keeps in touch with Linda by an annual phone call. For Linda, this is proof that SCORE counselors will listen and they really care about your success. 

Lessons Learned

Bus CardTwenty years of selling happiness to Victor residents gives Linda the right to share some tips about running a small business.  “You need to love what you are doing and give 110% at all times.  The desire must come from the heart.  Treat your customers as if they are guests in your home.  A small business is like a family and you need to treat your employees as if they are part of your family.” 

There is no question that Linda's talents of creativity, drive, optimism, boundless determination and an ability to adapt have helped this natural businesswoman.  She will tell you that building a business is exciting and that her biggest surprise is that she is still in business after twenty years.

To us at SCORE, however, Linda's past 20 years come as no surprise. Linda is simply one of the people that “have it.” They work hard, they grow and they ask for help when it is needed. That's what it takes to be a business success story.

VISIT LINDA'S SHOP IN VICTOR, IOWA !

If you ever find yourself in the area or nearby in the outlet mall at Williamsburg, why not take an easy, interesting jaunt over to Victor. It is one of Iowa's wonderful small towns. In the middle of the city you will find Linda Jack's warm and unique Flower Connections. Find out how welcoming she can be and learn how a small business succeeds from someone that has.

VICTOR IS LOCATED 1 MILE OFF INTERSTATE 80, AT EXIT 205 (WEST OF THE I-380 AND WILLIAMSBURG EXITS.) ROAD IS "V38", THEN 1 MILE NORTH. EASY.

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