Women Entrepreneurs

A well-researched and realistic business plan will help you create a viable new business with a feasible business model and business strategy for future growth.

Saigon Sisters

Mary Nguyen Aregoni and Theresa Nguyen are sisters who were born in Laos, lived in Vietnam and Thailand, and came to the United States as young children with their family in 1976.  Inspired by their mother (Mama Suu) and grandmother, who were successful entrepreneurs in Vietnam--having grown an open-market grocery into a large food market operation that was the main supplier to nearby embassies--the sisters opened a Vietnamese street food kiosk in the Chicago French Market. 

Their kiosk became so popular that they decided to expand their horizons by opening a full restaurant in Chicago’s Fulton River District/West Loop neighborhood.  It was at this point that they sought the advice of SCORE mentor, Brian Stinton.  Brian helped them to create a business plan and cash flow analysis which enabled them to obtain bank financing.  He also worked with them to establish a sound bookkeeping system and to set realistic goals.

In November 2010, Mary and Theresa opened their restaurant at 567 W. Lake Street in Chicago.  As they said, “Our passion is to bring the delicious street foods we grew up with to Chicago, offering creative, contemporary interpretations but using authentic Southeast Asian ingredients. Saigon Sisters Restaurant is a contemporary casual restaurant where our guests can enjoy deliciously fresh, quickly prepared food at lunch and can come back to relax and enjoy a frequently changing menu of interesting small and large plates at dinnertime.” 

The Saigon Sisters website can be found at www.saigonsisters.com

Mary Nguyen Aregoni and Theresa Nguyen
My Location
567 W. Lake Street
Chicago IL
United States
My Successes

Their restaurant soon received great reviews and continues to attract new and repeat customers. 


What's Great About My Mentor?

Brian Stinton’s contribution to the sisters’ success is best described by them:

“The thorough analysis and unbiased advice we got from our SCORE mentor, Brian Stinton, helped us understand the risk and the reality of what we were getting into so we could be better prepared for it.  It gave us a roadmap of what our sales goal should be and what capital was needed to overcome startup hurdles and risks.  It gave us the realistic picture of what to expect and gave us the courage to proceed with the venture.”

You, the franchisee, have supported this system with your royalties and initial purchase price and it now will be one of your biggest assets as you decide to grow your business.

Betty Otte, SCORE Counselor

You, the franchisee, have supported this system with your royalties and initial purchase price and it now will be one of your biggest assets as you decide to grow your business.  

Since the systems for the franchise are already in place, your biggest concerns as you grow your business are:

  • Finances –having sufficient capital and resources

  • Location – for many businesses, location is critical.

If you are thinking about purchasing a franchise, keep the following 5 tips in mind.

Betty Otte, SCORE Counselor

If you are thinking about purchasing a franchise, keep the following 5 tips in mind.

Johnson Consulting Services Finds Success With SCORE Advice


After earning Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at Drake University, Jill joined a consulting firm in her native Twin Cities in 1984 and—in another unusual move for someone only 24 years old—became active with Minneapolis SCORE.

“The chapter encouraged younger people to get involved and complement the expertise of the veteran counselors,” Jill explains.  “I started attending the small business workshops and got to know the volunteers very well.  I knew that someday I’d want to start my own firm, but figured that was several years in the future.”

The future arrived sooner than Jill expected.  Finding herself in a difficult work situation in 1987, she decided that the time had come to get started on her own business, Johnson Consulting Services.   Jill’s colleagues at SCORE immediately stepped up with advice and encouragement.

Jill J. Johnson
My Location
Minneapolis MN
United States
Year Company Formed
My Successes

In return for their wisdom and support of her mentors, Jill has helped in the Twin Cities and other Midwest SCORE chapters assist other aspiring entrepreneurs by contributing her own knowledge to workshops on marketing, new business planning and demographics.  She also helped SCORE leaders understand how to work with women entrepreneurs. 

Twenty-two years after those first tentative steps, Johnson Consulting Services is still going strong.  Jill has worked in 21 states and overseas, and consulted more than one billion dollars’ worth of business decisions.  She has earned numerous awards; been interviewed for stories in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Money magazine; and served two terms on the SBA’s National Advisory Council

And while businesses of all types and sizes look to Jill for answers and advice, she continues to learn from her friends and colleagues at SCORE.

What's Great About My Mentor?

“One volunteer counselor—Dick Bloom—called me every month for nearly a year to check in and ask how I was doing,” Jill says.  “That personal touch made a big difference.”

So did the volunteers’ expertise.  At every stage of her company’s evolution, they advised Jill on dealing with the realities of owning and building a business, from financial management to simply staying positive.

“The SCORE volunteers believed in me,” Jill says.  “They had made fortunes in business, and were confident that I would too.  That support helped carry me through those times when doubts started to creep in.”

How SCORE Helped

“More than half of my practice is in health care, which often involves people having to make difficult decisions about friends, loved ones and themselves,” she says.  “Working with SCORE has given me insight on how to age gracefully, and with vitality and relevancy.  It’s a blessing to see SCORE volunteers with so much to give still working to help new entrepreneurs and their community.  That’s a valuable lesson for everyone.”

SCORE to Launch New e-Business Learning Website for Small Business

Tue, 2011-03-22 23:02

Consortium of Public and Private Organizations

In Helping Entrepreneurs Leverage Technology to Fuel Their Growth and Success


FoxTale Book Shoppe

Ellen Ward had run an ad agency for 18 years. Jackie Tanase had worked as a corporate paralegal. Karen Schwettman was a freelance interior designer. All three shared a lifelong passion for writing, books and independent bookstores.

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Ellen Ward, Jackie Tanase, Karen Schwettman
My Location
105 East Main Street, #138
Atlanta GA 30188
United States
Year Company Formed
My Successes

The trio thought back to the encounter with the fox near Denver and decided that “fox tale” would make a great name for their new bookstore. Since opening in June 2007, FoxTale Book Shoppe has been embraced by the community. The mayor of Woodstock declared opening day “FoxTale Book Shoppe Day.”

“It’s amazing how much the bookstore has helped bring about a sense of community,” Karen says. Jackie adds, “We greet our customers as they come in and try to make them feel welcome. We’ve made friends, and you know just what they need the more you get to know them.”

In addition to books, the store also sells greeting cards, knickknacks and writing tools. “Our customers can get things they can’t buy anywhere else,” Ellen says. “We’ve also been in just about every publication in the Atlanta area, including the Atlanta Journal, Atlanta magazine and the Fox 5 morning show.” They also reach out to job fairs and local schools, and even talked about being an entrepreneur with students at Woodstock Middle School.

When the final Harry Potter book was printed, they held a party in the gazebo across from their store and more than 100 people showed up. “When we opened the boxes at midnight, the people rushed in, bought their books, and rushed out,” Jackie says.

Ellen, Jackie and Karen are proud of their growing business. “An independent bookstore puts money back into the community and not back into a corporation,” Ellen says. “We support the community, and it instills a sense of ownership in our customers.”

The three continue to receive mentoring and advice from Atlanta SCORE and Hooper Wesley. “SCORE will shine helping people who wouldn’t go into business without a strong support base,” Karen says.

What's Great About My Mentor?

"SCORE mentor Hooper Wesley said, what a great idea, this could work. It really encouraged us. He was with us every step of the way. He even went to meetings with us at the bank. SCORE will shine helping people who wouldn’t go into business without a strong support base." says Karen Schwettman, co-owner, FoxTale Book Shoppe, Woodstock, GA.

Hooper formerly worked for the governor’s office and he has a lot of experience in financing and the government. Last year, Atlanta SCORE clients secured more than $1.5 million in SBA-backed loans. Hooper’s clients account for almost half that amount. “If he gets excited about a client, he goes to the nth degree,” says Atlanta SCORE Vice Chair.

“We told Hooper our idea and concept,” Karen says. “He said, what a great idea, this could work. It really encouraged us.” Hooper began working with them on their business plan. “He was with us every step of the way,” she adds. “He even went to meetings with us at the bank.”

How SCORE Helped

SCORE will shine helping people who wouldn’t go into business without a strong support base.

New-Age Preparatory Academy Finds Success With SCORE Mentor

Tanya and Chris Furlow had a passion to create a quality day-care center in their community.  This husband-and-wife team planned to combine their talents, Tanya bringing her experience in childcare and Chris his experience in building renovation.

In 2005, they came to SCORE seeking advice on how to develop a business plan for their day-care facility.  However, their plan required a substantial amount of money since they wanted to purchase a building on a spacious lot. Their primary counselor was Kisoon Park who introduced another SCORE counselor, John Costello, to help them with the financial section of the business plan.


Tanya and Chris Furlow
My Location
8938 S Cottage Grove Ave
Chicago IL 60619
United States
Year Company Formed
My Successes

Their loan application was approved later that year, which Tanya and Chris attribute to the strength of the business plan that SCORE helped them develop.  They believe that in-depth demographic research combined with detailed competitive analysis for each and every day-care center in their target market was a key to their success in obtaining the loan.

Building and facility renovation took almost two years to complete, and the New-Age Preparatory Academy opened its doors in late 2007. 

Tanya and Chris’s strong business plan, close teamwork and meticulous execution paid off.  New-Age has already opened a second location and total enrollment in their academy reached over eighty children by late 2010.

What's Great About My Mentor?

“SCORE counseling helped us in doing detailed market studies with emphasis on competitive analysis," say Tanya and Chris. "This enabled us to develop business strategies that separate us from the competition and, most importantly, helped us in securing the building loan.  Working with SCORE counselors over a period of time helped us in the successful implementation of our business plan.”

Women in Business: Growth is Up, But Sales are Down

The Fight Women Face in The Market

While women-owned businesses are growing in number, a new report from The U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce found that their sales are shrinking at an alarming rate.

Leadership: As Technology Takes Over, Will Women and Men Become More Alike?

The Closing Technology Divide

There’s a ground-breaking change going on in society, says Sally Helgesen, author of The Female Vision: Women’s Real Power at Work. Interviewed on Bnet.com, Helgesen notes that today, for the first time in human history, men and women are using the same basic tools at work. In other words, we’re all using computers, mobile phones and the same software, giving us the same experience.

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