March 31--The Frederick SCORE chapter was an essential factor in the starting and success of Nancy Copen's business.

Copen, owner of Annabelle Grace & Co. LLC in Walkersville, has created a line of women's sandals with vintage looks to reflect the company's name -- the first names of her two grandmothers.

"I was initially looking for someone to bounce my idea off of, get independent feedback," Copen said. "I wanted to talk to entrepreneurs who had been through the process, knew the ropes."

SCORE is devoted to helping people who want to start a business or have challenges in an existing business. The Frederick chapter sees about 35 to 40 clients a month, but that number can rise if the economy slumps. During a downturn, more early stage entrepreneurs come to the organization for mentoring, according to Charles W. Thomas, chairman of the local chapter for three years.

Formerly the Service Corps of Retired Executives, the organization now calls itself SCORE, reflecting the diverse expertise available from volunteers who may or may not be retired.