Since 1991, Amy Frey has helped Australian manufacturers gain a niche in the lucrative North American market through her business, ATC International. Drawing on her experience as a trade consultant for the State of Victoria (which includes Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city), Frey has nurtured ATC from its humble origins in a spare bedroom office to a downtown Washington, D.C. location.
From here, she and her team provide market research, business management, distribution and logistics services to clients in Australia and New Zealand.
Despite having a tailor-made educational and professional background for this kind of business, Frey knew that even the most successful entrepreneur occasionally needs advice. Her father had been a SCORE volunteer mentor in her home state of New Jersey, and she recalled how the organization had helped many small business owners launch and sustain their own ventures.
“After nearly 10 years in business, I was ready for that kind of advice in my career,” Frey says. “Knowing the kind of services SCORE provided, I would have been crazy not to take advantage of it.”
In 2000, Frey began working with Ann Dobbs, a former partner with a supermarket chain. Dobbs provided help with employee relations, legal issues, insurance and banking. She also guided Frey through the difficult task of firing a less-than-satisfactory accountant during a critical phase of ATC’s transition from partnership to corporation.
“Ann has been a wealth of inspiration and encouragement,” Frey says. “When I’m wrestling with a difficult decision or disappointed with the way things are going, she provides the wisdom and insight to point me in the right direction.”
ATC “is surrounded by positives,” Frey says. The company has added several new clients in the past few months, and is on track to grow by 10 percent this year. Frey enjoys the benefits of the Australia – United States Free Trade Agreement, which led to the opening of a new warehouse on the West Coast.
“Although ATC is well established, the challenges of running a small business don’t stop; they just assume a different form,” Frey says. “Being able to share my concerns and questions with my SCORE mentor Ann has been enormously valuable. It is also helpful to have a woman’s perspective, particularly one I respect and admire. I hope that during the course of my career, I will achieve at least half of what she’s done.”