OCONOMOWOC - Launching a small business
can feel intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be an
isolating experience, said SCORE mentor Dave Maaske.
In fact, Maaske said studies have shown
that when a small business owner has a mentor, the
chances of the business’ success are greatly improved.
As the chair of the Southeastern Wisconsin chapter and a
certified mentor with SCORE, Maaske has helped advise
small business owners with their questions or concerns
or connected with someone who has more expertise in that
He said SCORE, which is sponsored by the
U.S. Small Business Administration, is like one-stop
shopping because mentors have formed a nationwide
network and can address a variety of questions.
Otherwise, an entrepreneur may be finding and consulting
with lawyers, bankers and accountants all on his or her
“SCORE has a proven track record of
people who left major organizations that want to give
back to small businesses,” Maaske said. “We tend to be
gatekeepers of the small business.”
SCORE is comprised of around 11,000
volunteers nationally, 300 of whom are in Wisconsin and
70 are in southeastern Wisconsin who provide free
One of Maaske’s clients is CJs Premium
Spices in Oconomowoc. Co-owner Laura Swan said SCORE has
been mentoring her and her husband, Alan, since spring
“They really cover all the bases;
everything you need to know to start a business,” she
said. “They are super helpful, informative. It really is
a mentoring process but it’s more than that because they
have your back.”
In addition to the SCORE mentors, the
group offers programming for a cost that also provides
valuable information, Swan said. SCORE mentors continue
to work with businesses after they are launched to
address questions of a growing company, such as
distribution and employee hiring.
An important place to start for an
entrepreneur is with learning how to form a company by
obtaining a limited liability company or corporate
status. Another early step is creating a business plan,
Maaske said, because if a business owner doesn’t know
what he is getting into, he may find himself halfway
down the path and without enough capital to continue.
Other areas that SCORE mentors help small
business owners with are marketing, social media and how
to protect a business idea, product or service.
Starting a business and growing it is
often more difficult than in previous years due to
increased regulations, Maaske said, as well as daily
changes in technology.
“Small businesses have always created at
least half of the employment in the United States. In
the recent recovery, there have been more headwinds in
creating small businesses. We are trying to make that
change, make that better,” Maaske said.
Swan reminds would-be small business
owners that it’s important to follow basic business
creation guidelines to have a strong business plan in
place. Also, creating a business takes time.
“You have just got to stick with it;
business doesn’t happen overnight. If you have a good
idea or business product or service - if that’s good
then the rest will follow,” she said. “SCORE is a way to
navigate the unknown.”
When working with a mentor, the U.S.
Small Business Administration recommends ensuring a
formal mentor-protégé structure is in place. The
organization also advises to be organized, prepared and
consistent; do not expect your mentor to run your
business for you or make decisions for you; plan your
mentoring sessions in advance; take notes, create action
items and be prepared to review progress during your
next session; and thank your mentor for his or her time
The Small Business Center at Waukesha
County Technical College offers mentorship
opportunities as well. The SBA also suggests using other
resources such as small business development centers,
women’s business centers, minority business development
agencies and veterans business outreach centers.
steps to starting a business
1: Write a business plan
2: Get business assistance and training
3: Choose a business location
4: Finance your business
5: Determine the legal structure of your
6: Register a business name (‘doing
7: Get a tax identification number
8: Register for state and local taxes
9: Obtain business licenses and permits
10: Understand employer responsibilities
Source: U.S. Small Business
questions before starting a business
So you’ve got what it takes to be an
entrepreneur? Now, ask yourself these 20 questions to
make sure you’re thinking about the right key business
1.) Why am I starting a business?
2.) What kind of business do I want?
3.) Who is my ideal customer?
4.) What products or services will my
5.) Am I prepared to spend the time and
money needed to get my business started?
6.) What differentiates my business idea
and the products or services I will provide from others
in the market?
7.) Where will my business be located?
8.) How many employees will I need?
9.) What types of suppliers do I need?
10.) How much money do I need to get
11.) Will I need to get a loan?
12.) How soon will it take before my
products or services are available?
13.) How long do I have until I start
making a profit?
14.) Who is my competition?
15.) How will I price my product compared
to my competition?
16.) How will I set up the legal
structure of my business?
17.) What taxes do I need to pay?
18.) What kind of insurance do I need?
19.) How will I manage my business?
20.) How will I advertise my business?
Source: U.S. Small Business