SCORE offers tips, guidance for aspiring entrepreneurs

By RALPH CHAPOCO - Daily News Staff

Jan. 17, 2018

Establishing a business or expanding an existing one can be a daunting task for even the most seasoned veterans. There are logistics, marketing and financial decisions that can overwhelm an individual.

Entrepreneurs, however, have a resource, SCORE, whose members provide resources to navigate the business climate and provide insights into the process.

“It started some time ago in an effort for the SBA (Small Business Administration) to assist their business clients to be more successful,” said Marcia Theusch, one of the organization’s mentors. “We are a subset of the SBA. We are national, in all 50 states, with at least eight chapters in Wisconsin.”

According to statistics that Theusch offered, in 2016, mentors provided more than 300,000 individualized mentoring sessions nationwide and served almost 240,000 clients.

They also advise clients on several aspects of the business life cycle. About 32 percent inquired about starting a business. Another 28 percent were in the process for starting a business, and 37 percent were already in business.

SCORE has garnered a strong reputation among entrepreneurs for the services they offer, the strength of which is the mentorship program where advisors assist clients with their business ideas.

“Most of them have owned a small business or they have worked in a management level at a large business,” Theusch said of the mentors.

Curt Laetz, a certified mentor, was a corporate executive, purchased a small business and started a consulting firm.

There are mandatory training sessions for prospective mentors before advising clients. Some are concerned with ethics while others are designed to maintain the quality of the mentoring session. Toward the latter part of the training, they advise clients along with a mentor who has already undergone training and mentored clients.

“There is 90 days before you are certified,” Laetz said. “You have to co-mentor. You have to go to a meeting. You have to various things. There is a mentor for the new person who gets a chance how they do with someone else.”

The mentoring sessions are complimentary and can be individualized to the needs of the client. Some require assistance with a specific task while others will develop a relationship with their mentors throughout the entire process of starting a business.

“One of the things I typically get questions on is the financial part,” Laetz said. Others will offer a business idea and receive feedback from their mentors.

Aside from the individualized mentoring, members offer time dedicated to a specific topic or provide an opportunity for individuals to ask specific questions regarding their venture. There is a fee to attend the sessions. Some are focused on accounting the QuickBooks, the accounting software that most establishments use to track the revenues and expenses.

There are others related to marketing, including social media strategy and digital marketing trends. The staple of the workshops, however, is a multipart module that has become a requirement for anyone who wants to start a business.

“Oftentimes there are small businesses who are looking for financing,” Laetz said. “They are looking to grow. If someone is going to loan them money, they want to see a business plan and they (entrepreneurs) haven’t written one.”

Given its importance, members of the organization offer a series for writing different aspects of the business plan, from marketing and market research to analyzing the competition and the financials.

There are also sessions where the public can receive advice and feedback for their idea.

“It is a good program,” Laetz said. “Who wouldn’t want to do this?”