Retail Trade

Timberline Tractor & Marine

How does a tiny engine-repair shop in Cleveland become a player in the global marketplace? That's what Joseph and Lori Scholtz, the owners of Timberline Tractor & Marine, wondered in 1996 when they sought to diversify their business.

Owner/Founder
Joseph and Lori Scholtz
My Location
Cleveland OH
United States
Employees
8
Year Company Formed
1984
My Successes

Just getting Timberline's name out to clients in northeastern Ohio had been enough of a challenge. "When we started in 1984, we were a subcontractor to an engine parts distributor and got our jobs through them," explains Lori, Timberline's secretary/treasurer. "That was good for a while, but our relationship with the distributor restricted us to assignments for the construction business, which is very cyclical. For the company to grow, we had to diversify our services and pursue our own projects, such as repair contracts for the government. We were also interested in doing more work on marine engines. Our parts distributor resisted that idea because of the risks and special insurance requirements."

After weighing the alternatives, the Scholtzes decided to "go independent" and parted amicably from the distributor. The business grew steadily over the next 12 years, yet it wasn't long before the couple ran up against some formidable competition. "Some of the major manufacturers began to corner the market on repair services for their equipment, which shut us out of a lot of projects," Lori says. "We were able to negotiate arrangements with some of the dealers and get work through them, but it was often a struggle to keep our workload steady. It was almost like we were in the same position as when we started."

Once again, the Scholtzes found themselves searching for ways to expand their business. Among the most appealing prospects was the overseas market, particularly for their marine repair services. The task of exploiting this market was assigned to Lori's father, Al Lemons, who admits that his enthusiasm far exceeded his experience. "I had worked for 30 years on the production side of business, never sales," he says. "This was a new endeavor for me, so I tried to find out as much as I could about it."

Armed with SCORE's training and the updated image materials, Al became something of a globetrotter, visiting a number of European and Asian countries in search of new business for Timberline. His travels have produced an international web of contacts and a global reputation for Timberline that extends from Italy to Indonesia. "We haven't conquered the world by any means, but we have made many positive inroads in several countries and diversified our markets," Al says. "But the most amazing to me is that I started out with no sales expertise. Thanks to SCORE, I'm much more comfortable about pursuing new business—no matter where it is."

What's Great About My Mentor?

In the course of his research, Al learned about SCORE and its free mentoring services to small businesses. He met with Bob Arkes, a former international sales executive, who offered literally a world of knowledge and experience.

"Bob gave me everything I needed to develop a sales and marketing plan—how to identify potential customers, who to contact, and strategy," Al says. "He also told me how he had handled exports during his career, and some of the lessons he'd learned in working overseas."

Bob also enlisted the assistance of SCORE Mentor Bob Kaderaver, a former sales and marketing executive, to critique Timberline's brochures and marketing materials. "He pointed out that while our brochure was attractive, it didn't properly convey our marine services," Lori says. "He suggested several changes, which we eagerly implemented. They obviously worked as we began getting more new contracts."

How SCORE Helped

"SCORE certainly helped smooth the road for me," says Al Lemons. "I felt more confident in making sales calls and explaining what we could offer. That, in turn, gave me the credibility to make a more convincing case to clients."

Epicurean Butter Finds Success With Advice From SCORE

Janey and her husband, John, co-founded Epicurean Butter in 2004 with the help of John Nitsche, SCORE Counselor. John, who executes all product development and runs the operations part of the business, was an experienced upscale chef and Janey contributed administrative, marketing and outreach experience. The challenge Epicurean Butter faced was first to market with a retail product that chefs used in restaurant kitchens. Education and merchandising suggestions accompanied every sales call.

Owner/Founder
Janey and John Hubschman
My Location
Denver CO
United States
My Successes

The team prospered and their revenue for 2010 exceeded $1.4 million with a 2.0 million out looked for 2011 with substantial profit. Janey and John are adamant about keeping costs pared down as far as possible and keeping quality high, which enabled them to produce profits each year since Epicurean’s founding. They recently negotiated for a line of credit from Heartland Bank to expand the business to the next level. In January 2011 Epicurean Butter moved into a 13,500 sq ft production facility that offers room for growth and a bright outlook for this specialty food manufacturer.

How SCORE Helped

Providing Low Cost Workshops and One-on-One Counseling.

Michigan Exhaust and Brake Succeeds By Using Advice From SCORE Mentor

SCORE mentors often do more than just help their clients with the "how’s," "what’s" and "why’s" of starting a business. Sometimes they assist with the "wheres" as well.

Jeff Frank of Three Rivers, MI, discovered that quality when he first met with SCORE Volunteer Mentor Richard Ward, a retired management development expert. Jeff’s lifelong dream was to own his own automotive repair business. He had even left college for the opportunity to run a muffler shop in nearby Kalamazoo. But after 13 years in that job, Frank and his wife felt it was time for him to strike out on his own. That’s when a newspaper story led him to SCORE.

Owner/Founder
Jeff Frank
My Location
Three Rivers MI
United States
Year Company Formed
2000
My Successes

Having extensive experience in managing an automotive repair shop, Frank had little difficulty preparing his business plan. But finding a suitable location to launch his dream was another matter. The equipment and regulatory requirements for such shops precluded many otherwise attractive locations. That’s when SCORE really came through for Jeff.

All it took was a little bit of rehabilitation, and Frank had the shop ready for his first customers. Although Michigan Exhaust and Brake opened for business on April 1, 2000, Jeff’s success is no joke. He has steadily built a solid customer base over the past year, and hopes to add a second employee this spring. "This is a great site," he says. "It’s perfect for what I wanted to do."

What's Great About My Mentor?

"We met with Mr. Ward for about an hour, and he was very interested in what I wanted to do," Frank recalls. "He showed us examples of business plans and explained what I’d need to put mine together."

"I was able to direct Jeff to a nice piece of city-owned property that was previously used as an automotive maintenance garage," says Richard Ward. "Although the property was not actually on the market, the city was able to work with Jeff and sell him the property at an attractive price. The shop is located in a neighborhood that is on the upswing, and will surely accelerate in value."

Ward still checks in with his client from time to time to see how everything’s going. "I really appreciate Mr. Ward’s help in pointing me in the right direction,” Frank says. "If I have any other business-related problems or questions, I know who to call on. It’s good to know that this kind of service is available."

How SCORE Helped

“SCORE is a great resource for anybody getting started in business. They can help you with just about anything.” says Jeff Frank.

Nurtured By Design

At first glance, Zachary Jackson looks like any other healthy eight-year-old. But along with being a typical kid, Zachary is also a CIO—Chief Inspiration Officer—for his mother’s company, Zakeez, Inc. now Nurtured By Design.

Owner/Founder
Yamile Jackson
My Location
Sugar Land TX
United States
Year Company Formed
2004
My Successes

Born three months early and weighing less than two pounds, Zachary needed all the help the Texas Medical Center in Houston could provide during those critical early months. But the key to his survival was the comfort of simply being held gently by his mother Yamile.

Because she couldn’t stay with her son 24/7, Yamile began looking for a way to maintain a sense of contact with Zachary. Applying her instincts as both a mother and an engineer, Yamile adapted a pair of garden gloves to serve as her “surrogate” hands, duplicating her touch, warmth and scent. Realizing that thousands of other mothers faced the same challenges with their “preemies” and other special needs children, Yamile began looking for ways to transform her makeshift gloves into a marketable product.

Three years of ergonomics human factors research later, Yamile had crafted the appropriately named “Zaky®,” which would benefit both preemies and healthy babies alike. What she needed next was some help in spreading the word about her innovation.

“I had already operated a business as a consulting engineer,” Yamile says, “but going from a service to a product, especially one related to medicine, was a huge transformation.”

The Zaky and its amazing story have earned worldwide coverage in newspapers and magazines, televised news reports and programs such as The Rachel Ray Show, and even a made-for-TV movie. Yamile has been repeatedly honored for the Zaky, including receiving SCORE’s Outstanding Woman-Owned Business Award for 2009.

Zachary Jackson continues to do his job as CIO, as his mother is introducing new products such as specialty clothing for preemies that accommodate IV tubes and cables for medical devices, and bereavement clothes for babies unable to overcome their survival challenge.

Zakeez continues to thrive today, thanks to broadband. Because more than 80 percent of sales are completed online, broadband is critical to the company’s success. Not only does it help Yamile accomplish everyday tasks and streamline research, she is also using it to take online courses and leverage new and improved ways to communicate with customers.

“Broadband is not a luxury, it is essential for my business,” says Yamile Jackson, founder, Zakeez, Inc. “Because our resources are limited,  it is important to be efficient in how we distribute advertisements, news, and sales efforts to a wide audience. Broadband also allows me to reach customers around the world, conduct web conferencing and keep an eye on my competition. It allows me to save time, compare prices and create efficiencies when I purchase from vendors online.”

What's Great About My Mentor?

Houston SCORE mentor Sam Dubinsky advised Yamile on preparing for her first trade show, while other mentors helped her craft an effective marketing strategy that included brochures, publicity, and an online presence at www.zakeez.com.

More recently, retired engineer Bob Ashfield provided Yamile with a valuable technical perspective on her new products, including Zak’s Sack, which capitalizes on the concept of “kangarooing” to help both mothers and fathers nurture their infants by keeping them in close physical contact.

“Sam and Bob are very generous with their time and the information they have,” she says. “I truly feel that they genuinely get pleasure from my success. How appropriate it is that for a product designed to help nurture new and small babies, I have received so much help from a group of professionals dedicated to nurturing new and small businesses.”

How SCORE Helped

After seeing a flyer about a Houston SCORE-sponsored seminar on business start-ups, Yamile attended thinking it’d be a “one-shot” experience. “But as I listened to the mentors,” she says, “I realized there was a wealth of information and resources that SCORE could provide.”

“What I really like about SCORE is that they don’t make decisions for me,” Yamile says.  “They’ll tell you what they know, point out other sources of information, and make suggestions. But they leave it up to me to decide.”

www.nurturedbydesign.com

SCORE Mentor Advices Chimers Charts™

Chimers Charts™  Make Playing Music Easy

With Chimers Charts ™ people make music without the need to read music. It removes one of the biggest frustrations in learning and teaching music.  Groups make music together instantaneously, using Chimers Charts ™.

Chimers Charts ™ offers easy-to-read music instructional boards. They use colors and letters, to designate what and when notes should be played for a song. Chimers Charts ™ is the first commercial instructional aide for music to do that. Although initially designed for Music Therapy sessions, many other groups such as music classrooms, retiree/senior groups, youth groups, Bible study classes can take advantage of this great music product.

This product encourages people to have fun playing music together, in a success oriented activity. It removes the frustration of reading music in order to play music.

Owner/Founder
Mary Scovel
My Location
112 Doncaster Lane
Bluffton SC 29909
United States
Employees
1
Year Company Formed
2010
My Successes

 

Mary Scovel, Inventor and Successful Business Owner

Early in her career as a Professor of Music, Mary Scovel encountered a new challenge, a young boy with Downs Syndrome that changed her life. After meeting that young boy, Mary realized she wanted to teach music to people with special needs.

After receiving her Master’s Degree in Music with an equivalency in Music Therapy, Mary reached that goal. Mary designed Chimers Charts so that anyone can make music easily and have a successful experience. As a result, anyone who wants to play hand chimes and other instruments, but doesn’t read music, can have a successful music experience.

Chimers Charts ™ were designed to meet the learning needs of anyone who can distinguish letters and colors. "Because of SCORE, I am now the proud business owner of Chimers Charts", says Mary.

What's Great About My Mentor?

"I would not have attained this business success, if it were not for the able assistance of Bob Holbrook, my SCORE counselor", says Mary.

"At our first meeting, I described my invention and Bob laid out a detailed plan on how to move forward. Because I was a neophyte, I listened carefully to this man who had years of business experience. He offered sound advice and encouraged me to pursue this project", says Mary.

How SCORE Helped

Mary needed a patent for her invention and Bob worked with her through all of the steps in securing that patent.

"He assured me that when I had a question I could call him anytime, which I did often", says Mary. When Mary found a company, Jeffers Handbell Supply Inc., to manufacture her product and obtained the contract, Bob reviewed it with her. Bob advised Mary about her business options. He also explained the meaning of the business language in the contract.

With his guidance and Mary’s efforts, Chimers Charts made their first sale at the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) conference in November, 2010. "Bob supported me every step through this process and I am deeply grateful to him and to SCORE for the generous service they provide", says Mary.

Bob Holbrook is a volunteer SCORE counselor with Carolina Lowcountry SCORE. Visit www.scorehiltonhead.com to learn about free SCORE business advice for starting or growing a small business.

Sylvan Learning Center Franchise

Taking early retirement after more than three decades of working in the Lawton, OK, public school system didn’t mean that Howard and Jo Jean Johnson were ready to slow down.   They dreamed of starting a business that would fill a need in the community and provide them with a successful career change.  The ideal solution was to open a franchise of Sylvan Learning Centers, the world’s leading provider of supplemental education services to primary and secondary school students.

Owner/Founder
Howard and Jo Jean Johnson
My Location
Lawton OK
United States
Employees
35
Year Company Formed
1998
My Successes

The first task for the Johnsons was convince Sylvan’s corporate officials in Baltimore that Oklahoma’s third largest city qualified for a franchise. “Sylvan’s demographic review indicated that Lawton was indeed a viable location for its third Oklahoma Learning Center,” Howard says. “It was up to Jo Jean and me to make it happen.”

Having worked with community education during his years as a school administrator, Howard knew all about SCORE and the valuable services the organization provides to new entrepreneurs.  But he was in for a surprised when he called SCORE’s Lawton Chapter. “The man who picked up the phone turned out to be Vic Yarborough, my family’s next-door neighbor when I was growing up,” Howard says with a smile. “He and his colleagues would a tremendous help in getting us started.”

More than four years after contacting SCORE, the Lawton Sylvan Learning Center serves approximately 150 students each month with after-school help reading and math, as well as other academic needs.  In terms of revenue, the Johnsons’ franchise ranks among the leading 35 percent of Sylvan’s more than 900 Learning Centers in North America, putting the couple more than halfway on the road to repaying their bank loan.  They also purchased a new building that gives them an additional 1,500 square feet of much-needed space for their growing business.

What's Great About My Mentor?

Vic Yarborough, a retired executive with Halliburton Services, immediately enrolled the Johnsons in several seminars that provided advice on banking, legal issues and zoning.  As with most of new enterprises, though, the big issue was money.  “Vic put us in touch with a bank and helped us prepare the business plan for the loan application,” Howard says.  “That led to an SBA-backed loan that we used to pay the franchise fee, lease a building, do the build-out, purchase equipment, meet city zoning requirements and meet our other start-up costs.”

How SCORE Helped

The Johnson’s still call on SCORE occasionally when a question arises about management or finances.  Howard is also pleased that his search for a new business advisor reconnected him with an old family friend.  “I was so happy when Vic stopped by recently to tour our new building,” he says.  “The expert, caring help he and his colleagues at SCORE provided was absolutely essential to our success.  They have been helpful from the get-go.”

ATC International

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.

To learn more about ATC International, visit atcinternational.net.

Owner/Founder
Amy Frey
My Location
Washington DC
United States
Year Company Formed
1991
My Successes

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.

 

What's Great About My Mentor?

“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.”

 

How SCORE Helped

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.”

Clair David - Office Design on the Central Ave Strip

Driving west on Central Avenue, between I-475 and Central Park West in Sylvania Township, you might spot Clair David’s large store front.  If you venture into the spacious showroom, you might think you are in an interior designer’s store, and you would be partly correct. 

But as you look around the spacious display area, you will suddenly realize that everything you are looking at is office furniture, in all its variations!  

While the showroom is impressive, what really attracts Toledo-area businesses is the depth of knowledge and expertise that owner Kim Marion and her staff bring to the challenge of designing and furnishing offices for today’s high-tech and space-limited businesses.  Kim herself has 25 years of experience selling office furniture; after working for others, she decided in 2005 that the time was right to “strike out on her own.”

Kim Marion credits SCORE – Counselors to America’s Small Business – and local counselor Jack Chezek with helping her meet the challenges of running a small business.  “We need someone to talk to, someone that understands our problems,” she says.  Kim is so pleased with SCORE’s free mentoring that she sent her son in Columbus to SCORE for help in starting his own enterprise.

Kim and her staff have an impressive list of credentials and certifications, all of which can be found on their highly informative website (www.clairdavid.com), which even includes a virtual tour of the showroom in case you didn’t stop while driving by! 

Their professional approach to office design and furnishing is seen in the conference room – which is available for meetings and seminars – equipped with a “smart board” and three-dimensional design technology.  The staff emphasizes design for efficiency, helping clients to get organized and utilize office space economically – it’s called “space planning.”  This design service is offered at no charge to serious clients, who range from individuals furnishing their home office, to larger companies trying to maximize productivity – as well as provide a pleasing (and “green”) environment.

Clair David offers the whole package: a large showroom where clients can “touch and feel” the furniture; and a professional design service that brings a high level of expertise to assist today’s businesses.

SCORE is supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration, and may be reached at 419.259.7598 and www.nwoscore.org

Owner/Founder
Kim Marion
My Location
6540 W Central Ave
Toledo OH 43617
United States

DaVinci's Gallery & Coffee House in Fremont

DaVinci’s Rates a “WOW!!” in Downtown Fremont

 

“Amazing!”  “Unbelievable!”  “Yummy!”  “Unique!”  “You Gotta See This Place!”  Or – just plain “WOW!!”

These are the reactions when people step into DaVinci’s in Historic Downtown Fremont.

First of all, the place is BIG, not what you expect in a Coffee House and Gallery.

And it is full of stuff that you’ve never seen before, and won’t see anywhere else nearby.

And it SMELLS good: coffee, and pastries, and – at lunch time – paninis cooking on the grill.  The paninis are named for artists, by the way, continuing the theme that starts with Leonardo DaVinci’s iconic “man” painted on the floor. 

This is not a coffee shop with a few pictures hanging on the walls; this is a huge “art” gallery full of surprising treasures, lovingly collected by Gary and Marie Perkins from artists all over North America; artists who have become their friends and who furnish the gallery with  unusual  prints, pottery, jewelry, handbags and other beautiful – and even practical - things that defy the usual classifications.

There is stunning contemporary jewelry, pottery tableware, wood and glass and metal art, and – for the technophobe – binary watches!  And if you are observant, you will find scattered throughout the gallery examples of Gary’s custom framing; he has a way of taking almost anything and framing it in an unusual and artistic way. 

Gary and Marie, who were high school sweethearts, are celebrating 25 years in business; it all started with a frame shop in 1984.  Now they are leading the revival of downtown Fremont, in the building that once housed a Kresge’s.  They are active in the community, and offer the use of their conference room to various groups. 

But mainly they are immersed in the world of cooking, and art, and providing their customers and friends with “a treat for all the senses.”  The motto on their wall is truly their mission: “Surround yourself with beautiful things …” They do, and you can also, simply by making the trip to Fremont!  And while you are there, sample the “raving craving chocolate cake” that is the signature dessert in the coffee shop.

You can see a lot at their website, www.artsandcoffee.com; but you really have to pay them a visit.  Walk into 115 S. Front St. in downtown Fremont, and ---- “WOW!!”

Gary and Marie hooked up with SCORE counselor Mary Caracci five years ago.  Mary’s task – according to Marie – is keeping them “focused” in their marketing efforts, spreading the word about this wonderful place where you don’t expect to find it.  Mary started by moderating two focus groups to better understand the needs of  prospective customers, and she continues to provide suggestions and ideas.  

Mary Caracci is one of forty volunteers at Northwest Ohio SCORE – “Counselors to America’s Small Business,” where she works the Port Clinton area.  SCORE is supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration, and may be reached at 419.259.7598 and www.nwoscore.org

Owner/Founder
Gary and Marie Perkins
My Location
115 S Front St
Fremont OH 43420
United States

Many retail gift shops are faced with the challenge of finding merchandise available at wholesale. Take advantage of permanent wholesale showrooms or marts, located in most major cities in the United States.

Use these tips to make your wholesale purchasing as successful as possible.

Plan Ahead

Be sure to have a budget to work with.

Plan for seasonal buying months in advance of the holiday.

Bring plenty of business cards with you.

Merchandise Mart Basics

All merchandise marts have strict entrance policies. Be sure to check the mart’s Web site before you go.

About the Author

Marjorie Christiansen is co-owner of Minneapolis-based Christiansen & Associates, a wholesale gift rep firm. She is the former owner of Bright Ideas Gifts. A 20-year SCORE volunteer, Marge previously served as secretary on the SCORE Board of Director.

 

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