Retail Trade

Native Ground Books and Music

For as long as he can remember, Wayne Erbsen has been fascinated by traditional American music. Whether it's an up-tempo Civil War marching anthem, a lonesome cowboy's lament, or a simple holiday song that delighted your great-great-grandparents, chances are that Erbsen has sung and played it many times.

Twenty-five years ago, Erbsen turned his passion of collecting, preserving, and performing these precious pieces of Americana into a business. While Erbsen was teaching American history and banjo at Central Piedmont College in Charlotte, NC, he compiled the music sheets from his classes into a book, Banjo for the Complete Ignoramus, which was an immediate hit at local music and bookstores.

Erbsen's new business, called Native Ground Music, grew as he added other instructional books, tapes, and CDs. Along with selling his products through local merchants in North Carolina's scenic Blue Ridge mountains, Erbsen would research and perform songs from a particular era or theme, then market the books and albums to specialty stores and catalogs. Operating from his family's century-old house near Asheville, Erbsen distributes a wide range of books, music, and historical lore via gift shops and his online catalog.

To learn more about Native Ground Books and Music, visit nativeground.com.

Owner/Founder
Wayne Erbsen
My Location
Asheville NC
United States
Year Company Formed
1973
My Successes

Erbsen has since used his SCORE mentor's advice to bring his music to new markets across the country and around the world.  When the time came to hire additional employees, he returned to SCORE for advice on incentive pay and benefit plans.

Erbsen continues to be a man of many talents. Along with running Native Ground Music, he serves as Director of Appalachian Music at Warren Wilson College, hosts a program at his local public radio station, and teaches classes in banjo, fiddle and mandolin.

What's Great About My Mentor?

"Dale had no experience in my area of business, but he was extraordinarily helpful," Erbsen recalls. "He was eager to learn about what I was doing, and locate the kind of help I needed."

How SCORE Helped

Although Native Ground Music was making good progress as a part-time enterprise, Erbsen knew that in order to take that proverbial "next step," he would need help expanding his distribution network. In 1994, he visited the Asheville chapter of SCORE and met with Dale Benjamin, a retired labor relations director with GTE Services Corporation. Although Benjamin's background in the telecommunications industry was a far cry from the world of publishing, his interest in Native Ground's success was music to Erbsen's ears.

Benjamin put Erbsen in touch with another book and music manufacturer who provided valuable advice about dealing with distributors. "That person was very friendly and gave me a lot of good advice," says Erbsen. "It was nice to get some insights from someone with experience doing something that I had just begun to learn."

"It's lonely when you're out there running a business for the first time," Erbsen says. "It certainly helps to have an older, wiser person to confide in. With Dale, I always felt like his door was open, and he'd be there ready to listen."

Even though Erbsen's business is doing well, he knows where to go in case his business hits a sour note. "SCORE is a good service," he says. "If I ran into a problem that I couldn't handle today, I would probably call on them again. It's comforting to know that they're out there."

SCORE Advises Junior Baseball Towards Success

Anyone involved with youth baseball knows that the sport isn't just for the kids; the whole family can join in. Take Dave and Dayna Destler of Canoga Park, CA, for example. When their son, Dusty, began playing in youth leagues at age 6, Dave was with him in the dugout as a volunteer coach while Dayna served as scorekeeper. Before long, the Destlers began looking for a magazine that would offer news, tips, and advice to other budding ballplayers, as well as information and guidance for parents. Their search came up empty, a result that might have led some parents to simply shrug their shoulders and say, "Somebody ought to start one." That "somebody" proved to be Dave and Dayna.

Owner/Founder
Dave and Dayna Destler
My Location
Canoga Park CA
United States
Employees
2
Year Company Formed
1996
My Successes

At first glance, starting a new magazine would seem to be familiar territory for the Destlers, who had already founded and published British Car, a successful bimonthly magazine for automobile enthusiasts. The market certainly seemed larger and more lucrative—the U.S. has more than 9 million kids playing baseball compared with only 50,000 British automobiles. But as the Destlers researched their potential market, they realized that this larger market also meant a larger, more complicated management and financial commitment.

By selling British Car, the Destlers were able to augment their SBA loan and devote their full attention to Junior Baseball. They spent the first year building the product and attracting advertisers. With the help of a five-person staff, the first issue rolled off the presses in September 1996, and Junior Baseball appeared to be on its way to the big leagues of publishing. Circulation lagged behind projections, however, and by the end of its second year, Junior Baseball was in a financial slump. "We had counted on a large amount of newsstand sales," Dayna explains, "but increased competition among small publishers made it difficult for us to get shelf space."

The magazine now has over 10,000 paid subscribers, and thousand more readers through complimentary subscriptions and other promotional programs. Junior Baseball has also earned official endorsements from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the United States Amateur Baseball Association (USABA), USA Baseball, and more than a dozen other national youth and baseball organizations. The Destlers have added a website that offers articles from back issues, a listing of youth baseball camps and schools, and a youth baseball tournament calendar. "We recently introduced a book and video store that has tested very well," Dayna says. "We're working on increasing the range of selections and hope to add it to the website soon."

In 1999, the Destlers' profit topped $100,000. Still, the couple is managing the magazine's growth carefully. Dave oversees editorial, ad sales and production, while Dayna handles finances, marketing, subscription services, and circulation with the help of two part-time employees. In recent months, Dusty, now 17, has joined the team to conduct Junior Baseball's interviews with Big League players. "I think they enjoy talking to Dusty more than Dave because they remember being baseball-hungry kids too," says Dayna with a laugh. Then there's 12-year-old daughter Deanne, who occasionally helps with mailroom chores. Deanne enjoys playing softball, and, not surprisingly, the Destlers are considering adding another magazine focused on that sport.

What's Great About My Mentor?

To develop their business plan and SBA loan application for Junior Baseball magazine, the Destlers enrolled in an entrepreneurship course offered by the SBA's Small Business Development Center. They also began meeting with volunteer SCORE Mentors Nisan Matlin and Robert Emerson. The two business veterans worked with the couple to develop their business and financial plans, analyze complex spreadsheets, and refine their marketing strategy.

"We went over every aspect of the plan, trying different projections and fine-tuning the figures," says Dayna. "It was very reassuring to have input from experienced business executives."

Matlin and Emerson's advice proved to be as valuable as a batting tip from Barry Bonds. Their suggestion of a new publishing schedule and refinanced loan relieved the financial pressure, allowing Junior Baseball to grow in step with its advertiser and reader base.

How SCORE Helped

Just as baseball players frequently call on their old coaches for advice, Dave and Dayna often contact their SCORE mentors via phone and email for business tips that will help keep Junior Baseball slugging. "We couldn't have done it without them, both when we got started and when we hit the rough times," Dayna says. "SCORE is truly a wonderful, valuable organization."

Fastsigns Finds Success With SCORE

Shane Beard wanted a career change so he sought guidance from his local SCORE chapter about purchasing a nearby franchise. Wanting to learn the ins and outs of business, Shane had several meetings with his SCORE mentor. With help from SCORE, Shane reworked a successful business plan that allowed him to make a successful career transition.

Owner/Founder
Shane Beard
My Location
Naperville IL
United States
Employees
5
Year Company Formed
1989
My Successes

After making the purchase and completing his management training, Shane took over the Naperville Fastsigns store on April 1, 1996. In his first 12 months, he boosted the store's sales by nearly 50 percent, and has enjoyed similar success every year since.

Marketing is the lifeblood of any business. By tracking his sales, Shane has found that he gets three times as many customers through referrals as from ads or direct mail pieces—not bad for a store that didn't have the best reputation for quality before Shane took over. "I've done everything possible to get my name and face out to potential customers, and improve the quality of our products and services," he says. "I've learned that if you've earned the respect of someone, he or she will sing your praises to other people. Burt is a genuine professional, and I like to think the feeling is mutual. I'm happy to return all the favors he's done for me by helping SCORE any way I can."

What's Great About My Mentor?

Shane had created a business plan and first went to his local SCORE for help with his plan to get financing to purchase the franchise. The SCORE mentor "massaged" a few sections, then sent Shane back to the banks. He wasn't immediately successful—some lenders questioned whether Shane could revive a franchise that had not performed well in the past few years. On his fifth try, one bank said yes. "I am so glad the mentor made those changes to my plan," Shane says. "Along with helping me get the loan, that business plan served as my calling card for securing the other services I needed, like a lawyer and a contract accountant."

How SCORE Helped

Developing a winning business plan was just the beginning of Shane's relationship with SCORE. He went back frequently to attend seminars on insurance, management, and other business issues. "I was always impressed with the people they brought in to talk to us," he says. "After a great seminar on insurance, I asked the speaker for his card. He replied that he hadn't come to sell his services. He simply believed in SCORE, and wanted to pass along his knowledge to other business owners. That really says something about the caliber of people associated with SCORE."

Today, Shane regularly participates in the Naperville chapter's seminars, telling other prospective entrepreneurs what they can expect in the "real world." "A lot of my customers buy signs because they're starting a new business or giving their current company a fresh look," Beard explains. "I always tell them to call SCORE. They can help someone who's just starting out, or a business that's been around for awhile." he says. "I'm glad the story generated that kind of response because SCORE is a great, yet often overlooked resource. I'm always happy to talk them up."

Barbara Gray Krause Designs Finds Success WIth SCORE Mentor

Barbara Krause had everything it took to be a successful graphic designer: more than 20 years of experience, numerous awards, and a Rolodex full of prestigious clients who appreciated the quality and timeliness of her work.

So what was she doing selling construction products?

That's what a volunteer mentor at SCORE's Las Vegas chapter wanted to know in 1996 when Barbara sought advice about her latest business venture. " Doubtful of the product's prospects for success, the mentor encouraged Barbara to consider a business that would capitalize on her natural talents instead. Barbara went home still pondering the potential of her relative's proposition, but the words of the SCORE mentor had struck a chord in her thinking. While attending a business networking luncheon some time later, Barbara sensed the proverbial "light bulb" clicking on in her mind. Instead of concentrating only on logos and brochure typefaces, why not help other businesses design their overall corporate image?

Owner/Founder
Barbara Krause
My Location
Las Vegas NV
United States
Employees
3
Year Company Formed
1996
My Successes

Certain she had finally hit on a solid, attractive opportunity, Barbara wanted to avoid making the same mistakes that had limited her success in the past. "It was discouraging to know so little about running a business," she says. "I was determined to learn how to become a business person."

Barbara initially gave her plan six months to succeed, yet she hardly noticed when that deadline arrived. By then, she had developed a thriving business aiding firms of all sizes and types. Her strategy included conducting seminars on marketing, even though she was a novice at public speaking. But by concentrating on what she knew and what her audience wanted to learn, she quickly became a hit on the Las Vegas business-meeting circuit. Her message is simple, yet effective: Small businesses can support each other by trading their expertise and knowledge.

Barbara has since expanded the scope of her services by teaming with Nevada State Bank to offer seminars on home buying in the fast-growing Las Vegas area. She's also conducting programs on how members of today's "sandwich generation" can balance their home and work responsibilities with the demands of caring for aging parents. Another project in the works—a TV production on do-it-yourself logo design—will soon bring her to cable systems around the country.

Meanwhile, demand for her seminars on marketing and networking continue to grow along with her consulting business. Barbara says that this torrent of talent might never have been unleashed had it not been for Bill Burns and her other SCORE mentors.

What's Great About My Mentor?

Barbara needed assistance and knew exactly where to go to find the expertise she needed,  SCORE. With the help of Volunteer Mentor Bill Burns, a former manufacturing and marketing executive with a large aluminum company, Barbara formulated business and marketing plans that would help her identify and contact clients in need of her services. The chapter's pre-business seminar also helped her understand the ins and outs of business management. "I couldn't believe it," she says. "I had paid thousands of dollars for marketing classes over the years, and here I was getting all this expertise for free, not to mention the invaluable follow-up support."

"Bill and others were so kind, approachable, and full of experience and good ideas," Barbara says. "They gave me the confidence and guidance that are so important to get a business started. Thanks to them, I've found a conduit by which I can succeed by doing something I enjoy, enrich my own life and help many other people in the process."

SOS Sales Help -

“I am amazed by the ever-increasing amount of business we are getting,” says Jason Siefken, President and Owner of “SOS-Sales Help™,” a newly created East Central Iowa business. Despite starting his firm in October, 2008, one of the worst times for business in the last one-hundred years, SOS is defying the odds in this “bear” market. What’s the secret to Jason’s success? Find out here.

My Successes

SUCCESS STORY: SOS Sales Help

BEATING THE ODDS IN A DOWN MARKET

 

Bus Card“I am amazed by the ever-increasing amount of business we are getting,” says Jason Siefken, President and Owner of “SOS-Sales Help™,” a newly created Cedar Rapids area business. Despite starting his firm in October, 2008, one of the worst times for business in the last one-hundred years, SOS is defying the odds in this “bear” market.

What’s the secret to Jason’s success? “We cost-effectively identify sales prospects, allowing sales people to focus on bringing in the revenues,” says Jason. “We reduce customer acquisition cost.” A real business need, it seems.

Sounds simple now. But getting to the great idea took planning—and some help from SCORE®.

Bus CardIn early-July, 2008, Jason came to SCORE® armed with an idea and an aspiration to be in business in 30-60 days. The SCORE® counselor at the time recalls feeling his jaw drop. Businesses normally require a minimum of 4-6 months of planning, if not years. This is the story of how confusion turned into a great kickoff success in record time.

Backstory

Like most entrepreneurs, Jason started with the belief that always precedes determined independent business action: he was convinced that he could do something “better.” After working in larger customer acquisition and service companies for years, he truly believed he had a better approach. He also had the confidence and the drive every successful business person needs. “I always wanted to be an entrepreneur,” he recalls.

Bus CardA Cedar Rapids native and graduate of Linn-Mar High School, Jason attended Kirkwood Community College for his business management education. He then worked at MCI, APAC, Toyota, Yellow Book, and Stamats, Inc., where he held management positions in business-to-business (B-to-B) sales, customer services, and setting up call centers. At Stamats he helped build an inside “B to B” sales team, growing it from one to 17 people. These experiences prepared him for his new start-up.

After acquiring all that experience, Jason felt ready to break into the world of personal business ownership. But like many entrepreneurs with a great idea, he had trouble focusing on specifics: how to start his new business, how to identify the important initial priorities, and how to overcome the fear of the “business plan.” Fortunately, he had the conviction and courage to ask SCORE® for help. He soon discovered how simple these things can be.


How it came together

“SCORE® helped to make the business planning straightforward and easy. It gave me a layman's approach I could understand.”

Bus CardJason’s SCORE® counselor, Greg Tomsic (at right), introduced him to the four (4) basic parts of a business plan. He explained to Jason how to do each part quickly and in what order.

Jason and Greg began by creating a draft “marketing brochure” to surface and hone the new business's strengths and pitch. They followed this with the approach to and creation of an 18-month forecast.

“If you take the time to do an 18-month forecast and you get it right, you cannot help but succeed,” suggests Tomsic. “This forecast is the secret. Jason was one of the best I have seen at this task.”

Jason's “knacks” in forecasting and market sense allowed him to begin his business in under 60 days. He did this by unrelentingly dealing with each planning step and doing it well. And, he did it on about four (4) pages.
Jason also learned to be frugal with money. Rather than establishing a fancy storefront, Jason began his business in his home with minimum investment.
“Minimize expenses. Don't take on debt,” Jason advises others who are just starting. “Most people know that quote 'If you build it, they will come.' Do the exact opposite,” he says. “When they come, you can build it.'”

What now?

Bus CardJason's business is doing better than he expected—better than his plan. He has found that providing high-level executive leads to clients is greatly appreciated. “We facilitate successful sales and our clients are responding.”

Jason has bigger plans for the future. He foresees a number of other services he can provide to help small businesses understand their customers better, secure them and grow revenues. And happily, he prefers working with small businesses with revenues in the $0.5 to $2.0 million. “I want to help businesses like mine grow.” SOS and its team are there to help the little guy. This could prove a great benefit to our community and others.

TIPS for success -- from this month's "Success"

  1. Start with something you know.
  2. Keep it simple
  3. Understand your market.
  4. Minimize expenses. Don't take on debt.
    (Start in your home if you can.)
  5. Make maximum use of technology to ease the workload, frugally.
  6. Ask SCORE® for help. (“The quality of help I got from SCORE® was far superior to any I could have imagined.”)
  7. Get a good accountant. “I went to the one in a recent SCORE® Success Story, and they are wonderful to work with. Classic Tax of Marion understands the little guy.” This is another lesson learned from SCORE®.

A useful business lesson:

Any business can benefit by asking firms like 'SOS Sales Help™' to do customer surveys or lead development for them. It can be a cost effective way to understand your customers better, figure out how to reach them and grow. And, many companies think this month's Success Story is 'one of the best' at this job. Food for thought.

How SOS Can Help You

  • Have a small business that needs new customers?
  • Want to discover what customers think of you and your strengths?
  • In need of a someone to help you identify and document prospects?
  • Want to test your marketing ideas or assess a new product?

Call (319) 550-8203 or visit SOS on the web at:
http://sossaleshelp.com/ OR CLICK THE CARD BELOW.

Bus Card

 

1616 1st Avenue NW
Cedar Rapids, IA 52405

 

 

 

MORE ABOUT THE 4-PARTS OF A BUSINESS PLAN:

Biz Card

A list of suggested service providers for SCORE Clients

Wildflower Linen

"If you need help, there are people right there [at SCORE], with amazing knowledge. And free! ” -Youngsong Martin, Owner of Wildflower Linen.

See video
Owner/Founder
Youngsong Martin
My Location
Fountain Valley CA
United States
Employees
12
Year Company Formed
2002
My Successes

A wedding reception, party or other special event should be a memorable experience for hosts and guests alike. But to fashion designer Youngsong Martin, something just didn’t look right.  By drawing on her extensive experience in the world of apparel, Young felt she could “dress” the entire event by creating elegantly tailored slipcovers and linens, and in the process, help define a memory-making tone of glamour. That idea led to the formation of Wildflower Linens.

Almost immediately, Young saw her idea take off among Southern California’s event organizers. In fact, she was afraid her business would grow too fast. 

“You don’t really realize what’s involved with running a business until you actually do it,” Young explains. “I was comfortable with my marketing approach, but I definitely needed help with the management and financial aspects.”

With SCORE’s help, Wildflower Linen has a solid financial and marketing foundation to support continued growth. Corporations, banquet managers, event organizers and bridal reception planners across Southern California now call on Young to assist with events in private homes, and in venues as diverse as the Ritz-Carlton Hotels in Laguna Niguel and Pasadena, the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Birthplace, and luxurious charter yachts in Newport Beach. And, with several Hawaiian resorts now among her clientele, Young’s company is poised to serve party planners and event venues nationwide.

What's Great About My Mentor?

“It took only a few conversations with Terri to know that I could trust this organization,” Young says. “She understood immediately the kind of business I wanted, and was so enthusiastic about helping me. I couldn’t believe she and other business veterans would be willing do so much and not receive a penny for their efforts.” 

Former sales and marketing professional Terri Carr helped Young refine her business goals and reviewed her marketing program. 

Young also began working with Jim Anderson, who used his extensive background in finance and management to review Wildflower Linen’s accounting and financial practices. He also helped with issues such as expense tracking, inventory control, taxes and planning/budgeting.

“It’s one thing to think you know where your money’s going, but it’s quite another to actually write expenses down and see how they affect your operations,” Young says. “Jim helps me analyze expenses and determine if they are necessary to help keep my business growing. It’s almost like I’m getting an MBA from him!”

How SCORE Helped

Young remembered hearing about SCORE several years earlier during the launch of another business venture, and decided to give them a call. Young continues to rely on Jim Anderson and SCORE to help in monitoring her company’s financial health, as well as other issues such as employee benefits stuff and insurance. “Small businesses often fail because they don’t get help,” Young says. “They can find everything they need at SCORE, and for no charge. At some point, I hope to become a SCORE mentor and provide other entrepreneurs the same kind of expert assistance I’ve been blessed to receive from Jim and Terri.”

“I liked the idea of working with retired executives who understand what small business is all about. They have a track record, but they also had to start somewhere too.” says Youngsong Martin.

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