Retail Trade

SCORE Mentors Heart to Heart Gifts, Inc.

Before import businesswoman Yi Ping Lai connected with SCORE, her giftware and decorative accessories business specializing in silk butterflies, bees, dragonflies and flowers was marginally successful. But after attending one of San Diego SCORE’s regular workshops on Internet marketing and being taken under the wing of SCORE Mentor Marty Weiss, it was as if the silk butterfly business suddenly underwent a stunning metamorphosis, sprouted wings and literally took off.

Owner/Founder
Yi Ping Lai
My Location
Oceanside CA
United States
My Successes

“I was a bit discouraged, lacking confidence in myself and having fears about expanding my business,” Lai says about the early days of her business, Heart to Heart Gifts, Inc.  “When you feel that way, you tend to think small, settle for less and stay in your comfort zone where you feel safe.”

Lai used her beloved butterflies to launch Heart To Heart Gifts’ Web site in October 2004.  Since then, she’s gradually added other product lines such as costumes, accessories for parties and weddings, nylon flowers, and themed room items.

“Sales had been relatively flat,” she says, “but after working with the SCORE team of counselors, things seemed to change literally overnight.  Sales steadily increased week after week, and within five months of working with SCORE, they had jumped an incredible 1,900 percent. We’ve grown four times in less than four years, and we are projected to top $1 million in sales in 2008.”

Her uniquely-designed products have since been featured on ABC-TV’s Extreme Home Makeovers program, Discovery Channel’s Party Show, and MTV’s Spring Break at Disney World. They are in demand by some of Hollywood’s hottest set and costume designers.  Business is on the rise so much that she projected a 100 percent increase in sales for 2005.

“Having my own business gives me the freedom to choose who I want to work with or for,” she says.  “My business is a also a channel for me to express creativity in a very positive way.  I am the artist of my business, starting with a blank canvas and my own vision.  These are all the good things of having your own business.”

What's Great About My Mentor?

Following her first SCORE workshop, Lai met personally with SCORE Mentor Marty Weiss, who asked her questions about her business and helped formulate an action plan.  He followed up with encouraging phone calls and emails and set up regular appointments to meet again to check on her progress.  He assured her the journey she was embarking upon wasn’t easy, but it was doable with some help.  Those were the words she needed to hear.

“Marty’s experience in online marketing and business in general is incredible,” Lai says.  “He taught me how to take things in stages to conserve my budget, rather than doing everything at once.  Marty also helped me understand the importance of disciplined financial management and analysis, something that I hadn’t been doing up until then.

With the help of Weiss, Lai refined her business plan, took additional business skills workshops in sales and marketing, and sent employees for software and bookkeeping training.

With help from additional SCORE mentors, she started looking at her business in a bigger and different way–building her brand and pursuing licensing contracts with artists and designers–which she feels was the key to taking her to that next level. “I can’t say enough thanks to Ron Woodland, Jerry Greenspan, Ken Abraham, and Arnold Jaffe,” Lai says.  “All of them are wonderful.”

How SCORE Helped

“Suddenly I was feeling more empowered and had more faith in myself and my abilities,” she says.  “I not only got valuable knowledge and business skills from SCORE, but also emotional support and someone to stand by me as well, even if I made a mistake.  At the end of the day, I didn’t feel so alone in my business.  SCORE coached me and cheered me on.”

“There’s no question that SCORE changed my life and direction,” Lai said.  “They are a source of inspiration, empowerment and wisdom, and are great role models.  It is intellectually stimulating and energizing being with them.  They have changed my world for the better.”

Lai considers SCORE a valuable business partner that motivated her to work hard and stay focused and disciplined on her tasks.  The reward for her efforts as a small business owner is independence, complete control of her direction, and the opportunity to be creative.

Looking back now, Lai says the rapid success she has already achieved under the tutelage of SCORE and its mentors would have otherwise taken her many more years had she done it by herself.

“I would highly recommend SCORE to anyone thinking about launching or expanding a business,” she says.  “People don’t get the whole SCORE concept until they go through it.  They helped me keep an open mind, have the patience to stay with it, and believe in myself.  Finding SCORE was the turning point for me and my business.”

SCORE Mentor Advices Solmate Socks

As a lifelong knitter, Marianne Wakerlin knows all about the intricacies of creating multi-colored patterns for sweaters, hats and scarves. She never dreamed that turning her hobby into a successful business would prove to be just as tricky.

Owner/Founder
Marianne Wakerlin
My Location
South Strafford VT
United States
Year Company Formed
2000
My Successes

 

When the former financial planner moved from Chicago to Vermont in 1999, Marianne searched for a way to generate a modest income and still have time to enjoy the low-stress environment of her new home. Her distinctive handmade socks had always been popular among friends and acquaintances, so she began exploring ways to manufacture them for sale via stores and clothing wholesalers. However, Marianne had no history to draw on for production costs, distribution, or whether the textile technology existed to accurately reproduce the designs. She didn't even know if there was a market for socks priced at more than $20 a pair.

Marianne kept in close contact with SCORE during the two years it took to identify manufacturers and wool supply sources, modify the sock designs, and fine-tune the production process—a task that many textile industry experts deemed impossible. Marianne's patience and persistence paid off, resulting in a cost-efficient production process.  

Along with trying to perfect the production process, Marianne has been busy attending trade shows to attract the interest of potential vendors. Fueled by the socks' popularity as Christmas gifts, she saw sales jump from $8,000 in the first year to $110,000 in 2001. Because the socks can be produced only in limited quantities for now, she's taking a measured approach to expanding her business—an approach that includes working with Stuart Pompian and SCORE.

What's Great About My Mentor?

Marianne faced many hard questions before she could start her business. Luckily, she didn't have to find the answers on her own. SCORE Mentor Stuart Pompian helped Marianne identify a wide range of start-up issues such as developing a business plan, preparing financials, and identifying potential accounts. He then provided Marianne with the resources and guidance that helped her uncover the answers she needed, and coached her through the sometimes intimidating process of applying for a line of credit to finance supplies and inventory.

How SCORE Helped

“Each step in the process of developing my business was overwhelming,” says Marianne. “SCORE helped me focus on the important issues. I can honestly say I don’t know how I could have done it alone. I really think I would have given up.”

Beverly Designs Works to Success With SCORE Mentor

The story begins in 1994, when a class in painting on clothing led Beverly Bartel to begin selling her hand-painted clothes at a local weekend farmers' market. The strong response led her to the art show circuit, attracting even more attention, but also forcing her to make some hard decisions. "Everyone kept saying that I ought to do this for a living," she says. "I just couldn't see how I could make it work."

Owner/Founder
Beverly Bartel
My Location
Oconomowoc WI
United States
Year Company Formed
1997
My Successes

In 1997, Beverly Bartel learned that a small downtown retail location would soon become available. Acting on her instinct, she asked her family for financial support and signed a three-year lease on the site. Displaying her creations and lines of manufactured women's and children's clothes in the front, Bartel set up a studio in the back room and waited for the customers to call. And call they did—creating so many distractions that Bartel often found herself spending more time at the cash register than in her studio.

Being one of only two women's clothing stores in the small community of 10,000 residents, Beverly Bartel's store has become a popular shopping destination. She just moved from her cramped quarters to a more spacious location across the street. Bartel also makes every effort to keep her store in the public eye, through advertisements, community involvement, and, recently, a Mothers' Day photo spread of her designs for Wisconsin Woman magazine.

What's Great About My Mentor?

Beverly Bartel was shocked when she learned that her SCORE mentor would be Yoko Gochinas. A well-known figure in the fashion and design industry, Gochinas seemed to be the perfect match for Bartel, an artist trying to figure out how to turn her talents into a business.

Gochinas was there to help me refocus my energies. "Yoko is a very demanding person, but she also understands that not everybody is a born risk-taker," Bartel says. "She helped build my self-confidence and kept me moving forward."

How SCORE Helped

Beverly Bartel heard about SCORE and enrolled in the Milwaukee Chapter's four-part seminar on business start-ups. Although the idea of making a living off her talents became increasingly appealing, it seemed that behind every silver lining lurked a dark gray cloud. "There seemed to be so many unknowns about running a business," she says. "I was also dealing with a divorce and the prospect of having to raise two kids on my own. I began to wonder whether this was such a good idea after all."

JL Laboratories, Inc. Finds Success With SCORE

Dr. Gordhan Patel, president of JP Laboratories, Inc., invented a wallet-sized plastic card called SIRAD that instantly monitors the accumulation of radiation exposure in the event of a terrorist attack, armed conflict or nuclear plant leak. But how to make sure it gets in the hands of those who need it?

Owner/Founder
Dr. Gordhan Patel
My Location
Middlesex NJ
United States
My Successes

SCORE mentor Warren Jacobs and Dr. Patel finalized a marketing plan and JP Laboratories received the equipment it needed to start production. In September 2006, JP Laboratories was awarded a grant of $1 million for additional research on the continued development of SIRAD. More than 5,000 of the cards have been sold.

JP Laboratories also began working with security officials in the United Kingdom to make it available there. For Dr. Patel, the future is bright and he knows he can count on his SCORE team for ongoing advice.

What's Great About My Mentor?

In July 2005, Dr. Patel called Metro New Jersey SCORE and talked to SCORE mentor Warren Jacobs. Dr. Patel sought SCORE's advice on how to best market his new product. 

Warren sat down with me and gave recommendations on marketing, setting a cost, general finances and evaluating their business for maximum manufacturing capacity. At our next meeting, SCORE mentor Howard Baker, CPA, joined the discussion. They again focused on marketing, accounting processes and product manufacturing development.

How SCORE Helped

With SCORE's guidance, Dr. Patel decided to work with a well-regarded distributor that had national coverage to market SIRAD.

Kamdyn's Kloset Business Plan Complete With Help of SCORE Mentor

If you are looking for a source of high quality, fashionable clothing for children, and a source of unique toys and gifts, you should plan a trip to downtown Guthrie and visit Kamdyn’s Kloset at 124 West Oklahoma Avenue.

 

Jessica Stout opened Kamdyn’s Kloset as a children’s clothing store in October 2009.  She was looking for a way to build her career while still being able to provide full-time care for her daughter, Kamdyn, who was born with special medical needs.  Owning her own store and being able to adjust her schedule as necessary allows Jessica the freedom and flexibility to take part in her son Caden's activities as well as other important family events. 

 

Jessica comments: “It is really the best of both worlds because I get to go to work and interact with expectant mothers, women who already have children and grandparents of all types.  So, I get to keep up on current issues with kids, and be involved with some of the best parents and while being an activist for kids at the same time.  I recently had a costume contest to support a family whose son was born requiring open-heart surgery days after birth.  Currently, I am working on several different promotions that are all part of a toy drive to collect toys for children who, without donations, may have nothing for Christmas.  In my business I am very LUCKY to be able to be active in causes for children that are dear to my heart, while greatly enjoying children's fashion and shopping… and still having the time to be with my family.”

 

The location in downtown Guthrie, a unique historical community, was picked because it was next to a toy store, and because of the traffic generated by special activities in the town, as well as the proximity to Jessica's home.  Jessica sought SCORE assistance to develop an initial business plan and eventually financed the store herself. 

 

Experiencing cash flow problems after a couple of months, Jessica again came to SCORE and developed a short term marketing plan using e-mail and direct mail to bring shoppers in for excellent end of season values on fall/winter items.  In turn, this enabled Kamdyn’s Kloset to move into much needed spring clothes.  This approach has succeeded several times since.

 

A few months later, the owner of the toy store next door came into some difficult times and began to sell toys at Kamdyn’s Kloset on consignment, thus keeping their product available, and allowing the owner of the toy store to sort some things out and still move her merchandise.  This period also allowed Jessica an opportunity to experience the "toy world" with no upfront costs of risks of simply ordering toys.

 

In the summer of 2010, the owner of the toy store had a change of heart and Artisan toys became available for buy out by Kamdyn’s Kloset. After seeing how well the toy store and clothing paired over the consignment period, Jessica immediately jumped on the opportunity to own the toy business.  She once again sought SCORE advice and eventually applied for an SBA loan via one of the large Oklahoma SBA lenders who recognized her success and her opportunity.  With the loan in hand, Jessica moved into the toy business, and has been successful, due to the support of her husband, her extended family, and with the continued expertise of the previous toy store owner who continues to advise Jessica on her purchases. Jessica brought a training merchandising and fashion, as well as, management experience background to Kamdyn’s Kloset, but has had to learn the ins and outs of being a sole proprietor.

Owner/Founder
Jessica Stout
My Location
124 W. Oklahoma
Guthrie OK
United States

Jelly Belly Candy Co. Becomes More Efficient With Help From SCORE

One day in the early 1960's, 22 -year-old Herm Rowland was thumbing through a copy of Reader's Digest when he read an article about SCORE, then a new program that offered free counseling services to small businesses.

If there was one thing that Herm felt he and his parents needed at the time, it was good advice. They were the owners of the Herman Goelitz Candy Company, an Oakland, CA, candy manufacturing business founded by his grandfather.  Despite its reputation for quality and modest annual growth rate, the company yielded only a minimal profit. A disappointing experience with a  paid consultant had made the family leery of seeking outside help, but the no-risk proposition of free counseling led Herm to give SCORE a call.

It was a decision that Herm says, "changed my life."

Owner/Founder
Herm Rowland
My Location
Fairfield CA 94533
United States
Employees
650
Year Company Formed
1898
My Successes

The Herman Goelitz Candy Company evolved into the Jelly Belly Company, maker of the world-famous, flavor-rich gourmet jelly beans that have delighted everyone from toddlers to adults, including President Ronald Reagan, for more than 30 years. Each year, Jelly Belly produces more than 34 million pounds of tasty treats, including more than 50 varieties of jelly beans ranging from bubble gum to kiwi.  With nearly 800,000 square feet of production facilities in its two U.S. factories, Jelly Belly also makes candy corn, chocolates, gummies, sour candies and other tasty confections.

Jelly Belly's success continues as they recently announced plans to build a plant in Thailand to better serve its growing international customer base. Now the company's chairman and CEO, Herm has enjoyed watching his children and grandchildren become involved with the business, making Jelly Belly a fifth-generation family enterprise. And speaking of family, Jelly Belly still makes candy corn based on Herman Goelitz's original recipe.

What's Great About My Mentor?

Herm recalls  McDaniels as being "all-business," yet genuinely concerned about helping the family turn the business around. And there were no shortages of issues to tackle.

"One problem was that we were operating out of a cramped 10,000-square-foot building, which created a lot of manufacturing inefficiencies," Herm recalls. "Mr. McDaniel told us that we needed to expand, even though we weren't making money. Ordinarily, we wouldn't have even considered taking such a bold step. But we trusted his judgment and decided to move forward."

"Our profit and loss statements were practically worthless to us," Herm says. "Mr. McDaniels helped us define our overhead expenses, which formed the basis of a costing system we still use today. We know the exact amount of overhead for each of our products, whereas other companies often just add a fixed percentage. They don't know if that's their true overhead cost of not."

Perhaps more importantly, McDaniel proved to be an ideal mentor for Herm, providing practical business tools and wisdom that would prove valuable as he guided the company through the ups and downs of business, and be positioned for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to introduce gourmet jelly beans in 1976.

"There's no doubt that Mr. McDaniel helped save our family's company, because he gave me real-life solutions to address our challenges," Herm says. "But he also taught me that to be successful, you have to think in terms of 'us' and 'we', not 'I' and 'me'. That was a small mental adjustment, but it really woke me up to the importance of teamwork and commitment."

How SCORE Helped

"I have many fond memories of Mr. McDaniel, and we were so fortunate to have his help and support," Herm says. "I've told many other small business owners that they too can get the same kind of valuable advice by calling SCORE. But remember that SCORE won't do the work for you. You must be willing to listen and follow through on your mentor's recommendations."

Recalling that long-ago Reader's Digest article, Herm says that, "Everything SCORE promised came true thanks to Mr. McDaniel. SCORE is a wonderful resource for small businesses."

Vera Bradley

It's a long way from the basement to the big time, but Barbara Bradley Baekgaard and Patricia Miller have taken their line of women's luggage, accessories and clothing from trunk sales in their homes to major markets around the globe. The story began when the two new neighbors discovered they shared an interest in fashion design. They soon noticed that women lacked functional, attractive luggage for business trips.  With $500 and the name of Barbara's mother, they developed some prototypes for soft, quilted duffel bags and purses.

The items were the hit of an in-home clothing show, and demand grew. Baekgaard and Miller soon found themselves searching for experienced seamstresses, deals on wholesale fabric, and -- perhaps most important -- sound business advice.  

For 30-plus years, Vera Bradley has offered luggage and purses that mix function and fashion. To learn more about Vera Bradley, visit verabradley.com.

Owner/Founder
Barbara Bradley Baekgaard and Patricia Miller
My Location
Ft. Wayne IN
United States
Year Company Formed
1982
My Successes

In just three years, the firm topped $1 million in sales and has enjoyed steady growth ever since.  In 1987, Vera Bradley's founders received one of Ernst & Young's coveted "Entrepreneur of the Year" Awards. Baekgaard was one of the first women on the board of the prestigious Chicago Gift Show and serves on the Board of Directors of the Gift Association of America. Baekgaard and Miller's success story has also been chronicled in numerous newspaper and magazine articles as a proud example of other aspiring businesswomen to follow.

Vera Bradley has been publicly traded since 2010.

What's Great About My Mentor?

Even with their many business accomplishments, Baekgaard and Miller never hesitated to contact SCORE and Cook for advice. "George's help is invaluable," Miller says, "and he's never too busy to offer guidance."

How SCORE Helped

The Vera Bradley team contacted Ft. Wayne SCORE and were matched with volunteer mentor George Cook. Cook applied his extensive experience in corporate finance to help Baekgaard and Miller develop a business plan, as well as establish bookkeeping and inventory procedures. 

"From the very start, George insisted on a balance sheet, profit and loss statement, and inventory report every month, no matter how tiny the list of figures," recalls Miller. "George never told us what to do or how to do it. He would ask questions that helped us find the solutions for ourselves. We were very lucky to connect with somebody whose business expertise complimented our creativity."

    List of Ventura County Library locations for Business Research
    

Locations of Libraries in Ventura County for Business Research

 

BeLaro Jewelers

 

 
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Owner/Founder
Becky Clifford and Laura Imhof
My Location
31 E Lancaster Ave
Downingtown PA 19335
United States
How SCORE Helped


 

“SCORE gave us the confidence to overcome our fears of opening our own store…and helped us understand the business side of the operation”
Laura Imhof

Two visionary entrepreneurs with a passion for the retail jewelry business came to SCORE seeking guidance to start their new business. Becky Clifford and Laura Imhof had been employed by Lockhart Jewelers of Downingtown, Pa. for many years having become skilled artisans in custom jewelry design and repair, and in inventory selection and counter sales. After the untimely death of their employer, Ronald Lockhart and subsequent liquidation of the business, Becky and Laura were left with a major career decision… “What do we do now?”.

Lockhart Jewelers had been the only jeweler located in downtown Downingtown and many loyal customers were asking Becky and Laura where to go now that the business was closing. The prospect of starting their own business appeared overwhelming. They set up a counseling session with two SCORE counselors, Charlie Espenlaub and Jim Freidman, after having heard about SCORE from a local business owner. After listening to Becky and Laura talk about their passion for opening their own jewelry store, Charlie and Jim discussed the business issues to be addressed when starting up a retail business. SCORE assisted Becky and Laura in understanding the potential profitability of the various retail jewelry product and service lines and therefore the products and services they should focus on in a startup business. SCORE also assisted them with the selection of their business location, counseled them on borrowing money to finance their startup, and apprised them of other support services they would require to become a successful retail business.

Becky and Laura opened their store in October 2009. What makes this story most remarkable is that their business continues to grow, and is now prof- itable when many small retail jewelers are closing or facing operating losses in these difficult economic times. Laura says “SCORE gave us the confidence to overcome our fears of opening our own store”.
Becky and Laura believe that another factor of their businesses’ success is personalized customer service. They continue to see many old customers or “old friends” from their days at Lockhart Jewelers plus a growing base of new repeat customers. Becky says, “Attention to detail and going that extra mile to meet our customer’s needs has been our secret to success”. She says “For in- stance a customer needed a piece of jewelry repaired within 24 hours of her wedding and we met the challenge”. Laura says, “Becky and I had the passion for the selling, crafting and repairing jewelry and SCORE helped us understand the business side of the operation”

Hive Creations Receives Advice From SCORE Mentor

Owners and artists Justin Kingsley Noyes and Rachel Vanatta Noyes established The Hive Creations in 2007, and began by creating 100% of their merchandise for the first few years of business.  Their concept eventually evolved to represent numerous talented artists from all over the world, which has most recently grown to over 300. 

Owner/Founder
Justin Kingsley Noyes and Rachel Vanatta Noyes
My Location
Bradenton Beach FL
United States
Year Company Formed
2007
My Successes

Rachel's line of jewelry, Nectar Jewelry (www.NectarJewelry.com) is sought after by jewelry collectors looking for something unique, which just happens to be her signature slogan, "Bee Unique". The jewelry line has been featured internationally in additional galleries, and more recently fashion events. Justin's illustrations and portfolio of commercial art accounts continue to gain momentum. His work has been featured in everything from magazines, books and restaurants, to major motion pictures in Hollywood, CA. Both hold degrees from th prestigious Savannah College of Art & Design.

What's Great About My Mentor?

It started with Rachel, who was searching for a way to market her jewelry line, but lacked the tools and info to do so herself. She contacted SCORE back in 2005, and was paired with SCORE advisor Jon Stuart. The two had weekly and bi-weekly meetings, and began by discussing how to create a better web presence. Over the next few years as positive stride were made, Rachel and her husband Justin came to the decision to work together and open their retail store and gallery.

How SCORE Helped

SCORE played a major role in beginning their endeavor by guiding the duo through the process of financing, creating a business plan, finding a retail space, just to name a few aspects.

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