by Tom Sims
Sally has an idea for a non-profit to help urban youth navigate the challenges of 21st century life. John has a dream of opening a restaurant to feature the food that generations of family members from his homeland prepared. Marcos has a talent to share with the world. Henrietta needs to expand her existing business and market her products in the light of new realities of worldwide pandemics and new opportunities on the internet. Jackson wants to use Zoom more effectively in his consulting business.
All will turn to Central Valley SCORE this week for help. They will attend a webinar or request a mentor. In the past eleven months, CVS has reported 878 mentoring sessions and has conducted seventy-eight workshops.
SCORE’s byword is “for the life of your business.” What that means is, “We’re here for you, however long it takes when you need us to help you succeed.”
SCORE was founded in 1964 and has been affiliated with the Small Business Administration since its beginnings. As a nonprofit organization, it receives government funds, private donations, donations from individuals, businesses and foundations, especially the SCORE Foundation.
Nine million entrepreneurs have been mentored by SCORE or have attended SCORE workshops. Currently, there are about 13,000 volunteers nationwide. Locally, in the Fresno area, the Central Valley SCORE chapter has about thirty volunteers and is actively recruiting more.
SCORE is made up of volunteers. Even at the district and higher levels, there are people who work part time and full time for SCORE without pay, who administer the work of SCORE, deliver services, and form local chapters like the Central Valley chapter.
At the District level, SCORE is directed by Mr. Peter Fong, a retired successful businessman and entrepreneur who spends more than full time facilitating networking training, as well as mentoring individuals. SCORE delivers its services on a national level and on local levels. And it does so through this network of volunteers.
Among those volunteers are a combination and sometimes people will fill various roles and various hats of personal mentors who work with clients who have an idea who need to put together a business plan or a financial plan or a marketing plan.
In the past, meetings among mentors and mentoring partners have taken place in SCORE’s offices at the SBA locally, or in coffee shops, or in the offices of the people themselves. But of the last few years in in the last few years, during our COVID crisis, most of our sessions have taken place online, over Zoom or Google Meet, or through one of the other conferencing services.
This has enabled SCORE mentors to mentor more people and the requests are coming in daily. One volunteer, who began in September, and we will call, Hector, has a roster of over ninety clients and works with between 6 and 7 on a weekly basis.
Another volunteer is Nick Bjornsen, a graduate student in business who is also a client, developing his own business dream. As a SCORE volunteer, he is helping to develop a local marketing program to get SCORE’s message out to the public through the internet and social media.
Hector says that the most gratifying thing about SCORE is seeing his clients succeed and develop their ideas into realities.
Typical mentoring session is about one hour and will take place either weekly or every other week, or sometimes once a month or sometimes every six weeks. These are complemented by multiple classes that SCORE offers and records, webinars that can lead to a certificate through the five week “Simple Steps to Starting Your New Business.”
Simple Steps covers every aspect of developing a business.
People can enroll in “Grow with Google” workshops, which teach skills such as using online advertising analytics, web strategy, social media, crowd funding, getting found in search engines and on maps, analyzing demographic markets, and using a variety of free online tools.
These and many other workshops, are taught by SCORE certified presenters who have been through training and have demonstrated their ability to conduct workshops.
Training is also required for the mentors. There is a multi-course training program for mentors and all volunteers go through annual ethics training and sign on to SCORE’s code of ethics, which defines the parameters of what volunteers can do and makes sure that no volunteer is promoting his or her personal interests.
SCORE also has thousands of subject matter experts, and they are among those who are listed on the SCORE web pages or volunteers to contact and to partner with and perhaps to co-mentor with, who are experts in a variety of fields. Some of these have presented webinars on topics such as, human resources (HR), finances, funding, or specialized training in a particular industry.
Mr. Dan Payne, a SCORE mentor and presenter, is leading a task force to reach out to Veterans who desire to start businesses. He is aware of the many resources
Topics of interest in the entrepreneurial world, including, but not limited to nonprofit, expansion of existing businesses, small and larger businesses, marketing, recruiting employees and so many different areas of business development are constantly rolling out,
In the past year, Central Valley SCORE has offered training on working with government entities, especially in our local context with California government.
With personal mentors, subject matter experts, workshop presenters, and other kinds of volunteers who do our marketing and who seek to make SCORE’s operations run smoothly, the organization has a vast library of resources, webinars in a box.
One thing that SCORE wants you to know is that before you buy an expensive template, pay for costly consulting, or enroll in pricey webinar, you should check SCORE’s catalog of free offerings. Before you make a tremendous investment in your business, run your business plan by a SCORE volunteer. Or if you don’t know how to develop a business plan, get a mentor who will walk you through that process. SCORE also wants you to know that you can be both a mentor and a mentee that you probably have skills that you’re not aware of that you could bring to the table. It used to be that they are R & E in SCORE referred only to retired executives. Now, however, there are younger people involved in SCORE work, who are still in business and still in the workforce, people who are still contributing in business and non-profit work. People don’t retire as early these days when they still feel useful.
So, you do not have to be retired to sign on with SCORE as a volunteer. SCORE is actively recruiting people who have talent and want to give back to the community. In the process, SCORE volunteers have access to resources they may not have known were available. And they will tell you that SCORE has helped them in their own businesses and nonprofits to excel and to create value for their own area of service, as well as for other people, there is nothing as rewarding as feeling that you have helped someone else become a success, or you helped them overcome a hurdle to their success.
Working with SCORE, many would tell you, is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling activities of their lives.
SCORE volunteers develop friendships, relationships, and collaborations that are long lasting, and that are extremely significant and meaningful. Helping someone who wants to make a difference in the world or in the community, or in their industry to give back through their own business, to create jobs, to create income for their families is important work.
This is a venture that at the end of the day, can help a person sigh and say, “I went to bed and rested well, knowing that my day was well spent.”
SCORE wants you to know that you can call on them when you need help getting your business off the ground or taking your business to the next level. Also, call on SCORE if you have time and commitment to invest in other people. SCORE is looking for people who are willing to make the investment of time and energy in their own training, who are willing to be teachable, and who are willing to go to the next level to really treat their volunteer work as if they were being paid for it. Those are the kinds of people that not only start successful businesses but are good role models for other people who start businesses.
SCORE wants to introduce itself to you. There are many, many stories of success in our own community of people whose lives have been changed through SCORE and businesses that you would recognize that have called upon SCORE for health. Follow the links and investigate for yourself and enroll in the next round of classes. You will be glad that you did.
Central Valley SCORE: centralvalley.score.org
Upcoming Webinars: centralvalley.score.org/content/take-workshop-94
Request a Mentor: www.score.org/find-mentor
Recorded Webinars: centralvalley.score.org/recorded-webinars
Courses on Demand: centralvalley.score.org/courses-demand
Follow on Facebook: facebook.com/SCORECentralValley
801 R Street, Suite 201
Fresno, CA, 93721
PHONE: (559) 487-5791
FAX: (559) 487-5636