The Colorado Springs chapter of SCORE finds itself in the proverbial “Catch 22.”
Word is getting out about the organization, which provides business mentoring to people who want to start a business and those who own their business. People are signing up for the 118 workshops hosted each year by SCORE where they can learn everything from how to write a business plan to how to maximize inventory.
In 2012, Colorado Springs SCORE volunteers saw 338 new clients and 565 returning clients.
But now there are not enough volunteers to grow the program, said Jerry Musselman, SCORE Colorado Springs chapter chair.
“We are maxed out,” Musselman said. “We need more volunteers. With more volunteers the impact on the community keeps growing.”
SCORE was launched in 1964 under the Small Business Administration. The idea was for seasoned business owners to sit down free of charge with entrepreneurs and small business owners — no matter what stage of business they were in — and provide advice about how to grow their business. There are chapters all over the country, and three in Colorado.
Last year, SCORE volunteers across the country donated 1 million hours of service, contacted 500,000 small business owners and mentored businesses that grew jobs by 100,000.
Locally, one of those businesses is Janska Clothing and Janska in Stitches. Four years ago, owner Jan Erickson went to SCORE because she was nervous about her business growing so quickly — about 40 percent a year. She worried that the company wouldn’t be able to keep up with the demand. She and her husband and business partner Jon Thomas have been working with SCORE counselors every since. (Read more about Janska in the CSBJ)
“When you grow, you run into a brick wall,” Thomas said. “We went to SCORE and started a relationship with SCORE.”
Since then, the company grew from four employees to 36 employees. Janska acquired a Springs sewing manufacturing company and now has moved into a larger location. Thomas said he still meets with SCORE counselors on a regular basis.
“Mentoring can be a one-time deal,” Musselman said. “But we want to establish a long-term relationship. This is the unique thing that differentiates SCORE from other organizations.”
Musselman said SCORE wants to work with the dreamers — those who are just beginning to outline their business ideas; the doers — those who are in startup mode; and the existing businesses who are poised to grow.
Sixteen years ago Becky Anderson took her idea of buying a sports bar to SCORE.
“After a two-hour meeting I knew we should run as far from that idea as we could get,” she said.
Then she went back in 2011 with a better idea that suited her: Earth Cures, an herbal pharmacy. She has taken every class offered by SCORE from social media to web design to a five-week course on business development. Anderson launched Earth Cures, an e-commerce business, in February 2012 and now her products are sold in 10 stores locally, on her website and it at least one shop in Indiana.
Musselman said entrepreneurs and small business owners have the benefit of being counseled by someone who has run a successful business. Each SCORE counselor, on average, has more than 20 years experience.
“We know that if we can make contact with someone who wants to start a business, their chances of success are 30 percent higher,” Musselman said.
For classes or to volunteer go to the SCORE website.