SCORE SC LOWCOUNTRY HELPS SMALL BUSINESSES GET GOING
SCORE SC Lowcountry is a small business’ resource dream, and for 31 years it has successfully connected volunteer mentors to clients with an impressive outreach model.
SCORE was founded in 1964 and established locally in 1989. Nationally, 2020 saw more than 140,000 business clients receive assistance from more than 11,000 mentors. The Lowcountry SCORE chapter is one of 250 nationwide, with 45 active volunteer mentors serving Beaufort, Colleton, Jasper and Hampton counties. The nonprofit was named 2019’s chapter of the year for the small business market.
The goal is to foster vibrant small business communities through mentoring and education.
From start-up issues and business-plan development, to maintaining, growing, or even selling, SCORE’s experienced mentors are excited to help the business communities remain vibrant.
“It’s hard to put into words the charge I get watching others achieve their dreams,” said Rod Casavant, SCORE SC Lowcountry chairman, who is a retired Eli Lilly executive. “With having an expert mentor in your business, the chances of success are higher. ‘Our clients’ success is our success,’ summarizes a company-wide core value.”
The challenge of the coronavirus pandemic required swift and accurate guidance to support SCORE’s clients. The Small Business Administration was instrumental, and in cooperation with the Hilton Head-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, provided critical answers to essential resources: The CARES Act, Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loans and similar relief support.
Workshop education and seminar training has always been elemental to SCORE’s system and is now imperative.
One appreciative recipient of SCORE’s dedication is Jennifer Megliore, who recently celebrated 20 years as owner of her artisan gift store, ArtWare, in Shelter Cove Towne Centre.
Her support of SCORE is a testament to the mentors and this chapter’s dedication. She first contacted SCORE in 1999 to “firm up” her business plan, she said.
Megliore keeps a laminated photo of her first two SCORE mentors by the sales register.
“It reminds me of their guidance, and why I think I’ve been successful,” she said. “They’re my business guardian angels because they gave me something that was precious to them: their free time.”
During the pandemic Megliore reached out to SCORE and was paired with mentor John Ferrara, the 2019 SCORE SC Lowcountry mentor of the year. He was instrumental in helping navigate her through unique challenges due to the pandemic, including finding available loan options. Ferrara also helped develop appropriate pricing formulas to streamline her overall operation.
“John is wonderful, and so generous with his time,” she said. “To have someone who has lived this corporate life and share that advice is really valuable.”
Megliore is one of 23 clients Ferrara is advising through SCORE. His devotion to share his expertise spans 11 years, and says he finds satisfaction helping others avoid the “potholes” that he fell into in his past.
SCORE’s greatest advantage, Ferrara believes, is how it utilizes corporate knowledge from all backgrounds. Uniform among all mentors is proficiency in SCORE’s methodology modules, such as a strict code of ethics. Webinars and continuing education are also utilized.
Belief in diversity of people and of thought is another core value, and it compelled the Lowcountry team to create a more tangible outreach in the wake of the pandemic.
“We wanted SCORE to be more encompassing and have greater impact in this area,” says Casavant.
SCORE Lowcountry, in collaboration with the South Carolina Commission for Minority Affairs, is now collectively providing resources with the focus on minority business owners being able to take advantage of available funding, workshops, mentoring and business-plan development assistance.
PHOT0S BY MADISON ELROD