By Elizabeth Pou
Barbara Schnautz has been a member of SCORE, an all volunteer organization dedicated to helping small businesses succeed, ever since she and her husband, John moved from the northeast to Asheville nearly 25 years ago. Both John and Barbara had business backgrounds. Barbara had heard about SCORE while she was obtaining an MBA.
As soon as Barbara joined the organization (one of its first women members), she was asked to start a seminar program. That request has resulted in a continuously running program of seminars offered at little or no cost to anyone interested in starting or growing a business.
Barbara wanted the first seminar to provide a broad overview of business – legal, financial, marketing, etc. She titled it “Great Beginnings.” As a new resident of Asheville, Barbara began networking to find knowledgeable speakers interested in a pay free job educating local entrepreneurs. Her first “catch” proved invaluable, a local, well regarded attorney specializing in business transactions who not only agreed to speak at the first seminar, he has continued to do so every year since, hosting one of the most popular among SCORE’s seminar offerings.
One of the bigger challenges Barbara faced in initiating the program was making sure people found out about it and about SCORE. She and John attended all Chamber of Commerce functions and “wherever I went, I talked about SCORE.” She encouraged seminar attendees to add one on one SCORE counseling to their business development process.
Barbara has continued to play an active role in SCORE, serving in several officer positions. She currently manages the complex appointments calendar. Asked why she has devoted so much of her time to SCORE, especially nurturing the growth of the seminar program, Barbara describes the great “satisfaction of seeing people attend seminars or come for counseling and see results … I like the idea they receive real benefits.”
Melissa Jacobs, a local artist, is a recent beneficiary of SCORE’s newest program, Simple Steps for Starting Your Own Business. Following a lifelong passion for painting, Melissa studied with the Fine Arts League of the Carolinas for 3 years, and began sharing a studio in the River Arts District.
Following some success at selling her paintings, she moved to a small building on McDowell Street and started Trillium Art Studio. She faced many of the business issues that confront entrepreneurs. Melissa took the Simple Steps program in the summer and remarked “as an artist, I did not really trust myself in this area. [the program] was amazing – the knowledge, the presentation, the willingness of the presenters to personalize the information for us – overall, it was very well handled. ” She enjoyed meeting other business people, especially the other artists taking the program. Melissa highly recommends the Simple Steps program as well as other SCORE seminars: “much of this stuff is overwhelming … even with a good educational background, I really didn’t have a clue about business forms, financial considerations, insurance, marketing or other important business areas.” One of her big takeaways was putting pencil to paper to determine “ how many paintings I had to sell and how many classes I needed to teach” to cover her expenses and make a profit.
Barbara’s suggestions to people interested in starting their own business:
o A business plan is essential, especially the financials.
o Start saving.
o Work in the kind of business you want to start so you will know what it is really about.
o Know your competition.
o Talk to people currently in that business.
SCORE offers the Simple Steps program twice a year as well as a series of 3-hour seminars on a variety of topics. Most of the seminars are held at the A-B Tech Enka Campus, Candler, on Saturday mornings or Wednesday evenings.
SCORE also sponsors the Women’s Business Roundtable, a group of women entrepreneurs who meet every 3rd Thursday at 8 am at the Small Business Center at the A-B Tech Enka Campus, in Room 2046. To find out more about the Roundtable, please visit the website listed above. To sign up for a meeting, please RSVP to email@example.com to reserve your spot. Space is limited to the first 20 to register for each meeting.
Elizabeth Pou is a SCORE Volunteer Counselor. SCORE is a nonprofit organization providing free, confidential business mentoring and training workshops to small business owners. For more information contact www.ashevillescore.org.