SCORE revamps offerings, aims to build 1M businesses in 7 years

Santa Cruz Sentinel
SANTA CRUZ — As part of a national initiative to increase the number of successful start-ups that stay in business long-term, SCORE, a free, volunteer-led small-business consulting and mentoring organization, has revamped its workshop curriculum nationally and, locally, made an effort to provide more tailored curriculum to attendees.

The goal is to help grow a million small businesses by 2017 — an effort that will require doubling the number of volunteers nationwide and revamping the kinds of services provided.

“It’s gone better than we expected,” said Richard Clark, a retired Silicon Valley tech executive who is active in the Santa Cruz chapter.

From a single overview workshop, the series now includes: Startup Basics, Developing Your Business Idea, Marketing Planning, Financial Planning and Funding and Next Steps. The next series of classes begins Jan. 12.

“We’ve made a few improvements on the series to better fit the demographics of people who are coming to our classes in Santa Cruz,” Clark said. For people in the Santa Cruz area, that means coverage of more business fundamentals, particularly in the financial area. “Some of the tools we were offering were really too complex for people who haven’t done P&Ls before. The whole purpose is to improve the success rate of people starting a business.”

Curriculum changes stem from an effort to increase business growth and to begin measuring what actually works, said Christine Banning, a spokeswoman from SCORE headquarters in Washington, D.C.

In some parts of the country, chapters have offered pilot business roundtables and speed coaching sessions in addition to the usual workshop and mentoring fare. The new Quick Start workshop curriculum launched in Santa Cruz last summer includes more in-depth coverage of business issues in a five-part workshop series.

“We’re changing what we’re offering to small business to make it more growth-oriented,” Banning said. “We’re listening to what small businesses need and measuring what makes a difference. We want to be very results-oriented. We want to rally all our volunteer center mentors around the country.”

SCORE also launched last year a nationwide effort to gather data about the effect its traditional services have on long-term business success. The organization relies on about 13,000 volunteers to provide training and mentorship to about 300,000 small businesses. In spring of 2010, a Gallup membership survey collected information from more than 10,800 SCORE clients via telephone and the Internet about client revenue, business creation and job creation.

David Harkin, a volunteer mentor in the Santa Cruz chapter, described the expanded workshop series as “more of a blended learning experience than sitting and hearing someone speak.”

Another stronger emphasis is to present the financial realities of entrepreneurship, to push training and the creation of a business roadmap.

The idea is to get people to really think things through and eliminate the blind alleys many prospective entrepreneurs go down, Clark said. “When we’re doing the workshop we push a little bit on the client to make sure they know what getting into. When they say they want to work less hard, we tell them to go home and get a job. Either you’re mentally ready to do your business or you’re not.”

The emphasis is to trim the high number of star-tup failures, said Karen Calcagno, who helped establish in 2005 the Santa Cruz chapter as separate from Monterey.

“The failure rate in the first few years is enormous,” Calcagno said. “In the past, people who would come in and just go away. If people are actually starting a business, they need ongoing support.”

Last year, the organization also held a beginning workshop in Watsonville that was more family-oriented than the traditional solo entrepreneur market.

For information on SCORE and to see the calendar of classes, visit http://www.santacruzscore.org. All 2011 workshops will be held at the Live Oak Community Center/Simpkin Family Swim Center, 979 17th Ave., Santa Cruz.

At a glance
SCORE’s national
membership report card
SCORE clients started a total of 68,452 new businesses in 2009.

Based on SCORE’s current appropriation of $7 million, the cost of SCORE to help create one business is $102 and the cost to help create a job is $229.

Businesses mentored by SCORE grossed $38 billion in 2009 revenue, with an average of $314,000 per business and a median revenue of $16,000. These same businesses project their 2010 growth to be cumulative revenue of $53 billion with median revenue growing to $55,000.

SCORE clients paid an estimated $752.4 million in taxes

At least 90 percent of SCORE’s clients who were in business in 2009 remained in business in 2010

SCORE helped 16,510 small businesses save jobs

SCORE mentored 176,860 new aspiring and current small-business owners in 2009, a 2.3 percent increase from 2008.
SOURCE: SCORE’s 2009 Small Business Economic Impact & 2010 Projections survey by Gallup

This article appeared here.

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