When I sat down to write a recent article for Lehigh Valley Business, titled “SCOREway to Success,” I never imagined the amount and depth of the success stories that would result from the efforts of a volunteer organization.
To show an equal appreciation and admiration for all of the stories and voices, I would like to share those that could not fit into the space limitations of the print version of my article. (The good news is I am not limited on space in my blog, thankfully.)
WHAT IS SCORE, ANYWAY?
Service Corps of Retired Executives, today known as just the acronym SCORE, is a nonprofit arm of the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Well, the neat thing about this organization is that it was started a half-century ago by a group of retired DuPont executives in their Delaware community. The group gave volunteer advice and mentoring to entrepreneurs who wanted to start small businesses or achieve new levels of success in their existing business.
After a year of helping entrepreneurs in their community, the SBA saw how successful the group was and made SCORE a national nonprofit organization. Now in its golden anniversary year, SCORE has helped 10 million entrepreneurs and has nearly 12,000 volunteers at 400 chapters across the nation, providing mentoring, workshops and seminars.
Pennsylvania has 18 SCORE chapters and 710 volunteer counselors, including in Reading, Lehigh Valley, Pottstown and Stroudsburg.
'THEY GROUND YOUR DREAMS'
The Lehigh Valley SCORE proved extremely beneficial to Kym Faylor of Schnecksville.
Faylor worked as a manager of a biological testing lab for 15 years, developing it from the ground up, but began noticing it was having financial and administrative issues. To secure the company and her job, she went to SCORE to seek advice and ideas she could suggest to her owner, those that could strengthen the business. The owner was not responsive to her ideas, though, and ultimately downsized the company. This meant Faylor's job was no longer secure, so she began looking for new employment.
Faylor started brainstorming on ways she could open her own laboratory. She finally wrote up a business plan for a lab similar to the one where she had recently worked.
It was then that she went back to SCORE for advice.
"I know how to run the business but nothing about the business aspect of it," Faylor said. "SCORE showed me that I needed a more stable and continuous financial backing in order to succeed with my plan."
In March 2012, through the guidance of SCORE, Faylor found financial backing and was able to launch her business, Azzur Labs LLC, in Schnecksville.
In six months, the business broke even and doubled its staff and facility size, with eight employees and a 30 percent growth each quarter.
"SCORE really keeps you grounded and gives you real-life suggestions," Faylor said. "They ground your dreams."
'IT WAS LIKE A PEP RALLY'
For Anita Skrocki, it was the Reading SCORE that made a difference in her life.
In 2003, Skrocki was a stay-at-home mom in Sinking Spring with four young children. To make a living, she baked and sold pastries for cafes in the local area.
One day a café asked her to make biscottis, which she had never made before, and they quickly became a popular item in the community. So much so that in 2004 Skrocki launched Anita's Biscottis out of her home, but she needed help and guidance to create a website to expand the sales of her product.
It was then that Skrocki reached out to volunteers of SCORE.
"It's awesome how someone would invest in a stranger to better the community," Skrocki said. "Every time I left there, I was so excited; it was like a pep rally."
Skrocki continues to work out of her home, having converted a portion of her house into a commercial bakery. Ten years later, her business is going strong, selling as retail, wholesale and gift baskets. Skrocki also has a newly launched bridal section of biscottis. Verse-scotti, a biscotti wrapped with a bible verse, soon will be a trademarked product of Anita's Biscottis.
"I think SCORE is the best thing I could ever have done," Skrocki said. "They have such a tremendous amount of knowledge and share it out of the kindness of their hearts."
'THE BABY IS GROWING'
Paulus Sutrisna came to Reading from Indonesia 13 years ago.
After becoming a certified nursing assistant through Reading Area Community College, Sutrisna began working in the medical field, but found that the medical apparel needed for his work uniform, commonly referred to as scrubs, was very expensive.
Sutrisna began thinking of ways to solve this dilemma.
"I wanted to find a way to make a place in Berks County that sells scrubs at a good price," he said.
Sutrisna reached out to the Reading SCORE for guidance on how to acquire financing to open a store.
In 2006, Sutrisna opened PS Scrubs at the Vanity Fair Outlet Center in Reading, a store that provides a full, head-to-toe line of medical uniform apparel.
When his business almost failed in 2010, Sutrisna went back to SCORE for guidance to see what had gone wrong. To Sutrisna's surprise, SCORE confirmed that he was doing things correctly, but that he just needed to provide more opportunity for the business to expand.
After getting back on track in the last few years, Sutrisna this month added a full line of restaurant uniform apparel to his store.
"SCORE assured me it was not because I failed," Sutrisna said. "It's because the baby is growing and needs more food."