By Brandon Klein
Starting a business can be a daunting task, but some local businesses have scored some help in the process.
SCORE, formerly the Service Corps of Retired Executives, is a nonprofit organization started in 1964 that mentors aspiring and current small-business owners.
There are more than 350 chapters throughout the U.S. Affiliated with the Small Business Administration. In 2010, SCORE helped 590,550 small-business owners and helped start a total of 58,637 businesses.
“We provide any kind of business advice ... and we do that for free,” said Steve Spencer, chairman of the Youngstown Score chapter. The chapter started in 1965 and has nearly 40 members helping business owners in the Mahoning Valley area.
Members consist of retired executives and entrepreneurs from a variety of industries that volunteer their time to helping aspiring business owners.
“We have people that have walked the walk and talked the talk, and there’s no resource better than that,” Spencer said.
Additionally, SCORE provides local workshops for a small fee at their partnered location, the main branch of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County, 305 Wick Ave. Evening appointments are on the first and third Tuesday of every month at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. at the library. Workshops provide information and advice such as developing a business plan.
“We can be a resource,” Spencer said. “There’s not a company that doesn’t need help.”
Spencer said business owners would have to seek out business consultants who “would cost serious money.” In most cases, potential business owners cannot afford the cost, he added.
SCORE also serves as resource to connect their clients to other resources in matters of finances, technical and legal services.
“We have a lot of success stories,” Spencer said.
One of them is Dar’s Dirty Dogs, 3265 Canfield Road, a dog-grooming business owned by Darlene Donatiello.
The owner heard about SCORE by word of mouth when she was in the planning process of her business. After contacting SCORE, the two parties worked together to make sure she was going in the right direction, she said.
Dar’s Dirty Dogs opened for business on May 17 this year. In addition to the grooming, it also provides a self-wash facility.
“It was nice to have confirmation from people who’ve been in business for years,” Donatiello said. “Right now, I’m doing pretty good.”
Dwaynika Lewis, the co-owner of Just a Little Taste of Home, a restaurant that serves Southern-style food at 760 Youngstown-Warren Road, Niles, said she really appreciated the help SCORE provided her in starting her business.
“They went above and beyond for me,” she said. “All the people were really helpful.”
Lewis said she started her business April 15, and it has been improving steadily. The real challenge is gaining awareness, she added.
Another success story includes Stephanie Miller, owner of Wonderstruck Artisan Market and Classes, 3649 Canfield Road. Wonderstruck, which she started July 6, is an artistic multimedia gift shop that provides classes. Without SCORE, it would have taken her longer to get where she is now, she said.
“We’ve had a really great response from the community,” she said.
Spencer said SCORE is always improving and reaching out to the community.
“As businesses evolve, our mentors evolve also,” he said.
The chapter is located at the Williamson College of Business Administration at Youngstown State University, which also has appointments from 9 to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday.