Starting a small business? Try SCORE first

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I never imagined that a workshop on how to start a small business would be so inspirational, but that’s how I felt after participating in a day-long program sponsored by the Boston chapter of SCORE, the Service Corps of Retired Executives.

SCORE is a national non-profit organization with chapters across the country, working closely with the federal Small Business Administration (SBA) to provide information and advice to individuals who want to start or build small businesses. SCORE counselors are retired executives who have proven themselves in the private and non-profit sectors, and they lead workshops and provide individual counseling — all on a pro bono basis.

“Getting Started Workshop”

I attended SCORE’s “Getting Started Workshop,” and here’s the agenda for the day:

A workshop for persons who are planning to open a new business or who are looking for assistance in the operation of an exisiting business.

Key Topics Covered, include:
– Entrepreneurship: is it for you
– Is your Business Concept reasonable
– What is a Business Plan and why do one
– How to build a Business Plan
– How to Market your Business
– Do you need an Operational Plan
– Human Resources
– How will you Finance your business
– Building your Financial Plan
– Should you Incorporate
– What Advisors do you need
– What other Resources are available to help you

The Afternoon Sessions are small roundtable discussions lead by SCORE counselors.

It’s a quick but wide-ranging “soup-to-nuts” introduction to creating a small business. The cost? Only $35 for those who pre-registered, $45 at the door. That’s what is known as a bargain.

At the end, participants are invited to schedule individual consultations with SCORE counselors who have some expertise in their general areas of interest. And SCORE’s continued assistance is free-of-charge!

Great discussions

There were about 15 people at the workshop. Many had well-developed business ideas. I don’t want to give away any secrets, but let me say it was inspirational to listen to the breadth and depth of initiatives in the making, covering various services, product development, and entertainment & leisure. By the end of the workshop, folks were exchanging cards and even seeing opportunities to work together.

The upbeat, constructive tone of the workshop was such a contrast to the dire economic news of the day. It brought together people from many different walks of life, personal backgrounds, and educational levels, sporting the kind of natural diversity that makes for a terrific sharing of ideas.

A blessed contradiction

During our small-group session in which people shared their business concepts and ideas, the counselor advised us not to undersell ourselves, suggesting that some businesses lose out because they do not charge enough for the products and services they deliver.

Well, it’s a blessed contradiction for us that SCORE counselors are giving away the kind of advice that one might pay thousands of dollars for in classes and one-to-one business consulting. In the process, they’re giving back to their communities by facilitating new businesses that generate jobs, opportunities, and hope.

Check it out

There are many sources of information and guidance about starting a business. Many cost money, ranging from adult education offerings to full-blown MBA programs. In the case of SCORE, almost everything they offer is free. If you have serious ideas about starting a small business, you owe it to yourself to check them out, as well as the Small Business Administration:

Go here for the national SCORE website.

Go here for the national SBA website.

***

Hat-tip to Brian McCrane, former SCORE counselor, for initially alerting me to these opportunities.

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