SCORE mentors offer entrepreneurs a lending hand and expert advice — at no cost

Delaware Beach Life publisher Terry Plowman said he has come to appreciate the value of a lending hand. In the midst of the recession, when so many Sussex County businesses were dealing with the worst economic times they had experienced, Plowman realized he needed an advisor to keep him on track. He sought the expertise of counselors at the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), a national group that offers free guidance to entrepreneurs. SCORE Delaware has mentors across the state, including a growing group in Sussex County.

What Plowman and other small-business owners have found is that SCORE mentors offer real-world expertise and guidance on a host of issues that range from how to write a business plan to cash flow management to developing an advisory board. Just as important for some, they also provide that lending hand to pull small-business owners forward in uncertain times.

“Sometimes entrepreneurs feel that they are at the mercy of conditions beyond their control, and that is especially true during difficult economic times,” explained Plowman, who lives in Rehoboth Beach. “But SCORE gave me the push to make success happen, rather than just hoping for it.”

Len Kidwell, a retired Bank of America commercial lender, worked with Plowman. Kidwell joined SCORE in 2009.

“Meeting people who are striving to succeed motivates me to provide the best advice I can,” said Kidwell, who lives in Bethany Beach. “It is rewarding to use my experience to consult with business owners and jointly develop the strategies they need to employ so they can continue to succeed.”

Kidwell helped Plowman streamline some of his business management practices and consider additional sources of revenue. By January of this year, Plowman’s perseverance in tough economic times led to the magazine being named Business of the Year by the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce.

“That is a great honor, and one that must be somehow connected to my efforts to follow SCORE’s advice to ‘make it happen,’” Plowman said.

The mentors can provide insight into anything. Over the last two years, in Sussex County alone, a handful of SCORE mentors have helped others experience success. Their list of accomplishments includes:

• Helping a physician in preparing a business plan and obtaining an SBA loan that allowed her to start her practice.

• Guiding a personal fitness entrepreneur with strategic pricing of services.

• Helping a start-up home services company with the development of a marketing plan.

• Facilitating a nonprofit pet rescue entity in obtaining an SBA loan.

• Working with a commercial real estate investor to develop a strategy to attract others investors.

Since its creation in 1964, SCORE has provided services to nearly 7 million Americans. Some eight mentors make up the Sussex County group, which is actively looking to recruit more mentors and mentees. Mentors may be active or retired business owners, executives or operations managers. All SCORE mentors receive specialized training in counseling and mentoring.

Bill Hinz, a retired business analyst with IBM who now lives in Seaford, said he believes the most important ingredient in the security of this country is a strong and growing economy. SCORE mentors help contribute to that goal.

“I enjoy seeing someone become successful,” he said. “This can be either starting a new business or growing or improving an existing business. There is a lot of satisfaction in seeing our efforts lead to success stories.”

To learn more about SCORE, or to receive mentoring services, call (302) 536-1382 or visit www.scoredelaware.org.