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SCORE seeking more mentors to help small businesses in the Valley

Hear from a Madison business owner who said SCORE took her business to the next level.
Published: Sep. 24, 2021 at 11:16 AM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - If you own a small business in the Tennessee Valley or want to start one, there is free professional help out there. No matter what industry you are in, SCORE — a national nonprofit with chapters nearby — is willing to help.

The national organization is affiliated with the Small Business Administration and provides free business training and mentorship. SCORE volunteers work with hundreds of entrepreneurs every year and the numbers keep growing.

Sam Crabtree, the chapter manager of SCORE in Chattanooga, said any business can use SCORE’s free resources at any point in their career.

“A lot of people come to SCORE without a plan,” Crabtree said. “So SCORE has those resources to help build that business plan and from there, we’ll mentor them along that process.”

Some clients work with SCORE for an extended period of time, other clients need just a couple hours to talk through an idea. Regardless, there is no charge for service.

“Every client is different, every client may have their own set of issues so it’s really a one-on-one relationship with your mentor,” Crabtree said. “And of course we can always reach out to multiple mentors that have particular expertise.”

According to Crabtree, the SCORE Chattanooga chapter needs more help on their team to work with folks in Northeast Alabama.

“Huntsville as you know is growing and there is a lot of opportunity there for small businesses and we were noticing in our trends that we are pulling a lot of clients from the Huntsville, North Alabama area,” he said. “So we thought, ‘Well let’s make some effort to pull in some local expertise from there as well.’”

Anyone with business management experience, and a desire to give back, can join SCORE and be useful. Crabtree decided to become a mentor with SCORE years ago because he felt he had something important to offer.

“When I was in business, I had the same needs from time to time,” he said. “I needed to sit down and talk to someone else that had done it. So I felt like I had something to offer back to people who want to start a small business.”

Crabtree said he’s mentored many bright entrepreneurs through SCORE, including Vanessa Williams, a local business owner in Madison. Williams said SCORE took her business to the next level.

“In my opinion SCORE was very instrumental in helping me to be able to cut the chase and find out exactly what it is that I was looking for and all the tools and resources are really at your convenience,” she said.

Williams started working with SCORE in April to help jump start her company, Trade and Win LLC, which sources and provides talent to government contracts in Huntsville and across the U.S. Williams was in the military for 31 years and wanted to use her skills to create a successful business in the Huntsville area.

“So I reached out online and I met one of my good mentors from the Tennessee SCORE office,” Williams said. “And he was definitely instrumental in helping me walk through and understand all the particular ins and outs from cradle to crave pretty much.”

Williams was able to develop a solid business plan through SCORE, understand the financial side of things and meet the right people.

“Once your business starts growing and you run into obstacles or have questions or concerns about something that you are trying to do, they are there for you,” Williams said. “And they will be able to walk you through whatever questions or concerns that you might have.”

Another helpful component of SCORE is the vast network of contacts available. Williams said that was a gamechanger for her.

“They have a huge network of people...say for example, professional services. If you are interested in professional services, they have a plethora of people that are already in the industry that are doing exactly what it is that you are trying to do,” Williams said.

Whether you own a start-up with one employee, or a company with a large team, Williams said you won’t be turned away.

“If they can’t do it, they will put you in touch with somebody that can,” she said.

SCORE’s website has a variety of resources for business owners and entrepreneurs. You’ll find free business plan templates, blogs, live webinars and more. You can also search for a mentor on score.org, or sign-up to be one.

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