- Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine
Senior Core of Retired Executives
North Coast SCORE, Business Mentors Serving Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake and Humboldt Counties.
Starting a business takes much more than a having a grand idea and running with it, especially if it’s the first time around. Local entrepreneurs don’t have to look any further than the North Coast SCORE Chapter and the Napa Chamber of Commerce for free, professional, business-planning assistance. North Coast SCORE is a group of dedicated mentors who await the opportunity to be paired with those who seek to better understand and accomplish the goals of starting a business. Founded in 1964, SCORE is headquartered in Herndon, Virginia, and has 364 chapters throughout the United States and its territories, with over 13,000 volunteers nationwide. SCORE is associated with, and receives support from the U.S. Small Business Administration and numerous, nationwide sponsors.
SCORE mentors are considered extremely successful in business, and have unlimited experience to offer those who are starting from the ground up. Mentor-Client matches are made when someone reaches out for help, often when they begin to create a business plan. The mentors volunteer their time, knowledge, and expertise on many levels––from writing a business plan, to learning how to navigate the permitting process, understanding finances, building a budget, and one of the most important details––creating a healthy work/life balance. The prospective clients may have learned of SCORE services through the national website, a webinar, or from the local Chamber of Commerce, where businesses depend on the helpful staff for direction.
SCORE counselors meet their clients, identify the specific needs of the individual, and give direction. It’s the client’s responsibility to carry out the tasks at hand. Willingness to ‘do the work’ is imperative for success. Every effort is made to match the clients’ needs with the skills and experience of the mentor. If the two don’t fit, the mentor will make it his/her objective to help find a mentor that will bring the necessary expertise.
Napa’s SCORE team boasts a few members at this time, anchored by the senior SCORE Mentor in town, David Mendelsohn; he has been an active counselor for many years. (Mentors from the Santa Rosa area also pitch in with our locals, offering services whenever needed.)
David, who was Managing Director and Executive Vice President of BASS Tickets, grew their profitability ten-fold before he assisted in negotiating the sale of the company to Advantix in 1997, and retired to Napa, shortly after. In 1998, he was introduced to SCORE by his friend, Julian Weidler, former President of the Rough Rider Clothing Company, which was (at one time) a large Napa employer. Julian encouraged David to become a mentor, knowing David’s skill set and background would serve new business owners well. David has counseled many first-time entrepreneurs over the years, and has also mentored people who were buying an existing local business, guiding them through the process––from purchasing the business and watching it grow to the point of needing more employees to be hired. David made a few points very clear. A new business owner needs to be aware, and be present. Hire quality employees, make sure they are trained in how to interact with your customers, and about the product/service they are selling. Pay your employees well; you get what you pay for. Most importantly, he said, “Give equal significance to customer satisfaction with your service/product as you would give to cash flow and profitability.”
Another Napa based counselor, Diane Cox, joined SCORE in 2016. At the time, a recent retiree, Diane was encouraged by her husband––who was confident in her decades of business experience, abilities, and knowledge––to become a SCORE mentor. Diane had a good reason to take on the task, “When co-founding our company in 1983, I was not aware of SCORE. I wish I did know about it then, as it certainly would have helped us in the early days. Now, I love helping people when they are considering starting a business or are feeling overwhelmed with the difficulties of running a small business.”
Sandy Tradewell joined SCORE in April of 2016, “. . . to utilize my work and life experiences with others seeking an objective sounding board regarding their business ideas.” Sandy is now co-chair (with Jim Kane) of SCORE’s Workshop Committee, and has a client base in Sonoma County. She is also available by phone or email for counseling with Napa members. One piece of advice Sandy told us for entrepreneurs, “Do your research before getting too far into the process of converting your idea into an actual business. This means completing a business plan before you make costly mistakes. SCORE can provide the needed guidance.”
Mike Silvas, owner of Wine Country Fine Properties, mentors a few people a month. He enjoys making a serious contribution to the business community. Mike’s been a mentor for over two years now. He was recruited by one of his golf friends who sponsored him. Mike wants to make sure people starting a business understand that pre-planning is crucial, as well as the importance of having realistic goals. “We’re usually dealing with first-time business hopefuls. Most people we meet are just starting, or have gotten themselves into financial trouble. Some come to us with skills, but do not understand how to run a business. This is where we come in. People often have no idea of the complex nature of being a business owner.” Mike is currently working with a Veteran who is quite serious and is building a mushroom cultivation business; it is a very complicated system. To help his client, Mike had to become educated about the topic too. “I eat a lot more mushrooms now!” Mike believes home-based entrepreneurs may benefit the most from SCORE counseling because they have the least interaction with business peers.
Travis Stanley, President and CEO of the Napa Chamber of Commerce, said, “It’s one of the things I’m glad comes under the Chamber (of Commerce). I’m looking forward to making it a better known fact that it is available to our members and to people who are thinking of becoming a member as well. You don’t have to be a member of the Chamber to use these services.” Travis is dedicated to making Napa a stronger community––one individual and one business––at a time.
There are plenty of SCORE success stories, from selling services such as massage therapy, photography, and psychology, to medical and energy services. SCORE has made a mark with all the help their mentors provide. To read some of these inspiring stories, check out the North Coast SCORE website, there’s a link to success stories. Increase your chances for success with a SCORE Mentor.
If you have excellent business skills, time, and the desire to become a SCORE mentor, go to the website today and apply. It is not a requirement to be retired.
SCORE Workshops in partnership with Napa Chamber of Commerce • 1556 First Street, Napa
$30 • No Charge to Veterans
NapaChamber.com or 707 226-7455
Wed., July 11 • 8:30-11:30 AM Using Quickbooks Online