The Cincinnati chapter of SCORE recently named Pianimals
, The Yoga Bar
, Spicy Olive
and Spun Bicycles
as Clients of the Year. They were just a few of the over 700 local small businesses and entrepreneurs aided in the last year by free mentorship and counseling from Greater Cincinnati SCORE
, the volunteer branch of the Small Business Association, and its 90-plus volunteers.
The volunteers are working or retired executives and professional managers who choose to spend time helping and advising startups and small businesses in business operations, marketing and finance. Those mentors are the ones who nominate their advisees as Clients of the Year.
For one of those clients, the mentorship had a special extra dimension. Judi LoPresti of Spun Bicycles is the daughter of longtime SCORE member and mentor Ed Rothenberg.
When her father passed away in 2012 and left her some money, she and her husband decided to follow their passion and use the inheritance to open a bicycle shop in Northside
. Judi and Dominic LoPresti went straight to SCORE for advice and mentorship.
If her father were still around, LoPresti might go to him for advice, but since he’s not she has her SCORE mentor, Carlin Stamm, instead. That relationship has served the LoPrestis well.
“They’ve been profitable every year since they opened (in 2013),” SCORE Executive Director Betsy Newman says of Spun Bicycles. “I think the key for them, and it goes for all clients, is that they’re very passionate.”
That also goes for one of the other Clients of the Year, Rachel Roberts of The Yoga Bar
, who traveled the world studying yoga before coming back in her home town of Cincinnati to open a studio. Roberts has a team of three SCORE mentors — Hugh Dayton, Mike Crossen and Stamm — that helped her guide her business through a move from her original downtown location to studios in Over-the-Rhine and Newport, with possible expansion still to come.
Newman says that SCORE mentorship allows clients to be more comfortable with the nuts and blots of running their business and focus more on the parts they do best. Of course, one of the huge advantages of SCORE services is that almost all of them — from individual mentorship to group counseling to online resources — are offered free of charge.
“Our goal is to help them start up or grow their business,” Newman says. “We want to make sure no one is unable to compete because they can’t afford mentorship. When you’re starting a business, the last thing you want to do is spend money you don’t have to.”
SCORE volunteers know that well. Most are veteran or retired executives with years or decades of experience in business, marketing, accounting and related fields. Newman, who has worked as a career development consultant, explains that volunteering their time and wisdom with SCORE allows mentors to remain connected to what’s going on in their fields and communities.
“No one ever really retires,” she says. “You just find a new avenue for your skills.”
The avenue of SCORE mentorship certainly puts those skills to use.
“I’ve never heard of one Client of the Year that hasn’t given all the credit to the SCORE mentor,” Newman says. “Some of these mentorships have lasted over 10 years. The business is well launched, but the relationship continues.”