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October 25, 2017
Leading Business Growth in Lancaster: SCORE
SCORE is a nonprofit organization that provides a mentoring program and educational opportunities for those looking to plan, transform, fix, grow, or establish their businesses or organizations.
By offering expertise in various fields, SCORE can create comprehensive strategies and one-on-one support for those in the business landscape. The combination of business support and personable relationship-building makes SCORE perfect for intentional, relatable, and meaningful entrepreneurship growth.
In 2016, members of SCORE gave over 3,500 volunteer hours collectively between one-on-one mentorship and classes. Because of this rapid growth in businesses wanting support (there is an average of 550-600 requests for mentorship a year), SCORE is looking for more mentors—especially women—to join the mentorship team.
We chatted with Kathryn Ross, mentor at SCORE, to get more information about the organization and how to join this powerful mission that’s changing the community and transforming business in Lancaster.
Fig: What is the mission behind SCORE?
Kathryn: “The mission is to provide free one-on-one mentoring and minimal cost educational services to entrepreneurs, small business owners, and non-profit leaders. Whether launching a new business or tackling issues in an existing one, SCORE of Lancaster-Lebanon has over 60 volunteer mentors to provide expert advice and feedback through our free, confidential, face-to-face mentoring program and workshops.”
Why is it important to offer this service to local business owners within the community?
“In order for a community’s local commerce to thrive, it must have successful small businesses. However, business owners and non-profit leaders are faced with challenges outside their expertise every day that might not only limit their growth, but cause the business to fail. By providing free mentoring to help the leaders navigate the challenges of ownership and becoming a trust resource for these leaders, the businesses have a much greater success and, in turn, this creates a thriving local economy. I love the quote by SCORE mentee and mentor Srirupa Dasgupta (from Upohar) on what she had learned from her own SCORE mentor that she now uses. This quote embodies the heart of our volunteers mentors’ efforts: ‘A counselor cares about being right. A consultant cares about being paid. A mentor cares about me.’”
Why become a mentor at SCORE?
“It is incredibly rewarding to use your professional expertise to help a local business leader (who often couldn’t afford professional services) be successful while developing a personal relationship with the individuals as you walk alongside them on their entrepreneurial journey. To then see the collective economic impact our chapter’s 700-plus clients have on Lancaster’s growth and reputation as an entrepreneurial hub is humbling. The great thing about mentoring is that it doesn’t occur on a fixed schedule, so mentors can work with their clients to meet at times that work for both parties whether that is early, during or at the end of the day or weekends.”
You mentioned that you’d like to recruit more women to become mentors at SCORE. What would you say to encourage women to join the mentorship team?
“We need you! Too many women think they aren’t ‘qualified’ to mentor or be a subject matter expert. Just the opposite. In our professional community of women, there is so much untapped talent and mentor expertise that is combined with core soft skills that have been identified as traits that make the best mentors. A mentor doesn’t need to have all the answers, they just need to know how to listen and know ‘where’ to go to help get the answers for client issues that are outside their expertise. Through both an organized mentor training programming and having subject matter experts who can be called upon to support a client SCORE prepares our mentors for success.”
What has been encouraging for you to see in the mentoring program so far?
“Our new client growth has increased by 26% this past year and half of those are female entrepreneurs. There is a strong growth of dreams turning into reality—whether that is through a start-up coming to life or a current business growing and becoming more profitable. It is our hope to develop an equitable ration of women mentors. Small businesses and non-profits led by women are keys to the creation of our city’s vibrancy. Small business examples are Callaloo Trinidadian Kitchen, Sophie Stargazer, K9 Nature Dog Supplements, Perk-Up Coffee, Urban Olive and Wendy Jo’s Homemade (and Fig Industries!) as well as non-profits such as KPets, Clare House, Power Packs and New Choices.”
Are there any success stories you’d like to share that have been particularly powerful?
“There are two. In the for-profit realm, I greatly admire Anne Kirby’s entrepreneurial acumen and passion for Lancaster. She founded a creative agency 15 years ago, launched The Candy Factory Six years ago, and just opened Perk-Up Coffee. Anne passionately continues to contribute to Lancaster’s commerce and social structure by re-investing in the community while also directly supporting other entrepreneurs. In the non-profit realm, it is common knowledge that I think Eva Dombrowski of Clare House is a rockstar. She is the entrepreneur of a 30 year old ‘start-up.’ She stepped in with no background for an executive director role and has refreshed Clare House on every level—all while working with her SCORE mentors to fine-tune her marketing, leadership, and administration skills.”