Small business owners never lack for things to worry about — business plans, financing, marketing, how to take advantage of social media.
On Thursday, nearly 50 entrepreneurs had the opportunity to share their concerns and toss around ideas with experienced business people at a speed mentoring program presented by SCORE and the University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center.
Held in the Savannah Morning News auditorium, the program featured 10 roundtables, each with its own skilled mentor and topic. Sessions lasted approximately 25 minutes, allowing each participant to rotate to the five topics he or she felt would be of most benefit.
Christopher Failing, whose City Stream Now LLC is designed to provide live broadcasts of such events as weddings, conferences, festivals and corporate retreats, said the best tip he got was to establish a solid business plan before looking for money.
“I really learned a lot and have already made arrangements to be back in touch with SCORE and SBDC,” he said.
Realtor Pete Chaison, whose “Savannah List for Less” is already well-established, said he wasn’t looking for funding but rather ways to make marketing, the Internet and branding more effective in his business.
“This was a very well-run and organized event,” Chaison said, adding that he particularly liked the concept of picking and choosing from a number of topics.
“They brought in experienced, knowledgeable people — all respected in their fields.
“I came away with a lot of usable information.”
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“I’m already in a master’s group for business development and wasn’t sure I would get much out of today,” she said. “But I’ve learned things I didn’t get anywhere else — finding something of value and networking at every single table I visited.
“I’m taking a whole list of things to do back to work with me.”
Ron Melander of Keller Williams Savannah Historic Properties also picked up a pair of tips he plans to put to use immediately.
“First is ‘hootsuite.com,’ a convenient way to post to all your social media at once,” he said. “It’s going to be a huge timesaver for me.”
The other tip was to periodically step back and do a quick ‘SWOT analysis’ — looking at your business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
All of this was music to retired executive Allen Torpie’s ears.
“There is nothing more satisfying than seeing a young company start up and become successful,” the former local president and district director of SCORE said. “Our mentors are successful business people. They have finished their careers, made their money and want to share their wealth of knowledge and experience with those just starting out.”
Finding a SCORE mentor is easy, he said. “At our website — www.score.org — you can find industry-specific mentors who want to help.
“It’s a huge data base with more than 13,000 retired executives.”
The best time to get help, whether it’s from SCORE or the SBDC — or both — is in the beginning, Torpie said.
“Sometimes someone has a really big idea and needs help focusing to get it to a manageable size,” he said. “We can also play devil’s advocate, helping determine if you’re qualified to do what you want to do or if you need more training or experience first.
“Someone who loves to cook doesn’t necessarily have the skill set to open a restaurant, for example.”
Local SCORE president Marjorie Young is convinced that, if more entrepreneurs knew about and took advantage of SCORE’s free advice, the Savannah small business community would be thriving.
“There is just so much brain power out there waiting to be tapped,” she said.