Have you ever considered starting a business but had no clue how to begin? All the details that go into getting a new business up and running can dampen one’s entrepreneurial spirit. That’s where Pittsburgh SCORE comes into play.
Founded in 1965, the Pittsburgh chapter of SCORE utilizes more than 50 volunteers to help residents who are starting a new business or expanding an existing business. Through a free mentoring program, webinars and a variety of workshops, the organization has been the answer to many budding entrepreneurs’ business-building dreams.
Pittsburgh SCORE focuses on three main functions to support small businesses, including mentoring, workshops and online resources. By providing free and confidential mentoring, they are able to guide new business owners in all aspects of launching their entrepreneurial visions.
“In the last year, we conducted more than 1,700 mentoring sessions, which averages out to about seven per day,” said Mark Fallek, chapter chair at Pittsburgh SCORE, adding that there are 30 mentors within the Pittsburgh chapter.
“Most of the people that give their time to SCORE are people who have managed businesses for years,” explains Fallek, adding that its more than 50 volunteers possess years of business acumen. “They’ve got the talent and background to be able to support the kinds of needs that come up.”
The organization also provides workshops on numerous topics relative to starting and managing a business. Although today’s workshops are virtual thanks to COVID, the information remains crucial for business owners.
“Once a month, we run a small business basics workshop directed primarily at people who are thinking about starting a business,” said Fallek.
This comprehensive workshop tackles subjects such as putting together a business plan, hiring an accountant, legal protection for businesses, the need for insurance and marketing plans.
Once a business is up and running, expert volunteers lead additional workshops which include how best to handle human resources issues, putting together an extensive marketing plan, and how to utilize social media support.
“We cover a wealth of things that are important to small businesses and their operations,” said Fallek
Pittsburgh SCORE’s online resources provide additional help for new businesses. Visit www.pittsburgh.score.org and you will find a wealth of information, including a vast number of previous workshops, tips for finding a mentor, and case histories and success stories for inspiration.
According to Fallek, SCORE assisted 190 new businesses in the past year, which not only allows entrepreneurs to live their dreams, but brings more jobs to the Pittsburgh area.
Though COVID restrictions wreaked havoc on many new businesses in 2020, Pittsburgh SCORE was able to step in with information about applying for federal aid like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and small business loans. Information for state and local programs was also readily available. The guidance they provided proved to be a lifeline for keeping businesses afloat.
A Pittsburgh Success Story
Evidence of SCORE’s success can be seen at 3 Rivers Outdoor Company, located in Pittsburgh’s Swissvale neighborhood. The company was the vision of Chris Kaminski and Christine Iksic, two Pittsburghers with a passion for adventure and the outdoors.
“Christine was a salesperson heavily involved in outdoor activities, and Chris ran several YMCAs,” said Fallek. “They both had a big desire to establish a hub to connect Pittsburgh’s outdoor enthusiasts.”
Under Fallek’s mentorship, Chris and Christine worked at developing their business for about two years, securing funding and finding an ideal location before finally opening the store.
Opened just over a year when COVID hit, creativity and flexibility helped the new business owners continue to grow the business during these difficult times. Christine even led a workshop for Pittsburgh SCORE about what they did to ‘rearrange’ the business to better adapt to the pandemic.
If you’ve been waiting to launch your own business, or have business
expertise to share as a volunteer, visit www.pittsburgh.score.org for more details.