WISH LIST: Score seeks room to grow

By Loretto J. Hulse, Tri-City HeraldDecember 18, 2013 

P. Simon Mahler, chairman of the Tri-Cities Chapter of Score, middle, and Score office manager Cathy Adkisson discuss business options with a client.

COURTESY TRI-CITY DEVELOPMENT CO

Every year, hundreds of people get an idea for a new business, but it never gets off the ground.

Either they don't know where to go for financing, how to get organized, or how to market their business and the idea fizzles out.

Too bad they didn't know about the free expert help available in the Tri-Cities.

Score is a nonprofit, federally funded, national organization dedicated to educating entrepreneurs and assisting small businesses to start, grow and thrive. And the Tri-Cities has a chapter run by P. Simon Mahler, an entrepreneur.

"So I know the pitfalls of starting a business. I also know how Score mentors can help because seven years ago they helped me," he said.

There's been a Score chapter in the Tri-Cities since 2004. But the leadership changed hands several times and when Mahler took over last June, "it was basically a hibernating chapter," he said.

Score is an all volunteer group that works closely with the Small Business Administration.

Score concentrates on businesses just starting out. Marketing, especially for the Tri-City chapter, "is our firepower," he said.

When Mahler took over as chairman of the Tri-City chapter he reinvigorated it, expanded its scope to include 13 counties in Washington, Oregon and Idaho and recruited a younger core group of mentors.

"There's only one retired person in our core group. The rest are in their 30s," he said. "Nationally, the average Score volunteer is a retired business person because they have the time, but not usually the desire to put full throttle to it. We're go getters."

One improvement Mahler and other Tri-City chapter members would like to create an innovation entrepreneurship center. Currently the chapter operates out of an office within the Tri-City Development Council.

But Mahler said Score needs more space to grow and serve more clients. He envisions having enough space for several offices where clients can meet with their mentors, space for workshops and an idea room paneled with floor to ceiling white boards.

"In the idea room, several entrepreneurs with different business ideas, could meet and bang out ideas, bounce them off each other," he said. "Not everyone knows everything."

But with federal budget cuts, the innovation entrepreneurship center will remain just a wish on Mahler's list.

"Our operating budget for the year has been cut to just $211 a month. We can't do what needs to be done on that," he said. "Score could definitely be a major contributor to the economy in the Tri-City area with the tools to do it."

To make the innovation entrepreneurship center work the Tri-City Score Chapter needs:

-- Office supplies: binders, printer cartridges, paper, pens, notepads, envelopes, presentation materials.

-- Office equipment: desktop computer, oversized white board, bookcases, television.

-- Reference materials: books on business, entrepreneurship.

-- Administrative volunteers: workshop coordinator, chapter technologist.

-- Consulting assistance: on designing the center to make it a viable and sustainable resource for the community.

-- Office space: with enough room for people to build their ideas, private offices and an area large enough to host community business seminars and events.

-- A chapter vehicle for traveling to the various counties served by the Tri-City chapter.

-- Corporate financial sponsors.

-- To submit business news, go to bit.ly/bizformtch.

-- Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; lhulse@tricityherald.com

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