Small business owners often struggle to find guidance from someone who knows what it’s like to walk in their shoes.
SCORE seeks to fill that gap. By providing free and confidential mentoring to entrepreneurs across the nation, SCORE Mentors assist current and aspiring business owners with starting and growing their business…all with firsthand knowledge and experience. We sat down with two current SCORE Mentors – Sommer Jacob (owner of Studio North in Bismarck, ND) and Laura Rogers (Credit Analyst Manager for Opportunity Bank of Montana in Bozeman, MT) to learn more about the program and how it helps small businesses in the Midwest.
Q. What is SCORE?
Jacob: SCORE is a nonprofit organization that offers free, confidential mentoring for current and aspiring small businesses owners. The organization is comprised of volunteer mentors – mostly previous or existing business owners – that provide guidance and assistance for individuals looking to create or grow their businesses. There are currently over 10,000 SCORE Mentors nationwide.
Q. How did you become involved with SCORE?
Jacob: I have founded three and currently own two small businesses myself. My first interaction with SCORE was when I started my concrete business in 2008. I went to SCORE because the process of starting a business was very new and I knew I needed help. In 2012, I started my Creative Agency – Studio North – and was asked to consider becoming a SCORE Mentor myself in 2017. I had gained a lot of experience over the years and felt I might have something to offer other business owners. I’ve been a SCORE Mentor ever since.
Rogers: I have been in commercial credit analysis for over a decade and currently work as a Credit Analyst Manager for Opportunity Bank of Montana in Bozeman. I chose to become a SCORE Mentor in 2021 because I love helping small business owners. I feel that my knowledge and experience in lending and credit can provide a unique perspective for people as they work to start or grow their business.
Q. What makes SCORE unique compared to other resource partners?
Rogers: First and foremost, this resource is free. There are a lot of other great resources for business owners, but a majority of them have a cost. SCORE is completely accessible and affordable to businesses at any stage.
Jacob: There is such a large network of mentors that business owners can access through SCORE. When entrepreneurs approach SCORE, they have the opportunity to connect with someone who has experience in their specific industry or with their particular challenge. The opportunity to talk with individuals who have direct experience in those areas of need is so valuable
Q. What is the most common challenge or misconception about SCORE?
Rogers: It is a common misconception that all SCORE Mentors are retired. While some of them are, there are a large variety of current and retired entrepreneurs represented from various industries, ages and demographics, locations, and stages of business.
Q. What have you noticed about women business owners, in particular, that come to SCORE?
Rogers: Women entrepreneurs are a lot more risk averse and tend to be more careful in their planning. Those are the same traits that make them excellent business owners. What I hope they gain through SCORE is confidence. I’ve worked with some incredible women who have proven that anything is truly possible.
Jacob: My experience with women entrepreneurs is that they typically have more on their plate than a lot of their male counterparts and struggle to find a work/life balance, which can create unique challenges with time, resources, and finances. Sometimes they’re apprehensive about growing or starting a business because of those challenges. I use SCORE as an opportunity to give them the encouragement or reassurance they need to move forward.
Q. What is the most rewarding part about being a SCORE Mentor?
Jacob: I get really excited when I see an idea come to life. I think one of the greatest opportunities that we have in America is the ability to start a business, and I love helping others make that possible.
Rogers: There is nothing better than walking with a business owner and seeing their dream become a reality.
Q. How can business owners get started with SCORE?
Jacob: The easiest way is to go to the SCORE website. They can fill out a form, which will pair them with a local mentor for their specific needs.
Rogers: Local SCORE chapters are always looking for mentors as well. If someone has extensive experience and is looking to volunteer their time to help other business owners, they can get involved by contacting their local SCORE office.