PEORIA (25News Now) – Small Businesses are booming across the United States and here in Central Illinois. Striving entrepreneurs looking for some guidance don’t have to look too far.
Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) is a nationwide non-profit mentoring organization established in 1964 dedicated to helping foster and educate small business owners for free.
They have more than 250 chapters across the United States, including right here in Peoria.
“We have experience from the beginning of business ideation, all the way through start-up, through expansion, pivot, and sale into solution,” said Joanne Corbett, Peoria’s Chapter Chair. “Our mentors have done it all.”
Friday morning, in Bloomington, the Peoria-based chapter had a conference to discuss the business environment and how people in Central Illinois can volunteer to support small businesses throughout the 14 counties they serve.
“We’re a combination of so many things. There are industrial people, there are the trades, there are the financial parts of it, there’s the HR part of it,” Certified Mentor and SCORE Volunteer Michelle Proksa said. “So having us all together lets us really address all the concerns that our clients have.”
SCORE is a volunteer-based organization. All certified mentors have an understanding of business challenges through their own experience and want to share their expertise to help new or existing entrepreneurs be successful.
“I learned a lot of things the hard way, and I want to share that with new businesses, or existing businesses, that are going through things that I recognize,” Proksa said. “There are resources that people don’t always know about, and we have them.”
SCORE has several success stories, including one Bloomington woman who started her journey through SCORE and has seen all the ups and downs but now has a thriving studio and salon in Bloomington.
“Without SCORE, I definitely would have had a lot harder of a time getting capital from the bank; I would have needed a lot more time to organize my thoughts, and I would have probably reached out to a lot of different people instead of just the one that was incredibly helpful,” said Successful Business Owner of Haven Studios, Kayla Depauw. “It was invaluable to the business that I run now.”
And to starting entrepreneurs, Depauw has a message.
“Do not let fear drive your decision, do not let fear scare you, push right through it, and don’t quit your daydream because this was mine, and now I have it,” she said.
The mentors say they want businesses to grow and be successful, so they support any way they can with investments, planning, social media, and other trends that they’re seeing that have proven to help small businesses thrive.
“It’s just a tremendous feeling when somebody says, ‘Wow, you really helped me. I was able to go from not having a business, and here I am being successful,’ it’s just a tremendous feeling,” Corbett said.
Their website has personnel and AI available to help set you up with any resources you need.
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