SCORE Client Success Story – Mari Fox

   

Owner: Mari Fox     |     Location: Weaverville, NC     |     Formed in: 2010     |   www.shecology.com

Client Success Story: 

Mari Fox grew up on the beaches of Long Island Sound in Stratford, Connecticut. She moved to the mountains of North Carolina in 1997, eventually laying her roots in Weaverville and the nature that surrounds her.

Mari started Shecology in 2010, a natural cleaning products company that sells patent-pending encapsulated cleaners that are lightweight, space-saving, effective and affordable!

Of considerable note, Shecology invented and manufacture Mother’s Little Helper® Laundry Pill – the world’s first laundry pill, other plant based cleaners, and cleaning accessories designed to help save the environment, your health, and your money.

Mari emphasizes that “everything Shecology manufactures and sells goes through rigorous testing and is held to the highest standards in ingredient sourcing, packaging, and effectiveness. They hold the Blue Ridge Naturally seal and have third party testing to back up our claims.”

My Successes: 

“When Mother’s Little Helper® Laundry Pills were stain tested against Tide, Seventh Generation, Method, and Ecover and removed coffee and red wine BETTER than the any of them!”

How SCORE helped: 

“SCORE has helped me in numerous ways: when I needed an expert to guide me through an investor due diligence situation; networking with and learning from other awesome small businesses, practice on presenting my business pitch, and as a general resource for other small business services. I find the counselors to be extremely knowledgeable because they have been there and know from experience how to guide others coming up the pike.”

Welcoming Asheville SCORE Volunteers – Natalie Blacher & Brent Russell

Every year, SCORE volunteers help thousands of entrepreneurs start small businesses and achieve new levels of success in their existing businesses.

Volunteering at SCORE is a way for you to give back to your community, connect with fellow business owners, and pass on your knowledge and expertise to the next generation of entrepreneurs in your community.

We would like to introduce the newest members to our team of volunteers:


Natalie Blacher 

Natalie Blacher matriculated from Columbia University with an MBA in Marketing and Finance.  She received a B.A. from Lehigh University in Political Science and Economics.

Background

Natalie has worked in senior marketing positions for Burger King Corporation, McAlister’s Deli and Newk’s Eatery.  After working in a corporate environment, she established NFB Consulting, a company that provides consulting services for the food and beverage industry and retail concepts.  Her areas of expertise encompass brand positioning, marketing strategy, menu development, and consumer insights.  Clients have included PepsiCo Foodservice, Sunglass Hut-Watch Station, Del Taco restaurants, Captain D’s Restaurants, Super Target, Zimmerman Advertising, Sara Lee, FB Foods, among others.  Recently, Natalie completed two extensive restaurant industry-related contracts with the Federal Government (Department of Treasury and FDA Nutrition Division).


Brent D. Russell

Senior Living and Hospitality Leader

Background

Extensive experience in senior living operations, creating strong hospitality franchise systems, expanding global brands, strengthening partnerships and motivating management teams to greater success. Demonstrated success in CCRC operations, sales and marketing, strategic planning and team building for a national and a regional, privately owned senior care provider. In addition, experience with both a domestic regional hospitality and real estate development company and international experience in a global hospitality franchise firm. Recognized for the ability to impact an organization by providing enthusiastic leadership and mentoring to create a culture of exceptional service while maintaining a focus on results.

 

 

SCORE Client Stories – Meet Taija Ventrella of Vitality Fitness

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At Asheville SCORE we are honored to work with a wide variety of clients in Western North Carolina. Our entrepreneurs are forward-thinkers who strive to grow their business “outside the box.”

Taija Ventrella is one of these entrepreneurs. Taija is the owner of Vitality Fitness, a local fitness studio that focuses on coaching people of all levels and abilities to transform their lives through personalized, body-positive fitness programming. Her hard work was recently recognized when Vitality Fitness was voted #1 Fitness Studio by the Mountain Xpress “Best of WNC” Reader Poll for 2016 with Taija being voted among the top 3 best physical trainers for the 2nd in a row. CONGRATULATIONS, Taija and Vitality Fitness!!!

Vitality Fitness hosts events like Wake-up Shake-up taking place this December 8th, taking a fun and compassionate approach, aimed at engagement through movement and education, empowerment to lead a healthier lifestyle, and enrichment from greater self-confidence.


What service does your business provide?
One-on-one and small group fitness training in a safe, fun, supportive, and inclusive environment.

What prompted you to start this business? 
As an “alternative” person, I didn’t fit in in traditional gym/fitness communities. Along with being told I wouldn’t succeed, I was tired of feeling like a cog in a machine of the corporate fitness world, especially when the service we offer is so personal.
I wanted to see a body-positive, self-care based fitness movement (instead of one that feeds on people’s insecurities and self-body-hatred).

How have SCORE services helped you?
Asheville SCORE gave me more direction as to what I should be focusing in terms of marketing, branding, and growing the business.

What would you pinpoint as being the main challenges in opening your own business and how did you manage them?
Feeding myself without a paycheck and working ALL of the time – goodbye hobbies and social life.

What has been your greatest success so far? 
Clients telling me I’ve changed their lives. Providing a safe space that encourages clients to focus on the amazing things their bodies can do instead of just how they look.

What goal do you hope to accomplish next?
Grow my client base!

What advice would you give potential or new entrepreneurs?
Be ready to work hard, all of the time. As much time as you imagine you’ll be spending on your business, double it.

What would you describe your journey as an entrepreneur?
Exhausting, yet inspiring. Terrifying, yet empowering.

How do you enjoy your spare time?
What spare time? No really…

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Meet our SCORE Volunteers – Julie Snyder

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SCORE volunteers are experts, successful professionals, and former business owners that give back to the local business community. Julie Snyder is a SCORE volunteer who shares her knowledge of international business with clients in the Asheville area, donating her time and helping them grow their businesses.

Q. What are your favorite places to visit in and around Asheville?

A. Because I love nature, gardens, and walking with my dog Chester, I often visit the Biltmore Estate and the Arboretum for our hikes.   

Q. What are your areas of business expertise?

A. Counseling all types of businesses on how to enter and expand in international markets and developing strategic plans for exporting.

Q. Over the course of your career path what has been your #1 strength? What personality trait, skill, or ability was integral to your professional success?

A. Strong written and verbal communication skills–for negotiations, speeches, position papers, market reports, project planning, business counseling, and supervising teams.  Integral to success—creating a vision or plan with implementation through collaboration.

Q. Why do you volunteer for Asheville SCORE?

A. Throughout my career, I was a business counselor and “international matchmaker”.  I enjoy helping people grow their businesses.

Q. If you could give a new or existing business owner one piece of advice what would it be?

A. Take time for networking and business workshops/seminars/meetups—all can bring you valuable contacts, insights, and opportunities!

Women’s Business Roundtable – Lessons Learned

Interviews with Women Entrepreneurs

KATHLEEN LEWIS                                                                             MELISSA D. COPE

-SewLink – Kathleen Lewis Designs-                                                           -Melissa D. Cope – Mindset Coach- 

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Hear from two entrepreneurs, one who has conducted a thriving product oriented business for over 25 years and another, creating a successful, growing service business.

When:

Thursday October 20, 2016 from 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM EDT

Where:

A-B Tech – Enka, Small Business Center, Room 2046
1459 Sand Hill Rd
Candler, NC 28715

 

 

SCORE Client Stories – Meet Andrea Robel of Vistanet Telecommunications, Inc.

 

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At Asheville SCORE we are honored to work with a wide variety of clients in Western North Carolina. Our entrepreneurs are motivated and inspired. Many of them have had successful careers and companies in the past and they are looking for new ways to grow their businesses and organizations, and in some cases the chance to move in a new professional direction.

Andrea Robel, owner of Vistanet Telecommunications, was one of these clients in search of counseling and support as her work and her business evolved with the marketplace. When interviewed here is what she shared with us:

What service does your business provide?
Vistanet offers phone, internet and data solutions. We partner with all the major companies to bring you the telecommunications services you need, such as offsite storage, Office 365, Merchant Services, and system virtualization.

What prompted you to start this business? 
Having worked my entire career in helping to build out rural America for state of the art telecommunications services, I recognized a need in WNC for alternative communications services that are offered in the big cities.

How have SCORE services helped you?
SCORE has helped us with our marketing program. The direct counseling and Women’s Roundtable seminars have been very beneficial in learning better ways to improve marketing.

What would you pinpoint as being the main challenges in opening your own business and how did you manage them?
The biggest challenge is educating business owners about the telecom options available to them to help their business function more productively and efficiently. Business owners would rather stay with the status quo than change. We continue to meet with and educate business owners as to the new technology features that are available to them.

What has been your greatest success so far? 
Being able to offer a world class telecommunications product in the often overlooked mountains of WNC.

What advice would you give potential and new entrepreneurs?
Really do your homework before you start. Make sure that you are willing to commit time and capital. If you treat your business like a hobby, it is going to fail.

How would you describe your journey as an entrepreneur?
Growing up in a family-owned business, I had the opportunity to learn how to grow a successful business. Because of that training and the training I received working in the telecommunications industry as a financial lender, the journey to having my own business was just an extension of my growing up years.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time, when not working?
Exploring my cultural heritage, ethnic baking and cooking, gardening and spending time with friends

Do you have any advice to offer new business owners?
Make sure that you have a business phone number in place before you print your marketing materials and web site. Privacy is important. Do not give out your personal cell number.

 

Everything You Need to Know About E-commerce

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Written by: Steffi Rausch, web designer and owner of Evolv LLC (https://www.evolv.com/)


Shopping online has become so routine it seems consumers almost expect to be able to purchase virtually anything via the Internet. In 2016 the U.S. eCommerce market has become the second largest globally, behind China, and is expected to reach $482 billion in sales by 2018, that is about 8% of total retail sales, with $75 billion in mobile commerce sales last year alone. In fact, approximately 43% (and growing) of major retailers in the U.S. now offer a form of in-store pickup for eCommerce orders.

With that said, e-commerce is definitely a great way for any small business to reach more customers and sell more products, but good planning is a must because there are a lot of decisions and cost that go into creating a full e-commerce site. In fact most people who ask us to build them a full e-commerce site eventually decide to scale back and start initially with a more affordable option using PayPal or Stripe for only a few products. Hopefully this article will help you understand how e-commerce works, what decisions need to be made, and whether it makes sense for you to invest in this option. Also note that hiring a good e-commerce developer can help make the whole process go a lot smoother, as well as save you time and money so please consider this before attempting to do it yourself.

1. E-commerce Platform & Website CMS

A typical online storefront doesn’t just have a store with product pages, it also has a couple pages about the company, a contact page, and possibly a blog/news/resources section or other pages. So when choosing the an e-commerce platform for your storefront you must also choose a CMS (Content Management System) for your website and your decision should be based on your needs. So knowing what extra functionality you need and if that platform or app/plugin offers this to you is pretty vital. For example, do you know what discounts/coupons/sales you want to offer, what kinds of product variations you will have, do you want to give return-shoppers the option of setting up an account to remember their purchase history, will you offer wholesale pricing to retailers, etc. This is the most important choice you will make because it builds the foundation for your site, yet it is not easy to figure out if you don’t know what the options are and how they work. There are hundreds of e-commerce options out there but I will recommend the two most user-friendly options based on the opinion of several articles as well as my own.

For a self-hosted option, I recommend Woocommerce (free, hosting costs not-included) because it uses a very popular CMS called WordPress that is easy to use and gives developers full access to the server for easier customization. Tons of plugins are also available to add on functionality (free or at cost).

For a hosted option, I recommend Shopify (see monthly pricing, hosting costs included) because of its cost, features, and ease-of-use. It comes with a built-in CMS but does not give developers access to the server and therefore limiting for developers to customize certain aspects, especially the cart/payment process. Also please note that Shopify will process the payments on their servers or charge you extra fees to use external payment gateways. However, this also means they handle security issues and updates to the software which can be nice. Tons of apps are available to add on functionality (free or at cost).

NOTE: Both options allow users to setup their own e-commerce websites without the help of a developer, through theme (for design) and app/plugin (for functionality) options, but it will require a web designer/developer to further customize the site if you don’t like what these options give you out-of-the-box. And because Shopify limits access to the server, it can limit the developers somewhat more.

2. Product Options

To display your product there are several options – simple products (no variations), variable products (multiple variations like T-shirts that have different colors, sizes, etc.), grouped products, affiliate products, downloadable products, virtual products, etc. Regardless, you will need to display a price, photo, and a full description along with size/weight/material info. You can even categorize and subcategorize your products to simplify your navbar as well as offer a search so that people can find what they are looking for quickly.

3. One-page Checkout & Cart Access

It is recommended that you make the checkout process as quick and easy as possible using a one-page checkout option (WooCommerce offers this option). This can help prevent cart abandonment issues and makes people happier overall with the process. Also, you need to make sure that shoppers can see their cart total and product listings at all times as well as checkout from any page.

4. Taxes and Shipping

There are many e-commerce settings that you have to setup but taxes and shipping are a necessity so be aware of what is required in your state.

Setup sales tax rates (state and local) by downloading a sales tax table from www.taxrates.com that you can import to the site. Read more about this at www.salestaxhandbook.com.

Shipping can be simple (with flat fees) or complex and costly (pulling in table rates from UPS, USPS, Fedex, etc via a plugin that can be $199/yr), so I recommend trying to keep it simple whenever possible. Table rates are based on weight or shipping box dimensions so that info will need to be entered for each and every product if using this option.

5. Payment Gateways & SSL (Secure Socket Layer)

A payment gateway is an e-commerce service provider that processes your payments and funnels the money into a merchant/checking account (see below). Below are several options that should help you decide which one fits your budget based on your expected income. Almost all of the following solutions charge fees of 2.9% + $.30/transaction.

PayPal has no monthly fee but is limited to $10,000/mo or you will have to upgrade to PayPal Pro for $30/mo. PayPal does not require a SSL Certificate because visitors are taken away from your website to their servers to process the payment securely, either through their PayPal account or as a guest. However it is still recommended that you purchase this extra level of security to gain the trust of your clients especially with an ecommerce site that allows visitors to sign up for accounts to remember their transactions. To obtain the funds, you must transfer the funds manually into your checking account of choice which may take a couple days.

Stripe also has no monthly fee and is the latest coolest open source payment gateway because your visitors don’t have to leave your website to make a payment, instead it will display an overlaid popup box for payment. Checkout how it works here: https://stripe.com/checkout However, Stripe will deposit funds automatically every 2-7 days and there is no limit to the amount of income you obtain. SSL is required.

Authorize.net: $49 setup fee + $25 monthly gateway fee includes merchant account cost. No limit of transactions. SSL is required.

Balanced (balancedpayments.com) is unique in that it allows automatic “payouts” to multiple parties for each transaction. You must transfer your funds manually. SSL is required.

See this article for more gateway comparisons: https://www.formstack.com/payment-gateway-comparison

Please note that some shoppers prefer to use PayPal so offering this solution in combination with another payment gateway is quite normal.

SSL Certificates add an extra layer of protection by encrypting your transactions and cost around $50/yr. With SSL installed the http protocol changes to https with a lock icon in the browser next to the web URL.

6. Merchant Accounts (fees may vary)

Some payment gateways don’t require a merchant account but some do, i.e. Authorize.net. Merchant accounts are meant to collects funds from your customer’s bank and deposit funds into your account automatically. International transactions may cost an extra 1.5% and chargebacks may be assessed a fee of $25 by your merchant.

7. Security and PCI Compliance

Please be aware of your responsibilities for security and PCI Compliance. Read all about that here:https://www.pcicomplianceguide.org/pci-compliance-overview/

8. Google Analytics

To track your success — where visitors are coming from, what keywords allowed them to find you, or what referring sites they came from, etc. you will want to install Google Analytics which is a free web statistics software that Google offers everyone. It also allows you to further evaluate how many people fall off from your site or complete the checkout process through the setup of goals.

If you would like Evolv to help you with an e-commerce site, we would be happy to offer you a free 2-hour consultation to discuss your needs: https://www.evolv.com/

If you need consultation on other small business issues, just contact ashevillescore.org to ask for an appointment with a volunteer mentor SCORE. They are a nonprofit organization whose volunteers provide free, confidential business mentoring and training workshops to small business owners.

Women’s Business Roundtable – Lessons Learned

Please register here and join us for a FREE seminar as part of Asheville SCORE Women’s Business Roundtable.

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Lessons Learned: Interviews with Women Entrepreneurs

Meet Chelsea Baldwin, business copywriter, marketing consultant, and owner of Copy Power, LLC.

Hear how she grew her business from an idea to a successful and growing service practice.

From Chelsea’s website www.getcopypower.com:

“I used to be a CMO.
But I gave up that swanky corporate career to get away from 9-hour Saturdays & to help awesome people like you do more good in the world… and get the customers (and cash) you deserve.”

Registration is required as seating is limited. The Women’s Business Roundtable seminars fill up quickly due to their popularity.

Please register here.

 

Meet our SCORE Volunteers – Paul Kalicky

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SCORE volunteers are experts, successful professionals, and former business owners that give back to the local business community. Paul Kalicky is a volunteer who has helped many business owners in the Asheville area, sharing his own knowledge and gift of analytical thinking. SCORE volunteers, like Paul, are an integral part of business development and leadership training in Asheville and WNC.

Q. What are one or two favorite things to do/places to go in Asheville?

A. I enjoy all the beautiful, scenic walking trails in the area including those at the Biltmore Estate and their concerts and other events

Q. What are your areas of business expertise?

A. During my 31 year career at the DuPont Co. I’ve developed expertise in formulating business strategies, business plans to implement those strategies, and in many aspects of business operations, including manufacturing, research & development, sales, marketing, intellectual property, licensing, mergers & acquisitions, and international trade.

Q. Over the course of your career path what has been your #1 strength? What personality trait, skill, or ability was integral to your professional success?

A. I think the analytical abilities I developed  as a research scientist has enabled me to quickly understand the key success factors in any business, and to develop viable programs to profitably grow those businesses.

Q. Why do you volunteer for Asheville SCORE?

A. I enjoy helping small business owners who have not had the benefit of the extensive training one gets in a large company. And as much as I like helping a new business to grow profitably, it’s equally satisfying to help startups avoid costly pitfuls.

Q. If you could give a new or existing business owner one piece of advice what would it be?

A. I encourage every new startup to talk to as many owners of similar business as possible (outside of their competitive market area) in order to learn all about the possible pitfalls to be encountered and how to avoid them.   There is a quote I like:

“A vision without a plan is just a dream, A plan without a vision is just drudgery, But a vision with a plan can change the world”.

SCORE Client Stories: Meet Greg Mayer of One Click Fix

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THE ENTREPRENEUR

Greg Mayer started One Click Fix, an on-site computer repair business, in 2015 after selling his successful computer repair shop in North Asheville. One Click Fix offers the convenience of on-site setup, troubleshooting, maintenance, training, and computer repair across a wide variety of systems.

I met Greg at one his many jobs of the day, an art gallery in downtown Asheville, where cables had run amuck and wi-fi was spotty at best. He confidently introduced me as his assistant and after a quick sideways glance I smiled and extended my hand. Our interview took place on the job and consisted of Greg managing the tasks at hand while I interjected questions at inopportune moments, because, like any good business owner, Greg puts his clients first.

THE SCORE COUNSELOR

Greg’s counselor shared that he enjoyed working with Greg, stating that he is “a very high-energy guy and a unique thinker” who is also open to feedback.

SCORE counselors are real-world professionals with time-tested knowledge who donate thousands of hours to help existing local businesses and entrepreneurs starting a business succeed. Counselors are experts in areas such as accounting, finance, marketing, management and business plan preparation.

THE INTERVIEW

How did SCORE Asheville assist you when starting One Click Fix?

Right off the bat they asked me some very important questions about my business and then paired me with a more than adequate mentor and peer who helped me structure my plans.

They provided me with someone who I can bounce ideas off of. I’m constantly learning and always reaching out to mentors now to keep growing, because I never know what advice will be offered. There is always something to learn.

What three words or phrases would you use to describe your entrepreneurial journey?

Starting anew. Driven. An opportunity to give back.

What’s your biggest challenge?

Project management.

What would you like to accomplish next?

Retire at 55 and do something completely different. I want to shift gears entirely! Maybe mentor, similar to what SCORE does. Helping people build their dreams.

What advice would you give other entrepreneurs?

Seek out the SCORE team to help you find out what you don’t know. Go in with an open mind, ask questions, and then have them ask you questions to help develop a plan.

What do you think the biggest key to success is?

Getting up earlier, staying up later, and doing it 7 days a week. You have to be willing to put in the time. You have to give it your all, especially when you’re starting out.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? When you’re not working.

I cook. Currently I’m perfecting a recipe for chicken carbonara.

And very rarely, I play video games. Maybe 30 minutes every 2 weeks.