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Seacoast SCORE Business Mentorship Demand Rises During Pandemic – Business – fosters.com

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PORTSMOUTH – Seacoast SCORE volunteers scrambled in March to convert to fully virtual services, educate teams on new SBA and state funding programs, and significantly increase local SCORE services to existing businesses. Customers have pivoted, survived and in some cases thrived in the face of the headwinds of COVID-19.

Over the past six months, the response from SCORE’s mentors, trainers and experts has resulted in significant growth within the chapter, as well as service to nearly 100 existing companies who have requested help navigating the program. protection of government paychecks, economic disaster loans, grant programs, unemployment rules and marketing challenges.

SCORE mentors help established businesses reinvent themselves and thrive.

With the desire to “bring together multiple areas of interest” and “change the way the industry works”, Emily Stearns founded The Drift Collective at 12 Fleet St. in Portsmouth (https://thedriftcollective.com/) in 2016. She was frustrated with the waste and quality of “fast fashion” and believed there was a market for high quality vintage clothing that was reused or reinvented. All of the design and manufacture of their clothes takes place in their Portsmouth boutique, allowing customers to see where their clothes are made and to cooperate in their creation.

“By creating clothes for men and women that are as beautiful as they are ethical, we hope to transform our community’s ideas about sustainable fashion,” said Stearns.

Two years after starting the business, Stearns was referred to Seacoast SCORE by several business owners in Portsmouth. She is a first generation retail entrepreneur and was looking for trusted advisors to help her with her strategic decisions for the business. Since 2018, Stearns has worked with Seacoast SCORE mentors Brenda Richards, Gene Roe and Vic Levesque. She leveraged the multiple mentor model in which a client was assigned two or more mentors during their introductory meeting. Stearns and his mentors meet regularly, averaging one meeting per quarter.

Stearns describes his mentors as calm, knowledgeable and supportive. They went from “payroll to pandemics,” she said. Knowing that others survived their own crises gave him the confidence to run a successful business.

“Honestly, it was super scary, but our dynamic business model has allowed us to do more online and reach customers through social media,” Stearns said of the operation during the pandemic.

She believes that a strong social and online media platform has enabled The Drift to take advantage of “impulse shopping” for those under lock and key. Her business has grown so much this year that she hired two more employees. Stearns thinks there’s a lesson for entrepreneurs who haven’t focused on their internet presence. His experience is that it pays big dividends.

Local Seacoast SCORE volunteers are celebrated in October for these benchmarks: unique customers up 4% from 2019; mentoring sessions up 11%; workshop participants increased by 13% and Total Seacoast SCORE services increased by 12%.

“This year has been an extraordinary challenge for all of the Seacoast businesses, and we are proud of the way our team of volunteers have supported local customers,” said Tim Cook, Seacoast SCORE Chapter President. “Every live online workshop was held, every client got a quick response, and dozens of P3s and other loans and grants are in the hands of our clients today.

Cook said there is a lot of work to be done and the need to adapt will continue, as he praised the efforts of the 60 Seacoast SCORE volunteers.

“One of the most amazing things is that we’ve added four new volunteers this year and we’ve grown our roster of female mentors,” he said. “It reflects the needs of our customers as well as our need to serve them in new ways.”

SCORE volunteers are experienced business people with significant training who obtain their certification through a national accreditation program. They subscribe to a code of ethics that protects the confidentiality of customer relationships. Mentors provide one-on-one private advice to start-ups and long-time businesses adjusting to change.

SCORE’s services are free to the public. Seacoast SCORE is funded by a grant from the US Small Business Administration which provides office space. Much of the chapter’s remaining funding comes from partnerships with businesses in the area, including The Brook, Seabrook’s charitable gaming facility, which recently donated to the chapter.

Many of the region’s banking foundations and individual banking companies are providing funds to support the live workshop program, which this year hosted 34 one-on-one workshops with 730 participants.

“We are very grateful to our bank and our business partners,” said chapter vice president Dave Underhill, “because they allow us to focus on our workshops and keep every service free for customers. “

The workshops included new marketing sessions on how to respond to customer and employee fears and how to open up new markets and products despite the many physical and customer challenges faced during the pandemic.

Seacoast SCORE is continuing its virtual operations and will return to its new offices at 230 Commerce Way in Portsmouth when conditions permit.

SCORE is an independent 501 (c) 3 charity focused on strengthening small businesses and local communities. For more information visit Seacoast.score.org, email [email protected] or call (603) 433-0575.

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