Each month, Piedmont SCORE receives about 100 applications from fledging entrepreneurs seeking help. Some want to start their own businesses; others want to make their businesses more profitable.
“Many times our clients just need someone to listen to their business plan and maybe tweak it slightly,” said Fred Rabb, who chairs the Upstate chapter of the organization.
Founded approximately 65 years ago by a group of retired West Coast business executive, SCORE, which stands for Service Corps of Retired Executives, is a nonprofit arm of the federal Small Business Administration and has more than 310 chapters around the country with some 11,000 volunteers.
The Upstate chapter, which has over 50 volunteers covering 11 counties, recently celebrated its 50th anniversary on Sept. 29. It’s the second-oldest chapter in South Carolina, after Columbia, according to Rabb.
SCORE has a simple mission: to foster small businesses through one-on-one mentoring and education. In the Upstate, about 40 mentors — many of whom, like Rabb, have held leadership positions within major corporations or ran their own company — help between 70 and 100 new entrepreneurs a month.
The process works similar to the small business accelerator program offered through the Greenville Chamber of Commerce, except SCORE is all volunteer based.
“In many cases our clients aren’t ready to get into business, so we will be very gentle and respectful, and we may indicate to them that their business plan may not be viable at this point — it may require a little more work,” Rabb said. “Our No. 1 goal is that they’re left with a sustainable income stream.”
Past clients have included Pedal Chic and Swamp Rabbit Cafe and Grocery in Greenville, Breezy Quarters in Abbeville and Inky’s Authentic Philadelphia Cheesesteaks and Hoagies in Easley.
SCORE also hosts regular workshops on topics ranging from business startups to QuickBooks to digital marketing and partners with the Hispanic Alliance to produce Spanish-speaking sessions, most of which are free of charge.
Prior to the pandemic, workshops were typically held at local library branches. They’ve since migrated online, and attendance has nearly tripled, Rabb said.
“We’ve had to shift gears just like everyone else,” he said.
For more information on Piedmont SCORE or to volunteer, visit piedmont.score.org.