Nate Coakley paid $1,800 to learn how to write a business plan. So when the staff operations and training specialist for Soldier and Family Assistance Center talked about SCORE Wednesday to a group of Soldiers with the Warrior Transition Battalion, he repeated and spelled the word “free.”
SCORE, which stands for Service Core of Retired Executives, is a community-based program that helps people dreaming of owning their own business by providing advice and mentors, Coakley said. The Columbus chapter of SCORE and the WTB launched a six-week program on how to start a business for future entrepreneurs.
Soldiers have the drive, discipline and desire to accomplish the task making them ideal candidates for owning a business, said Robb Nichols, who attended the kick off on behalf of Congressman Lynn Westmoreland. And small business owners are the engines that drive the economy, said Kenneth Cutts, who represented Congressman Sanford Bishop.
Small businesses create 64 percent of all new jobs, said Faye Anderson, the chapter chair and SCORE mentor, but 80 percent of startups fail with the first five years.
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“Mentoring is important,” Anderson said. “That’s where we come in — with wisdom gained from the school of hard knocks. Mentors provide advice and perspective.”
Although SCORE is free and available to anyone, the pilot program is available only to WTB Soldiers and their families, Anderson said.
“It’s a ‘go or no go’ type of program,” she said. “We talk about the simple steps of starting a business business plans, marketing, financials. If after completing the program, a Soldier or spouse wants to pursue the dream, that’s when the one-on-one counseling starts.
“SCORE is national. If the Soldier transitions out (of the Army) and moves to Syracuse, N.Y., we’re there. And now we have e-mail counseling available, so we can match experts to the need,” she said.
Anderson said this pilot program is the first between SCORE and transitioning Soldiers but expects it to go national, also. For Sgt. Elijah Wilson, the launch was timely. His restaurant, Sticks and Stones in Stockbridge, Ga., had its soft opening March 26.
Described as an upscale dining experience for the casual diner, Wilson said what makes his restaurant different from other steakhouses is using volcanic rocks to cook and serve the meat. After learning about SCORE, Wilson said he planned to revise his business plan, making it more concrete and would talk about franchising opportunities and marketing ideas with experts. The Warrior Transition Battalion Soldier said his father, the restaurant’s general manager, is the chef, but the idea of using volcanic rocks came his experience in Germany when he was stationed in Vilseck.
For more information about SFAC’s program, call Coakley at 706-544-1181. For more on SCORE, visit www.score.org.