Princeton SCORE offers StartSMART workshops to help people launch businesses. But does it really help? At least one small business owner is banking on it.

The SCORE StartSMART Workshop Series for Start-ups will begin Thursday, January 16, at 5:45 p.m. at Pellettieri, Rabstein & Altman, 100 Nassau Park Boulevard.

The series, led by SCORE’s Carmen Morris, is aimed at anyone who is considering starting their own business but doesn’t know where to begin, or anyone who is having difficulty getting a new business off the ground. SCORE’s volunteer executives, all of whom are experienced business experts, guide business owners through the planning process to make informed “go/no go” decisions or re-evaluate various approaches to making a business dream a reality. Register for the free workshop online at princeton.score.org.

The series provides five three-hour workshops: Start-up Basics, Business Concept and Data Collection, Marketing Plan, Financial Projections and Funding Sources, and Next Steps. The first session is offered as a free trial. The entire series is available for $128, and includes all five workshops and one-on-one mentoring support from an individually assigned SCORE business counselor.

“I found the SCORE workshop series invaluable,” says Amin Rizk, co-owner with his wife and another partner in Jammin’ Crepes, a new restaurant scheduled to open at 20 Nassau Street this spring. “I had worked in the corporate cosmetics industry for over 20 years, but there were many things I did not know about being a business owner.”

Rizk had no family background or experience in small business. His father was a diplomat. He grew up overseas and holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Hartwick College in New York. His wife, Kim, came from a family of entrepreneurs. Her parents owned a bed and breakfast in Bucks County while she was growing up. “We had both always wanted to open a business. With our children either out of college or just finishing up, it seemed like the perfect time,” says Rizk.

Kim Rizk’s culinary expertise includes managing a successful gourmet food store in Connecticut, writing a cookbook, and working as a freelance food writer and restaurant critic. She holds a Master Food Preserver certificate from Cornell University and has led several community initiatives to raise awareness of the importance of local farms. After discovering partner Kathy Klockenbrink’s passion for French food and culinary studies in the Savoy region of France, the two long-time Princeton residents embarked on a culinary adventure that has been pleasing the palates of residents and visitors to local farmers markets since 2011, and has morphed into Jammin’ Crepes.

Their first brick-and-mortar location, at 20 Nassau Street in downtown Princeton, will be the first official home for the company’s farm-fresh crepes, micro-batch jams, soups, and pickles.

“Jammin’ Crepes is a celebration of regional farms wrapped in a crepe, a local twist on what a crepe can be,” says Rizk. The partners plan an ever-changing seasonal menu highlighting local ingredients. Many of the restaurant’s crepes will feature homemade micro-batch jams, pickles and condiments, crafted from regional orchard fruit, berries, and herbs. In addition to crepes, Jammin’ Crepes will also offer a daily selection of seasonal soups and salads and a variety of home baked delicacies. There will also be an assortment of regional, all-natural juices and drinks, as well as specialty coffee and tea drinks.

The restaurant will offer casual eat-in and take away food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The restaurant will have seating for approximately 35 customers and will offer free Wi-Fi.

But while the three partners had experience in marketing and in the culinary business, they knew they had a lot to learn before opening their new restaurant. “Yes, I’d developed budgets before, but they always went to the CFO who pulled together the big picture,” says Rizk. If you had told me a few years ago that I’d be pulling together the big picture for three years of cash flow, I wouldn’t have believed it.”

That is one of the reasons they began their business three years ago by “setting up shop” at local farmers markets, including the Princeton Farmers Market and the West Windsor Farmer’s Market. This strategy has given them a base of fans even before they open the doors of their new restaurant.

The SCORE workshops focus on a wide variety of skills for the entrepreneur, including researching your market, customers, and competitors, developing a marketing strategy and financial plan, identifying the best ways to fund your new business, and turning your idea into action.

“The workshop offers something for everyone who wants to start a business. I really enjoyed meeting other people who were in very different industries, from retail to manufacturing,” Amin Rizk says. He found one of the most valuable aspects of the program was the mentoring. “Everyone is assigned a mentor. Bill Litchman was assigned to me and he has been invaluable to me, and still is. He has worked with us at every step.” From helping them understand the paperwork involved in a bank loan to test marketing products, SCORE and Litchman have been instrumental, he says. “They are the guides, but you do the work.”

The most frustrating part for Rizk, has been actually getting the restaurant open. “That’s one reason we are just giving ‘spring, 2014,’ for an opening date so far. We are still dealing with contractors and inspections and licenses. And although we have had great support from everyone in Princeton, it all just takes time.”

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