Princeton SCORE, the organization dedicated to supporting small business owners, will hold its annual small business fair on Saturday, May 4.
The free event, which will be held at the Princeton Public Library from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., focuses on connecting small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs with organizations and resources that can help them.
The fair will offer four mini-seminars, which are 40-minute versions of the two-hour seminars that SCORE presents as part of its educational program: “Home-Based Business Tips,” Janet Pickover, certified meeting planner, at 11 a.m.; “Financial Accounting Tips & Tools,” Leon Petelle, retired CPA, at noon; “Secrets to Funding Your Business,” David Plucinsky, business consultant, at 1 p.m.; and “Intro to Social Media Marketing,” Samantha Poliseno, online marketing consultant, at 2 p.m. To register for the seminars go to www.scoreprinceton.org/workshop.php.
Exhibitors this year include FranNet Franchise Consultants, Klatzkin & Co., MacLean Insurance, Magyar Bank, Mercer County Office of Economic Development, the MIDJersey Chamber, N.J. Small Business Development Center, NJVetBiz, the Princeton Packet, the Princeton Chamber of Commerce, Regional Business Assistance Corporation, Regus Business Centers, ReferenceUSA, the Small Business Administration (SBA), and Szaferman Lakind.
In addition to the small business fair and its regularly scheduled seminars, SCORE is gearing up to introduce two new workshops as part of its Established Business Consulting (EBC) program: E-Business Now and GrowSMART.
Bill Litchman, a retired telecom executive who has been in charge of SCORE’s Princeton chapter since 2009, says some details need to be worked out in both programs, but E-Business Now will be the first to launch, probably in September. The target date for Growsmart is late fall or early winter.
Litchman grew up near Boston and earned his bachelor’s in electrical engineering from Tufts. He then moved to New York and spent most of his career as an engineer and management and sales executive with telecom giant ITT (now Qwest).
The idea behind E-Business Now is technology. The program is a five-module course that helps established firms understand how to use technology to do business. It opens with an overview of how technology helps businesses and explores some of the myths and fears people have about technology and doing business on the web, Litchman says.
The second module looks at creating a technology plan for your business, concentrating on Internet and software issues. Third is how to build the right kind of website, which Litchman says is an important aspect in business development that a lot of people overlook.
The fourth module will look at various Internet and software tools that help jumpstart sales, including the ubiquitous (and increasingly influential) social media platforms. The final module will look at hardware, the very machines businesses can use to increase productivity and boost their bottom lines. This, says Litchman, can be anything from cash registers to Square credit card readers that let customers pay through mobile phones.
E-Business Now, like GrowSMART will not be free programs. Litchman says the prices are not yet fixed, but E-Business Now is likely to be similar in price to SCORE’s StartSMART program, which costs $128 for its five-session program (U.S. 1, July 25, 2012). GrowSMART will likely be closer to $200 because it will be a significantly more involved program, he says.
GrowSMART will be a six-session program that picks up where StartSMART leaves off. “StartSMART focuses on the concept, but not the business,” Litchman says. “Things like what form of company; do I buy a business or should I franchise. Funding. Startups almost always need funding.”
GrowSMART, Litchman says, will allow established businesses to pitch specific objectives they are trying to achieve, such as “I have a serious inventory problem, how do I resolve it?” The program starts with an assessment of the business’ objectives, then gets into one-on-one mentoring.
This is a main reason GrowSMART will cost money (and also because of costs for textbooks and other course materials that need to be printed). And it is part of the reason that the program is still in the middle phases of development. GrowSMART’s logistics are simply huge. SCORE has several counselors at its fingertips, but matching the right mentor to each entrepreneur will take some finesse, Litchman says. “It might not be someone from the exact industry, but they will be experts [in the problem],” he says.
Another holdup is the fact that while the Princeton version of GrowSMART is based on a national SCORE program, the local version needs to be tailored to fit the specifics of the Princeton region. Litchman cannot address specifics, but says that some information in the national program simply has little connection to the Princeton area.
Yet another hurdle to overcome is promotion. Litchman laments the popular image of SCORE. “There’s a misplaced belief that SCORE is really intended just for entrepreneurs,” he says. “What we need is a meaningful way to overcome that.”
Still, some efforts are being made to inform people that SCORE is a resource for established businesses, too. And once the bugs get worked out, Litchman says, E-Business Now and GrowSMART should make excellent calling cards for just that purpose.
“We’re not terribly concerned,” he says. “We have a significant established client base who tend to be businesses in some measure of trouble. They’ll come.”
For more information on SCORE programs, visit www.scoreprinceton.org or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.