The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH)

SCORE seeks past executives as mentors

Entreprene­urs need help

- By Michael Fitzpatric­k

A nonprofit organizati­on designed to provide mentoring and education for people looking to start a business is looking for volunteers.

SCORE, which dubs itself as “the nation’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors” and whose mission is to help entreprene­urs get their businesses up and running, is looking for retired executives in the Lorain County area to help bring along the next generation of business owners.

The organizati­on was founded in 1964 and has provided education and mentoring to 11 million since then, according to its website.

SCORE Cleveland is conducting a meet-and-greet from 2-3:30 p.m., Nov. 3, at Richard Desich Sales Institute, Suite 220, 151 Innovation Drive on the campus of Lorain County Community College in Elyria to recruit volunteers, said John Sonnhalter, a retired business owner who volunteers with the organizati­on.

Sonnhalter owned a public relations and marketing business in the Cleveland area for 40 years.

SCORE Cleveland services a seven-county area that includes Cuyahoga, Lorain, Lake, Geauga, Ashtabula, Huron and Erie counties.

“We are trying to recruit ex-business folks, whether they owned a business, or worked in a business, that have the expertise to help small businesses and startup businesses to get up and going,” Sonnhalter said.

SCORE Cleveland can help the fledgling business owner do anything from creating a business plan, to marketing, to designing and setting up a website, he said.

“And we do this free of charge,” Sonnhalter said.

Entreprene­urs can use the service as often as they need,

Demand for the service has increased dramatical­ly in Lorain County in recent years.

Just two years ago, volunteers provided 170 hours of service.

In 2020, that number climbed to 570 hours.

This year, SCORE in Lorain County is expected to offer more than 800 hours of services, Sonnhalter said.

There also is a high demand for volunteers fluent in Spanish.

Currently, SCORE Cleveland has over 80 volunteers to service its seven-county area, but that’s not enough to meet the demand for service.

Eight volunteers live in Lorain County.

“We’re stretched somewhat thin,” Sonnhalter said.

Mentors can provide invaluable aid to those starting up a business, he said.

“I wish I had something like this when I got into business; it can help prevent mistakes, and mistakes can cost you money,” Sonnhalter said.

Attendees at the Nov. 3 meeting will get a full rundown of just what SCORE provides for its clients.

Volunteers can give as much of their time to the organizati­on as they want.

SCORE provided Lorain County businesses valuable help since the coronaviru­s pandemic in securing Payroll Protection Program loans, Sonnhalter said.

“Those were a big deal,” he said. “We had a big group who were experts in that, and they were able to give seminars and help people work through their paperwork and get their loans.”

Since the pandemic, most of the mentoring is done via ZOOM or phone.

Sonnhalter, who lives in North Ridgeville, said he joined the organizati­on as a way to stay busy.

“I wanted to do something, and this is a great way to give back to the community,” he said.

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