SCORE is a national organization of experienced business professionals who offer free confidential counseling and low-cost education programs to assist new and existing small business owners. This national network is comprised of hundreds of local chapters. The Auburn chapter is located at 2 State Street, along with the Cayuga County Chamber of Commerce and the Cayuga Economic Development Agency (CEDA). Maureen Riester is a shared resource for two of these agencies, by being CEDA’s Economic Development Specialist and Auburn SCORE’s Treasurer and Marketing Chair.

Anyone interested in starting, improving or expanding a new business may go to SCORE for free advice and guidance in a wide range of topics to help them with their efforts. The most common format is called one-on-one mentoring, where the business owner meets with a trained SCORE mentor to discuss their business plans and goals. In addition, there are many local subject matter experts who may sit in on future sessions to offer their own advice, as needed, also at no cost.

The Auburn SCORE chapter offers occasional workshops for business owners. One of the most comprehensive is a five-part course called “Simple Steps for Starting your Business,” with each session covering a different topic. When this course was first offered in 2016, there were ten participants. In 2017 there were twenty-four. The 2018 session is scheduled to begin on Monday, September 17, and will be followed by a “pitch session,” where business owners can compete for funds for their businesses.

I was one of the twenty-four people who attended the 2017 workshop. Each session featured experts on that week’s topic, and the educational materials given out provided information on the different types of businesses, the components of a business plan, how to conduct market research, advertising, product pricing, financing options and more. I strongly recommend “Simple Steps for Starting your Business” for any new or prospective business owner.

We have recently added walk-in opportunities to meet with a SCORE mentor at Seymour Library on the second Thursday of the month from 12:30 – 2:00 and on the fourth Thursday from 3:30 – 5:00. There are also walk-in sessions we offer at the Cayuga County Clerk’s office on the second Tuesday of the month from 9:30 – 11 a.m or by appointment.

We have also recently applied for a grant from ­the national office of SCORE to “make new connections and do more outreach in the community to create awareness of SCORE’s services, recruit new volunteers and assist more entrepreneurs.” As part of that extended outreach, SCORE presents workshops on using Google for business, the importance of proper insurance, effective use of social media, providing special support for veterans and more. We would also use those funds for additional training for our mentors, implementing a speaker series and partnering with other agencies such as local libraries and the Skaneateles Chamber of Commerce.

In future columns we will focus on specific services SCORE can provide and feature interviews with local business owners who have used SCORE and profiles of some of the SCORE mentors. Maureen Riester summed up the goal of SCORE with a simple sentence. “Our job is to help people make good business decisions.”

Joe Sarnicola is a volunteer SCORE Mentor. For more information contact the Auburn SCORE Chapter at 315-252-7291, or visit
Published in the August 2, 2018, edition of The Citizen.