The SCORE Twin Cities Chapter has over 140 volunteers that have an ongoing commitment to extend free education and mentoring to all our business communities including women and people of color. The effort is timely and pertinent to our current economy.
Today, among new business startups across the country, 55% are started by women, and 25% are started by African Americans and Hispanics. The mentoring requests coming into our SCORE chapter are similarly proportioned. The need to present programs and mentoring that resonate and are relevant to this broad audience is clear.
Over the past year, one important strategy that the Twin Cities SCORE chapter has learned is that if we are to contribute to the economic advancement of people through other organizations, we need to fit into what those organizations are already doing.
Two examples of this "fitting in" with other organizations are Minnesota Africans United (MAU) and Northside Economic Opportunity Network (NEON).
MAU serves African immigrants with a range of services designed to help people do well in American society. MAU's Business Development Committee supports immigrants' efforts to understand US business systems as well as to develop networks of professionals who can assist prospective customers.
In December of 2020 SCORE volunteers Harry Miller, Laura Hamilton, Rich Hamer and John Berget engaged MAU's CEO Basil Ajuo in a discussion of how we might work together. Out of this and subsequent interaction two ideas emerged:
- A SCORE mentor could be a mentor to an organization rather than just a mentor to one individual. Rich Hamer took the role of organizational mentor to MAU and became involved in overall organizational development and working closely with CEO Ajuo.
- Materials available on SCORE's website could be more intentionally used to serve specific populations. In this case, in fall of 2021, recordings of SCORE's Simple Steps to Starting Your Own Business, a 5-session course, were used as the basis for a virtual classroom course offered to African Immigrants.
The MAU experience taught us how mentoring can be integrated in an organization's existing program. By offering the virtual classroom, we served immigrants who wouldn't be inclined to "just show up" to a course, nor would they be well served by self-service from the website. Creating a cohort of people who completed the course was of great value to the participants.
The demonstration of this approach with MAU has more recently attracted NEON.
Led by Program Director Ann Fix, to offer a virtual classroom Simple Steps course for NEON's clientele. NEON works to develop North Minneapolis and the surrounding area into a prosperous, diverse community of entrepreneurs. In this case, the NEON team will send the invitations to become a member of a new cohort for the five sessions.
In the case of both MAU and NEON, organization personnel contribute and participate in the programs. MAU recruited and SCORE trained four African immigrant mentors who co-led the sessions. NEON will incorporate its own programs and personnel into their upcoming sessions. MAU plans to repeat the Simple Steps course at least twice in 2022.
The takeaways from these experiences are to look for ways to become part of the existing program of organizations, recognize that some people won't readily adapt to using self-service from SCORE websites, and stay on the lookout for ways to add more value, such as the mutual support of cohorts, where needed.
The Ask / The Opportunity
If you or someone you know represents a group like NEON or MAU that are working with small businesses to develop and grow, and you would like to partner with SCORE for free volunteer resources, please reach out to Deb Salerno (Deborah.Salerno@scorevolunteer.org) or Richard Hamer (Richard.Hamer@scorevolunteer.org) at SCORE Twin Cities