August 2018

Shake Hands with SCORE: A Navigation System for Your Business

Author: Linda S. Hopkins | Photographer: M.Kat Photography

Starting a new business is a lot like planning a road trip, yet many would-be entrepreneurs and small business owners are still navigating blindly or with an outdated map. It doesn’t have to be this way! Whether you have a fantastic idea for a new business startup, are seeking to grow an existing business, or are looking for an exit strategy to retire or start something new, a group of brilliant businessmen and women at SCORE are waiting to help you chart the path, providing turn-by-turn guidance on the journey ahead.

SCORE, a 501 ©(3) nonprofit, is the nation’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors. They provide free, confidential business advice, one-on-one mentoring, workshops, seminars and events as well as business tools and templates (available online at According to Rod Casavant, retired Eli Lilly executive and chairman of our local SCORE chapter, SCORE SC Lowcountry, the organization is funded primarily by the Small Business Administration and is supplemented through local fundraising efforts. “We are not part of the SBA. We are a resource partner,” he explained.

Founded in 1964, the original organization was called the Service Corps of Retired Executives, but if you’re picturing a bunch of stodgy, out-of-touch old men, you are in for a surprise. In keeping with the times and trends, all SCORE mentors, nationwide, are certified and are required to participate in continuing education to further their skills and stay sharply attuned to the current business climate. Many are still working, have businesses of their own, and are serving their communities in a variety of leadership roles.

“We are a talent magnet,” Casavant said of the 50 volunteers from diverse business backgrounds who are available for counseling in this area. “Everybody has their own motivation, but there is this common desire to help others succeed and give back. The ‘secret sauce’ is the expertise and experience.”

SCORE’s tagline is “For the Life of Your Business,” and the programs reflect that by providing ongoing support as businesses grow and evolve. “Everyone from solopreneurs to small businesses all the way to the largest employers here are our clients. We’ve been involved for years with some of them. We meet with clients regularly, and it’s really tailored to what the client needs,” Casavant said. “When people request our assistance and we get involved with them, they can be young and working and wanting to do something different; they can be retired and ready for something new; or they may have a hobby or interest they want to develop into a business. It germinates from a lot of places. And people we work with are amazed that the service is free.”

Staying current and relevant
According to Casavant, one of the biggest influences on small business development today is the power of the Internet and social media, which has made starting a business more accessible. “You don’t have to have brick and mortar,” he explained. “With the ability to have an online business, the barriers to entry are fewer and start-up costs are less. That changes the dynamic. So, you have people coming in who can start there. That’s something you couldn’t say 10 years ago, and that requires us to be more and more tech-savvy.”

SCORE SC Lowcountry serves Hilton Head Island, Bluffton and Beaufort. As CH2/CB2 magazines celebrate men in business this month, it’s only fitting that we honor this group of dedicated individuals who have been helping local businesses get off the ground and grow since 1989. But for the record, SCORE is no longer all about men!

While it’s true that the founders and many of the early mentors and clients were men, women are quickly joining the ranks. As of last year, SCORE SC Lowcountry had only two women mentors. That number is currently over 10, according to Casavant. And the number of women clients has grown exponentially as female entrepreneurs and female-owned businesses are on the rise locally and nationwide.

Jessica Shefsick, owner of Bride’s Side Beauty, had already established her business when she approached SCORE for counseling with a goal of examining some potential new ways to grow. For the past three years, she has been working with SCORE counselor Frank Lipari, retired senior executive with Kraft Foods and former president of his own small consulting business.

“I appreciate his experience and his insight. I needed someone who knows more than me,” Shefsick said. “And what better person to learn from than an executive who has already experienced success? He is giving me the help and the undivided attention I need in a mentor.”

Coming from a military background, John Brown learned about SCORE when he joined the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce. He started his business, College HUNKS Hauling Junk and Moving in November of 2017 and is working with Casavant. “It’s good to have someone to bounce ideas off of,” he said. Most valuable is “the extra set of ears and eyes. Rod listens to things I’m going through, provides information that I might not think about, and recommends things I might want to do to be successful.”

Laurie Brown, of Aunt Laurie’s in Bluffton came from a 30-year corporate career with a dream to own a business. She fulfilled that dream with SCORE’s guidance and has since received numerous awards including the distinction as the 2017 Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year. She has also become certified as a SCORE mentor in the SC Lowcountry chapter.

In terms of impact, SCORE is clearly strengthening America’s economy. With 300+ chapters and over 10,000 volunteers nationwide, in 2017 alone, they helped 54,506 new businesses get started and helped create 61,534 non-owner jobs. Since 1964, SCORE has helped more than 11 million entrepreneurs. In the South Carolina Lowcountry, with the assistance of SCORE, 64 new businesses were started and 110 non-owner jobs created in 2017.

Casavant said he never anticipated doing this. (He came to SCORE seeking their help to buy a business.) He ended up with a real estate investment business and, at the same time, stepped into his new mentoring role, which has proved immensely fulfilling. “I get a great charge out of seeing people be successful and that whole process,” he said. “People come to us with their dreams, and to help them realize their dreams … it’s hard to put words around it.”

For more information, to volunteer, or to request a local mentor, please visit, or call (843) 785-7107.

SCORE Reaching out to Serve Lowcountry Ladies
2018 THRIVE Lowcountry Women’s Conference – September 5&6

On September 5-6, SCORE, in partnership with the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, invites Lowcountry ladies to attend the second annual Thrive Lowcountry Women’s Conference.

The conference, which takes place at the Sonesta Resort on Hilton Head Island, will feature speakers, breakout sessions, and networking designed to educate and encourage women to Thrive in today’s workplace environment and their personal lives.

“We are pleased to have BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina as the Thrive Title Sponsor,” said Rod Casavant, chairman of SCORE SC Lowcountry. “It is rewarding to have an outstanding organization supporting our community and this annual Lowcountry Women’s conference.”

Laurie Brown, founder, and owner of Aunt Laurie’s will be one of the speakers at this year’s event. Her presentation is titled “Life is a Mission, Not an Intermission.” She will also speak at the SCORE business panel breakout and has been involved with planning the event as a committee member.

“Our focus has been on ensuring the event is meaningful and impactful to the women who attend,” Brown said. “We expect entrepreneurs, women in business, and participating non-profit organizations to find the conference to be a boost in both their professional and personal lives.”

“The Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber Commerce is pleased to support this event with our title sponsor, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, our partner SCORE, and other sponsors,” said Penny Hughey, membership services, and events manager. “The THRIVE conference will be beneficial to women at all stages of their career and life.”

The event includes a welcome reception on Wednesday, September. 5, from 5:30 to 8 p.m., featuring entertainment, heavy hors-d’oeuvres, vendor tables, and a speaker panel with local business owners. The conference takes place on Thursday, September 6, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Registration for the event is $119, and $129 after July 31. Special rates are available for military-affiliated participants and large groups.

For more information or to register, visit

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