Last fall, my company, Skillastics, had the good fortune to be one of 12 small businesses to receive a grant of $250,000 through Mission: Small Business, a program designed to increase awareness of the important role small businesses play in local communities. Nearly 77,000 small businesses registered, and 3.1 million consumers participated by voting for their favorite small businesses. Those are some long odds—but I have SCORE to thank for helping me become one of the 12 recipients out of 77,000 applicants!
Skillastics uses play and group interaction to promote physical fitness among children. I’m an athlete myself. For more than 20 years I was considered one of the best basketball handlers in the world, performing for thousands at NBA and college half-times, school assemblies and special events around the world. I started this business because I wanted to bring my passion for health and exercise to school kids around the country, many of whom have shown a frightening decline in fitness levels.
But turning a great idea into a strong business takes teamwork. I found my team at SCORE. The experts at SCORE have decades of experience in business. They made a huge difference in helping get Skillastics off the ground. So, when it came to applying for this grant, I naturally turned to SCORE again.
Usually I’m pretty skeptical about e-mails that land in my inbox telling me about ways I can get money for my company. Most of the time I just hit the Delete button. But when I received the e-mail from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce about this Mission: Small Business grant, I got a different feeling. I thought it sounded very interesting—but it was hardly what you’d call a slam dunk!
So, after looking at the application, I once again turned to SCORE. I contacted Stan Lewczyk, my mentor at SCORE, and asked him if he felt that this was something that would fit well with my company. He said yes, so I proceeded to fill out the application.
Then I forwarded it to Stan to see if he had any recommendations for revisions. He felt I did a good job, but suggested a few improvements, which I implemented.
First, he suggested that I add more statistical data in my application. The numbers don’t lie: They show that I have been a strong, financially secure company for ten years.
Second, one of the questions on the application asked what would I do with the money. I mentioned three things and Stan suggested I drop that to two. I felt this was a great suggestion. It enabled me to go into more detail on each one, and present a solid, compelling case for the grant.
The next thing I knew, I’d been informed that I was one of the 12 businesses chosen to receive the $250,000 grant! That was one of those “nothin’ but net” moments in life—the most incredible feeling you can imagine.
Since then SCORE has continued to offer help and guidance. They’ve put me in touch with a variety of individuals whom I’ve met with to help bring to fruition the ideas that I outlined in my application form. Within the next few months, I am going to be a part of the Group CEO Forum of SCORE OC. I’m excited about sharing and learning from other CEOs that deal with the same challenges I do.
Also, I am going to take advantage of SCORE’s advisory board. Having a SCORE mentor’s expertise available for such a service is invaluable to me as a small business owner.
As I go through the process of using the grant money to grow my business, I will consistently confide in my friends at SCORE, telling them how things are going…and, as ever, asking for their advice!
President and Founder
Learn more about SCORE OC’s mentoring and workshops at www.score114.org.