SCORE works with Community Development Corporations to elevate local businesses


In a city where storefronts are still recovering from a decline due to COVID-19, SCORE Cleveland-part of the largest national network of volunteer expert business mentors for Small Business – partners with area Community Development Corporations (CDCs) to offer free business advisory services to help local small businesses through this difficult time.

Robert Cohen, co-chair of the business-focused nonprofit SCORE ClevelandThree of these partnerships currently take place at the SCORE Cleveland offices at 1350 Euclid Ave., in affiliation with the Lee Harvard, Slavic village and Wes Subwayyou CDC, notes Robert Cohen, co-chair of the business-focused nonprofit SCORE Cleveland.

Although small businesses are a key component of regional growth, opening and sustaining a business comes with a long list of obstacles that are only exacerbated by the pandemic.

Connecting with CDC helps SCORE break into an entrepreneurial landscape that needs strong support to grow and thrive.

“The idea was to have a program that takes place at the local level,” says Cohen. “If you don’t talk to the people on the ground who need these services, it doesn’t make sense. These organizations tell us what their citizens need, and then we can develop programs around those needs.

SCORE connected with CDC Lee-Harvard nearly a year ago, while additional CDC relationships have formed this year. The Cleveland SCORE office is expanding a suite of award-winning services to its small businesses – in 2021, providing communities with 4,869 mentoring sessions, a 29% increase over 2020.

Additionally, SCORE hosted 82 workshops and webinars, established collaborative partnerships with more than 50 organizations, and saw a 14% increase in new volunteers over the previous year.

These achievements have earned SCORE Cleveland Chapter of the year national office honours. The tripling of its total services over two years has included increased involvement with neighborhood CDCs. Over the past 12 months, business-savvy volunteers have been training merchants on various aspects of their growing businesses, from marketing to digital skills, and the results have been positive.

“We also have financial workshops, aimed at people without that experience,” says Cohen. “They have opened a business and know how to make money, but don’t understand cash flow and profit and loss. We have therefore developed workshops around these topics.

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SCORE receives approximately 10-20 new mentoring requests each month, with a portion of those requests now coming from the Metro West CDC coverage area, which includes the communities of Clark-Fulton, Stockyards and Brooklyn Center.

The majority of smaller storefronts in Metro West are minority-owned restaurants, convenience stores, bakeries, hair salons and beauty salons. Many of these stores are run by older people who are unfamiliar with modern business practices, says Monserrat Monterrubio, Metro West’s small business coordinator.

The majority of smaller Metro West storefronts like Kamal’s Tires Service and La Virtud on Clark Ave in the Clark-Fulton neighborhood are minority-owned, encompassing restaurants, convenience stores, bakers, barbershops, and beauty salons.“The most challenging aspect for these owners is the technology,” says Monterrubio. “During the pandemic, everyone wanted to shop online, and these people didn’t know how to go about it. We also have to deal with the fact that most of our families are from low to moderate income households, and with the gentrification of neighborhoods, these businesses cannot sustain themselves.

Rents throughout Metro West’s service area are expected to increase by four to five dollars per square foot in the coming years, Monterrubio said. Waiting, Staffing difficulties are impacting hotel businesses in the region, even though virus-related restrictions have been lifted.

Metro West CDC’s relationship with SCORE has been catalyzed by the demand for local resources around creating or sustaining businesses. Monterrubio interviews neighborhood landlords, helping them convey their personalized needs to SCORE through a meticulous application process.

For example, because Clark-Fulton has the densest population of Hispanic and Latino residents in Ohio (approximately 64%), Metro West will request Spanish-speaking advisors of the SCORE volunteer group.

“With every new person who comes to us with a business idea, we refer them to SCORE to start building on the right track,” says Monterrubio. “We see a lot of people who don’t have a business plan or don’t know enough about how to make a financial plan. Once we refer them to SCORE, they can do it all at once, and do it right away. »

Meat shop and restaurant Saucisson has been operating for five years from its storefront in Slavic Village.Help a community in need
Butcher and restaurant Sausage operated out of its storefront in Slavic Village for five years. Plans for growth in the neighborhood were short-circuited by COVID-19, which flipped co-founder Melissa Khoury’s business model from wholesale to retail almost instantly.

“We were doing shelf stability and label design testing for grocery stores, and then we lost our wholesale accounts during the shutdown,” Khoury says. “The focus became on survival until next week, so we had to pivot hard and fast.”

Online ordering and a strong relationship with local suppliers made Saucisson’s transition somewhat easier. However, as retail sales began to stabilize after an initial increase, Khoury decided to tap into SCORE’s new program with Slavic Village.

The association is still in its infancy, but Khoury is happy to have experts with SCORE researching how her operation can improve.

“It gives me time to focus on our goals for the next five years,” says Khoury. “I wanted an outside perspective of business minds who weren’t just my friends. They might say it’s hard to navigate our website or bring up things we might be blind to because we’re so used to seeing them.

Cleveland Neighborhood Progress (CNP) — an organization that already provides support, training, and capacity building to CDCs — is working with SCORE on its new venture, with a particular focus on marginalized neighborhoods in Cleveland.

CNP Director of Workforce Development Michael Elliott CNP’s Director of Workforce Development, Michael Elliott, sees SCORE’s unique volunteer service model as a boon to owners of all persuasions.

“They have a nimble volunteer base,” Elliott says. “We wanted to work with a flexible partner who goes to neighborhoods and has a large pool of mentors to draw from. If business owners have a niche challenge, [the SCORE program] connects them to a volunteer who can meet that specialized need.

Cohen of SCORE prides itself on elevating businesses that act as the life blood of a neighborhood.
“It’s something we do because we get satisfaction from it,” he says. “It’s great to receive a thank you letter from a client, it’s our reward. Our goal is to provide underserved communities with the help they need. »

This story is part of FreshWater’s series, Community Development Connection, in partnership with Cleveland Neighborhood Progresss and Cleveland Development Advisors. The series aims to showcase the work of 29 Community Development Corporations (CDCs) as well as explore the efforts of neighborhood organizations, leaders and residents who are focused on advancing their communities during a time of unchallenged previous.

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