Kay Frandsen’s Plymouth consignment shop Wabi Sabi started, like so many small businesses, thanks to the owner’s passion. A lifelong interior designer, Frandsen was laid off from her job in 2007 at age 50 and looking for a fresh start. She heard about the SCORE organization in St. Louis Park while seeking feedback for her business idea.
SCORE is a volunteer organization composed of current and retired business professionals. The group specializes in advising and mentoring new or existing small businesses through a variety of challenges, from marketing to financials to legal services and everything in between. If you’re a small business owner or looking to start a new business, SCORE offers every resource you could imagine to help start, grow or maintain it, most of which come at no cost. (There is no fee or cost to use the volunteer services; on occasion, SCORE hosts optional classes, and these have nominal costs associated.)
“My mentors wanted to see if I had what it took to be an entrepreneur,” Frandsen says of her first experience with SCORE; she’d specifically asked for general retail and marketing assistance, as well as honest feedback on a business plan she’d already created. “We found I really have the risk-taking ability and drive an entrepreneur needs to make a business work.”
Frandsen launched Wabi Sabi in 2009 under the concept that your home should reflect who you are as a person, and she uses her shop to help people achieve that goal. She has seen her business grow steadily in the past five years. More employees have come on board, and sales have quadrupled since her first year in business, in part, she says, from the guidance she’s received from SCORE.
A national nonprofit, SCORE launched its St. Louis Park chapter in 1964; there are now 330 chapters across the country, utilizing a total of more than 12,000 volunteers. Business owners can use volunteers as often as fits their schedules and needs, for as long as is valuable to them.
Much like Frandsen, Brooke Freiborg and Deb Amorde are New Hope-based female entrepreneurs who were looking to launch a business. They contacted SCORE in 2010 about their idea for a women’s clothing line for bicyclists.
“We’re just two cyclists who love the sport,” Freiborg says. “We were looking for a product in the market that fit the performance needs that was also more fashion-forward and reflective of our personal style.”
Before starting Moxie Cycling, Freiborg had a background in marketing and Amorde worked in production. They felt they had all the necessary tools and experience to start their own business, but they were looking for a little extra guidance in the areas they were less experienced in, such as finance.
“[SCORE] has been phenomenal from the very beginning,” Freiborg says. “I remember my first call with the organization. They have been eager, willing and helpful since the beginning and huge advocates of our company since the first day.”
From their basic concept to create high-performance clothing that also looks great, Freiborg and Amorde have created a bustling, growing business. (Most of the products are produced in Los Angeles, with some coming out of China.) Their products are now in nearly 300 retail stores across the country, including major players like REI. The ladies continue to bounce ideas off members of SCORE, even now that they have a solid, sustainable business.
“They bring greater intelligence to what we’re doing. You are only as wise as what you have experienced,” Freiborg says.
Frandsen’s experience is similar to that of the gals at Moxie Cycling. She takes great pride in being a woman who launched a business later in life and is especially grateful to have fellow female entrepreneurs in the SCORE organization.
“There is just so much to running a business, and when you need to run ideas off somebody, you need someone who is impartial and looks out for your best interest,” Frandsen says. Her mentors at SCORE have been invaluable as a sounding board.
As Frandsen’s success continues, she has spoken at several SCORE conferences, including one on women in business. She hopes more women will see success stories like hers and the ladies of Moxie Cycling, and take their own shot at becoming an entrepreneur.