Demand for Seacoast SCORE’s business mentoring grows during pandemic - Foster's Daily Democrat

Demand for Seacoast SCORE’s business mentoring grows during pandemic - Foster's Daily Democrat

Demand for Seacoast SCORE’s business mentoring grows during pandemic - Foster's Daily Democrat

Posted: 16 Oct 2020 10:09 AM PDT

PORTSMOUTH — Seacoast SCORE volunteers scrambled in March to convert to all-virtual services, educate teams about new SBA and state funding programs, and significantly increase SCORE's local services to existing businesses. Clients have pivoted, survived and in some cases thrived while facing the headwinds of COVID-19.

Over the last six months, the response by SCORE mentors, trainers and experts has resulted in significant growth within the chapter, as well as in services to nearly 100 existing businesses that sought help navigating the government's Paycheck Protection Program, economic injury disaster loans, grant programs, unemployment rules and marketing challenges.

SCORE mentors help established businesses to reinvent and thrive.

With a desire to "pull together multiple areas of interest," and "change the way that the industry works," Emily Stearns founded The Drift Collective at 12 Fleet St. in Portsmouth ( in 2016. She was frustrated with the waste and quality of "fast fashion" and thought there was a market for repurposed or reimagined high-quality vintage clothing. All design and manufacturing of their clothing is done in their Portsmouth shop, allowing customers to see where their clothing is being made and to cooperate in their creation.

"Through creating men's and women's clothing that is as aesthetically cool as it is ethical, we hope to transform our community's ideas on sustainable fashion," Stearns said.

Two years after starting the business, Stearns was referred to Seacoast SCORE by several Portsmouth business owners. She is a first-generation retail entrepreneur and was looking for trusted advisors to help her with strategic decisions for the business. Since 2018, Stearns has worked with Seacoast SCORE mentors Brenda Richards, Gene Roe and Vic Levesque. She has leveraged the multiple-mentor model in which a client is assigned two or more mentors at their introductory meeting. Stearns and her mentors meet regularly, averaging one meeting per quarter.

Stearns describes her mentors as calm, knowledgeable and supportive. They have been there from "payroll to pandemics," she said. Knowing others have thrived through their own crises has given her the confidence to run a successful business.

"Honestly, it was super-scary, but our dynamic business model enabled us to do more online and reach out to clients through social media," Stearns says of operating during the pandemic.

She feels having a robust online and social media platform allowed The Drift to leverage "impulse shopping" for people under lockdown. Her business has grown so much this year she has hired two additional employees. Stearns feels there is a lesson for entrepreneurs who have not focused on their internet presence. Her experience is that it pays significant dividends.

Local Seacoast SCORE volunteers are being celebrated in October for these benchmarks: Unique clients up 4% over 2019; mentoring sessions up 11%; workshop attendees up 13% and Total Seacoast SCORE services delivered up 12%.

"This year has been an extraordinary challenge for every business on the Seacoast, and we are proud of how our volunteer team supported local clients," said Tim Cook, Seacoast SCORE chapter chair. "Every live online workshop was delivered, every client got quick response and there are dozens of PPP and other loans and grants in the hands of our clients today."

Cook said there's much work to be done, and the need to adapt will continue, as he praised the efforts of Seacoast SCORE's 60 volunteers.

"One of the most amazing things is that we added four new volunteers this year, and we grew our roster of women-mentors," he said. "This reflects the needs of our clients as well as our need to serve them in new ways."

SCORE volunteers are experienced business people with significant training, who become certified under a national accreditation program. They subscribe to an ethics code that protects the confidentiality of the client relationships. Mentors provide custom private counseling to startup entrepreneurs and to long-time businesses adapting to change.

SCORE's services are free to the public. Seacoast SCORE is powered by a grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration that provides office space. The chapter's remaining funding comes in large part from partnerships with area businesses including The Brook, Seabrook's charitable gaming facility, which recently donated to the chapter.

Many area bank foundations and individual banking companies provide funding to support the live workshop program, which this year delivered 34 individual workshops to 730 attendees.

"We are so grateful to our bank and business partners," said chapter vice-chair Dave Underhill, "because they allow us to focus on our workshops and to keep every service free to the clients."

The workshops included new marketing sessions about responding to customer and employee fears, and how to open new markets and products despite the many physical and customer challenges faced during the pandemic.

Seacoast SCORE continues with virtual operations and will return to its new offices at 230 Commerce Way in Portsmouth when conditions allow.

SCORE is an independent 501(c)3 charitable organization focused on strengthening small businesses and local communities. For more information, visit, email or call (603) 433-0575.

Women Who Mean Business: Meet HBJ's 2020 health care honorees - Houston Business Journal

Posted: 15 Oct 2020 10:00 PM PDT

[unable to retrieve full-text content]Women Who Mean Business: Meet HBJ's 2020 health care honorees  Houston Business Journal

2020 Business of Pride: Companies - Pacific Business News - Pacific Business News (Honolulu)

Posted: 16 Oct 2020 08:55 AM PDT

[unable to retrieve full-text content]2020 Business of Pride: Companies - Pacific Business News  Pacific Business News (Honolulu)

Workforce Woes - Comstock's Magazine

Posted: 16 Oct 2020 09:49 AM PDT

Amanda Blackwood is president and CEO of the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. (Photo courtesy of the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce)

Though the job market has inched slowly upward since it bottomed out in March, recent reports show that gains are far from equal. In September, as many schools started online or hybrid instruction, 865,000 women dropped out of the workforce — meaning that they are neither working nor looking for work. That's four times the number of men who left the workforce in the same period. 

This discrepancy could have dire consequences for women's careers and the economy at large, says Amanda Blackwood, president and CEO of the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. As the first full-time female leader of the 125-year-old organization, Blackwood has placed a priority on extending women's access to capital and business opportunities during her two years in the role. 

Comstock's spoke with Blackwood about the challenges currently facing women in the workforce, especially mothers, and how employers and policymakers can help lighten their load.  

In September, women made up 80 percent of the people who dropped out of the workforce. Why do you think women are leaving the workforce at such high rates right now?

As women, we are often the caretaker, and as working women, you're still in that role. … We've got working moms at home navigating remote learning, and we're the caretaker in general. … LeanIn also did a major report in May. … They interviewed 3,000 working women, all people that had a partner and had children at home. … They were working a 40-hour workweek, plus an average of seven hours a week for child care, seven hours a week for keeping the household and the family together, and an additional six hours a week on … caring for extended family. 

So for white women, that was essentially a 40-hour workweek plus a part-time job. And if you break the data down even further … our Latina community (had), ostensibly, another 40 hours on top of your 40 hours. … It just goes to show that, yes, we're in the workforce, and that's great. But all of that child rearing and multigenerational family caring and all of that doesn't just go away. And then in the time of COVID, you're just trying to hold everything together.

What are some of the biggest needs that are keeping women from staying in the workforce?

The need for child care is very real. … The data would show you that the expectation of child care, shopping, laundry, keeping the house — all of that still falls on women's shoulders, regardless if you are or are not in the workforce. … That lack of reliable care in the day, it precludes you from working when you've got young kids at home. … When we want women to be able to be active in our workforce, you have to address that need. …

You also find, from the investment side of the house, that (for) a lot of women (who) are also trying to run their own small business … the access to capital, the access to investor financing for women-owned businesses, is far less than it is for male-owned businesses. (It's) even more striking when you look at women of color. For instance, Black women are the most likely to be entrepreneurial and start their own business. They are also the least likely to receive any kind of outside investment. … It just goes to show you that there's an incredible amount of gender bias, unconscious bias, in our employment practices, as well as (in) our lending institutions. 

What impact will the drop in women in the workforce have on businesses and the economy?

There was a recent study that said, globally, women out of the workforce (due to the coronavirus may cause) an estimated $1 trillion of loss for global GDP, because they're at home, and they're not spending money, and they're not earning money. … Women generally make the buying decisions in a household, so you need that to happen. …

Not having diversity of leadership and diversity of voice makes companies less effective. All the data would show you that the more diverse your board, your leadership, your decision-makers, the better a company performs. Just having women out of those roles right now has a material effect on those companies making well-rounded decisions, particularly when the majority of your clientele are female. … Everything that we could do to get that engine back on track as quickly as possible is a huge step in us recovering from what we're experiencing now.

What can employers do to make it easier for their female employees to continue working?

The best advice I would give (is on) two fronts. One, please come from a place of empathy and understanding, and know that that employee is probably doing their very best. They are dealing with all of those things we just talked about at the homefront. So when they are present, have an understanding, as a human being, that we're carrying a really heavy load. And please come from a place of empathy and understanding as you're navigating the culture of your team. All of our data would show us the culture of a team directly impacts the productivity of that team. … If you want efficient, continuous, consistent production out of a team, focus on culture, focus on creating that safe space. 

The second, more practical matter, is (that) people have been wanting and been trending into this kind of hybrid work-from-home scenario over the last few years, particularly when you see your younger generation of the workforce. What they're looking for in an employer is culture. They're looking for somebody who aligns with their values, and they're looking for the flexibility to live their life the way that they want. This is very true for women as well. … Maybe you go into the office Tuesdays and Thursdays, but Monday, Wednesday, Friday you can work from home, you can get your other stuff done, you can keep your household running. That really traditional ideal of nine-to-five … is not the most effective way to run a team. And COVID showed us out of necessity that … you can operate in a remote environment, if the nature of your industry allows for that. …

COVID has shaken our perception of what is possible on telecommuting, on hybrid models, and let's not lose sight of that. Look at what your teams have been able to do during this time, and as you go back to whatever your new normal is going to be, embrace those creative ideas, embrace those flexible work hours. … If the nature of your work allows for that kind of flexibility and schedule, you're going to be able to retain and attract very talented workers who are looking for that, and particularly working moms. 

What is the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce doing to support working women at the local and state level?

We run the Capital Region Small Business Development Center. It is run by two very strong women of color (who) put a very finite focus on creating opportunities for women entrepreneurs to get into starting their own business, to grow their own business, and to have direct access to capital, primarily through the (Small Business Administration). We also work with two local lenders, with Five Star Bank and with (SAFE Credit Union), to overcome the hurdles that exist in institutional financing so that women can get their ideas funded and bring them to scale. … 

Is there anything else you'd like readers to know, especially women who are currently struggling with these issues?

If you're trying to make these decisions, know that you're not alone. The SBDC that I referenced earlier, it's absolutely free. It's no cost to anybody. You don't have to be members of the chamber. … If you are feeling like, man, I really wish I had someone to talk to to bounce an idea off of; I don't know how to fill out this PPP (loan application); I don't know how to do my insurance … any of those questions that may be on your mind, please reach out to the Small Business Development Center. … 

I always like to tell people, the mental health aspect of what you're going through is very real. You're trying to make business decisions, while, as a human being, you are holding a lot right now. So if you are feeling alone, reach out, get help, talk to people. … That's what we're all here for.

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