Hello world! I wanted to share my experiences so far with several small business initiatives available here in New York City (NYC). I plan to stretch this out into several posts; at least three but maybe more.
As a New Yorker, I have several options and many overlap; there's the US Small Business Administration (SBA), then there is the NYS Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and lastly, NYC Small Business Services. These are the main government programs at the federal, state and city levels available to small businesses. They each have many branches and several partnerships with private companies and I have been specifically looking into those geared towards pre-startup and startup small business assistance. It can get a little confusing at first but they all seem to work together is some way, shape or form since NYC encourages small business ownership and entrepreneurship.
Up until several months ago I did my business research strictly online; I had a job that kept me very busy during the day and my commute was 1.5 hours each way mostly on the subway, so this was the only way that I knew of. Also, I am known for my internet research skills and am good at separating the wheat from the chaff and it seems my findings online held up in the real world. However, becoming a business owner on my own leaves for some lonely times and times when doubts can become pervasive. So, to verify my sources (and make myself feel better), I decided it was time to go out and talk to people in person. Find out what the people at these various initiatives have to say. I was definitely looking for mentoring. Someone with experience letting me know whether or not I am on the right track.
SCORE mentoring. SCORE is an SBA resource partner. Its "...a national network of more
than 12,000 entrepreneurs, business
leaders and executives who volunteer as
mentors to America’s small businesses." It is basically a national small business mentoring program. They have local chapters for face-to-face mentoring, online mentoring, as well as workshops for both. This seemed perfect for me. So, I looked up my local SCORE office, which was not far from my home and went down there. Located in the Bronx County courthouse they share an office with some other initiatives. Not surprising since that's just part of living and working in this city; sharing space. I went down and made an appointment to see a mentor and was supremely disappointed. I had not looked at their website beforehand since my goal was to move my research out of the virtual world. If I had, I would have saved myself some frustration.
I was not paired up with a mentor specific to my needs, though I didn't expect that right off the bat. I thought there would be some sort of intake interview first. But the gentleman I got as my "mentor" was sort of flippant and very general in most of his answers to my questions. I admit to not asking as many questions about how SCORE works because I was thrown off by his attitude. He was also somewhat dismissive of my financing concerns. I was told "you could pay for most of that with one of your credit cards." Just FYI, I don't have any credit cards, so no I can't; he just assumed I did. While he did confirm most of what I'd learned online and did give me a couple of nuggets of new online resources, for the most part he was not at all mentor-like and after being dismissive of how much previous work experience I have had in this field, I didn't want to share my hopes and dreams with him. I was looking for someone to trust and he wasn't it. At the end of out 15-20 minute talk, he then told me the SCORE mentors only work out of this office on Thursdays and they rotate so you may get a different person each time. That led me to thinking that this was not as well run an operation as I had thought. I left feeling that I wasted my time. I have since gone to the SCORE.org website and filled out a mentoring intake form so that I can be matched up with a mentor. Hopefully, things will work out better that way.
Look for Part II soon. Things start to look up as a join a forum for NYC's newest small business initiative WE NYC!