OnDeck has been a national sponsor of SCORE for the last few years and one of my favorite responsibilities here at OnDeck is to work with SCORES’s national leadership group and the many local volunteers throughout the country to help them educate and inform their clients about the new landscape of small business lending. I’ve found these people to be incredibly motivated to leverage their expertise to help the small businesses in their communities build healthy and thriving enterprises.

A couple of months ago I visited with the SCORE chapter in Palm Beach, Florida and spoke with Penny Pompei, the chapter chairperson, on her SCORE with Penny Pompei radio program. Following our radio interview, she spent a few minutes with me talking about her experiences in business, with SCORE, and what they’re doing in Palm Beach. If your business is in Palm Beach, I’m sure she’d love to hear from you, but if not, there’s likely a nearby SCORE chapter in your area and they would welcome the opportunity to help your business. Over the last couple of years as I’ve personally worked with SCORE, I’ve found a lot of people like Penny Pompei, who share her passion and drive for how they’re giving back after their own successful business careers.

Here are some excerpts from our conversation:

Penny PompeiTy Kiisel: Penny, how long have you been involved with SCORE?

Penny Pompei: I’ve been working with SCORE for four years and have been the chapter chairperson for the last year—we normally serve a two-year term as chair.

Ty Kiisel: What inspired you to volunteer and become part of the SCORE organization in the first place?

Penny Pompei: I had a successful career and wanted to give back. I felt like I could “pay it forward” by sharing my experience with the small business community here in Palm Beach; and I haven’t been disappointed. It’s been very rewarding working with SCORE and the local small business community.

Ty Kiisel: I hear that same sentiment everywhere I visit and speak with SCORE volunteers. What do you personally find so rewarding?

Penny Pompei: I really enjoy seeing my clients build successful businesses.

Ty Kiisel: Do you have an example of a business you’d like to share?

Penny Pompei: I absolutely do. I was a customer at one of the local stores and became acquainted with one of the most incredible sales people I’d ever met. She was a single mom with six kids and had even been homeless at one time, but wanted to own her own business.

One of the things that really impressed me about her was that she refused to be a victim, got a job, and was working her way up when I met her. Over the course of my interactions with her, she shared her desire to start her own business—so I introduced her to SCORE. Now, two years later, her store does over $1 million in revenue at a 48 percent margin. I’m very proud of the small part I helped play in her success story.

I feel like we’re really helping the business owners here in Palm Beach.

Ty Kiisel: That’s an incredible story. But you don’t just work with startup businesses, right?

Penny Pompei: No, we work with startups and more established businesses—often those that are on the cusp of that first major growth opportunity. In fact we work with a lot of businesses that have been around for a couple of years, are doing $500,000 in annual revenues, have a couple of employees, and are looking for ways to expand.

Ty Kiisel: This radio interview we just did is something I haven’t seen before, what else does your SCORE chapter do to help small business owners.

Penny Pompei: In addition to the radio show we hosted 105 different workshops that focus on helping established businesses this year. But the most impactful work we do every day is the one-on-one work we do with individual business owners.

We have 61 mentors [SCORE volunteers] who donate roughly 20 hours per week to our community. I’m convinced the level of expertise and experience can’t really be duplicated anywhere else. These are people who have had many of the same experiences these business owners have, they’ve solved similar problems and faced similar challenges, and are sharing advice based upon that real-world experience.

Ty Kiisel: These are definitely folks who have “been there and done that” at least a time or two.

Penny Pompei: Yes they have. And, helping business owners is what really energizes our volunteers. What’s more, we’ve been recognized as one of the strongest SCORE chapters in the country for the last four years in a row.

Penny’s enthusiasm is contagious and it’s hard not to become a big fan of the work her SCORE chapter is doing. However, I have similar experiences every time I have the opportunity to meet with a SCORE group. I hear stories and experiences like this in places like Connecticut, North Carolina, Montana, and California—all across the United States.

I’ve become a big fan of the work SCORE does and encourage any small business owner looking for advice — from accounting to marketing to operations — to look up the local chapter in their area and meet with one of their mentors. I’m convinced they have the tools and expertise to help you grow your business.

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