SCORE ready to counsel island entrepreneurs

"Most people at one time or another have probably thought about starting their own business. Today, a growing number of people actually do take the plunge into self-employment.But on Whidbey Island, the move comes with some unique risks. Which is why the free business counseling and advice offered by the Service Corps of Retired Executives Association -a nonprofit organization sponsored by the Small Business Association - can be an invaluable service to local entrepreneurs.Ron Chaney, the chairman for the four-county SCORE chapter that includes Island County, said the chapter is made up of a diverse body of retired business managers and executives who have a wide variety of expertise they are willing to share.Chaney is a retired Air Force colonel who ran a wholesale distribution business in Utah for many years. Others retirees in the chapter include a former oil executive, a real estate agent, a marketer and several executives from major corporations.While he sometimes refers people to other SCORE counselors with expertise in a certain area, Chaney says he is the main counselor for Whidbey Island people who are either starting a new business or trying to solve problems with an existing business. The majority of his clients have been people interested in small businesses, though he's also helped some larger businesses work through some problems.Chaney said he has helped people apply for loans to start or expand a business. He can point out the options for loans, from the conventional bank loan to a variety of alternative loan programs He said he often helps people decide whether they are ready to start a business. Sometimes the answer is no.We help people save money, he said. I think we're successful if we show someone that they are not ready to start a business and convince them not to throw money away.Whidbey Island, Chaney said, can be a challenging place to start a small business. The population is still relatively small and there's competition from the large corporate retailers - like Wal-Mart and Office Max - that have infiltrated Oak Harbor over the last few years. To compete, a small business must have a strong business and marketing plan.I emphasize finding your niche area and how to market that, he said.For Chaney, being a SCORE counselor is a full-time job, but it's a rewarding way to spend time after retirement while helping others. He said becoming a counselor requires a screening process, training and working with an experienced mentor counselor.The chapter currently has five new counselors coming on - four are women - but the association needs another volunteer or two for the Whidbey Island area.For more information, contact Sharleen Eller at the Island District Economic Development Council, 678-6889.--------------SCORE cardFor more information about free business counseling and advice offered by the Service Corps of Retired Executives Association, or SCORE, contact Sharleen Eller at the Island District Economic Development Council, 678-6889. "

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