This column is designed for small business CEOs and persons who have an interest in small businesses. By now you know that I and my colleagues volunteer our time to mentor those who are either already in business or those that are planning to start a new small business.

Several readers have asked me to share some of the businesses with which we work as a point of interest. That is a good suggestion, however, as our clients know, all of our mentoring is completely confidential, and we do not share any of their information. So, that being said, there is one set of examples that I can share in this column to give a glimpse of the kinds of small businesses that we encounter in our mission of supporting America’s small businesses.

Every year, we honor some of our dedicated small business clients and their mentors through the awards that are presented at our National Leadership Conference. We celebrate these small business owners, their achievements and impact to their communities. Bridget Weston Pollack, vice president of marketing and communications at the SCORE Association, has provided me with this summary to share in this column.

Outstanding Community Impact Business — Corning Opera House Cultural Center: In 2012, De Heaton was instrumental in restoring Corning Opera House Cultural Center to its original splendor. The goal was to create a facility for weddings, banquets, meetings and conventions. With help from SCORE webinars and her mentor, Sherry Bonelli, Heaton became the COHCC executive director and learned how to increase their social media and website presence. The restoration and influx of traffic have allowed the COHCC to flourish. COHCC now provides the community with community theater, youth musicals, opry shows, conferences, trainings, vendor fairs, reunions and much more.

Outstanding Diverse Business — Thompson Tee Inc.: After years of dealing with excessive sweating and exhausting the medical options available to them, Billy Thompson and Randy Choi decided to create Thompson Tee Inc., a line of T-shirts that trap excess sweat. Their SCORE mentors, John Pietro and Larry Tucker, helped them create their business model, move into digital marketing and focus on the core of their business. Since its inception, Thompson Tee Inc. has doubled every year and currently serves more than 100,000 customers in 135 countries.

Outstanding Encore Entrepreneur — NAVA Consulting Group: After more 25 years spent working with non-profits in Africa, Rhoi Wangila recognized that middle-class African consumers were looking for quality American products. NAVA provides support to African small businesses and institutions, contracts with U.S. institutions, businesses and federal agencies, and sells African products in the United States. SCORE mentors Fred Elam and Karen Williams helped her with government applications and business structure and offered valuable feedback to improve responses.

Outstanding Military-Owned Small Business — Cowboy Cricket Farms: After attending the “Bug Buffet” event at Montana State University, Kathleen and James Rolin nursed the idea of starting their own cricket farm. Within their first year of business, they received over $100,000 in grants and awards. Since then, they have released consumer products, developed technology to simplify cricket farming, and started the first network of cricket farmers. Their mentor, Rick Sanders, helped them with their business plan, media coverage, grants and community outreach.

Outstanding Self-Employed Entrepreneur — CraniaLogix: After years of teaching in the public-school system, Brooke Bauer left her job to pursue CraniaLogix, an after-school program that teaches higher-level thinking skills, collaboration, creative thinking and enjoyment in learning. SCORE mentors Tim Carnell and Terry Toomey helped answer Brooke’s questions about bookkeeping, financial planning and marketing. They’re now focusing on scaling the business for franchising.

Outstanding Woman-Owned Business — Creative Behavior Solutions: Brit Harger grew up in a family where her parents struggled to find caring therapy options for her siblings with special needs. In 2013, Brit and Adrianne Smith founded Creative Behavior Solutions, an Applied Behavior Analysis clinic that improves the social, academic and life skills of toddlers, adolescents and teens with developmental disabilities. Their SCORE mentors, Mats Bengtson and Keith Knowles, have helped them think like businesspeople, network with the right people and grow their business. Working with SCORE has helped them double their business each year, expand from two to 25 employees and move into a 5,000 square-foot clinic.

Outstanding Agriculture Small Business — Drew’s Honeybees: Despite always having a passion for insects, it took Drew Burnett quite a few years to realize honeybees were his calling. He began creating and selling ethical honey and beeswax personal care items. His mentors, Margo Weitekamp, John Oliva and Alan Mayer, helped him break into contract manufacturing, create a business plan and stay on top of his finances. Drew was even connected to a co-mentor who has more 30 years of experience in the skincare industry. Drew’s Honeybees has been growing steadily and has been recognized by several large grocery retailers.

Dean Swanson is a volunteer SCORE counselor and past chairman of the Southeast Minnesota SCORE chapter.

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