1992 might not have been the best time to start a small business, particularly in New England where banks stung by the recession were reluctant to lend money to new ventures. But Carla Maddrell was determined to try so she contacted SCORE for business launch and management help.
Carla, who had worked in women’s fashion and retail for over 20 years, knew all the ins and outs of the apparel industry. Her current job as a buyer was rewarding enough, but the constant travel demands meant a lot of time away from home. Having just adopted a little boy from India, Maddrell decided it was time to pursue a long-time dream of owning her own clothing boutique. She had a good start with her knowledge, web of contacts, and dozens of potential customers. But she knew nothing about business plans, banks, or the other essentials of launching and managing a business.
With her business plan in hand, Carla began contacting banks. The first two were skeptical, citing the odds against the success of a women’s apparel store. Carla found the responses frustrating, but with her mentor Arthur’s steadfast encouragement she rebounded quickly and keep trying. The third bank heartily endorsed her plan, and in the fall of 1992, Carla Bella opened for business.
Carla's store is well-known and enjoys a steady stream of customers. Even with her success, however, Carla remembers the uncertainty of the early days. “It’s really scary at first because you’re putting everything on the line,” she says “I’ve been fortunate to be able to pursue my dream and have the freedom to spend time with my family. I just keep my fingers crossed that someone will come in the door every day.”
Acting on a friend’s suggestion, Carla contacted the local chapter of SCORE, where she met with Arthur Cook, a retired marketing executive. Arthur invited Carla to join a group of other aspiring entrepreneurs for a videotaped program about business start-ups. “Everyone introduced themselves, and it was neat to hear all the different dreams we had,” Carla recalls. “That and the video made me feel a lot better about what I was doing.”
Carla’s self-confidence grew when she started working with Arthur on the specifics of her business plan and loan application. “I had never dealt with banks or financing before; those were things I always I let my husband do,” she says with a chuckle. “Arthur was very encouraging. He kept telling me I was going to make it, and that I had more going for me than other people he’d worked with. His enthusiasm was infectious, and I began to believe it myself.”
“Arthur is always calling to ask how I’m doing,” Maddrell says. “He’s even fretting because the retail space next door is vacant. It’s wonderful to have someone like him on my side.”
The success of Carla Bella has also proven to be a model for other small businesses. At Arthur's request, Carla served as a spokesperson for SCORE in a public service ad that aired on the state’s TV stations. “That was great because it gave me free publicity, and allowed me to return all the help that Arthur and SCORE have given me. Hopefully, I’ve sent a lot of other people to see him and the other counselors at SCORE.”