I have a unique relationship with Greater Phoenix SCORE. I am a volunteer as I manage their social media and teach a workshop at least once a month. I’m also a vendor – they pay me monthly to manage this very blog site and to send out the weekly email newsletter and email promotions for their seminars. But I wouldn’t be where I am today, without the free mentoring. And since I spend so much time there, I get to pick their brains every whenever I have a question.
I’ve been doing Internet marketing in one form or another since 1995. I moved to Phoenix 10 years ago and was working in various sales and marketing jobs till September 2008 when I got laid off. I was unemployed for 2 years. When I lost my job, I started a blog, “Internet Marketing Tips” and became active on LinkedIn. Those two efforts got me a job doing online marketing and events for a financial planner. I got laid off after a year and I saw it as a blessing in disguise. Having learned all about blogging and social media marketing on-the-job, I gave a presentation on blogging and Twitter for a group of writers and I saw that there was a huge opportunity training small business owners, over 40, on how to use social media marketing to promote themselves.
Hence, I took the leap of faith and started AZ Social Media Wiz, providing 1:1 training, set-ups, strategic plans and implementation. I went first to the AZ Small Business Development Council (AZSBDC) (a sister organization to SCORE) to get help with my business plan.
I first encountered SCORE at a NetworkingPhoenix.com event and asked them, “who do I need to talk to about holding classes for SCORE.” That started it. My first class was a joint seminar with SCORE and the Ahwatukee Chamber of Commerce.
I was about 3 months into my start-up when I attended the free SCORE’s ABCs of Starting a New Business at the Phoenix Public Library that they present every first Saturday. (You can see their schedule here.)
A few months later, I was contacted by Scott Schreiber, now retired, about writing a couple of blog posts a month. In the summer of 2013, Scott asked me to help promote their upcoming Symposium on social media. I informed him that you can’t just start doing social media and stop after an event. People will think you fell off the face of the earth. It’s an on-going effort. That’s how I became a volunteer managing their social media.
Besides doing the 1:1 training and providing the social media services, I thought of recording training videos and offering them online. The challenge is that social media changes constantly and as soon as something is published — book or video — it’s obsolete. The other challenge was taking the time to record the videos. I remodeled my business plan in attempts to get some funding so I can take 3 months off to record the videos. I met with several SCORE mentors, Rod Houston, Andy Beran regarding my “pitch” for an Indigogo crowdfunding campaign and I also picked the brain of Tom FitzSimons when I thought of bringing on a business partner.
My problem – no collateral and lousy credit history. Crowdfunding didn’t work for me.
I ditched the video idea and decided to hold more local classes for the Phoenix-area entrepreneurs. I searched for the right space, rented a room at a computer school for a while, but I felt the best way to go was to find my own retail space. Problem came back to: no funding.
At the annual SCORE volunteer appreciation dinner, I sat next to Mike Levy. Not wanting to miss the opportunity of picking his brain, I started, “I’ve been growing my business with just the income – no funding or investors.”
“You’ve been bootstrapping,” he said.
“Yes, I want to open a training center in a retail location, but I have to buy tables, chairs and equipment. Any ideas?”
He said, “Try ACCION. They’re here in the Southwest and they help minority business owners with loans – and you cover 2 minority – Hispanic woman.”
I ran with it. The next day, I applied and I got an $8,000 loan. The SCORE dinner was a Wednesday night, the money was in my bank account Friday. Wow!
If you’re a business, no matter what stage you’re in: just thinking about it, starting-up, growing or established, you can benefit from either the free mentoring sessions and/or the local workshops and even online webinars!
Thank you, SCORE for all your continued help! Oh, and you’ll all get an invite to the grand opening!
Owner, AZ Social Media Wiz
ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)
Giselle Aguiar, founder of AZ Social Media Wiz is a social media, inbound and content marketing specialist & trainer helping small business owners learn how to leverage the power of social media marketing, increase traffic to their websites, generate leads, increase brand awareness and establish themselves as experts in their fields. She's been doing Internet marketing since 1995.