Many small business owners whose livelihood was heavily impacted by COVID-19 were either unable to apply for grants and loans such as the Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP), or were unaware that such opportunities existed. The City of Portland Office of Economic Opportunity is all about connecting people to opportunities, so this month we sat down with Jonathan Trumper from SCORE, a resource partner of the Small Business Association (SBA), to learn more about resources and opportunities available to help established small businesses.
- What kinds of services can SCORE provide businesses that are already established?
For new businesses, SCORE can help turn ideas into business plans, and offer guidance through the business registration process and beyond. For businesses that are already established, we can help prioritize goals as the business grows, and help avoid the pitfalls along the way. There is challenge and opportunity at every stage, and SCORE mentors offer expertise to businesses ranging from food to health care to agriculture, from operations to financial planning and funding. We also can provide access to SCORE mentors throughout the U.S., if there is a need for specific expertise not readily available locally. Beyond mentors, SCORE also offers ongoing workshops on subjects like social media marketing, eCommerce, buying and selling a business, business planning, and so on. See scoremaine.org for webinars and trainings that address these needs.
- Who are SCORE Mentors?
SCORE mentors have considerable experience starting their own businesses and working at firms large and small, and across all kinds of industries. Mentors have varied backgrounds, but all share the desire to give back to the community and to contribute to Maine’s economic well-being. All mentors are volunteers who enjoy helping enterprising people start and build their businesses.
- What are some other programs SCORE Mentors might recommend for learning more about expanding their businesses?
Maine offers many sources of support for small businesses. In addition to SCORE, Maine Small Business Development Centers (SBDC); Women’s Business Centers at Coastal Enterprises (CEI), and many of the regional economic development agencies all have advisors who can help. The Maine Department of Economic and Community Development has a good list of resources as well, including new programs especially for immigrant business owners like the Indus Fund (see Amjambo Africa, Feb. 2021). Maine Resource Compass is a new app with a large amount of information about service providers. Maine Center for Entrepreneurs also offers comprehensive programs.
- Where can businesses look for loans and grants?
SCORE mentors often recommend that businesses first consult a local bank or credit union for loans. If an applicant is denied, other resources may help, such as loans from the City of Portland and Greater Portland Council of Governments, and programs from Coastal Enterprises Inc. Loan and grant programs change over time, so always check to see what is available; a SCORE mentor can help with that. The StartUp Maine Guide to Resources for Entrepreneurs has a comprehensive list of resources that is regularly updated.