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DeSoto County SCORE Chapter chair Doreen Graves (left) and vice chair Varina Hopper display some of the material available to aspiring small businesspeople seeking guidance in their new ventures.

Bob Bakken|DTT

Aspiring businesspeople who have an idea or a service to offer, but know little about the actual means of getting something started, now have a means of connecting with experts who have indeed, “been there, done that,” in the business world.

A DeSoto County chapter of SCORE, the national organization that when started in 1964 stood for Service Corps of Retired Executives, recently started in the county.

While it no longer is exclusive to retired businesspeople, SCORE, a nonprofit organization that provides mentoring to entrepreneurs, retains its focus on helping people be pointed toward a successful start in their new venture.

Many aspiring businesses likely got a lift through the Memphis chapter of SCORE, but DeSoto County chair Doreen Graves felt it was important to have one specifically for the county and North Mississippi.

“I believe that each area has its own particular culture,” Graves said. “Statistics show that only a few people will travel over 30 miles to get somewhere, they’d rather be in their local area. That’s why SCORE breaks it up and tries to have chapters in each area, so that people can be serviced.”

Graves said her ultimate goal is to have chapters in each DeSoto County city.

When people contact SCORE, primarily through the chapter website at dcms.score.org, a process begins that leads to a connection with a mentor who partners with the client into an action plan for goal setting, which Graves said is vital in the first steps of establishing a new business.

“Once they determine that, we can begin to build upon that skeleton and put some meat on it to help them get to the process that they want to get to,” Graves said.

SCORE volunteers continue to work with the new entrepreneurs “through the life of your business,” as they like to say.

Monthly meetings and workshops are also being offered through the local SCORE chapter to offer more information.

Information on what SCORE can offer is available through local Chambers of Commerce in DeSoto County, who have all been supportive of what the organization is trying to do.

Varina Hopper is the local chapter’s vice-chair and, separate from her position as Horn Lake Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, believes encouraging small businesses to grow and thrive is vital to the continued vitality for all of DeSoto County.

“It’s one thing for Chambers of Commerce to be able to coach businesses, and that’s one of the things we do on a daily basis,” Hopper said. “SCORE really gets to the root of the issue and it has more resources and the longevity of its name. Mississippi has a great small business culture and we want to encourage that culture. This gives us a way to give them the expert analysis to help in opening their type of business.”

For more information on SCORE’s new DeSoto County chapter, Graves may be reached at Doreen.Graves@scorevolunteer.org, or call 901-413-0771.

Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.

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