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Need business advice? SCORE provides free mentors and large resource library for all business sizes

SCORE Prairie and Lakes, based in Fargo, N.D., offers free mentorship opportunities and a large resource library for businesses of all sizes who may need help improving their operations. SCORE also provides a start-up consultations for new business owners to ensure they have all the knowledge they need before officially signing on the bottom line, one SCORE official said.

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SCORE Prairie and Lakes Logo
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DETROIT LAKES — Their mission is to foster vibrant small business community through mentorship and education, and they do it for free.

SCORE Prairie and Lakes, of Fargo, N.D., supports businesses with thousands of mentors from various industries and a large resource library that provides businesses with everything they need from templates to accounting tutorials , according to the group's website.

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Screenshot of the SCORE resource library webpage on June 13, 2022.
Screenshot / SCORE Prairie and Lakes Website

Del Carver, co-chair of SCORE Prairie and Lakes, said SCORE started in 1964, with the Fargo chapter starting the following year, and the organization has 28 volunteer mentors in the Fargo area who are ready to help, and provide advice, for any business owner that asks.

"We're probably one of the best kept secrets in small business," said Carver. "SCORE used to be called Service Corps of Retired Executives ... 30% of our mentors are women and 40% currently work."

In total, Carver said, SCORE has between 250 to 300 chapters across the country, which provide businesses access to up to 10,000 volunteer mentors from various industries , and serve more than 1,600 communities as part of their network.

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Carver noted he recently put a local client, who wanted to release a board game they had come up with, in touch with a puzzle and games entrepreneur from Connecticut, who was able to answer some of the client's questions about breaking into that industry as part of the organization's stable of mentors.

He also said SCORE provides start-ups with a "gauntlet" of questions from their volunteers to ensure the new business owner is ready to begin their operations, because there can be a lot more to starting a business than people realize.

"The first thing we'll do is have a discussion with them, 'Are you sure you want to be in business for yourself?'" said Carver. "So, then we'll spend some time trying to vet the idea. 'What's your idea? Who are your competitors? Why would somebody buy it from you?' ... you might make the best brownies in the world, but, is someone going to pay $15 a dozen for your brownies?"

Carver said he estimates, after their first meeting with a potential start-up, about 25% don't come back right away, and some never come back, while some may come back a year or two later.

However, he also stressed the organization is not in the business of telling someone they have a bad idea.

While start-up clients are important, Carver said the group's tag line is they will be there "for the life of your business." He noted that currently, they are providing one of their local clients with succession planning for a family business, which can be difficult if the owner hasn't been through that sort of transition before.

The organization also helps people set up their own non-profits, which can take up to 12 to 18 months, he said.

"All of this is free," Carver added. "We've got a couple people that are just excellent and that kind of stuff. Not only helping you get setup, but examples of how do you set up your board of directors?

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The organization is funded, in part, through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, according to the group's website.

Carver said any business, looking for any type of mentoring, resources, or workshops should check out the SCORE Prairie and Lakes website at prairieandlakes.score.org for more information.

Lead Multimedia Reporter for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus.
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