The Biz

Sugo, Rosetta’s Kitchen, 12 Bones Smokehouse. These are just a few of the area businesses that have benefited from the mostly free business advice offered by the nearly 40 retired or semi-retired executives that volunteer for the Asheville chapter of Service Corps of Retired Executives.

A helping hand: The Asheville chapter of the Service Corps of Retired Executives, the nation’s oldest, has been offering local small businesses help for 41 years — most of it for free.

The 41-year-old Asheville chapter, led by retired aerospace executive David Hymer, is the nation’s oldest among the nearly 500 chapters in operation. It’s prolific, too. On an annual basis, Hymer tells Xpress, the local SCORE chapter consults with approximately 1,100 clients for free, plus an additional 400 to 500 that take advantage of the group’s low-cost seminars (the average fee is about $30 per seminar for nonclients and $25 for clients, Hymer tells The Biz). SCORE is able to operate largely for free because of its primary sponsor and main partner, the U.S. Small Business Administration, in addition to national and local corporate sponsors and close working relationships with such institutions as A-B Tech and the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce.

About 60 percent of SCORE clients are starting a business and need help with everything from their business plan to human resources to financing to marketing. Existing businesses can benefit as well, Hymer says. One such business whose profit margins were a dismally low 2 percent is currently undergoing an overhaul through SCORE that Hymer says should pump up the margin to between 10 and 15 percent.

“As far as a dissecting of an existing businesses’ problems, or as a startup, and leading them down that path and staying with them and mentoring them until they’re successful, there is no one like SCORE in the Asheville area,” Hymer says. “There are literally thousands of companies in the Asheville area that have gotten their start through SCORE.”

The area is a rich and ripe place for business success, but that said, Hymer notes that businesses still make common mistakes due to a lack of preparation. For example, he says, “It’s one thing to say you want to start up a restaurant, but the fact is 75 percent of restaurants fail. It’s directly related to the fact that they have not done the homework necessary, the analysis necessary, going through the detailed preparation of a business plan.” That business plan is key—without it, the chance of getting a loan is almost nil. Anyone can download a plan template off the group’s Web site that will at least identify the components of a successful one.

But SCORE is about more than helping businesses do their initial due diligence. Hymer says many SCORE clients often maintain the relationship for years. “As their business progresses, we help keep taking them to the next step, and the next step, and the next step, and so on.”

Of course, not everyone is cut out for business—especially those who don’t, won’t or can’t do their homework, or who decide to blindly jump into risky enterprises such as franchises. If that’s the case, SCORE isn’t afraid to play bad cop.

“Some of the best advice we give our clients when they say they want to go into business is, ‘Don’t,’” Hymer says. “Because they just don’t have a clue.”

For more information, visit www.ashevillescore.org or call 271-4786.


New jobs from old junk in Old Fort: Gov. Mike Easley’s office recently announced that PRC Industries Inc., a New York-based company that recycles and remanufactures household appliances, will open a facility in Old Fort in McDowell County. The company will invest $3 million and hire some 300 workers during the next five years.

“PRC’s decision to locate in North Carolina means more good-paying jobs for hard-working families in the western part of our state,” Easley said. “Companies know they will find the skilled, dedicated workforce there and throughout our state that they need to grow and succeed.”

PRC was formed in 1996 in St. James, N.Y., where it has a 100,000-square-foot facility that takes apart old household appliances and, after testing all of the components, uses them to build new products. When the New York facility reached capacity, the company began looking for a new location to expand.

“It is the total package that North Carolina has to offer that truly motivated us to choose this state for our relocation and expansion. From the McDowell County folks to the state officials of North Carolina, we always felt welcomed and that we could be successful,” said PRC Industries Senior Vice President Ray Jonaitis in a release. “North Carolina’s proactive stance on recycling was another factor that resonated with who we are as a company.”

The facility will remanufacture items such as vacuum cleaners, window and portable air conditioners, coffee makers, irons, kitchen appliances and high-definition televisions. PRC will also recycle these types of items at the plant.

While wages at the Old Fort plant will vary by job function, the expected average yearly salary for all of the new jobs will be $28,379, not including benefits, which is higher than the McDowell County average of $26,728. PRC plans to begin hiring and start operations early next year.


When disaster strikes: The U.S. Small Business Administration and Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. have teamed up to launch a disaster-planning guide for small-business owners.

The 10-page guide provides information on developing an effective plan to protect customers and employees in the event of a disaster. The guide provides key disaster-preparedness strategies to help small businesses identify potential hazards, create plans to remain in operation if the office is unusable, and understand the limitations of insurance coverage.

Hard copies of the guide will be distributed by SBA field offices, its resource partners around the country and disaster field offices. Nationwide will make additional copies available to its agents for distribution. An electronic version of the guide is available online at www.sba.gov/services/disasterassistance/disasterpreparedness/index.html and at www.nationwide.com.

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