DETROIT LAKES — Their mission is to foster a vibrant small business community through mentorship and education, and they do it for free.
SCORE Prairie and Lakes, of Fargo, ND, supports businesses with thousands of mentors from various industries and a
according to the band’s website.
Del Carver, co-chair of SCORE Prairie and Lakes, said SCORE began in 1964, with the Fargo chapter beginning the following year, and the organization has 28 volunteer mentors in the Fargo area who are willing to help and provide advice, for any business owner who asks.
“We’re probably one of the best-kept small business secrets,” Carver said. “SCORE used to be called Service Corps of Retired Executives…30% of our mentors are women and 40% are currently employed.”
In total, Carver said, SCORE has between 250 and 300 chapters across the country, which
and serve more than 1,600 communities through their network.
Carver noted that he recently put a local client, who wanted to release a board game he had imagined, in touch with a Connecticut puzzle and game entrepreneur, who was able to answer some of the client’s questions about breaking into this industry as part of the organization’s stable of mentors.
He also said that SCORE provides start-ups with a “glove” of questions from their volunteers to ensure the new business owner is ready to start operations, as starting a business can be much more complex than people think.
“The first thing we’ll do is have a discussion with them, ‘Are you sure you want to be in business for yourself?'” Carver said. “So we’ll spend some time trying to verify the idea. ‘What’s your idea? Who are your competitors? Why would someone buy it from you?’ …you may be making the best brownies in the world, but is someone going to pay $15 a dozen for your brownies?”
Carver said he estimates that after their first encounter with a potential startup, about 25% don’t return right away, and some never return, while others may return a year or two later.
However, he also stressed that the organization is not in the business of telling someone they have a bad idea.
While startup customers are important, Carver said the group’s slogan is that they’ll 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 has not been through this kind of transition before.
The organization also helps people start their own nonprofits, which can take up to 12 to 18 months, he said.
“It’s all free,” Carver added. “We have a few people who are just great and that sort of thing. Not only helping you get set up, but examples of how you set up your board?
The organization is funded, in part, by a cooperative agreement with the US Small Business Administration, according to the group’s website.
Carver said any business looking for any kind of mentorship, resources or workshops should check out the SCORE Prairie and Lakes website at
for more information.