NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Some of the best lessons that small business owners can learn come from those who have been in their shoes and have been successful. SCORE, the Small Business Administration's partner organization designed to mentor entrepreneurs, recently celebrated a handful of successful small business owners at its fourth annual SCORE Awards at a gala in New Orleans.
Over the past week, TheStreet profiled all seven of SCORE's 2012 winners. Each of the winners' stories had valuable lessons to share with aspiring and established small business owners. Here is a roundup of the biggest lessons from each winner:
1. Tap into your existing network and available resources.Tasha Oldham, founder of My Story Inc. and winner of SCORE's Outstanding Woman-Owned Small Business award, is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, but Oldham had to separate her keen artistic eye from running a profitable business.
When she first launched her commercial production company in 2010, she was also aware of how important it was to leverage her existing network of friends, professional acquaintances and the entrepreneur community at large."I ... leveraged my community of other entrepreneurs to barter for services I needed to start the company," Oldham says. "Key services like legal structuring, business coaching, and a superfly, fabulous venue for my launch party as well as catering, the list goes on. The exposure and new clients from the launch party has funded our growth and expansion." She also was sure to seek out other female entrepreneurs, which led to an introduction and eventually winning a place in Deluxe Corp.'s Project Rev, which led her to the SCORE mentors, which in turn led her to the assistance of Goldman Sachs' (GS) 10,000 Small Business program. 2. Speaking of resources, your local Chamber of Commerce is not just for big business anymore. Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce executive vice president Beth Johnston says the organization is doing all it can to support the claim that Boca Raton, Fla. is the new "Silicon Beach," a nickname given to the community because of its strong tech startup presence. The Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce, winner of this year's SCORE award for Outstanding Nonprofit as a Small Business, has a myriad of programs to support local entrepreneurs including its newest program, the Young Entrepreneur's Academy, which teaches 7th-12th graders about entrepreneurship. Notably, the chamber was in high gear during the recession, meeting the needs of struggling business owners in the area. "When the bubble burst we did all we could to guide our members and this community... to get them back on their feet or at least stay solvent for when we came back out of the bubble -- which we're seeing here by the way," Johnston says. 3. It's never too late to start a business. Bruce Bohrmann, founder of Bohrmann Knives and winner of SCORE's Oustanding Small Business Launched by an Individual Age 50+, started his business in 1986 at the age of 58. Twenty-six years later, the entrepreneur and knife-enthusiast is still making high-end knife handles. Bohrmann's business beginnings had a funny catalyst. In Yarmouth, Maine, where he lives, the town's 217-year-old elm tree was sickly and needed to be cut down. Town officials encouraged local craftsmen to make products from the wood. Bohrmann had already been dabbling in the art of making knife handles with some sales success, but it was when he began fulfilling orders for handles from the venerated elm tree that he realized he needed to establish a more formalized business. Perhaps being an older entrepreneur made him realize that didn't want to take on debt. He only funds his business with profit. It forces him to get creative when he doesn't have the capital. "This has often led to new, less costly and more efficient procedures. While using my imagination to solve one problem, letting my mind run free, I have on several occasions, developed new knife designs. Financial need leads to creative solutions," he says.