On March 7, Nancy Strojny was honored as one of 11 White House Champions of Change for her work in entrepreneurial mentoring, counseling and training for small and startup businesses.
Strojny is the chair of the Portland chapter of SCORE, a national nonprofit and resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration, which brings certified volunteer mentors together with operators of small businesses to offer face-to-face counseling, workshops and networking opportunities.
Currently the principal of brand consulting firm Beauty Vantage, Strojny brings 25 years of marketing and sales experience, including work with Fortune 100 companies, to her SCORE post. The Champions of Change program was created as part of President Obama's Winning the Future initiative, recognizing leaders from a different sector of the economy each week.
She recently sat down with Mainebiz to discuss SCORE. An edited transcript follows.
Mainebiz: How did you first get into mentoring?
Strojny: When I began with Procter & Gamble, there were very few women in sales or in any leadership positions. I learned how to be a good mentor there and have pretty much spent the rest of my years mentoring all kinds of people. I've had five extraordinary mentors in my career. When I came to Maine, I had some time to give back, so I contacted one of these mentors who said, "You ought to give SCORE a look," and the rest is history.
What are some of the biggest challenges faced by small businesses?
I think every person starting a business is faced with the daunting challenge of figuring out how they are going to do the myriad of functions required. Maine is made up of mostly solo entrepreneurs, so it's not unusual for a small business here to be one person with maybe two or three part-timers. Those folks have an exhausting journey ahead of them. Friends and family can get tired of the stories of trying to grow sales or figure out how they are going to meet payroll or cash flow challenges — they just don't have anyone to talk to and we're a great sounding board.
How does SCORE address these challenges?
SCORE becomes a small business's board of directors, [except] we're not here to tell you what to do, we're here to help you find your own answers to your business problems. SCORE is an entry point to a ladder of services, a [place] where small to mid-size businesses can come and be referred to our collaborative partners [including The Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development, The Maine Women's Business Center and The Maine Small Business Development Center]. There is no shortage of resource providers in our community — the trick is to understand what everybody does so you can seamlessly hand-off on behalf of our clients.
How was your White House experience? Did you share ideas with the other Champions of Change?
During the event, I was involved in a discussion of the role of mentoring and ways to take the enormous talent of the over-50 generation and match it with the talent of anyone under 50. The young can teach the old as much as they can learn from them, it's just a different set of skills. That's a good reason why young people should join as volunteers — they could get some real world business experience and could perhaps give back some social media skills while gaining experience and networking, because networking is how you get a job. n