Starting a business that offered personal, home and errand services to time-crunched families seemed like a no-brainer to Kaarel and Susan Hamersky. They knew how the pressure of juggling careers, families and other responsibilities left little time for routine, yet important everyday tasks. By providing services such as grocery shopping, addressing holiday cards and taking the car for service, the Hamersky’s customers could then devote their time to more important—and enjoyable—matters.
Two years after starting California Concierge, however, the Hamersky’s had made little headway. “We were very naïve,” Susan recalls. “We thought that just hanging up a sign would make people flock to us.”
Three years after Susan met SCORE mentor Don Doner in a business workshop, California Concierge has enjoyed a fivefold increase in revenue. “We haven’t reached our peak yet, but every year is better,” Susan says. “That’s a big credit to Don; we could not have made this kind of progress without him.”
Susan and Doner continue to meet with her SCORE mentor once a quarter, or whenever she has a question. And, while California Concierge appears on track to a bright future, Susan admits she has one regret. “I can’t help but think about how different things might have been had we known about SCORE when we first started,” she says. “I’m just amazed that it’s a free service. We’ll always be grateful to Don for everything he’s done to help us.”
While taking a business workshop sponsored by the local Chamber of Commerce, Susan found herself sitting next to Don Doner, a retired marketing and advertising executive, and a volunteer mentor with SCORE. “He asked about our business and what we were going through, then gave me his card and offered to help,” says Susan.
That chance meeting proved to be just what California Concierge needed. Kaarel and Susan began working with Doner to fine-tune their marketing strategy and materials. “Don took what we had developed and tweaked it to make it much better,” Susan says. “Not only is our advertising more effective, we are also saving money by not paying for poor quality ads and brochures.”
When California Concierge began adding employees, Doner advised the Hamersky’s to prepare an Employee Handbook and have it reviewed by a legal expert. He also helped them overcome their hesitance to accept credit cards.
“Don explained that the long-term benefits would offset short-term costs by making payment easier for our clients,” Susan says. “He has also shown us how to protect our company name, and to try other ideas that have resulted in new business. But most importantly, Don is always a cheerleader. He listens to our struggles, then builds us up to feel that we can accomplish anything. We may even franchise!”
“Every small business needs a Don Doner – someone who has not only wisdom from experience; someone who can be a sounding board as well as a guide; someone who is on your side, but holds you accountable for the ultimate success of your business.” says Susan Hamersky.