Anne Middleman, Chair of SCORE Long Island, Discusses How Nonprofit Group Helps LIers Launch Businesses

score long island
Ann Middleman

Anne Middleman, Chair of SCORE Long Island, Discusses How Nonprofit Group Helps LIers Launch Businesses

Ann Middleman, chapter chair for SCORE Long Island, has been busy lately. And so has the local chapter of this business mentoring group that also runs workshops. During the pandemic they shifted to Zoom sessions. The group’s 60 mentors these days still do a lot on Zoom, but they’re starting to do in-person mentoring as well. 

With the desire to start businesses going strong, the group provides free help to bridge the distance between a dream, a desire and the deed of starting, and sometimes running, a business.

Mentors meet with people in libraries, Starbucks, and diners as well as online as people with a will to start a business get help finding a way.

“We’re starting to re-establish our relationships with libraries and set times where we can be there and meet with people.” Middleman said. “Not only people who put in a request on our website. We also get referrals from the libraries themselves.”

In 2022, SCORE’s Long Island chapter (score.org/longisland) with a small army of often retired mentors, helped start 284 companies, accounting for 703 jobs and more than 4,800 mentoring sessions and workshops.

“It’s not like it went down to almost nothing and it’s coming back,” Middleman said. “There was interest all along. Now it’s getting stronger.”

While Small Business Development Centers can help, this nonprofit is a major go-to group.

The entrepreneurial urge is going strong for many reasons, including the SEAP or Self-Employment Assistance Program that lets people collect unemployment while starting a company.

“We had a lot of SEAP clients before the pandemic. And we’re seeing a great increase in that now,” Middleman said. “There’s a lot of healthcare people.”

Healthcare, Middleman said, is a huge source of entrepreneurs. While doctors often started or led businesses, it goes beyond that to include nurses and others.

People are helping families navigate the healthcare system, connecting with therapists and other professionals, and launching organic and personal care products, apps and doing e-commerce.

“A lot of people say they want to start a business and they have no clue as to how,” Middleman continued. “We help them articulate issues and guide them in what they need to know and do to start any kind of business.”

SCORE’s mentors help set up a corporate structure, such as a limited liability company, develop business plans, and determine and sometimes find funding.

“We help people to have the information they need to start up a business,” Middleman added.

SCORE’s Long Island chapter includes many mentors who have been doing this for a decade or longer, with more applications for this volunteer position coming in. To mentor, go to the website score.org/longisland, click on the volunteer tab and fill out the form.

SCORE interviews people with the skills and experience to mentor and onboards with training that can take several months and includes modules on ethics, values, inclusion and more.

“We do co-mentoring sessions with experienced mentors,” Middleman said. “That way they get an idea of what the process is like.”

While mentors advise overall, based on background, subject matter experts help with particular issues, such as intellectual property law.

If you want a mentoring session to help with a particular issue starting or running a business, go to the SCORE Long Island website and click “Find a mentor.”

“You can scroll down a list of mentors, look at the profiles and decide you want to work with him or her and request a meeting or fill out a form and someone will be assigned to you,” Middleman said.

One person who invented a product for people with poor vision went to SCORE Long Island to get help to pitch to investors, and won support and funding.

In an increasingly digital world, SCORE Long Island now has digital experts helping with everything from e-commerce to social media.

SCORE Long island has workshops in social media, starting a business on a small budget, government contracting, marketing, and understanding the numbers of your business, all scheduled for June.

“Lots of people go into business. They’re a landscaper, an auto detailer, but they don’t know how to run a business,” Middleman said of the workshop on understanding the numbers.

Some people come for one session, but most seek more. Most are in their 30s or 40s, but Middleman did advise an 18-year-old who came in with his mother after developing a game.

“A lot of our clients are people of color, and a lot are women,” Middleman said. “I think a lot of it is because those are two groups that have the hardest time getting a job.”

Many people are working from home; some start businesses there without the overhead of an office.

“I think it’s because they’re trying to start a business on a shoestring and they can’t afford an office,” Middleman said. “Or they’re starting an online business. And you don’t need an office to do that.”