Jan Seale and Bob Brandenburger had big plans for retirement: travel, visits to family members, and perhaps a small business that would provide some extra income without cramping their newfound freedom.
But just ten days before bidding farewell to the nine-to-five routine, an automobile accident restricted Seale's mobility for several months.
Suddenly faced with more down time than they’d expected, the pair began experimenting with their new digital camera. They photographed the scenic natural beauty and architecture near their Charlottesville, Virginia, home, and used their home computer and printer to create note cards for friends. As the distinctive note cards got around, Jan and Bob began receiving more and more requests for additional sets.
“This looked like the interesting and flexible business opportunity we had hoped to find,” Jan says of the enterprise they named Mountain Glory Creations. “However, both of us had been public-sector administrators. We had a lot to learn about running a small business.”
Seale and Brandenburger discovered that the local chapter of SCORE offered a series of low-cost seminars for new and prospective entrepreneurs. While the formal presentations gave the couple valuable information about business planning, financial management and other start-up issues, SCORE Counselor Steve Cooper provided advice on specific aspects of their business idea. Cooper also offered suggestions managing large influxes of orders, and cost- and labor-saving measures such as using an area printer for some of the more popular note cards.
“We send them all to SCORE,” Seale says of those who ask how they got started. “And we’re pleased to hear that many have indeed called them.”
SCORE’s counseling and seminars have helped Seale and Brandenburger grow Mountain Glory Creations at a comfortable pace. Their regular appearances at the summer Charlottesville City Market have led to new products such as prints and calendars, as well as commissions to photograph area homes, farms, restaurants and vineyards. The couple also learned how to create a web site that exposes their products to an even wider market.
“Steve Cooper introduced us to a number of marketing paths, and how to evaluate their potential value to our business. He also gave me tips for approaching store owners about selling our cards, which was important since I’m not a natural salesperson.” says Brandenburger.