DI resident Arnie Freilich helps small companies SCORE
Small business is one of those concepts embedded in the American psyche. Despite the endless affection for Walmart and the McDouble, the citizens of this country love to hear about mom and pop stores or entrepreneurs making something of themselves with the sweat of their brows. It speaks to the bootstraps ethic sold to everyone who’s ever put in a job application.
One of the people dedicated to fulfilling this vision for local small business owners is Daniel Island resident Arnie Freilich, a business consultant whose work ranges from assisting new companies to well-established Fortune 500 businesses. Currently, he is the chairman of the Charleston chapter of SCORE, a nonprofit dedicated to providing assistance to small businesses around the nation.
The long road that led Freilich to SCORE was paved with his ambition to help modest companies reach their potential, spending over 40 years aiding small business growth.
“When I was in my 20s, I had a small business accounting firm,” says Freilich. “Even back then, I had other people do the numbers and I helped my clients improve their profitability.”
It wasn’t until one of the most difficult times in his life that Freilich realized where he wanted to be and what he wanted to give back.
“After I got divorced about 30 years ago, I spent some time trying to figure out what my mission in life was,” he says. “And one day, after doing an awful lot of self-awareness work and modules, I woke up and said ‘what if I’ve already been on my mission all my life?’ I looked at my successes and I decided that day that my life was about improving people’s lives and business effectiveness. And my life turned around.”
And, while Freilich has known about SCORE for almost 50 years, he didn’t get involved until recently, when inspiration struck him at a speaker series.
“I found after attending TEDx in Charleston over a year and half ago, I was spending too much time golfing,” he says.
After a month of involvement in the program, Freilich became Chapter Chairman.
Some of the local businesses that SCORE has helped over the years include Wonder Works Toys and East Cooper Community Outreach (ECCO).
One of SCORE’s local clients is Cindy Borrelli.
“I had gone to two or three workshops and then I went to the ‘Are You Ready to Start A Business?’ workshop,” says Borrelli, on how she joined SCORE. Soon she was set up with mentor Ken Kimball, who she’s worked with for almost a year. Borrelli used Kimball’s guidance to grow her human resources firm Keystone HR Consulting.
The more popular tools SCORE provides for small business success are consultations from experienced mentors. Mentors are often pulled from worn industry veterans, owners, and managers.
“We have people who have operated their own small businesses, we have people who have worked for major companies, we have people who are subject matter experts, who just know everything they know,” adds Freilich.
When mentoring Borrelli, Kimball’s technique was to set personal goals for her to meet.
“As a mentor, you need to be able to start where the client is,” says Kimball. The mentor would make deadlines for her to grow her inner circle or gain a certain number of clients.
The other favorite option among SCORE’s patrons is business workshops.
“We provide training through workshops, through webinars [web seminars], covering pretty much every subject in small business operations, and we help them influence,” says Freilich. “Our goal is to help the company succeed, and that’s what the mentors do.”
SCORE was launched in 1964 by the United States Small Business Administration (SBA), a government agency dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs across the nation. Thanks to the continued support from the SBA, SCORE is able to offer its services to struggling business owners at low costs, if any.
Although the nonprofit has stayed alive for the past five decades, it has not seen much change. The lack of variety amongst the people involved with SCORE is a problem that Freilich hopes to ameliorate in the near future.
“SCORE has been around a long time and they’ve spent the last few years trying to figure out how to remain relevant for the next 10, 20, 50 years,” he says. “Looking at the largest growing number of small business owners, being women, millennials, African Americans, and Hispanics—and we don’t do a very good job with that if we’re all white guys with white hair.” Freilich sees the answer in the mentor program. He believes that bringing more African American, female, Hispanic, and young mentors can create a sense of inclusion that will promote businesses from different communities to ask SCORE for help when needed.
Cindy Borrelli says that she’s seen SCORE change for the better in the year she’s been with the program.
“The offerings have improved greatly in the last few months,” she says. “There’s more variety and there’s been an improvement in the quality of how they’re conducted.”
If successful, it would be another way SCORE’s Charleston chapter has shown a spike of growth in the past two years. The group claims to have started 327 new businesses and created 417 non-owner jobs in 2017, and increased their total chapter services by 44 percent over 2016.
For additional information, or to become a mentor, visit www.charlestonsc.score.org or call (843) 727-4778.