SCORE recognizes 5 area entrepreneurs it has helped

Seta Babayan-MacCory speaks following her small business award from SCORE of Chester and Delaware County during a luncheon held at Concord Country Club on Thursday June 1.  Babayan-MacCory is the founder and owner of Substitooth Fairy.
Seta Babayan-MacCory speaks following her small business award from SCORE of Chester and Delaware County during a luncheon held at Concord Country Club on Thursday June 1. Babayan-MacCory is the founder and owner of Substitooth Fairy. photo by PETE BANNAN – DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA

By Brian McCullough, Daily Local News

Ken Knickerbocker speaks of his small business award from SCORE of Chester and Delaware County during a luncheon held at Concord Country Club on Thursday, June 1.  Knickerbocker is the founder and CEO of VISTA Today.

Ken Knickerbocker speaks of his small business award from SCORE of Chester and Delaware County during a luncheon held at Concord Country Club on Thursday, June 1. Knickerbocker is the founder and CEO of VISTA Today.PETE BANNAN – DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA CONCORD >> Five of the most successful entrepreneurs in the region were recognized Thursday by the Chester and Delaware County SCORE chapter, whose volunteers helped them reach their goals.

This year’s winner’s of the group’s Small Business Achievement Awards were:

• The Bacon Jams in West Chester;

• Brandywine Consignment Shop in Downingtown;

• Elite Puréed Meals in Newtown Square;

• SubstiToothFairy in Brookhaven;

• VISTA Today in West Chester.

“I truly can appreciate the saying, ‘It takes 10 years to become an overnight success’,” noted one of the winners, Seta Babayan-MacCrory, founder and owner of SubstiTooth Fairy. “This is my ninth year in business.”

Federal, state and local elected officials, as well as educational, community and business leaders from both counties were on hand for the event at the Concord Country Club.

SCORE provided the inspirational background stories of the new companies, including:
 

THE BACON JAMS

The company began at a Philadelphia Eagles tailgate gathering. Presented with a challenge, Bruce Kramer, co-founder, presented bacon jam stuffed jalapeno poppers to his fellow Eagles fans – and the crowd went wild. He then presented a sample of bacon jam to co-founder Michael Oraschewsky, who put the product on some menu items at his restaurant.

As expected, the product was extremely well received by customers. Thus The Bacon Jams company was born. The two partners developed additional flavors and began to scale production. For financing, the team launched a Kickstarter campaign to gauge public demand for a spreadable bacon. They raised almost $12,000 from more than 275 personal backers. The Bacon Jams began selling their products at bacon festivals, farmers markets and outdoor events. In 2014 the company was approached by QVC. That marketing opportunity created the need for USDA inspection, scaled production and all of the issues that come with growth.

Flash forward to today and the Bacon Jams has been able to define two distinct channels of business that have represented over $1.5 million in revenue to date. The Bacon Jams products are currently in 1,500 retail locations and nearly 1,000 restaurants.

“While we still made plenty of mistakes along the way, our SCORE counselors helped to limit those errors and keep us on track to build a business,” Kramer said.

 

BRANDYWINE CONSIGNMENT SHOP

The Brandywine Consignment Shop in Downingtown, an established business for more than 20 years, sought help from Chester and Delaware County SCORE to explore options for a possible expansion. They found their inability to accommodate large items such as furniture was limiting their sources of revenue. A non-profit organization, the Brandywine Consignment Shop also was challenged to sustain their staff of more than 75 volunteers, their existing base of customers, and their donors.

In November 2011, Dana Heiman, CEO of parent company Brandywine Health Foundation, contacted SCORE for guidance in solving their growth problems. Together with SCORE mentors James Friedman and Charles Espenlaub, they explored and answered a set of feasibility questions. After several SCORE mentoring sessions, it was determined that their current location was already ideally located for the community that they serve. Therefore, rather than moving to a different location, they determined it was best to expand their current location.

They also set a goal of doubling profits with the renovation and expansion.

The result?

“Our average contribution to the foundation has been $50,000 (a year),” Nancy Oliver, manager of the of the consignment shop, said Thursday. “This year, we’re on target for $91,000.”
 

ELITE PURÉED MEALS

Puréed foods help older adults who have difficulty in chewing and swallowing. Difficulty swallowing, or dysphagia, means it takes more time and effort to move food or liquid from the mouth to stomach. The symptoms associated with dysphagia, such as choking, gagging and heartburn are extremely discouraging.

Before founding Elite Puréed Meals, Colleen McCloskey was a caregiver to older adults. One of McCloskey’s patients, an elderly man, refused to eat, even though the food was puréed. However, the puréed food was not visually appealing. So, McCloskey decided to re-shape the puréed food into its original form. The result was dramatic; the elderly man began to eat his meals and started to regain the weight that he had lost.

In 2015, McCloskey decided to create a business to market puréed meals. With SCORE counselor John Lippman’s help, McCloskey started Elite Puréed Meals. The Newtown Square company has gone on to win West Chester University’s Business Ideas Pitch Competition and the Keiretsu Forum competition, which gave her in-kind legal and IT services. As the firm’s recognition grew, McCloskey was able to participate in a workshop at Drexel University.

“They taught me how to believe in myself,” McCloskey said Thursday of her business supporters. “It’s been an unbelievable journey.

SUBSTITOOTHFAIRY

With headquarters in the state of Delaware, SubstitoothFairy is one of the fastest-growing temporary dental staffing agencies in the region, SCORE said. Founded in 2008, Substitooth Fairy provides professional assistance to dentists who need qualified dental hygienists and office receptionists in Delaware and parts of southeastern Pennsylvania, including in Brookhaven.

Babayan-MacCrory, founder and owner of Substitooth Fairy, likens her company to “a dental cupid” because it matches dental professionals with dentists needing immediate operational support. One of the best advantages is that the dentist does not have to hire a full time professional, but can select quality personnel on an as needed basis.

Babayan-MacCrory said the professional is paid directly by the dentist who, in turn, is charged a small administrative fee.

On Thursday, she told the crowd at Concord Country Club she “credits” a dentist for her decision to start the business. The dentist had her work for him as a hygienist for a day under the ruse that she was applying for a full-time job. After she worked all day, the dentist told her the position had been filled an he used her to keep his appointments met for a day.

“He told me he was going to open a staffing services – that same day I decided to start a new business,” said Babayan-MacCrory, an Armenian-American whose voice broke several times as she recalled the sacrifices her parents made to bring the family to the United States and the support she received from SCORE counselors with her new business.

The company’s beginnings were tough, she said.

”We opened our firm in 2008, one of the worst financial times in our country,” Babayan-MacCrory. “Despite this ominous beginning, we have grown steadily during our first nine years. In our first operational year we realized a 22 percent increase in sales and by 2014, SubstitoothFairy’s income had grown over 100 percent.”

 

VISTA TODAY

Dedicated to promoting the economic, cultural and social viability of Chester County, VISTA Today is an online daily blog that plans to expand into neighboring counties, SCORE noted.

According to its founder, Ken Knickerbocker, VISTA Today has “short, concise, easy to read summaries of the county’s assets as well as its cultural and community news and events”

In starting the blog, Knickerbocker worked closely with Gary Smith and Mary Beth DiVincenzo of the Chester County Economic Development Council.

The staff receives story ideas from a variety of sources including press releases, personal contacts, and e-mails. A vital part of VISTA Today is its affiliate partners, including Delaware County Community College, YMCA of Greater Brandywine and Vanguard. The affiliates not only help financially support VISTA Today, but they offer guidance, SCORE noted.

“I had been in the news business since the time I was little,” Knickerbocker recalled on Thursday. “Not only did I deliver the (Philadelphia) Bulletin ... but I also went around the neighborhood and collected newspapers in Darby, and got money back. My whole life I have been a reader of newspapers.”

Knickerbocker said SCORE was helpful in getting the business off the ground by assisting him with the financial plan.

“It’s really interesting as we talk today about what is real news versus fake news, we’ve built a business today around six to eight credible, believable, upbeat news stories on a day-to-day basis,” the founder said.”You’ve made it a habit of clicking on those stories ... and enjoying them and sending us your feedback.”

For more information, visit https://chesterdelco.score.org/

– To contact Business Editor Brian McCullough, call 610-235-2655 or send an email to bmccullough@dailylocal.com.