When the leadership of an organization that provides free consulting services to small businesses decided that expansion was a priority, they knew they had to target women and minorities.

Trouble was that this group, Service Corps of Retired Executives, is composed mostly of older white males. So in order to reach out for new members, they needed fresh approaches.

“Los Angeles has more women- and minority-owned businesses than any other city and Score was not reaching them,” said Devin Jopp, Score’s chief operating officer. “If we are to reach them, we must have trainers and mentors who can target their needs.”

Washington, D.C.-based Score made Los Angeles a focus of its growth efforts, calling for the local chapter to increase the number of volunteer counselors from 70 to 500 in five years.

To help the organization diversify its approach, Alberto Alvarado, L.A. district director for the U.S. Small Business Administration, recommended that Score contact Jane Pak, president of the local chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners. Jopp recruited her to serve on the district board and asked her to start an auxiliary Score chapter in Los Angeles aimed at women-owned businesses.

The changes rankled some old guard volunteer members of the L.A. chapter. In December, two members of its executive committee resigned. Terrence Payne, president of Score’s L.A. district, is in charge of a new leadership team.

Pak said Nawbo members are pleased to be working with Score. Nawbo is primarily a networking organization and does not have the resources to provide expert training. She added that women business owners often relate more easily to trainers who are also women and have gone through many of the same hoops that they have.

“Women business owners will be the driving force of the recovery and hiring as we come out of recession,” Pak said. “There are more than 500,000 women-owned businesses in L.A. County. But there are few organizations out there that understand their needs and can provide free training and counseling.”

Jopp said that Score is now making comparable efforts to recruit key local minority business figures. One concern is that many of the current volunteer executives at the local Score chapter do not have the language skills necessary to communicate with many of the minority business owners.

Score was founded 45 years ago with the goal of providing mentoring and training to business owners at no charge.

As part of the expansion, the chapter is expected to open more offices in L.A. and increase the number of training workshops it offers to business owners.

This effort is overdue, said Alvarado, who continues to advise local Score officials on their initiative.

“With Score, you simply don’t have a long history of retired women and minority executives, so there were parts of the community that it wasn’t reaching,” he said. “Score needs to ferret out individuals from those communities.”

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