By Ed Rappuhn, Chairman – SCORE Nashville

“I’ve got this great idea and I want to start my own business. What do I need to do?” This is the broadest and most common question asked by potential entrepreneurs. As mentors to small businesses for almost 50 years, SCORE counselors help our clients sort through the many considerations of business ownership. Rather than coming up with a generic answer, we ask questions and listen to our clients’ responses. Following is a sampling of the questions our mentors might ask:

  • How does your idea differ from what is already on the market?
  • What makes you think someone will spend money on this idea?
  • Can you define your market segments?
  • How do you plan to finance the business, both in terms of start-up costs and ongoing needs until you reach a point that the business is consistently generating a positive cash flow?
  • Are you able and willing to start small then adapt and grow as you learn more?
  • Do you have the time, passion, and expertise to run this business?
  • How much free cash flow do you need to generate to consider it a success?
  • Have you considered whether you will be a sole proprietor, partnership, LLC, S-Corp, or C-Corp?
  • Do you have a Business Plan or Business Model in place?
  • What is your exit plan?

What your mentor is doing with these questions is helping you realize that there is more to starting a successful business than a great idea. We rarely expect the client to fully answer these questions in an initial meeting. Rather, the questions are designed to provide a framework for research and discussions at future meetings.

SCORE is a national organization of over 12,000 volunteers with the mission of helping to grow successful small businesses. Our clients include high-tech businesses, service providers, manufacturers, retailers, food service businesses, professional practices, schools, apparel makers, photographers, musicians, and countless others. With a current roster of 38 members in Nashville, we spent over 8,000 hours providing nearly 1,600 direct services to clients last year.  Much of our membership is retired business owners and executives but we also include a mix of “in-business” and professional volunteers who are giving back to the local business community.

Our volunteers provide free and confidential one-on-one mentoring services to small business owners. We also host a series of affordable 3-hour Saturday workshops on topics related to starting, planning, and growing businesses. Using a team of SCORE volunteers, we can provide ongoing advisory board services to help local businesses plan and implement strategic objectives. “SCORE-on-Business” is a locally produced 30 minute television show (News Channel 5+) that answers questions from small business owners and often includes guests that own small businesses or provide valuable business services.

This new forum in the Tennessean is designed for SCORE to respond to questions from small business owners. Email questions about starting or growing your business to and watch for the answers.

Sign up for a mentor, find out more about our workshops and other services, or volunteer to become a SCORE member at We welcome your questions, participation and feedback.

Local mentors can guide aspiring entrepeneurs