LOOKING BEFORE THEY LEAP; SCORE LENDS BUSINESS EXPERIENCE TO PEOPLE JUST STARTING OUT.
Penny Broschart thinks it's a sure thing.
``I first tried it at a booth at Conejo Valley Days about two years ago,'' the retired insurance interviewer said, holding up a short, cylindrical object. ``It's powered by a crystal and it gives a small shock. It takes away pain.''
Her husband, Ronald, demonstrates the product which is about the size of a small flashlight on John Ricci.
Ricci, a retired corporate executive and business owner who volunteers as a business counselor at the Conejo Valley and Moorpark chambers of commerce, jerks only slightly as Ronald Broschart holds the metal cylinder to his hand and presses a red button at the top.
Ricci's counseling work may not always be quite so stimulating, but the semi-retired Westlake Village man gets a charge out of working with aspiring entrepreneurs.
``I love doing this because I see that great American entrepreneurial spirit every time I meet with someone who wants to start their own business,'' he said. ``I meet with a lot of immigrants, people new to this country, and I'm always amazed at their pride in doing this, their entrepreneurial spirit and their desire to get to work.''
Ricci, like 12,300 volunteers working nationwide with SCORE - Service Corps of Retired Executives - counsels aspiring and existing business owners each week. The program, sponsored by the Small Business Administration, trains counselors to work with clients like the Broscharts, dispensing advice, enthusiasm and caution in equal parts.
Years of experience in both the corporate and small-business arenas have prepared Ricci for the job. Ricci started his career as a chemist, worked his way through the corporate departments of sales, planning, marketing and finance. He left corporate life to run his own business after serving as director of marketing at Capitol Records. He then bought four pizza franchises and now owns the Roundtable Pizza restaurant at The Oaks mall.
As his resume indicates, his knowledge of business is broad and impressive. He can answer questions ranging from `If I'm reselling a product, who pays the sales tax, me or the manufacturer?' to `Why should I form a corporation?'
Most of Ricci's clients, like the Broscharts, are interested in forming new businesses.
``In many cases the first meeting can be a reality check,'' Ricci said. ``People come in with a vague concept and have little idea how much, time, effort and money it takes to start a business. For that reason, the first thing we have many people do is write a business plan.''
Ricci provides clients with an outline, and asks them to return for a second session. Ricci meets with some clients several times as they develop a workable plan.
``I met with one Moorpark homemaker about half a dozen times,'' Ricci recalled. ``She first came in with a plan to buy a used baby clothes store. I suggested that she work in the store for a week or two, ask to see their records and evaluate the business's profitability.''
After following Ricci's advice, the woman discovered that the business owners had exaggerated their profits. The woman, who had some computer background, decided to start a software sales and support business instead.
The Broscharts are clearly sold on the product they plan to market at county fairs and trade shows across the Southwest. The couple currently work with another vendor selling the devices, but they want to branch out on their own. Their main concern, they tell Ricci, is that by starting a business selling a quasi-medical device, they might expose themselves to lawsuits. Ricci and the Broscharts discuss the fact that health devices are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
``The whole country's just so lawsuit crazy, we wanted to find out how we could protect ourselves before we went ahead,'' Ronald Broschart said. ``I can imagine someone saying `I used this product and then the pain got worse or my arm fell off.' ''
Ricci tells the Broscharts they have two options: They can form a corporation, which creates a corporate shield between the individuals and the business, or they can form a sole proprietorship, in which case an umbrella liability rider can be added to their home insurance.
``The liability you're worried about is exactly the reason why people form corporations, because it creates that shield,'' Ricci said. ``Sometimes that shield can be punctured, but it's rare. It's a difficult thing to do.
``And in a case like this, with a product that people use on their bodies, you're using good common sense in worrying about this.''
Ricci also gives the Broscharts explicit instructions on how to research the product's manufacturer, to ensure that no suits have previously been filed.
The list of instructions and requirements for corporations is long, and Ricci tells the couple that many people hire lawyers to file incorporation papers and accountants to do the books.
``Once you've done it a few times and you're organized, it's really a piece of cake,'' Ricci said, but the Broscharts decide to at least begin business as a sole proprietorship.
``You've really talked me out of becoming a corporation for now,'' Penny Broschart said.
They also ask Ricci about choosing a product and business name, about paying sales tax and about how to open a merchant account so they can accept credit card payment.
At the end of the meeting, the Broscharts have a long ``to do'' list, but at least they know the pitfalls that were hidden from view until John Ricci exposed them.
Specially trained Service Corps of Retired Executives business counselors are available at three area chambers of commerce in eastern Ventura County. All counseling is free and confidential. Counselors also work with businesses experiencing problems and offers training seminars. For more information about training seminars, call the Ventura office at 628-2688.
Score counselors hold hourlong appointments Tuesdays from 9 to 11 a.m. at the Simi Valley Chamber of Commerce, 40 W. Cochran St. Suite 100. To make an appointment, call 526-3900.
Counselors meet with interested business owners or prospective business owners at the Moorpark Chamber of Commerce on Wednesdays from 9 to 11 a.m. The chamber is at 225 W. Los Angeles Ave. To make an appointment, call 529-0322.
Conejo Valley residents interested in the SCORE program can meet with a business counselor Fridays from 9 to 11 a.m. at the Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce, 625 W. Hillcrest Drive. To schedule an appointment, call 499-1993.
PHOTO (color) SCORE volunteer John Ricci, a business owner himself, counsels Ronald and Penny Broschart about starting up their own enterprise.
John Lazar/Special to the Daily News
Box: SCORE SERVICES (see text)
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Sep 6, 1997|
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