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SCORE one for nonprofit organizations

From the pages of In Business magazine.

Paul Ryan’s 2012 vice presidential acceptance speech is mostly forgotten now. Such is the fate of nominees for vice president, especially those who finish second, but there was one passage that not even the most partisan person could take issue with.

Describing his family’s experience in launching and running a business following the death of his father, Ryan said the following: “Behind every small business, there’s a story worth knowing. All the corner shops in our towns and cities, the restaurants, cleaners, gyms, hair salons, hardware stores — these didn’t come out of nowhere. A lot of heart goes into each one, and if small businesspeople say they made it on their own, all they are saying is that nobody else worked seven days a week in their place.”

Ryan was throwing shade on President Obama’s “you didn’t build that” comment, but politics aside, launching or running a business does not have to be a lonely exercise, not with free counseling service available through the Service Corps of Retired Executives. Since 1964, SCORE counselors have provided free business counseling to entrepreneurs hoping to get their new ventures off to a strong start and established businessmen and women pondering their next move.

Since you’re never too old to try something new, local SCORE Madison counselors such as Dennis Leong have added nonprofit counseling to their task list. Like other counselors, Leong can walk any entrepreneur or nonprofit executive through the basics of assessing business feasibility, crafting business plans, and exploring financing.

He can do it from the lens of experience. For 30 years, Leong was employed by the State of Wisconsin, first as a business consultant with the Department of Commerce and later in the economic development section of the Department of Transportation. Prior to that, he operated a French restaurant called Gourmandise, which was named for a French cheese, in what is now University Square, and his wife, Vada, ran the Manna Bakery. Leong also managed the old Ivy Inn on University Avenue, near UW Hospital.

Among of the beneficiaries of his business acumen are food vendors taking part in the Northside Planning Council’s new MarketReady initiative, which is designed to diversify the vendors that operate in the Madison Public Market. In serving local nonprofits, Leong says SCORE Madison provides the same kinds of counseling it would to a private business. “We’re really growing this,” he states. “They hear that we offer services, and I get a lot of phone calls.”

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