What do you do: 

Mark Stafford is a graphic artist in the Prescott area who has a passion for commercial artwork and a long history in advertising.  He often finds himself as a leader among artists and as a consultant with other small business owners. When he needed business advice he turned to SCORE.

For 56 years SCORE, score.org, has served as America’s premier source of free business mentoring and education. Started in 1964 under the LBJ administration, SCORE is a resource partner of the US Small Business Administration (SBA).  SCORE has helped more than 11 million entrepreneurs through mentoring, workshops and educations resources since inception.

Mark Stafford had been working full-time as an in-house designer (and as a pastor) at a local non-profit ministry. He started Ablaze Media on the side to generate a little extra income for his family and, after a few years, it began to take off.  Many years ago, one of his employers had mentioned that he might want to consider opening an advertising agency one day.  His leadership in creative brainstorming, commercial artwork, advertising campaign strategies, website design, broadcasting, sales, and copywriting set him apart from the average designer.  Two years ago, Stafford decided to resign from his in-house position and launch his own design agency full-time.

“It’s a scary prospect to be out on your own as a graphic artist,” Stafford said. “Most freelance artists fail in the first 6 months.  Mark knew he was going to need to do things differently if he was going to maintain sustained profits while doing the work he loves. Mark had a lot of ideas but felt a little scattered. He was having a hard time thinking through pricing and finding the best path for long-term profitability.

That is when he contacted the local office of SCORE who assigned him a certified mentor, Logan Enright. Stafford asked Enright, who had owned an audiovisual business in CA for 33 years, to help him think through his business model and to give him some advice about how to expand.

Like many other entrepreneurs, Stafford gets excited about new ideas and unique projects.  When he is working on an unusual project, his time can be quite valuable, but he has found it impossibly difficult to find staff who are able to handle the requests of his most demanding clientele. 

Using the suggestions from his new SCORE mentor, Stafford was able to isolate a few areas to expand into that did not require his level of expertise so that he could realistically hire and train less experienced staff members. One method SCORE uses to analyze businesses with clients is SWOT – Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats.

“SCORE spent some time analyzing my business to identify opportunities in the local market for us.  We were then able to put together a strategy to leverage that opportunity and fill a need in the market.” according to Mark.

Stafford added “SCORE also helped me to better understand the value of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as service for our clients.  We put together some pricing structures that were both affordable for the client and profitable for our agency.” (SEO allows one to get better placement in Google and other search engines.) He went on “SCORE played a huge part in confidence building and I’m grateful for all the encouragement and advice I continue to receive from my mentor”

SCORE has a Northern AZ Chapter office here in Prescott with 25+ volunteers working out of this chapter, www.northernarizona.score.org. SCORE, which used to stand for Service Corp of Retired Executives, is dedicated to the betterment and development of emerging businesses.  That acronym is no longer used, as SCORE is actively recruiting younger volunteers.10,000+ expert volunteers offer free business mentoring and workshops at more than 250 SCORE offices across the country. SCORE also provides virtual mentoring services via phone, email and video, plus webinars and other online resources for budding entrepreneurs and established business owners. SCORE is located at 1228 Willow Creek Rd., Prescott and can be reached at (928)778-7438.