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The Big Score

Why pay big for consulting services when SCORE can help you for free?

When newlyweds Jason and Crystal Melendez returned from their honeymoon inspired to start their own online wedding business, they didn't turn to a pricey consultant for help. Instead, they signed up for free counseling with their local SCORE chapter. "We were technical people, but [we] didn't know anything about profit analysis, marketing and promotions," says Jason, 31.

In 2005, Jason and Crystal combined wedding planning with online memory sharing to create The service provides engaged couples with an easy way to create professional wedding websites and invitations with personalized themes, colors, photographs and designs. Although they created the site successfully, the two soon discovered their marketing shortcomings and turned to SCORE for help. The organization put them in touch with marketing professionals and members of the media--specifically, wedding and business periodicals.

If you'd like to find business help through SCORE, visit to search for a local branch or learn about the organization's various services, including face-to-face meetings, phone consultations and online workshops. Together, SCORE volunteers have expertise in more than 600 areas of interest, and most have more than 30 years of experience in their particular fields. You can make the most of SCORE's services by meeting with a counselor, says Michael Keaton, director of PR and communications. "Nothing can beat that one-on-one interaction. It's our most popular service, and a lot of people who come to SCORE have mentor relationships that last for weeks, months or even years."

After working with SCORE to develop their marketing strategy, the Melendezes are now expecting's sales to reach $240,000 for 2007. "They really believe in what we have," says Crystal, 28. "What we're working on right now is fine-tuning our [business] and forecasting how things are going to play out over the next couple of years to meet the goals that we've set for ourselves."

This story appears in the December 2007 issue of Startups. Subscribe »