Cory Marchand teaches a beekeeping class at the Keep It Simple Farm in Redmond on Saturday, April 15, 2017. Marchand and his wife, Sarah, took over the Beez Neez Apiary in Snohomish earlier this year and are changing the name to the Snohomish Bee Company. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Mentoring program a pollinator for small businesses

SNOHOMISH — Cory Marchand describes his new business this way.

“If it flies, has wings and pollinates and is typically loved by all, we sell something around that,” Marchand said.

He and his wife Sarah took over the Beez Neez Apiary in Snohomish earlier this year. They’re changing the name of the business to the Snohomish Bee Company.

The store at 403 Maple Ave., Suite A, in Snohomish, sells organic honey, beekeeping supplies, beekeeping protective clothing and even bees to start new hives.

“We love it,” Marchand said. “We love the beekeeping community. We have the ability to really evangelize beekeeping to the next generation of beekeepers.”

The Marchands did their homework before purchasing the business. And even after they did that, they scheduled a meeting with Jack Stiegler, who heads up the Sno-Isle SCORE branch, a group that helps mentor new business owners.

Marchand, who also works as a Microsoft computer security engineer, felt they were prepared to take on the new business, but there were unknowns that Stiegler helped them navigate.

“I think we would be in a much different place if we didn’t have SCORE and Jack especially,” Marchand said.

SCORE is a nonprofit with 11,000 volunteers and 330 chapters across the U.S. Most of the volunteers have been successful at business who offer advice through email, video conferencing and face to face meetings as well as workshops.

The program was established by an act of Congress in 1969 and is affiliated with the Small Business Administration. The name is a now disused acronym of Service Core of Retired Executives, Stiegler said.

“You say why don’t we change it,” Stiegler said. “Well, it’s kind of a joke. We were formed by an act of Congress. It would take an act of Congress to change it.”

The Seattle chapter has been around for years, but the chapter started branch locations to help people who find it difficult to get to downtown Seattle. The Sno-Isle chapter started last year and now has about a dozen mentors.

“Sometimes we have a one and done,” said Stiegler, who lives in the unincorporated area near Snohomish. “Our goal is continued mentoring. We will continue mentoring for as long as they want. We’ve had people going to their mentor for 15 years.”

Stiegler points to the owner of Mud Bay, the pet store owner who has created a successful business in the Puget Sound area, but still continues to meet with a mentor.

The local chapter is looking for more mentors and more people to mentor, Stiegler said. Sno-Isle SCORE also works with the Northwest Innovation Resource Center, which helps fledgling entrepreneurs.

Stiegler comes from a management background including working for Safeco in Seattle. His bench of mentors include a former airline pilot and lawyer, former bankers, an architect and a former newpaper publisher and executive.

The newspaper executive, Bob Carlson, started working with SCORE last year. He said he’s found it enriching helping other businesses.

“I thought I knew everything in business,” Carlson said. “I had to go take a course that brought me up to speed on what makes sense on new business plans and that kind of stuff.”

Stiegler, who has been working with SCORE since 1998, has helped hundreds of businesses over the years.

In Snohomish County, he’s helped out a variety of people, including another woman who wanted to start a church and a woman who wanted to grow her pole-dancing fitness business.

“I go from pole dancing to churches, I never know what people will want to talk to me about,” Stiegler jokes.

He also meets with people who want to start businesses, but may not be prepared or have enough resources.

“We get a lot of tire kickers,” Stiegler said. “A lot of people come and they’ve got a good idea, but they got no money. You have to tell them you’re going to have a find some money. You’ve got to find a friend. You’ve got to find a partner. You have to find some money, because you can’t borrow the type of money you need with nothing.”

The Marchands were prepared. They had the profit and loss reports and business taxes from the Beez Neez Apiary. When they met, Stiegler even joked about why they would need him. Still Stiegler helped them lift the veil of uncertainty about taking the step of buying the business.

Even though they were prepared, the Marchands still had to go to several banks to find one that would finance purchasing the business. Throughout all of this, Stiegler and SCORE helped them persevere.

“It’s not well known enough,” Marchand said. “If anyone has any interest in starting a business, I think SCORE should be their first stop.”

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