SCORE Provides Recipe for a Storyteller’s Successful Start-up. Fairy tales are all about happy endings. Thanks to SCORE, Ariane Smith is writing a happy beginning to her dream of building a business that blends her experience as a children’s entertainer and storyteller with her fascination with fairy tales and culinary arts.
Ariane’s idea was simple, yet innovative—encourage healthy attitudes toward food among children by creating fun interactive stories called Enchanted Thyme, capped with healthy recipes that families could prepare together. After exploring different avenues to develop her idea, she decided to bring Enchanted Thyme to life as a series of children’s novels.
But while Ariane could apply more than 20 years of successful children’s storytelling experience to her idea, turning it into a viable business was a different matter.
While attending an SBA seminar in Manhattan in early 2007, Ariane learned about SCORE and its free small business counseling services. She began meeting with New York City SCORE Counselor Abe Silverstein, a veteran of developing successful small businesses.
“Abe was a perfect fit for me,” Ariane says. “He calibrated my approach, telling me when I was thinking too big, and when I needed to think bigger.”
In assessing start-up financing options, Abe recommended that Ariane pursue a small business loan rather than seeking out investors. “That allowed me to follow my own vision starting out, rather than having to answer to other people,” Ariane says. “Abe helped me with my business plan, which led to an incredible loan with a great interest rate.”
Despite the uniqueness of Ariane’s idea, Enchanted Thyme still faced the formidable challenge of achieving visibility in a highly competitive book market. Rather than rely solely on bookstores, Ariane decided to market the book through grocery stores where she would also offer interactive shows and culinary workshops.
Because her first Enchanted Thyme book had not yet been published, Abe recommended that Ariane wait until she could present a more solid pitch. She followed his advice and, with book proofs in hand, began approaching nearby ShopRite grocery stores. “Three of them gave me the chance to do performances, which were very successful,” Ariane says.
ShopRite customers weren’t the only ones who were impressed. The chain’s regional management agreed to sponsor Ariane at the FoodNetwork New York City Wine and Food Festival, enabling her to add high production value to her show at a high-profile venue. ShopRite is also considering having Ariane perform at other stores in metropolitan New York and beyond.
“Once again, it went back to Abe encouraging me to take a calibrated approach,” Ariane says, adding that her SCORE counselor is also an important source of moral support. “Whenever I’d be discouraged or have doubts, Abe was always there with encouragement and support. It’s incredible to have someone of his caliber truly believe in what I’m doing.”
As word of Enchanted Thyme has spread, Ariane is busy giving more performances at stores and libraries in New York City and the surrounding area. She’s also at work on her second book, and working on animated shorts featuring Enchanted Thyme characters that kids can download to their iPods or cellphones. “They can watch the short with their parents while grocery shopping, and pick up the ingredients for the recipe,” she says.
Ariane also continues to work with Abe, who frequently checks on her progress and provide a sounding board for ideas. “That he calls so regularly means the world to me,” she says. “Starting and running a small business is not easy, especially these days. It’s nice to have someone like Abe there to be a mentor and a friend.”
“Abe was a perfect fit for me. He helped me with my business plan, which led to an incredible loan with a great interest rate. Starting and running a small business is not easy, especially these days. It’s nice to have someone like Abe there to be a mentor and a friend.”