A half-century ago, recruitment posters used to read: "Uncle Sam wants you." The sign meant military service.
Although no sign hangs in the Secaucus Public Library, a group of retired business people has turned the concept around. They are not seeking recruits to serve them, but rather seeking North Hudson residents who want their help in starting a business.
As volunteers for the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), David Makla, a retired chief executive officer for an international conglomerate, and Joseph DeFerrari, Jr. a retired banker, spend each Wednesday at the Secaucus library offering their experience to people who might have an idea for a business.
SCORE is a national network of nearly 12,000 volunteer business executives and professionals - mostly retired, but many still active - that provides small business with technical and managerial counseling and training. These services are free of charge.
While the chapter headquarters for SCORE is in Newark, Hudson County has traditionally had a sub-chapter in Jersey City where hopeful entrepreneurs could seek advice and guidance in establishing a business.
Makla and DeFerrari, both residents of Secaucus, said they set up the new sub-chapter in the Secaucus Library in order to reach out to potential clients in northern Hudson County, a place that has a great potential for future business opportunities.
As members of New Jersey SCORE, both men volunteer their time, expertise and knowledge to help the local small business community through no-fee counseling.
"This is sponsored by the Small Business Administration," said Makla
The two men said they can provide people with views from two different aspects of business, from the person looking to set up a business and from the view of the banker to whom most people must go to seek financing.
"What we don't know, we can find out by using the resources in Newark," DeFerrari said. "We also have access to all the reference materials from the SBA on starting up a business."
DeFerrari and Makla are looking to reach out into North Hudson because they see it as a growing community.
You need to have a business plan
Most new businesses fail mainly because they do not have a business plan, Makla said.
A typical business plan includes a description of the business, a statement of purpose, marketing plans, and other financial issues.
"Many people come to us and say they want to start a business," Makla said. "When we ask them what kind of business, they don't know."
These are wanna-be business people.
One boy came to them seeking money to start a business.
"He didn't know what kind of business he wanted to start; he just wanted the government to give him money to start one," DeFerrari said. "I told him to go get a job."
Many people don't even know how to fill out a bank application for a loan, DeFerrari said.
"Without a plan telling them exactly where they are going, a business is not going to succeed," Makla said.
People need to make up their mind as to what kind of business they want, whether it will supply a service or a product, whether the business will wholesale or retail, or if it will specialize into a particular area.
People, Makla and DeFerrari said, have to be passionate about the business or it will most likely fail. Part of this involves knowing details as to whom you want to sell to, who your suppliers are and where you will get your financing.
"Where do you intend to sell? Will you have s store or will you sell door-to-door?" Makla asked. "These are things you would have in a business plan."
A small business could be anything. One woman who came into see them recently was seeking to start up her own greeting card company. Another man came in with the idea for manufacturing event-specific sports shirts.
"His price was much higher than you could find in local stores, and we told him that," Makla said. "But he told us those shirts didn't have his designs."
One teacher came to them looking for possible grants to start a day care center.
"We don't give grants; we don't give money at all," DeFerrari said. "But we can help you fill out a loan application and give you advice on what a bank might want to help you fund a new business."
SCORE representatives around the state act as the first critical test. They listen to ideas and let you know if you are going to waste your time or if you have a viable plan.
Met at a trade show
Makla met DeFerrari at a trade show, and casual conversation led to them speculating on setting up a north Hudson sub chapter.
DeFerrari is old Secaucus, tracing his routes back to the days of the pig farms. He and others were instrumental in developing one of the town's first banks, the First National Bank of Secaucus in 1964.
This eventually was bought out by New Jersey Bank.
DeFerrari began his banking career with Citibank in Manhattan, and eventually became a bank examiner for the U.S. Treasury.
"I volunteer a lot since I've retired," he said.
Helping budding businesspeople is among those interests. "I felt I could share my experiences in business," he said.
Makla has a history in business that he calls "A to Z," covering 30 years from retail to international trade, and until moving to Secaucus, he lived in Clifton. He has been involved with SCORE for many years, including nine years with the Bergen County chapter.
The Secaucus branch offers person-to-person consultation in Secaucus. The Newark office provides telephone counseling as well as seminars in Newark on starting and managing a business. The Newark office also has a Business Information Center and Library with computers, books, videos and nearly 200 business start-up guides.
SCORE also has a sub-chapter through the New Jersey Economic Development Corp. in Jersey City on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Secaucus sub-chapter of SCORE is available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Wednesday in the Secaucus Public Library. For more information, call (201) 330-2083 or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org. For the Jersey City SCORE call (201) 333-7797. The SCORE Newark office is (973) 645-3982.