After Shauna Howard, Executive Board Member for SCORE Philadelphia approached me with her interest in participating in our HR Council, we delved into the variety of her work. A vocalist and avid salsa dancer, she started a small business selling winter accessories while she was in music school. Read on for the rest of the details, and to learn about her professional development experiences while volunteering at a volunteer-run organization.
Thank you for speaking with me, Shauna! How did you get involved in SCORE Philadelphia?
I wanted to find a way to give back to an organization that helped grow my business, so I decided to help recruit other business executives to join SCORE Philadelphia as volunteers. I manage all of the hiring and placement of new volunteers at SCORE Philadelphia. The organization provides free and confidential business advice and counseling tailored to meet the small business and personal objectives of entrepreneurs. Its volunteers are real-world professionals with time-tested knowledge who donate thousands of hours to help small businesses succeed.
I see you are involved in a lot of different things! How do you manage your different passions?
For me, one flows into another quite easily! I am an artist by trade. I am a vocalist and an avid salsa dancer: I started a very small business selling winter accessories while I was in music school. As my music career grew, the demand for my designs grew as well; however, I didn’t know much about running a company. I met with various SCORE Philadelphia mentors over the next three years and they helped me to turn my artistic hobby into a business to support my music career. I was so grateful for the advice that they gave me that I joined the board in 2014 as the Vice President of Membership, giving me the opportunity to recruit business executives and top entrepreneurs to help artists like myself!
What would you recommend to other professionals with an interest in pursuing their artistic passions on the side?
Being an artist makes me more intelligent, more attractive, and a better businesswoman. Human beings are designed to create; therefore, I don’t see making art (music, fashion, and dancing in my case) as something that I “do on the side”, but rather what I need to do to live - open mind, open heart, open spirit.
I studied classical voice and opera in college. Trade-wise, I’m a musician, a soprano. I taught music and singing for a while. I was very involved in music therapy and taught music appreciation to the elderly. I moved to Philadelphia to get my Bachelor’s degree in music and I then focused on vocal performance.
Initially, my goal was to be a music therapist. All I wanted to do was sing songs to the elderly and use music as a tool to make their lives better. When I transferred to Temple University, my teachers encouraged me to study classical voice & opera. My course schedule was intensive. I went back to school as an adult 8-9 hours of classes each day). It was very difficult for me to find a part-time job on the side.
That’s what made me start my company. I’m from North Carolina originally and it’s very cold in Philadelphia so it’s very practical that I started designing winter accessories. It just grew that way and became FierceStitchCo (formerly Diva-in-Training Designs)!
I didn’t know anything about growing a company, but there was a time in 2011 when I got an order from overseas. I have no idea how they found me or who they were. That’s when I started to realize that my company was bigger than I thought it was. I started to go to the library to study and switched gears to focus on selling my scarves all over the world. If I could, I’d have every singer wearing my scarves on stage!
I’m impressed that SCORE Philadelphia has had such influence on your business that you’ve taken on such an intensive role. What things should candidates know about your organization and its mission when applying for a volunteer opportunity?
They should know that SCORE Philadelphia is run entirely by volunteers (with the exception of our administrative assistants) who believe in supporting American small businesses.
What is the best way for a candidate to demonstrate to you that they believe in the mission of your organization?
Most people that are passionate about helping small businesses grow have previous experience in doing so. If a prospective volunteer does that and is willing to complete all of SCORE’s certifications, we’re willing to work with them!
Please share a story of a time a candidate stood out to you. What did they do to set themselves apart?
The candidates that stand out to me are the ones that share who they are. I never hide my artistic and creative life on my resume, so I’m extremely eager to meet those who share their hobbies and interests in their bios and resumes!
At your organization, what is more important for a candidate to have, passion or skill?
At SCORE Philadelphia, we’d rather see passion rather than skill. Most of our applicants have been successful in their careers ; however, it takes a special person to want to share their knowledge with the intent to help their city’s small business community flourish, of which supports our mission.
All SCORE chapters operate independently but we are all part of SCORE Association and provide free one-on-one mentoring and low-cost educational workshops. If you decided that you wanted to start a business, your tax dollars pay for this service. We serve as the nonprofit arm of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) along with Small Business Development centers (SBDC) at colleges and universities, the Veterans Administration, and other resource partners that SBA uses to develop small businesses in the US.
SCORE Association has been around for 50+ years. It was originally founded by retired executives who wanted to help other grow their businesses. The Small Business Association got wind of this and thought it was a great idea but said that they had to be open to everyone, not just white men- it had to have more diversity. In turn, SCORE got a lot of funding. We’re a nonprofit organization so we have to do our independent fundraising as well.
The office is run by volunteers. I don’t get paid to be a board member; it is my civic duty. We have a lot of people who like to volunteer. I’m constantly recruiting for anyone who is interested in helping small businesses grow. That’s pretty much almost everyone you come across. They want to help their companies grow and give back in some way.
I can’t tell you how much my business has grown and how much I’ve learned about business from my volunteering here. It’s like getting an MBA. Yes, I’m a musician and I sing, but now I understand the business of being an artist.
It’s my mission and goal to connect artists and creative entrepreneurs to our services for marketing, advertising, and succession planning. We struggle with that because we are so busy developing our art.
This organization helps everyone, artists and business owners, to be in the business of SELF, to know how you want to grow, manage, and maintain your business, and then how to evaluate what your business is worth.
Whenever someone says they want to volunteer, I ask them what they want to do. I don’t assume they want to mentor OR staple papers all day long. I look at their resume and bio, and we figure out how to utilize their talents. I haven’t come across anyone who has expressed interest and not found a way to volunteer with us. The only people who are full-time employees are administrative staff in the office. Everyone else volunteers. We have about 130 volunteers who work in various ways to help SCORE Philadelphia’s mission.
What misconceptions do people have about your cause area and organization?
It’s been rumored that since our services are free that they’re not credible. We’re free because we’re priceless.
What have you learned from your participation on the board of SCORE Philadelphia?
I didn’t realize I also had the knack for being in HR. I didn’t look at it that way. I looked at it as, “I’m a people person, and have to sit and listen and see how they are and how they can help our clients.”
Now I’d like to look for a job in recruiting and/ or diversity & inclusion because I feel like I would be good at it. I’m writing up a position for our association which will allow me to travel to the U.S. and recruit for volunteers, as well as be able to audition, see my voice teacher, and perform.
I think that being an artist allows me to be at my best self and allows me to find the right people for the organization. If every human being took care of the artist in them, whatever they are - writer, actor, whatever it is- we wouldn’t have time to focus on the latest pop and celebrity gossip.
What are your proudest moments since you’ve been with SCORE?
I’ve won three national and district awards for my volunteer work. As Vice President of Membership we’ve increased enrollment of volunteers by 300%. I think we started off at 24 and it’s about 125-130 now. We have the highest in our district for highest diversity in volunteers, in all categories- gender, age, LGBTQ, race, ethnicity, creed, nationality, etc. We are pretty diverse in SCORE Philadelphia.
I wasn’t even volunteering six months at SCORE and the national chapter asked me to speak at their national conference. They saw the future of what they really wanted - someone who used the services and volunteered at the organization after I used the services and understood the services.
Ultimately, that’s what they want- people who really know the services. People who use the services to give back by volunteering at the organization.
A big “thank you” to Shauna for spending the time to talk about her experiences and educate us on SCORE’s services and volunteer opportunities. Shauna has graciously offered to do introductions to anyone who wants to connect with their local SCORE. Interested? Send us an email and we’ll connect you!
By Victoria Crispo