By Diane Mastrull
The Philadelphia Inquirer
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Mary Livingston has been appointed the first female leader for the Philadelphia chapter of SCORE. SCORE, which has been in existence since 1964, is a nationwide nonprofit, providing free volunteer mentors, typically retired or working professionals, to entrepreneurs and small-business owners.
Mary Livingston didn’t need to utter a word. As an African American woman, her presence said it all.
But she said what she came to say anyway.
“We have really transitioned from the look of old, retired white guys,” she told her audience one evening in May.
Twenty women were participating in a retirement-planning course offered by the Women’s Opportunities Resource Center.
Livingston was there to explain how her business-mentoring organization, SCORE Philadelphia, was changing — starting with her appointment as its first female leader.
It’s the city chapter of a nationwide nonprofit association providing free volunteer mentors, typically retired or working professionals, to entrepreneurs and small-business owners since 1964. It was initially known as the Service Corps of Retired Executives.
Livingston, 64, who has come back to her native West Philadelphia home to help care for her mother, an Alzheimer’s patient, was appointed to a two-year term as SCORE Philadelphia’s president and chapter chair in December.
She has a soft spot for entrepreneurs, as a daughter of one. Walter R. Livingston Jr., who died in 2011, was an architect whose works included Zion Baptist Church on North Broad Street and the YMCA in Germantown.
Mary Livingston didn’t make the leap into entrepreneurship until 2000, providing human resources consulting and training as M. Livingston Group. For about 20 years before that, she was a human resources director for the New York Times Regional Newspaper Group, requiring her relocation to Atlanta in the early 1980s. She remained there until 2007, returning to Philadelphia to spend more time with her parents.
She had worked with SCORE in Atlanta and looked to do the same in Philadelphia. The local chapter had just had its charter restored in 2006, a year after it had been revoked for failing to meet national requirements, Livingston said.
Nationally, SCORE has more than 320 chapters whose mentors helped 53,377 new businesses get started last year, according to its website. In 2014, SCORE Philadelphia worked with 191 start-ups, helping create 132 jobs and increase the revenue of 71 percent of its clients, according to the most recent research conducted by PricewaterhouseCooper, Livingston said.
Its budget is $100,000, funded primarily through the national SCORE organization, the U.S. Small Business Administration, and the City of Philadelphia, she said.
Livingston started with SCORE Philadelphia as vice president of education, helping organize workshops. In 2014, she became vice president of human resources.
Developing an infrastructure of mentors “to be sustainable when I leave” is among her top priorities as chapter president, a post she assumed after her predecessor, Darryl Vereen, stepped down in November to focus on his own family business.
“We have such a pipeline of people who want to see or talk to people to help grow their business,” she said during an interview at SCORE’s donated office space on 22nd Street near Arch. “We did not have enough mentors to meet demand.”
There were 20 when she took over; her goal is 60 by December. SCORE Philadelphia also benefits from about 100 volunteers who assist with workshops and other outreach.
Finding more help has meant building partnerships with other organizations, such as Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp., the Enterprise Center, and AARP.
“For the first time, we’re a member of the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce,” Livingston added. “Through them, we’re going to connect larger companies with small companies. . . . We want the Comcasts and the Pecos of the world to know there is this small giant that’s sitting here and wants to be able, in a small way, to touch small businesses.”
Rob Wonderling, the chamber’s president and CEO, said SCORE’s work “will help the chamber reach broader constituencies as we promote economic growth and prosperity.”
In the fall, Livingston hopes to launch an “ambassadors” initiative to connect with the city’s minority business communities. Establishing a satellite office in Northeast Philadelphia is another goal.
“There’s a huge need out there,” she said. “There are so many who have an entrepreneurial spirit.”
Who: Any small business in Philadelphia can get free assistance from SCORE and its staff of volunteer mentors.
What: Sessions are one hour, and there are no participation limits. Make just one visit or extend for years, depending on need. Help can range from deciding which type of business to start, to development of growth and sustainability plans for businesses already up and running.
How: For an appointment with a mentor or to volunteer to be one, go to www.philadelphia.score.org, or call 215-231-9880.
Location: SCORE Philadelphia is at 105 N. 22nd St.
More information: For SCORE chapters outside the city, visit www.score.org or call 1-800-634-0245.