Local retirees impart business savvy to new generation

gmartin@islandpacket.comNovember 7, 2011 

When asked why, at 79, he remained so involved in helping his community -- offering free advice to as many as 60 aspiring small-business owners each month -- Jim Bequette had a ready answer.

"Well, golf doesn't give me any big thrill," he said. "I want to be in a position to use some of my talent."

Bequette has applied some of his talent to the Service Corps of Retired Executives in Beaufort, a group of former businessmen dedicated to helping local entrepreneurs launch their companies.

Bequette, a retired Westinghouse executive and former Beaufort County Board of Education member, is one of 42 SCORE counselors in Beaufort County. The Lowcountry chapter is among 389 SCORE affiliates, with about 13,000 counselors nationwide. Each offers free and confidential guidance, assisting clients with developing business plans and securing loans.

There are only three volunteers at the Beaufort office, though, and Bequette said he hopes for more help from "the next generation."

Bequette said he typically starts aspiring owners with an assignment -- creating a list of the items they think they might need to start their business. Often, the resulting lists are so incomplete that he has to instruct clients in the most rudimentary elements of operating a business.

Not that he minds.

"It helps keep my mind active," he said. "And it's really a big reward for me when someone we helped starts a successful business."

One such business is Precision Machined Components, established in Brunson with a loan SCORE helped part-owner Patti Tuten secure.

"They've been where we're going and didn't talk above our heads," Tuten said. "Everything was done on our level. It was definitely better than sitting at a bank."

SCORE also helped Lashawn Murray with her vision to open a place for at-risk youth. Murray said the relatively advanced age of her SCORE mentors was an asset to her planning.

"They brought more experience to the table than anyone else who could have helped," Murray said. "And being retired, they have more time to commit to help."

Murray's nonprofit organization, the New Destiny Center, is set to open in Ridgeland in early 2012.

Another SCORE counselor, 81-year-old Paul Fuetterer, said such success stories inspire him to keep serving his community.

"It feels good knowing that I had a small hand in their success," Fuetterer said. "And besides, I don't want to sit around in retirement and do nothing."

Follow reporter Grant Martin at twitter.com/LowCoBiz.

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