susan and merris

Susan Vander Maas, owner of Doc's Deli, with Merris Welge, SCORE volunteer

If you live near Downtown Mansfield you have probably eaten at Doc’s Deli. If you haven’t, it will soon become your next go-to lunch spot. It’s a small sandwich shop, known for its unique sandwich types.

What you may not know about Doc’s Deli is how they started, and the role that an organization called SCORE played in its first stages.

Like any business, it started with a concept. Susan Vander Maas, the owner, called it “a cure for the common sandwich.”

At Doc’s Deli, customers not only design their own sandwich but also get to name their creation. What makes the deli incredibly original is that that same customer is actually able to go back at a later date and order the exact same sandwich because it has been saved into their point of sale system (POS).

In order to accomplish this though, Vander Maas needed a POS system that could accommodate this unique need. She also needed help managing a business, and along with that, she needed to learn everything about managing inventory to managing finances and everything in between.

Like many entrepreneurs, Vander Maas needed help seeing her idea through to fruition and wasn’t quite sure where to go next. That’s when a colleague recommended SCORE.

SCORE is a national volunteer organization started by the US Small Business Administration more than 50 years ago. SCORE is made up of a team of business professionals with expertise in all types of business areas, ranging from food service to information technology, who provide free and confidential business mentoring both in-person and online.They also provide various workshops and free resources about building a small business through their website at www.ncoscore.org.

Nationwide, SCORE has 300 chapters with 11,000 members. There are local locations throughout Central Ohio, and offices in Chamber of Commerce buildings in Mansfield, Ashland, Mount Vernon and Upper Sandusky. The Mansfield chapter has about 27 members with a variety of backgrounds.

Vander Maas contacted the Mansfield chapter of SCORE to help primarily with the financial end of running a business. She also had questions about funding, business management, inventory, and her profit margins.

Merris Welge, a volunteer that has been with SCORE for over 20 years, is one of several people that helped with Doc’s Deli. His background was primarily in banking, so he assisted Vander Maas in how to best handle the business’s finances. Welge wasn’t the only member to assist; other SCORE members helped with marketing, accounting, and food service.

“SCORE had so many people involved that helped me set up Doc’s Deli. They helped me network, get more business contacts, and answered all of the questions I had about running a new business,” said Vander Maas.

SCORE volunteers met with Vander Maas 5 different times to assist her through the setup of Doc’s Deli and answer any questions she had. “We also had a number of casual meetings just having lunch there because we enjoyed it so much. It’s such a unique environment, and the food is delicious” remarked Welge.

Due to Susan's reaching out, willingness to learn, and eagerness to use what she learned from SCORE volunteers and apply it to her business model, the Mansfield chapter of SCORE awarded Doc's Deli the honor of being their Small Business of the Year in 2015.

SCORE operates from the standpoint of assisting entrepreneurs that are interested in starting a business, and they also assist existing businesses. They have helped existing businesses with expansions, human resources, technology, and financing.

“We work with people that have just an idea and help them turn it into a concept, and we work with people that have been in business for over 20 years that still have questions. We can offer our services to all different types of businesses at all different stages,” Welge noted.

When asked about her experience with SCORE, Vander Maas highly recommended their services to anyone who wants to start a business, or even someone who already has one, that has questions about what to do next. “I reached out because of a recommendation, and because I did, Doc’s Deli is where it is today. I want to pay that forward,” she said.

Contact SCORE’s North Central Ohio location at (419) 522-3211 ext. 226 or by email at ncoscore@ncoscore.org to see if SCORE’s business experts can assist you with your existing business or new business idea as well.

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