JACKSON TWP.  In a year in which the Canton Regional Chapter of SCORE was named national SCORE Chapter of the Year, its recognition of the top local small businesses represented as wide a range of sectors imaginable.

SCORE is a national organization founded in 1964 by retired executives to provide free counsel to the nation’s small businesses. The 40-member Canton Regional Chapter is one of 340 chapters and 12,000 volunteers across the United States.  It serves for-profit and non-profit small businesses in Stark, Holmes, Tuscarawas, Carroll, and Holmes counties.

The organization’s 8th annual Client Recognition Luncheon was held Dec. 6 at Kent State Stark, with Independent Elevator Company of Canton, Kawaii Klips, and Warrior Beat being honored by SCORE, and ReZist Ohio recognized as the Small Business Development Center – which coordinates closely with SCORE – as its small business of the year.

"We see so many clients each year, this is an opportunity for us to have a public recognition of a handful of those that made the most progress in the past year," said Chapter Chairman Ed Messerly.

He added that the awards are both congratulatory and, hopefully, inspiring to other businesses.

This year’s awardees, Messerly said, are a perfect example of the scope of businesses SCORE assists.

Independent Elevator Company of Canton, a 44-year-old business that was purchased in January 2016 by one of its mechanics, services more than 500 elevators in the area with seven employees.

Owner-operated mobile pet grooming operation, Kawaii Klips serves more than 100 clients in Stark, Summit and Portage counties with its custom grooming van.

Warrior Beat is a non-profit group drumming therapy organization for military veterans that has received two noteworthy grants in less than one year of its founding to support both its in-person and streaming video drum therapy sessions.

ReZist Ohio is a personal fitness program that has grown from four classes per week at a personal gym to more than 30 classes per week and 15 part-time instructors at three locations 

SCORE mentor Mike Johnson said the organization’s primary mission is to strengthen the small business community in the counties it serves by both helping new businesses get off the ground and existing ones to grow.

"The number one thing clients come to us needing is a business plan," he said. "They go to a bank for a loan and the bank asks for a business plan, so they come to SCORE.  The other request we get most frequently is marketing help, and a lot of our clients need help with financing – a shoebox full of receipts is not enough."

Along with mentorship, Johnson said, SCORE is able to provide the "deep dive," with programs like FACT - Financial and Accounting Counseling Team – which is made up of retired CPAs and financial professionals.

ReZist owner Theresa Carson echoed the sentiments of all this year’s awards recipients when she said the mentorship provided by SCORE and the Small Business Development Center has been the epitome of a successful mentor-client relationship.

"I had no idea what I was doing, and (mentor) Holly (Bollinger) gave me concrete next steps," Carson said of finding her niche in the personal fitness business world. "And now we are looking at expanding again."