Dorca had a dream – to one day become a successful business owner.
Fashion had always appealed to her and, when this single mother of three was compelled to resign from her job a few years ago, due to a neck affliction, she began selling a line of sophisticated magnetic jewelry. With her home as an office, Dorca became an entrepreneur.
During her first weekend Dorca sold $1,800 in jewelry and within months had recruited eight representatives for the jewelry line, becoming a leading consultant in Puerto Rico’s eastern region.
Realizing her talent, Dorca’s dream of entrepreneurship became even stronger. She had a business degree from the University of Puerto Rico, where she had majored in Accounting. Dorca went through her old school papers and found a guide on how to write a good business plan.
“I then started adapting the business plan model to the type of business I wanted to establish,” says Dorca.
Aware that some time had passed since her college days, Dolly –as she is affectionately called by friends and family-- searched online for business resources until she came across SCORE. Supported by SBA, SCORE is a nonprofit association of thousands of volunteer business counselors throughout the U.S. and its territories, including Puerto Rico. SCORE members are trained to serve as counselors, advisors and mentors to aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners.
“I read success stories of businesspeople that had received SCORE assistance, and decided to call and make appointment with the local chapter,” she says. “I was assigned to counselor Humberto Cuebas, a very nice man with plenty of business experience; he helped me a lot.”
After Dorca’s initial meeting with counselor Cuebas, she began her search for a locale in Humacao –her hometown—and later in Fajardo, a neighboring municipality. She found that Fajardo did not have a woman’s boutique. When she found a location that was suitable, Cuebas helped Dorca put together a business plan and then referred her to the Puerto Rico Small Business & Technology Development Center’s Fajardo office for a second look.
The Puerto Rico SBTDC is one of nearly 1,000 small business development centers throughout the nation. Administered on the island by the Inter American University of Puerto Rico under a cooperative agreement with the SBA, the Puerto Rico SBTDC provides training, individual counseling and technical assistance to aspiring and existing entrepreneurs.
Unable to obtain financing at the time, Dorca invested all of her savings and was soon opening the doors to Dolly’s Dreams Closet in Fajardo, becoming the first boutique to have presence in that town. Nevertheless, a few months later the business next-door began construction that prevented Dolly’s Dreams Closet to be seen by passersby. Her search for a new location began, leading her to find her current spot on Avenida Conquistador, Fajardo’s most transited road.
“My savings ran out, and I went to SCORE again for help,” Dorca says. “Humberto took my business plan over to COFECC for a Micro-Loan consideration.”
Corporación para el Financiamiento Empresarial del Comercio y las Comunidades –better known by its acronym COFECC— is the only SBA-approved Micro-Loan intermediary in Puerto Rico.
The SBA’s Micro-Loan program provides starting and existing entrepreneurs with loans from $500 up to $50,000 to meet a variety of small business needs, such as purchasing inventory or supplies, furniture or fixtures, machinery or equipment, and working capital. In Dorca’s case, it was the latter, first with a $25,000 loan and then an additional $5,000.
Dorca used the loan proceeds to purchase inventory such as clothes, fashion jewelry, shoes, and handbags. She bought so many handbags, in fact, that fearing she wouldn’t be able to sell them all on site, she decided to hold a private sale on Facebook, and within four hours she had sold $800 worth of merchandise, including to clients in the U.S. mainland. Soon after, Dorca signed a contract with a woman’s apparel company to manufacture clothing with styles and fabrics selected specifically for her boutique, and also got permission to sell a high-end line of shoes.
While sales have been stable at Dolly’s Dreams Closet, Dorca considers social media her “best ally” and continues to sell online and through Facebook, designing a route every Monday to make personal deliveries throughout the region and in the San Juan metro area.
With the conviction that “you reap what you sow”, Dolly’s next dream is to design her own line of shoes and apparel to manufacture locally, creating jobs for single mothers like her who are searching for light at the end of a tunnel. And, she would like to become a SCORE volunteer.
“I want to help other women become small business owners. I want to do for them what Humberto did for me. He was my coach.”