SCORE mentor shares advice for businesses to succeed in small town

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 February 2024 at 9:59 am

Angela Waldriff has offered guidance to about 250 businesses, including Diago Russell of Home Town Lawn Care

Photos by Tom Rivers: Angela Waldriff has owned Ashlee’s Place in downtown Medina for 33 years, withstanding pressure from Walmart, Big Box stores and the online marketplace.

MEDINA – Angela Waldriff opened a clothing store for women 33 years ago in downtown Medina. She has defied intense business competition over years, from Walmart, other Big Box stores and the online marketplace.

Waldriff said she strives to connect with her customers, sending them birthday cards, newsletters and letting them know they are valued. Waldriff sends about 100 birthday cards a month with hand-written notes.

She was at a meeting 12 years ago with the Medina Business Association when two SCORE volunteers – Jon Costello and Jim Hancock – said the community could use more SCORE mentors who offer advice and guidance to small business owners in Orleans County. Costello tends to focus on banking and financing, while Hancock connects businesses to services in the community to make the businesses stronger.

Waldriff has been committed the past 12 years to volunteering as a SCORE counselor through the U.S. Small Business Administration., focusing on marketing and building the business’s brand.

“It is satisfying to being able to help someone with their business,” she said. “It’s bouncing off ideas.”

Angela Waldriff works with Diago Russell of Home Town Lawn Care, a business Russell started about two years ago. Russell is a long-time friend of Waldriff’s son, Tanner. They both graduated in Medina’s Class of 2019.

Waldriff gives people suggestions for advertising and getting the word out about their business, often through social media and being an active participant in the community.

Keys to long-term success come from being reliable, offering a quality service or a product, and showing customers they are cared about, Waldriff said.

She has adapted her business when she sees opportunities. The women’s-only clothing store sells shoes and accessories. Ashlee’s also rents out tuxedos.

“You have to know who your customer is,” she said.

Waldriff also suggests using colors to help make the business stand out. She uses pink in her storefront, in her newsletter, and even with the color envelopes she sends out.

Waldriff has been working with Diago Russell, a lawn care business owner she has known since he was a young kid. Russell, 22, graduated with Waldriff’s son Tanner in Medina’s Class of 2019.

She knows Russell is a hard worker. He has been a personal trainer at the Orleans County YMCA the past three years. He started Home Town Lawn Care about two years ago. His first job was with Zambistro, starting as a dishwasher at age 16 and working up to the salad and service line.

Diago Russell is ready for the busy spring season in the lawncare business. He would like to expand services to have a year-round business.

Russell runs an active Facebook page showing some of the jobs he’s done with lawn care and landscape. He completed the Microenterprise Assistance Program and used a grant through MAP to add equipment including zero-turn mowers, a leaf blower and weed wackers.

Russell will start the busy spring season with one employee and expects to add more. He has run the business with four workers at its peak.

Home Town Lawn Care does lawn mowing, landscape, hedge trimming, power washing, edging, flower bed installation and other tasks.

Russell said he is looking to send out newsletters to connect with customers. He already has a sense of what some customers prefer with their lawn. Home Town Lawn Care has a Google business page and he puts out yard signs when he completes a job.

He enjoys helping people keep their properties looking neat. Most of the customers are in the Medina and Lyndonville area, but Russell said he is willing to drive farther if needed.

“With Home Town Lawn Care, I wanted to produce something here that would stay,” Russell said. “I’m a reliable person and someone you can trust.”