SCORE PWN shares stories of success, struggle for small business owners

Ed Gruver//October 28, 2022

SCORE PWN shares stories of success, struggle for small business owners

Ed Gruver//October 28, 2022

SCORE Professional Women’s Network presented “Lean Into Success: Lessons from Winning Women Entrepreneurs” featuring Lancaster-based business owners Hannah Harris and Nichole Kambesis. Pictured from left to right is SCORE mentor and event moderator Linda Toth, Tiny Town owner Hannah Harris, SCORE mentor Beverley Doody, with Nichole Kambesis, owner of MaidPro, and SCORE mentor Jean Stephens. Credit: Kathlene Sullivan

Eleanor Roosevelt said once, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

Hannah Harris and Nichole Kambesis can relate, the Lancaster-based small business owners having overcome self-doubt and several setbacks to become successful entrepreneurs with the aid of mentors from the SCORE Professional Women’s Network (PWN).

In a recent event at the Harris-owned Tiny Town children’s amusement center in Lancaster, she and Kambesis shared their passion for entrepreneurship and the challenging journeys that led them to ownership of their own small businesses. Presented by SCORE Lancaster-Lebanon and Susquehanna SCORE, “Lean Into Success: Lessons from Winning Women Entrepreneurs” was held to inform interested individuals how women entrepreneurs achieved their goals, what sustains them, and how they overcame setbacks.

Moderated by SCORE mentor Linda Toth, the event addressed the comment heard often in PWN surveys regarding the realities of owning and operating small businesses. Harris and Kambesis answered questions from Toth and their in-person audience and provided personal stories on the successes and struggles that made them what they are today. The event tied into October being “National Women’s Small Business Month”, the goal being to meet with fellow and aspiring business owners in the local community and support and inspire them.

Harris has spent more than 20 years in the field of communication and is recognized internationally by IAAPA for her unprecedented “Bring Them Along” staffing program where children can accompany their mother to work. She has used her talents to create a training program for a Fortune 500 Company and develop websites for charter schools in Washington, D.C. In 2017 she opened Tiny Town, described on its website as “Lancaster’s most unique indoor playplace for children.” It offers birthday parties, Kids Night Out, field trips, and building rentals.

Owning the trademark on Tiny Town, Harris is seeking a second location to be based in Philadelphia as well as future franchising of Tiny Town.

“Traditionally, women are the ones raising the kids,” she said. “For those of us who are moms and spouses, it’s a hard balance but you can do it and do it well. It is possible to be successful.”

Kambesis owns MaidPro house cleaning and maid services in Lancaster and Hershey. A client of SCORE, she now serves as a SCORE mentor. In October 2011 she founded MaidPro Lancaster and has since added locations in Hershey and Camp Hill. Kambesis’s companies employ 38 people extensively trained in the MaidPro system to ensure success. Stressing a positive culture within her companies along with an emphasis on customer service, Kambesis is working to make MaidPro Central Pennsylvania’s top cleaning company.

“Owning a business like having a child, you’re going to have good days and bad,” she said. “I always tell my kids, ‘Don’t fear. Go Forward.’ There’s going to be fear, but you have to go forward. You just need to do it.”

Harris and Kambesis credited SCORE with playing a pivotal role in their success. As women-owned businesses in the U.S. number 13 million and employ more than nine million workers. SCORE’s site describes its mission as being designed to help women entrepreneurs fulfill “business ownership goals and achieve greater success.”

SCORE’s resources and tools are created especially for women entrepreneurs, and the company offers free and confidential business advice. Many SCORE mentors, like Kambesis, are successful small business owners who now help other women achieve their business goals.

“SCORE was the biggest launching pad for me,” said Harris. “When I met with SCORE, I decided it was finally time to take the leap. I quit my fulltime job and started Tiny Town. That’s how I got started going from my dream to Tiny Town.”

Kambesis said she sought out SCORE after many months of seeing more money leaving her business account than going in. She had bought into the MaidPro franchise and was struggling with self-ownership. “I was spending money like you wouldn’t believe. I didn’t understand business finances then like I do now. I learned that you don’t spend a penny unless it helps your business.”

Kambesis and Harris said small business ownership is a challenge that demands equal parts determination, grit, and belief in one’s dream. Each credited their husband and family with supporting their dream amid many dark moments.

“There are hundreds and hundreds of moments where you hit a wall,” said Harris. “There were times I thought we were done. There are battles and you have to pick and choose. You might go two steps forward and eight steps back, that’s how business is.

“There are many roadblocks, and you find yourself trudging along thinking, ‘This is not going to happen.’ But you have to believe.”

One of the battles nearly every business had to deal with in recent years has been the pandemic. Covid-19 closed Tiny Town for five months in 2020, and Harris recalls the exact date she made the decision

“March 12,” she said. “It was a scary decision.”

Kambesis was forced to shut down her MaidPro business as well. “We closed for about a month,” she said. “Nobody wanted us in their home (because of the pandemic).”

Kambesis credits “good old-fashioned” grit with her success. “You have to say, ‘There’s no way I’m going to fail.’ You’re going to make mistakes but they’re not going to be fatal. They’re going to make you stronger.”