Susanne Waher's extensive experience with non-profit agencies and CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) agencies gave her insight into creating a product that would well serve this niche's needs. She had worked for Child Advocates of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties for 15 years, and witnessed growth from a three-person to a 30-person office serving nearly 1,000 children in two counties.
She initially turned to SCORE for help in developing a business plan that would guide her bring a case-management product to market to aid these advocates. But she found her mentor's advice to be critical in teaching her so much more.
Waher learned about SCORE from a business school professor who suggested she needed to write a business plan. She was paired with mentor Mike Gilbert, whose qualifications were a perfect match for her needs: He had a Ph.D in computer science, an MBA in financial planning and technical expertise in computer system design, network hardware and software.
"Mike helped me with the writing of the initial business plan as well as all other aspects of running a small business: Everything from taking out a business license to creating consultancy contracts, letters of agreement, negotiating big deals, business strategy, and marketing," Waher says.
Waher wrote and copyrighted her intial software in 1993 and started selling it part-time to other CASA agencies in 1995. After a break to work overseas for a for a few years, Waher restarted the business full time in 2007 with a completely reworked product. The software is now used by agencies in 35 states to manage the caseloads of thousands of dependent children and the volunteers who aid them.
As a result of growing sales, Waher has been able to add development, tech support and sales staff to the CasaManager team.
"SCORE has been invaluable to me," Waher says. "I don't know what I would have done without Mike, but I do know running a small business wouldn't have been as much fun!"