What do you do? 

Back in 2016 when I was still located in Chicago, I started my own shoe business, Gabriela Ephrem, and became a SCORE client. Fast forward 6 years. I am now an official SCORE mentor after completing their training, and met with my first client about a month ago. 

I initially launched my Gabriela Ephrem leather shoes brand after leaving a stressful job in the luxury hospitality industry where I often worked 80 hours per week. I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs, so starting my own business seemed like a natural next step for me.

Currently, I am in the process of relaunching my brand. In January 2020 I was pushing my Spring collection out to the end of March. At that point the world shut down because of COVID. My family was also moving from Chicago to Minneapolis during this time, and then I found out I was pregnant. With all of this going on, I took some time to re-evaluate and strategize for when I was able to re-open.

What inspired you to start your business? 

Being passionate about shoes in general, I saw a need in the market for leather shoes that were affordable. I had ties to the retail market in Brazil, so I had access to affordable leather suppliers there. 

What's special about your business? 

Through my shoes I am able to create a bridge between where I’m from in Brazil to where I belong, which is here in the US. Being a mom and woman owning a business is empowering.

What have been the high and low points of being a business owner? 

The high points are the accomplishments of making a sale, being recognized for the work I am doing, and inspiring others.

The low points have been related to the challenges of staying motivated when you are the lone business owner.

What have you learned from your experiences as a business owner? 

I have learned to focus on my “why”. Every time I find myself feeling overwhelmed or frustrated about my business, I go back to the “why” I started it.  

What is your relationship with SCORE? 
SCORE volunteer
What influenced you to seek help from SCORE? 

At first, I was just looking for resources. Then I figured out that I really wanted suppoprt from a mentor to offer me motivation and empowerment to reach my business goals. 

How SCORE helped. 

The value that SCORE offers is immeasurable. Not only in finding the resources you need, but having the support from people who have been in the business.

What's great about my mentor? 

Jennifer (Lang) really took the time to listen to my needs and also helped me think outside of the box.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting a small business? 

Don’t cut yourself short as you know way more than you think about operating a business. You are where you are supposed to be. Don’t let the hurdles stop you from moving forward.

What would you tell a fellow business owner about SCORE? 

SCORE is amazing. The volunteers have so much passion; they really want to see their clients succeed. It works because SCORE was created by people who were successful and are now focused on offering help and advice to new business owners. The opportunity to be a SCORE mentor has given me the chance to meet with, mentor, and learn from very diverse groups of people.

What qualities do you feel are important to being a successful SCORE mentor? 

Listening, showing empathy, and being genuine. The feeling I experienced after meeting with my first client and knowing that I was making a difference by just being a sounding board for them, was priceless.  

Pictured below: Gabriela and family

Picture of Gabriela and family sitting in living room
Orange and peach logo with Letters "ge" with "Gabriela Ephrem" spelled out below it

My Mentors