As a child, Derschaun Sharpley learned that a little self-confidence can go a long way, especially for inner-city children who often come from broken homes. Enrolled in Charm School by her mother, Derschaun learned manners, grooming, and other fundamental lessons that enhanced her self-esteem and interpersonal skills. “That experience gave me the confidence to pursue my interests in dance, acting, and cosmetology, and earn a bachelor’s degree in health administration,” Derschaun says.
A position with Detroit’s City Schools gave Derschaun the opportunity to develop programs and initiatives that instilled those same important skills in socially challenged youth. Along with improving attendance and test scores, Derschaun’s programs also sought to provide young people with simple and effective tools that would serve them throughout their lives.
When budget cuts put an end to Derschaun’s school-based programs in 2003, she decided to continue serving Detroit’s young people as a business called Helping Individuals Succeed (H.I.S.) Agency. Derschaun also knew where to find help getting her new venture off the ground—SCORE. A search of online mentors on www.score.org led her to begin an email mentoring relationship with Iowa-based SCORE Mentor Ann Tompkins.
Today, H.I.S. Agency offers a variety of popular programs that teach both boys and girls with dining etiquette, personal hygiene, and social skills. Derschaun also works closely with the Girl Scouts of Metropolitan Detroit, hosting events such as “Mom and Me Tea Parties.” She’s also hosted several workshops on “Personal Success” and “Dining Etiquette for Success” for families and local youth agencies.
Derschaun is proud of H.I.S. Agency’s accomplishments, but she knows there are many more young people who need help coping with the challenges of daily living. She’s hopeful that sponsors will allow her to further expand collaborations with Detroit’s schools and service agencies, and eventually take H.I.S. Agency’s programs nationwide.
Whenever Derschaun needs help with a business-related issue, she will reach out to her growing network of SCORE email mentors. “No one should be afraid to do something because they don’t know the answer,” she says. “All you have to do is contact SCORE.”
“I needed help with everything,” Derschaun says. “Ann put her heart and soul into helping me, going above and beyond what I expected.”
Ann was particularly helpful in showing Derschaun how to identify and market to her target audiences. “I initially thought my market was the young people themselves, but Ann convinced me that I should be communicating to their parents, schools and youth service agencies,” she says. “As I put my message and materials together, she helped with copywriting, proofing, and editing. I can’t tell you how many emails we exchanged!”
Derschaun also tapped the expertise of other SCORE mentors for help with financing, budgeting, and developing a consistent and profitable price structure.
“Every SCORE mentor I’ve worked with has been very receptive and willing to help,” she says. “If they don’t know the answer, they’d recommend someone else who does.”