Transcript: Lori Martinek, Certified SCORE Mentor (The Art of Volunteering)

The following is a transcription of The Art of Volunteering Episode S2E6: Lori Martinek, Certified SCORE Mentor.

Stormy Bell (00:00): Welcome back to The Art of Volunteering. I’m your host Stormy Bell, and today I’m with my friend Lori Martinek with SCORE. Welcome, Lori.

Lori Martinek (00:14): Hey Stormy. Thanks for having me on this morning.

Stormy Bell (00:17): Well, Lori and I have been connected through SCORE. I met with the local rep and she connected me with another person, and I went to another person and finally we connected today so I’m really looking forward to our conversation.

Lori Martinek (00:32): Great. Me as well.

Stormy Bell (00:33): Lori is a branding and digital outreach expert and the owner of ED/c Partners, a marketing public affairs firm founded in 1988. She is a passionate, small business advocate and mentor, a published author and a long life volunteer. Lori has written two books and is the thought leader on creating community and retiring with purpose. In her current role with SCORE, she is working to promote and expand diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives to bring the organization’s, volunteers, and small business clients. Before I ask you to elaborate on your role within SCORE, because there’s so much there, can you share about who or what SCORE is and who do you serve?

Lori Martinek (01:19): Absolutely. SCORE is a mentoring program, which is funded by the US Small Business Administration. It’s our federal partner and we are a resource program for them. Basically what SCORE offers is for any aspiring new or growing small business, someone who wants to grow, who is looking for advice, direction, resources, education. What SCORE does [is] help people plan businesses, works with them to launch them, helps them grow that business. We provide free access, and free is an important word as we all know, free access and advice to people who either wanna start or grow a business. It’s all fueled by people like me and 10,000 other people like me across the country who are former business owners, former corporate executives, and we are volunteering our time. Everyone in SCORE, these 10,000 people are all volunteers who are giving of themselves to these people who also wanna create some kind of financial independence. It’s a really, really good worthwhile organization that anybody can access in [the] United States.

Stormy Bell (02:23): Love it. I had heard of SCORE. I don’t know if it was mentioned in college, like coming out, maybe working with a SCORE mentor and then kind of wasn’t in my circles. Then recently, like I said, I had reached out to our local rep and she came in and we’re looking, because I work for a nonprofit. We were seeing how we might be able to partner with a mentor to work with our marketing department. We’re like a 27 year startup. We’re just coming out a strategic plan and looking at everything new. It’s like, hmm, maybe we could use some help. So we’re exploring that now.

Lori Martinek (03:00): Well, the great thing about SCORE is that a lot of organizations, and your story’s not unusual, are looking for outside objective opinions. Okay. My favorite line is, if you want someone to applaud what you’re doing and tell you that you’re brilliant and it’s all good, ask your family and friends. But if you really want to get some good objective advice, go to an organization like SCORE where they will look at your business plan, they’re gonna look at your marketing, they’ll look at things, and they’re not gonna solve it for you. They’re not gonna do it for you, but they’re gonna ask you questions and encourage you to think in different ways, to look at who your audience is, maybe consider other ways to reach them. All the questions that we don’t always know that we should be asking ourselves, we can go to SCORE and talk to our local SCORE chapter and get a mentor through them and have them lead us along this path to ask these questions and do the work. Then also applaud our efforts as we move along. It’s really a great organization because there are 10,000 people across the country. You can access any of them no matter where you are. They have all different specialties. Like you said, Stormy, I’m a branding and digital outreach expert. I’m a marketing person, but we have business people, we have sales people, we have people who are in every part putting a business together. You can always find somebody who can help you.

Stormy Bell (04:19): That’s absolutely right. I agree, when we did meet with a couple people, they asked us a lot of questions. To look at what we were doing and how the different pieces connected. Definitely hope people listen to the interview today and take that for themselves because it was really a good experience.

Lori Martinek (04:40): One of the great things about being here this morning also is that it’s all about volunteering. We always are looking for new volunteers, no doubt. But the thing about the SCORE story is that if you’ve ever been nursing that idea where you wanted to start a business or you have something and you’re thinking, well, maybe I could make this happen, that’s the other part of this interview, is that you could go to SCORE and whether you wanna be a volunteer or not, you could go there and you say, hey, they may be able to help me move forward in what I wanna do in life. We have a twofer here today. How’s that?

Stormy Bell (05:12): I love it. Thank you so much. All right, now your current role with SCORE just talk a little bit about that because there’s a piece of it I find very interesting based on some training that I’m doing with my nonprofit.

Lori Martinek (05:27): At the basic, I’m a Certified SCORE Mentor and anyone you work with is gonna be a Certified Mentor, which means that they’ve gone through some amount of training, they’re experienced. I’ve been a business owner for 34 years, and I’ve been working for more than 40. Everybody brings experience to the table. I’m a Certified SCORE Mentor, I’m also a Subject Matter Expert. We have different kinds of volunteers in SCORE. You can be a subject matter expert in whatever your expertise is. You can be a workshop presenter if you have a subject that you wanna share with aspiring or existing small business owners, you can present workshops for SCORE as a volunteer. Then we have regular volunteers who work in the office and do other support roles like that. So I’m both a mentor and an SME, we call it.

Recently they’ve also asked me to become the DEI ambassador for [the] Western region, which is five states. California, Hawaii, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and what DEI is diversity, equity, and inclusion. When we talk about DEI, we’re talking about ways to make our workplace or our organization, whether it’s a nonprofit or not, more inclusive of all kinds of people. We look for diversity not only in gender and age and in race, but we also wanna make sure that once we do recruit these people and we do bring them on board, or we hire them, or we work with them as clients, that they all feel part of our community. I’m really, really big on building community, which is one of the reasons that I like being part of SCORE is that I believe that we’re all out there looking for some kind of community and creating it, whether it’s through work or volunteering or the neighborhoods we choose or whatever.

Lori Martinek (07:14): Inclusion is that element where it’s, if you hire me Stormy, or if I join your nonprofit, somebody doesn’t just hire me. They also actively work to make sure that I feel part of this. They tell me about leadership opportunities, they tell me about training opportunities. They may invite me personally to the coffee or something like that so that I feel like I’m not in it alone. Inclusion works everywhere in our lives. I mean, whether it’s your new neighbor that you bring that you introduce to other neighbors or the new person in the hiking group, it’s so important. So DEI for SCORE, who’s really embraced it a lot, means DEI at the volunteer level, making sure that all of us as volunteers feel welcome and incorporated and part of the community, and also our clients to make sure that we, you know, especially I’m here in Phoenix and in Phoenix we have a very, very diverse marketplace. We have a lot of diverse clients. We wanna make sure that all of those clients feel that they’re being heard. We all have different experiences. We wanna make sure that they feel like they’re being understood for what they’re bringing to the table. This is recent for me with SCORE. I’ve been in SBA programs for 20 years now, but the DEI part, it is exciting and it’s important. I’m looking forward to doing more of that across the country.

Stormy Bell (08:27): Absolutely. Right now the nonprofit I work with, it’s actually called DEIAB, the diversity, equity, inclusion, access, and belonging.

Lori Martinek (08:39): Very good. Yeah. Belonging.

Stormy Bell (08:42): It’s with Tammy Dowley-Blackman Group, and we’ve been doing a six month training session. We finish in June, and the outcome for every nonprofit participating is to come out with our own DEIAB plan and how we’re going to implement it not just within the organization, but with the people that we work with outside of the organization, our larger community. One takeaway that I had because many times with media, you just think it’s about race and it’s not. It’s any bias or barrier that marginalizes another human. One such topic had come up and it just resonated with me. There was a individual who talked about having a bias towards tattoos and making hiring and promotion decisions based on that bias. Looking at that objectively, it’s like, no. You understand where it came from when it was talked through, but you can’t, you shouldn’t do that going forward because that’s a barrier and it’s a bias.

Lori Martinek (09:48): One of the key things about trying to bring DEI to anyone is that it’s not all about race. It’s definitely not. In fact, one of the biggest issues, and probably one of my current personal hot buttons is ageism. Ageism works on different ends of the spectrum and dismiss younger people and say they don’t have the experience, whereas they may have something that we really need anyway. Then we all know that when people reach a certain age, and particularly women, let’s be honest about that, that it becomes very, very hard to move forward in a career, to get new job opportunities. Ageism is very real. We all read these articles about, oh, you know, you get towards retirement, we’re all gonna live longer, so we should work longer and this and that.

Good luck trying to find someone who’s gonna hire you or getting the same opportunities that you used to when you were younger. Fighting for DEI, it has to do with age, it has to do with gender. As women, we have fought lifelong battles with that anyway and it does not get easier as we get older, unfortunately. It’s that in addition to race, it’s in addition to people who have different sexual orientations, people who have different neural conditions. It’s all over the spectrum, no pun intended. But really, I mean, ageism is a huge, huge issue right now. In SCORE, we’re working really hard to make sure that we bring in more women, that more women feel part of the community. We have a lot of women in leadership. If you look at the national level, there’s a lot of women there. Then we continue to create these opportunities for everybody who are also working really hard to bring in more younger people.

Lori Martinek (11:26): SCORE traditionally was thought of as an older person’s organization for retired people, which it is not anymore. 53% I think of our volunteers still own a business actively, or are still actively working, and a growing number of them are getting younger and younger. That’s good for a couple reasons. You know, it creates that diversity and inclusion that also means when you come to SCORE, you’re gonna get advice that spans the whole spectrum as well. That’s the best part. The best part of all of this is that we all have different experiences. Even you and I live in different parts of the country, so we have different experiences and that makes us all better. It makes us more innovative, it provides more information and we can learn from each other. It’s exciting to see that. But yeah, the biggest challenge with DEI is making sure that people don’t tune out and think it’s all about race, and it’s an important part of it, but that is not what it’s all about.

Stormy Bell (12:21): Firmly agree with that. That piqued my interest when I was preparing for the interview. I’m like, oh, we’re actually going through this.

Lori Martinek (12:28): I know, right.

Stormy Bell (12:29): It’s nice to have something to talk to about.

Lori Martinek (12:31): Anytime. Anytime you wanna chat.

Stormy Bell (12:34): How did you get involved with SCORE?

Lori Martinek (12:37): Okay, so I volunteered throughout my life. A lot of times they say, as you get older and you’re winding down your career, which I’m not done, but I mean, I am getting older. They say, oh, you should start volunteering. Well I’ve been volunteering from the get go. My company is 34 years old, I have always done pro bono work so volunteering is not new to me. As I find that I’m scaling back my consulting business and I have more time, I was involved in SBA and Small Business Development Center programs, are a related resource partner for 20 years. I moved to LA for a little while during the pandemic and I was introduced to the SCORE chapter there. I said, okay, SCORE is another SBA program. It fits with my wheelhouse, it takes advantage of all the things that I like to do, and that’s how I was introduced to SCORE.

I onboarded, which when they bring you in and make sure that you feel included, in Los Angeles during the pandemic so it was all remote and [I] really liked what I saw. It is amazing to me how many people continue to give back into volunteer well into it. I’m actually a little bit on the younger side, well into their sixties, seventies, and eighties, because let’s be honest, you spend 40 plus years  building a career, accumulating all this expertise, becoming an expert in something or passionate about it. Why would you want to turn it off suddenly when you reach a certain point because you’re retired or you’re stepping back? Why would you not want to use that anymore?

Lori Martinek (14:12):  Something like SCORE is perfect, whatever your experience is, because you can give as much or as little as you want. There’s no requirements for the amount of time. You can volunteer a few hours a week. We have people who volunteer 40 hours a week. I mean, for them it’s a full time volunteering thing, but you can make it whatever you want it to be. I got into it accidentally. It was an opportunity that came in front of me. I’ve always been a volunteer. I believe in volunteering and giving back because, especially to people who wanna create small businesses. I know that I’ve had opportunities in life that other people probably do not have. I really want to try to help them create some kind of financial independence. Not necessarily wealth, but some kind of financial independence. I know that I have expertise that they may not normally be able to find or pay for traditionally.

SCORE is a really, really good way to be able to access that kind of expertise that can help you create something for yourself regardless of what it is. A very small business or a small business that grows and gets bigger. That’s how I got into it. It played off of all of my interests and passions about giving back and entrepreneurship and all the things I love, and talking to other people like you who are excited about what they’re doing. You’re excited about your nonprofit, you want it to be even better. I love it when I meet people who are either trying to create something or who have something and want it to be even better. I mean that gets me going. That’s how I got into SCORE. I moved back to the Phoenix area probably about a year ago and switched chapters.

Lori Martinek (15:50): This is actually my second SCORE chapter in Greater Phoenix now. Again, similar experience. Different bunch of people, different area, but the same culture that we get nationally with SCORE is we’re all in this together. We’re working together. I often co-mentor with people in your area, in California, all over the place because you can go on and find a mentor anywhere in the country. If I’m someone’s mentor and I need an expert on say, nonprofits or on cybersecurity, I can go find that person and bring them in and they’ll gladly jump in and help the person. I’m excited to be part of this community. I mean, I’m always looking for new ways to find new friends, new community and things like that. SCORE has been a really good way to do that.

Stormy Bell (16:37): If you had to put it into sixty seconds or less, why do you volunteer?

Lori Martinek (16:43): Why do I volunteer? I volunteer because A, I love the idea of giving back. I love helping other people create something, whether it’s financial independence or just confidence or whatever. I’m [a] really good cheerleader. And three, because it’s so fulfilling. I get to use the things that I’m really good at, my superpowers, and I get to share them with the world. That doesn’t always have to be for money. You should be able to give it to the world freely for people who can actually benefit from it. Those are my three things.

Stormy Bell (17:14): I love it. This is a little, I guess a little off track. What were the books that you published?

Lori Martinek (17:21): I have been a writer my entire life. I’m a double journalism school graduate. I’ve written for newspapers and things, but the two books I wrote the first one was a primer on marketing and branding for entrepreneurs and professionals. It’s called Be the Bulb!. The premise of that is how you can project a positive energy into the marketplace and create opportunities for yourself by being that person who, even if you’re not an extrovert, by being that person who reaches out and creates opportunity. The second book, which is the one that’s been most interesting back about, you know, when I was getting older, I decided I needed to create a plan. I am single and I’m happily single, and I knew that I would probably remain happily single for the rest of my life.

I created this plan, what do I want my life to look like? Where do I wanna live? What do I wanna be doing? How do I plan to pay for all of this? At the end of this, I created this plan and I said, you know what? I think there’s a lot of other people in my age group who are out there trying to figure out the same thing. So I wrote a book. It’s kind of another primer if you will, apparently I have a lot to say about how to do things, called Retiring Solo. It’s how you can either be, remain, or become happy, healthy, socially engaged and independent as you grow older as a solo person. It’s done well because mainly we all know that even if someone’s really happily married or partnered right now, sadly, unfortunately, people rarely go at the same time.

Lori Martinek (18:53): Everybody ends up single again at some point. It has relevance for a lot of people. Interestingly also internationally. I mean it’s not something I’m gonna get ripped off of, but then that was never the purpose, but it seems to have a bigger following internationally and I attribute that to Facebook, social media, and some of the groups I belong to. It’s interesting how you can reach people all over the place. They’re both on Amazon. I’m self-published. I also have a small publishing company called Herlife Publishing. There’s other books I wanna write. That kind of goes depending on what my current passion is. The third book will be about retiring with purpose. You know, as I struggle with this whole idea of getting older, and when you give up your career and whether it was a career or a job or whatever, you lose identity, you lose your community, you lose all the people you were working with. That can be really hard.

They pound into our heads how we’re supposed to plan financially, but they don’t really tell us a lot about making sure that you can take care of that vacuum, that you’re gonna lose a lot of those contacts. You’re not gonna have that job to get up at four in the morning. If you’ve always been a volunteer like I have, that’s not gonna suddenly fill it in. You can only hike so much and you can only drink so much, you can only travel so much and you’re probably gonna live another 20 or 30 years, right? It’s a lot to think about. So that’s the one I’m working on next.

Stormy Bell (20:27): Well, what you’re speaking of there is part of the reason why I promote volunteering is because it does give purpose and it does give community, and it gives people something to, to do to keep their skills up or to help someone else so they’re not focused on themselves. Like, there’s so many reasons that compliment what you were just saying.

Lori Martinek (20:46): Absolutely. Volunteering is an absolute great way to use your time and your expertise, and I’m just trying to find new ways to do it. Even if you’ve been a volunteer your entire life, and a lot of us have, but there are so many ways that now that you do have more time, you can really get into something. You can get into leadership, you can start to become more than, you know, just a casual volunteer. You can actually start something, perhaps even like your nonprofit. Here’s your opportunity. 

Stormy Bell (21:13): Thank you for sharing. Oh I love that.

Lori Martinek (21:15): You’re welcome.

Stormy Bell (21:16) Can you share a story of impact? Something that you’ve experienced with SCORE or a success story. Something that you’d like to share.

Lori Martinek (21:26): You know, that’s a hard question because so many of the things we do are success stories. When people ask me that question, it’s that success is such a relative thing, okay? Success for some people is just getting that business started, getting the door open. You know, not everybody is looking to create great great wealth, a lot of people just wanna own something, or they wanna create something that other people can share in. Other people create that and then are surprised that it turns into something really big. In SCORE, we measure our success not so much by some other programs measured by how many sales did you have, this and that. We all wanna help people grow. But to me, a real success story is anytime that I can help someone who either had the odds stacked against them for whatever reason, whether how they grew up or the community they live in, or just having no resources to work with other than their own passion and get go, is to see them actually get started, to get something off the ground and to work really hard at it.

Success is being able to hire that first employee or to have that first sale or whatever it is. To me, it’s all about baby steps. I get excited by seeing those successes. Of course, we all wanna see the big success stories, but for a lot of people that’s not really achievable or maybe even relatable. For a lot of people, that story of someone who’s finally hung the open sign in the coffee shop or got the food truck or whatever is the one they said, I could do that too. To me, that’s the big success. That’s the story I like to tell a lot of people, because you can see the light bulb go on over their face where they get the idea that, if she or he or they could do it, I could do it too. To me, that’s the best part.

Stormy Bell (23:13): Oh, I love it. All right, I shared this question with you before we started. It’s my favorite question. Can you share a blooper or something that just didn’t go as planned, and what was learned from it?

Lori Martinek (23:31): I thought about this one a lot, Stormy. We all have bloopers in our life. I’m gonna turn it a little bit on you because to me, a blooper is a left turn. A left turn is where we’re headed in one direction in life, and suddenly we make this left turn and it takes us in a totally different direction that we never planned for or expected. That’s happened to me a bunch of times in my life. The first time I was going [to] go to law school like a lot of people did back in the eighties, and I made this left turn and I went to journalism school instead. I mean, a complete left turn. Again, it turned out to be one of the very best things I ever did in my life. It set me on a lot of different paths that led to me starting my business, which specialized in public relations and marketing.

Then I made another left turn. I went to work corporate first for a big company, and that was going well. Then I made this hugely left turn and decided to start my own business. This was back again in the eighties when personal computers had just come out and I saw an opportunity where I could do something with my writing and my publishing that I now have the ability to do. That was a huge left turn for me, but it turned out to be really like one of the best things I ever did. 34 years later, it really was the best path I could have taken. Now I’m kind of at this place again, as I dance on the edge of retirement. You know, I’ll never be truly retired, but I’m sitting here and I’ve spent my entire life working, being a consultant, getting paid for that. Now I’ve kind of made this hard left turn into volunteering. 

Lori Martinek (25:11): I’ve always been that volunteer, but now I’m essentially doing it almost full time. I’ve dove into SCORE, I’ve gone into leadership, I’ve gone into regional leadership, you know, I’m speaking nationally and do things like that. That was a huge left turn from even a year ago where I still had clients that I had responsibilities for, and there was money coming in. Now there’s not money coming in in the traditional sense, it’s all volunteers. So another big left turn. It remains to be seen how that’s working out but so far, again, it’s going really well. If it’s like the other times that I made that left turn, or that blooper or that unplanned whatever, it really turned out to be the best decision I could make. The upside of all of that is if that left turn is in front of you and you’re like, oh, that doesn’t make any sense at all, sometimes you should really take it because that’s where things are really gonna, you know, when we get off the expected path, that’s when things can get really interesting in a really good way.

Stormy Bell (26:15): Oh, that’s awesome. Well, thank you so much. I loved that!

Lori Martinek (26:18): Good.

Stormy Bell (26:19): Okay. We’re at the point in the interview, and my guests know it’s coming, I’m going to give you the opportunity to love on SCORE. Something that we didn’t cover, or if you wanna go back over something we did cover and just love on it. Why should people get involved?

Lori Martinek (26:36): You should get involved in anything. In anything, not just SCORE. I can tell you in a second why SCORE, but like me, like Stormy, we’ve spent a lot of our life getting expertise, becoming good at something, it doesn’t have to be business expertise, and being passionate. This is an opportunity really to get out there and share what you’re good at. Everybody has a superpower. It’s completely different whether you’re a writer, you’re a business person, you’re an athlete, you’re just really empathetic and you’re good with children or dogs or older people or whatever it happens to be, you have a superpower. I really feel that all of us have a responsibility to go out and share those superpowers with the rest of the world and to give back as much as we could.

At the very least, hopefully find young people who have similar superpowers or look like they might and help cultivate them. Because we’re not getting any younger, none of us are getting younger. We always need to be thinking about, well in addition to me creating this legacy for me and hopefully doing something positive, who are gonna be the people who are gonna do this after me. I’m always trying to find people who are younger at least by one generation or so and get them engaged and excited about volunteering and how this can be a benefit to them. I think that’s really important. Whatever it is that you feel you can do that you’re good at, share it with somebody.

Lori Martinek (28:06): Start a meetup group, start a club, go out and find other people who are looking for community, find people with those interests and bring them together. You’d be amazed what you can learn from them. Definitely go to First of all, for two reasons. You can learn about volunteering and we love volunteers. We wanna have you. You can volunteer anywhere in the country, they’ll get back to you and someone will actually call you and chat with you about what you feel you have to offer, and you can determine whether you think it’s a good match for them as well as vice versa. But then also, as I said earlier, if you have any idea or any inkling where you might wanna start a business, also go to and you might wanna talk to someone and think about how you can make that happen. Whether it’s a nonprofit or for profit. 

My advice to everyone, and this applies to any organization, is do it now. Volunteer now. Don’t wait until you’re retired. Don’t wait until you have more time. You’re gonna get a lot of value from the experience. This isn’t just about giving back, this is about you getting something as well. We all know we feel satisfied, we feel fulfilled, we learn. One of the other things I volunteer for is a conservancy here in Arizona where we’re all stewards and I learn so much from these people who are scientists and who know about nature and about ecology and things like that. I never thought of myself as a science nerd, but now I am a nature nerd as well. You’re going to get back as well. Regardless of what you’re doing right now, and no matter how busy you are, at least start thinking about how you could volunteer and look for those opportunities and maybe just flirt with them a little bit and, you know, go to a meeting or ask for information or talk to someone who’s part of it and start planning it.

Lori Martinek (29:52): I will tell you personally in closing that as you’re getting near retirement, do not wait, do not wait to put together that plan because it snuck up on me a little bit. I wrote a book about this and I thought I was very well prepared, and it still ended a little faster than I thought it would. I suddenly was like, oh. So now I’m trying to tread a little bit of water here, and the SCORE thing has been really good, but I’m still trying to figure out where’s this identity coming from? Is this enough of a sense of purpose? Where am I gonna replace these people who I had in my life before? You know? Start thinking about that. If you have advice to share, I’d love to hear it, first of all. Secondly, you may too wanna write a book. Writing a book with your advice and sharing your passions is a really, really good way to volunteer and to give back, because people can learn from you that way as well. Just do it now, share what you have to offer and learn from other people at the same time.

Stormy Bell (31:04): Ah, this has been awesome today. I’ve so enjoyed having you on. We’re gonna have Lori’s social links in the show notes, so you can check that out there if you’d like to get in touch with her. Well Lori, again, thank you for being a guest on The Art of Volunteering. I know my guests have truly appreciated our conversation and to my audience, I look forward to seeing you next time. Have a great day. Bye-Bye.

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