Natalie Hale, owner of Special Reads for Special Needs, a company that specializes in providing reading and learning materials for children with learning disabilities, credits her Score counselors with helping her focus her business. “After 15 minutes of my first meeting with Charlie Askanas and Dave Evans of Score, Charlie told me to go home and write an elevator pitch so that I could clearly and succinctly explain my business and its benefits,” she says. “I really appreciate the no nonsense, straight-shooting advice that I get from my Score counselors,” Natalie adds. 

            Although originally a musician, Natalie also studied graphic design and illustration. This education became especially important and useful to her after her son, Jonathan, was born with Down syndrome. Natalie was intent on teaching Jonathan to read when he was five years old. The availability of materials for children with special needs was limited and inadequate from her perspective. Using her graphic design skills, she developed clear, uncluttered materials to help teach Jonathan how to read. These materials and Natalie’s teaching method were so successful that at seven Jonathan was tested as reading at the normal second grade level, a very rare achievement for children with Down syndrome. As parents of other children with special needs learned of her success, they encouraged Natalie to publish her materials and teach her technique. Over the next eight years and with the sponsorship of a Speech Pathologist friend, Natalie authored over 30 books and supplemental materials for teaching children and teenagers with learning disabilities. The subjects ranged from pre-primer reading to money management skills for teens and adults. Natalie is well known as an expert in teaching reading to children with special needs and regularly speaks at conferences around the country.

            “Although I’ve been selling my books and materials through my website since 2000, I’ve never really done any marketing,” says Natalie. “While I made a little money in this way, it was never my principal motivation. I was married and didn’t need the money to live on,” she continues. In 2006 this changed. Natalie divorced her husband and in July of 2007 she moved to Los Gatos, California. “After the divorce and move, my little business became my primary income source. I realized that I needed to grow it significantly and that I needed help in order to make that happen,” she explains. 

How SCORE helped. 

             Natalie learned about Score through the Los Gatos Chamber of Commerce and set up an appointment with Score counselors at the Chamber’s offices. Charlie and Dave emphasized to Natalie the importance of focusing her priorities on developing a steady, reliable income stream before trying to build her publishing business. To achieve this goal they recommended that she concentrate first on building a tutoring business. “I’d been a reading consultant for children with special needs for many years, but I never considered it as a business,” says Natalie. Since she realized that her business knowledge was limited, she began taking many of the workshops and seminars offered by Silicon Valley Score. She took the all day “Small Business Workshop for Start Ups and Existing Businesses”, “The Business Plan”, and “Marketing on the Internet” seminars. “The instructor of the internet marketing course critiqued my website and gave me really useful advice,” says Natalie. “I cannot stress enough the importance of the workshops,” she adds. “They provide an excellent blueprint for running a business as well as a very effective opportunity for networking.” In the last seven months by focusing her efforts on the tutoring opportunity and employing the knowledge she’s gained from the Silicon Valley Score courses and from her Score counselors, Natalie has built a monthly revenue base from tutoring that surpassed all of her prior consulting, publishing and speaking activities combined.

             “The advice I get from Charlie and my other Score counselors is always right on target and very practical,” says Natalie. “For instance, they’ve helped me realize that my expertise and time are the basis of my livelihood. Therefore, I shouldn’t give them away for free.” She adds, “I think anyone who wants to start a business, especially a divorced woman in a situation like mine, should definitely hook up with Score to ensure that he or she starts off on the right track.” She concludes, “I’m going to continue to count on Score for advice and guidance as I begin to develop and grow the publishing side of my business.”

Special Reads for Special Needs