Jody and Zoltan Matolcsy have long shared an interest in gems and geology. They even spent part of their honeymoon at the famed Herkimer Diamond Mines in upstate New York where visitors can dig for the area’s famed beautiful double-terminated quartz crystals. Inspired by the Herkimer’s success in luring families and fellow collectors for tours and prospecting expeditions, the Matolcsy’s decided to pool their passion and knowledge with some partners to launch a similar operation near their home in southwestern Maine, an area with a rich mineral history of its own. Jody knew that SCORE provided help with preparing business plans, so she contacted the Portland chapter for help in creating what would become Maine Mineral Adventures.
Jody and Zoltan will continue to look to SCORE for help as they look for ways to continue expanding their business. "SCORE gave us the confidence that we could make it on our own,” Zoltan says. “They helped dissolve the fear of the unknown of going into business for ourselves. Developing a niche business has been key to our success."
Jody also appreciates the fact that her mentors talk up Maine Mineral Adventures, and senses their pride in how far she and Zoltan have come. “I think they’re very happy with what we’ve done with a pile of rocks,” she says with a laugh.
While many aspiring entrepreneurs can look to similar types of businesses as guides, the Matolcsy’s start-up needs were, in a word, unique. There were issues with gaining access to the long-dormant gem mines, long-term cash flow considerations given the seasonal variations in revenue, and marketing the wonders of mineral prospecting to prospective visitors.
“This was the first time a business like this had been tried in Maine, so we had nothing to base it on,” Jody says. “And as a seasonal business, most of our income would be generated two months out of the year. We had to be sure that we could cover year-round expenses as well.”
The Matolcsy’s have since expanded their business to include a location where visitors can pan for their own gemstones. Despite the pressures of the economic downturn, Maine Mineral Adventures has seen attendance grow every year, along with its profits. “It’s hard to say how much the recession is affecting us, but we’re making enough to sustain the business,” Jody says. “While Zoltan and I both have other jobs, we hope to grow Maine Mineral Adventures and add features such as an indoor facility for visitors.”
Although Maine Minerals Adventures is all about exploring the wonders of the natural world, the Matolcsy’s have found broadband to be an invaluable tool for their business. Along with giving them faster access to the web and making them more efficient, broadband provides them with the fastest and best access to their web site and customers online.
Volunteer mentors Glenn Davis, Dave West and Steve Veazey developed a cash flow projection to help the Matolcsy’s begin conducting mine tours in 2006. The mentors also provided regular critiques of their business plan to help refine the business concept, advised them on getting the proper permits, and offered guidance for managing both long-term and day-to-day management concerns. SCORE also assisted Zoltan and Jody in transitioning the business from a corporation to a limited liability company when their business partners dropped out of the venture.