Kip Dunagan

Veterans Start Cincinnati Businesses with Help from SCORE Mentors

CINCINNATI—Nov. 1, 2021 – Dragon’s blood. Cuban cigar. Fresh shave.

Kip Dunagan was toying with the idea of selling his hand-poured soy candles when he saw an advertisement for SCORE business mentors on Facebook.

“A few days later I was sitting with my new business mentor Bob Wiwi at Pancake House,” Dunagan said. “Coming from the Army, I knew I needed a plan. When I get stuck, I call Bob and he provides outstanding feedback.”

The unlikely candle-maker spent 12 years in the U.S. Army, including tours in Germany and Korea, followed by 13 years in computer technology. He’s been a City of Cincinnati police officer for the past 15 years. Dunagan’s free time is occupied in his woodshop, making candles, or working on the business.

Dunagan said his mentor and the SCORE network have helped him tackle many things from strengthening his business plan to social media marketing. Just months later, Blue Wick Candle Company is selling scented candles online and scouting retail locations. A portion of profits are donated to TADSAW, an organization providing Medical Alert Service Dogs to veterans.

“You’ll never know until you start,” Dunagan said. “You can have the support of a lot of people to help you fulfill your business dream.”

Blue Wick candle

Veterans comprise 29 percent of SCORE Greater Cincinnati’s volunteer business mentors. In 2021, the organization has helped several local veterans with startups, including a garage incubator and an acoustic repair business. Nine percent of SCORE mentees nationwide are veterans.

SCORE Greater Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky and Southeast Indiana Chapter is a nonprofit organization with approximately 100 experienced volunteers who offer free mentoring in all aspects of business development and operations. The chapter offers low-cost educational seminars and maintains an extensive library of business briefs and online webinars. SCORE is the oldest and largest free business mentoring organization in the US with over 12,000 volunteers nationwide who are motivated to give back to their local communities through their support of small business.