Bambi Merz is like a kid-- in her own candy store. She is one of four small business owners named SCORE Clients of the year at its Sept. 15 annual luncheon held at the Kenwood Country Club in Kenwood. SyneRxgy Consulting, LLC of Monfort Heights; Artichoke, a curated cookware collection store in Over-The-Rhine; and Ruffin It Doggy Daycare in Florence, Ky. were also named top small businesses for their best practices and sustainability, with Sewendipity Lounge of downtown Cincinnati named runner-up. Five years ago, Merz of Western Hills met Randy Auel of Auel’s Fine Chocolates in Milford and in 2016, bought his store and family recipes that had been handed down through generations. Within a couple of months, Merz purchased a vacant building two blocks away from the original store and built a new commercial kitchen and retail space, saving 75 percent of the renovation costs by doing the work herself. Her space went from 800 square feet to 2,300 square feet.
SCORE mentors Mary Lou Rimsky of Montgomery and Mike Crossen of Symmes Township helped Merz with marketing and creating a strong social media presence, including a weekly newsletter subscriber base of more than 1,000 readers. Merz has built relationships with the Historic Milford Business Association and Milford Miami Township Chamber of Commerce. Her business supports numerous community activities and charities, and Tickled Sweet was named Hula Frog’s “Favorite Candy Store” for 2017; a finalist for Cincy Magazine’s “Best of the North;” and holds a Facebook Community 5-Star Customer Rating. “Bambi is passionate, committed and organized,” said Crossen. “She is a one-in-a-million client.” “She took an existing small business and increased it four-fold within a year,” said Rimsky. Merz took advantage of SCORE’s team mentoring program, which brings three SCORE mentors into the same room at once to help a client address multiple business issues. “At one point, I think we had seven mentors in the room at once,” said Merz. “SCORE gave me every resource they could. There is no way I’d be where I am today without SCORE.” Greater Cincinnati SCORE, which includes greater Cincinnati, northern Kentucky and southeast Indiana, is a nonprofit organization with more than 100 experienced executive volunteers who offer free mentoring in finance, operations and marketing and low-cost workshops for small business owners. Greater Cincinnati SCORE Chapter 34 was named a 2016 Platinum Award recipient, which is reserved for the top 15 percent of the nation’s 300 SCORE chapters. Last year greater Cincinnati SCORE helped create almost 330 new jobs in the tristate. Tickled Sweet is located at 317 Main. St. in Milford. For more information about Tickled Sweet, contact Merz at (513) 880-4169 or through her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TickledSweetTreats. For information about SCORE, call (513) 684-2812 or visit www.scoreworks.org.