CHARLOTTE – Denver resident Bill Baker recently became just the seventh recipient of SCORE Charlotte’s Award for Meritorious Service over the nonprofit’s 50-plus years of operation.
Baker, a Texas native, moved a lot growing up as the son of a military doctor. He went on to receive his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Duke University before earning his master’s degree from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. From there, Baker embarked on a 32-year career at IBM, where he worked in a variety of executive positions, including as Senior Consultant in IBM’s Global Government Revenue and Fiscal Management practice.
Upon retiring from IBM, Baker became active in Rotary International in Vienna, Va., before relocating to Denver 15 years ago. Through his work as a Rotarian, which included a pair of initiatives that established microfinance organizations in Uganda and Kenya, Baker became familiar with SCORE, a national nonprofit with more than 320 chapters dedicated to supporting small businesses through free, confidential mentoring.
“My initial involvement was helping people in Africa get started with their micro-businesses, but it was awful expensive for me to keep going to Africa, so I realized that I needed to start training people over there to be able to train others locally,” Baker said. “That’s around the time that I discovered SCORE and what their mission was, so it seemed like a natural transition.”
Through his work with SCORE, Baker played an active role in the initiative to bring a Grameen America branch to Charlotte. Founded by Nobel Peace Prize recipient Muhammad Yunus, Grameen America is national nonprofit microfinance organization dedicated to helping women who live in poverty build small businesses to help create better lives for their families.
“Microfinance had never been brought to this country, and so Charlotte got involved in 2008 or so at the front end of trying to bring microfinance to America,” Baker said. “Charlotte was the fifth city nationwide to install a Grameen bank operation after we were able to raise the money needed to do so in 2012. There were several people who played more of a role in this than me, but my role was to help engage with the faith community in Charlotte to help them understand that this new organization wanted to help them help the less fortunate members of their congregations.”
Baker joined SCORE’s Charlotte chapter in 2004, ascending to the role of executive vice president from 2010-12 and then president from 2012-14, in which he helped the organization navigate the changing times through the rise of social media marketing. In total, Baker spent a decade mentoring SCORE clients free of charge, including former WSOC-TV anchorwoman Kim Brattain, who started her own video production company upon leaving the station in 2008.
“She was great at video production, but she didn’t have much of a background in marketing, so we kind of put our focus into developing that side of her business,” Baker said. “I can’t say a whole lot because our relationships with clients are confidential, but I know she has spoken highly of her experience with SCORE, and from my perspective she was an ideal client to work with.”
Baker has received a number of awards from SCORE throughout his time with the nonprofit, and he’s just the seventh member of the organization’s Charlotte chapter to receive the Award for Meritorious Service since its foundation in 1965.
“This is a recognition for people who have put in a longer term of service with SCORE at maybe somewhat of a higher level,” Baker said. “SCORE offers a variety of different awards and recognitions, so I’m not sure I value any one in particular more than another because they’re all different. In 2015, I received the Dick O’Brien award, which is given out once a year to a member who’s been an outstanding mentor, so that one meant a lot to me also.”