Sometimes it takes a tragedy to force change. Such was case on December 14, 2012. The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was an unfathomable event that left the country in a state of shock. For Taylor and Steve Smith, it was a time to turn grief into action.

Taylor explains, “With an infant and almost 2-year-old sleeping soundly in their beds, my husband Steve (a law enforcement officer and SWAT team member) turned to me and said, ‘Teachers are not trained on what to do if a threat enters a school … I have to create a program to help empower the TRUE first responders in these types of incidents: the teachers and staff.’”

With his wife’s full support, Steve Smith made good on his word.

My Successes

Within a few months after the shooting at Sandy Hook, Steve had implemented a training course for teachers at two private schools. Seeing the empowerment resulting from this training, the Smiths knew they needed to reach more communities. In November 2013, Steve and Taylor officially formed Guardian Defense.

It didn’t take long for the Smiths to expand their services to civilians in the workplace by offering programs on how to plan for and respond to a threat on-site as well as implement preventative measures. Guardian Defense even added a course specifically for law enforcement officers. “Our course helps save time and prepares the first responding officer to approach the threat immediately, without waiting for backup,” explains Taylor.

By serving a broader audience and hiring instructors who share their passion and expertise, Guardian Defense continues to expand its outreach through South Florida and across the United States.

How SCORE Helped

According to the Smiths, their first objective with SCORE centered on marketing and sales planning, which initially led them to mentors Michael Lupo and Owen Koff. Explains Taylor, “Michael and Owen provided us with a list of objectives to get started on our marketing plan during our first meeting in 2016.” Since then, along with attending SCORE’s annual 1-day workshop, the women’s entrepreneurship session with Susy Macario, and a recent virtual training on filing taxes, Taylor says they’ve taken full advantage of SCORE’s mentoring services.

“Without prior experience operating a business, we have consulted greatly with our mentors on topics such as accounting, legal concerns, affiliations, partnerships, sales, grant writing, insurance, public speaking, employment and business management. Essentially, we show up with a list of questions seeking their guidance, and they are ready to answer!” Taylor says. “We appreciate every moment of their time; and we recognize we are getting top-notch consultation free of charge.”

What’s more, she shares, “We feel a sense of empowerment from our mentors and that has truly helped us to continue to work hard each day.”