We sat down with Devon Brooks, Co-Founder of Blo Blow Dry Bar to learn her secrets to mentoring successful young entrepreneurs. Devon recently joined the Futurpreneur Canada Board of Directors, and we’re excited that she’ll be bringing her entrepreneurship and mentoring expertise—as well as her youthful energy—to the organization.
In the following interview, Devon shares her tips on what it takes to be a good mentor, how to build a successful mentoring relationship and what drives her to share her expertise with Canada’s aspiring young business owners.
You’re known for being a pretty amazing mentor to young entrepreneurs. How did you get started on that path?
Mentorship was incredibly natural for me. I grew up watching my mom, Judy Brooks, actively nurture and guide people in our community. Since founding Blo, I have informally mentored upwards of 20 creatives and start-up entrepreneurs. I’ve also had the pleasure of mentoring the founders of Canada’s first cold-pressed juice company, The Juice Truck, for more than three years through Futurpreneur Canada’s formal mentoring program. Their business has thrived and is responsible for igniting a huge cold-pressed scene here in Canada. I absolutely cherish the friendship we’ve built, and I connect with them as often as I can. The founders, Zach Berman and Ryan Slater, are some of the most emotionally adept, kind and special men I’ve ever come to know.
Why do you do it?
I often hear mentors say that giving is so satisfying. I absolutely feel dutiful about my work as a mentor—I dig the output and volunteerism, for sure. But, I need to be clear. I very much GET SOMETHING from this. It keeps me fresher than anything else I do. You only get your first time launching a business once. As a mentor, I get it over and over again. Each time I begin a new mentorship, I benefit from a start-up experience right from square one. It keeps me on the front lines. Innovating. Reflecting. Problem-solving. It’s an exercise that yields immediate results for me.
That’s amazing. But I’m sure it can’t be easy all the time. What have you found to be the most challenging parts of the mentoring relationship?
It’s when I see a mentee spinning their wheels and burning out. I get tremendously invested in the well-being of my mentees, not just in their success. Because of the range of challenges I have already faced, I take a real mind/body approach to life. Nothing is worth doing that leaves you with that empty feeling. It’s important to be thoughtful about the time that you put into your businesses—at any stage. Your work cannot be your only source of enrichment. It’s not sustainable.
What qualities do you think make you—or anyone—a good mentor?
A good mentor has their ego in check. They are just as happy to dish about their missteps as they are to share their shiny accomplishments. Mistakes are invaluable. They are role models and have a knack for mirroring back what they’re hearing and observing. It’s all about supporting your mentees in learning, rather than trying to give them the ‘answers’. Good mentors teach you how to fish and forage. But they don’t know it all. They can’t! When a question or scenario arrives that isn’t part of their ‘A game’ they are stoked to introduce a specialist to the mix who can add value to the dialogue.
In your experience, what makes a mentee great to work with?
A good mentee is accountable. They are just as appreciative of compliments as they are of critique. They take amazing notes and do their best to circle back and keep their mentor updated on the progress of any deliverables agreed on in session. They fess up. Nobody can provide worthwhile guidance without having the whole truth. You can’t be worried about looking stupid. That doesn’t help anyone. They are gracious and honour their mentor however they can, be it through random acts of kindness, testimonials, nominations or some other awesome form of gratitude.
Do you have any experience being mentored, yourself?
I am fortunate to be surrounded by world-class creators who I get to call on as sounding-boards. Their wisdom and honesty have helped me continue to find clarity by observing my fears, and trusting my own instincts.
Finally, what advice do you have for people starting their first mentoring relationship?
Whether it’s a mentee or mentor you’re looking for, take your time, and don’t be afraid to decline if you aren’t digging the vibe. When you’re in a flow with someone, you notice immediately. Patience will pay off. Like any successful relationship, mentorship needs to be a reciprocal process, one where both parties are totally committed to contributing meaningfully and with preparedness.
About Devon Brooks
Devon launched Blo, a concept born from a second-year university project, when she was just 21 years old. Today the company has 52 locations in four countries, and has collaborated with international mega-brands like Mattel and Guess and actress Gwyneth Paltrow.
Devon has been recognized multiple times for her entrepreneurial prowess. She was named to Marketing Magazine’s 2012 30 Under 30 list, Chatelaine Magazine’s Hot 20 Under 30 Women of the Year list and PROFIT Magazine’s 2012 The Fabulous 30 list alongside Cirque du Soleil’s Guy Laliberté and Joe ‘Fresh’ Mimran.
Written by: Devon Brooks, Blo Blow Dry Bar and Kristin Knapp, Futurpreneur Canada Staff Writer