Headshot of Raymond Shoolman.

Running your own business is not easy. Not that anyone would assume so, but if you did think it was easy, I’m here to tell you that you are wrong. Running any business, whether it be with a team or alone, is unimaginably stressful. Especially when the market you operate and sell in is already so crowded, it’s hard to stand out and survive as a start-up. Futurpreneur Canada believes that a mentor can make all the difference in any entrepreneur’s success, and that is why it is offered to young entrepreneurs that receive financing through their program.

When Futurpreneur assigns mentors to their entrepreneurs, it’s important to have them paired for their specific needs. Mentor, Raymond Shoolman, is an expert in the business of apparel and fashion and that is why he was paired with a few new businesses in related industries. Raymond was born in South Africa and immigrated to Canada in 1977 with his family. He has established himself primarily in Vancouver, having lived there for 26 years, but has also spent years in Edmonton and Toronto.

Raymond is a very experienced and knowledgeable mentor and has been helping others for many years, even previous to his volunteering with Futurpreneur. His career, starting in the furniture industry, has evolved tremendously. After the furniture industry, he dove into working in the apparel and fashion industry, leading him to eventually become the Vice President of Hugo Boss. Retail has proven to be one of the busiest industries and it can be very intimidating when starting out, and that is why Raymond’s volunteering is incredibly important for a retail entrepreneurs. Currently, other than mentoring, he is a senior consultant of operations strategy at DIG360, a firm dedicated to retail executives that helps identify problems or opportunities for growth.

Despite how most mentors come to be, Raymond did not just decide to be one out of the blue. He did not just work his career and decided to provide guidance as a result of his success. He has been passionate about mentorship throughout his career, highlighting that: “In all of my management positions, at any level, I always enjoyed helping employees grow.” Raymond took many new colleagues under his wing and guided them to improve themselves and do a better job, with many of them actually rising to management and senior positions themselves. “I think mentoring is in my DNA,” he shared.

Raymond is very vocal about mentorships and its importance to people who are starting out. “Young entrepreneurs have a special gift,” he expresses. “Not everyone has the courage to open a business, especially when just starting out with an idea, without the know how to take that idea and build a business from it.”

Since the beginning of his volunteer role as a mentor at Futurpreneur, over the course of three years, Raymond has mentored six start-up businesses. Currently, he is mentoring four businesses, having hit the two year mark with two of them. “My experiences with all the mentees have been positive and rewarding,” he says. For the two businesses that hit the two year mark, Nettle’s Tale and Vonbon, he feels particularly attached to. Despite having the official mentorship period end with the program, he has expressed that mentorship has now reached to a personal level. “Both start-ups are owned by two entrepreneurs that I have watched develop into strong, courageous, persistent, hardworking and overall great people,” he shared. “The growth of their businesses has been spectacular, overcoming so many challenges and handling obstacles with dignity, courage and good decision making skills. I have no doubt they will achieve great success in the future. I have the same feelings with the more current mentees and look forward to see their growth”. Mentorship can be very uniform and begin and end at a certain time, but it is also not uncommon for the relationship to turn into a longstanding mentorship—or even a friendship for that matter.

“I believe if you have had a long rewarding career, it is important to communicate all that experience you have to other who need it so badly, when starting a new business,” Raymond said.

Mentorship is ‘giving back’ but it’s also so much more. Raymond loves to see people grow, gain confidence, become successful business owners and most importantly, great people, and for him, this is the most rewarding part of being a mentor. Happier people, living greater lives and chasing their dream to more opportunity is important for communities and it helps create jobs for our Canadian economy. To be a part of this positive shift is what mentorship is all about.

If you would like to be a part of this rewarding opportunity as a mentor, click here.

Written by:  Sara Pivato, Social Media and Content Intern, Futurpreneur Canada