| January 16, 2024
A mentor can transform the course of a young entrepreneur’s business and life.
Corinne Lau, Vice-President of Client and Mentoring Experience at Futurpreneur, has witnessed it play out time and time again through her more than 20+ years with the organization. Lau says mentoring can have a transformative power on young startup founders, and it is a critical part of the services Futurpreneur offers.
“Entrepreneurs recognize Futurpreneur as an organization that offers financing and mentoring and often they’ll tell us a mentor ultimately provides them more value than the dollars they receive from us,” she shares.
“While money comes and goes when starting a small business, the lasting impact of mentoring, and the relationship established with a mentor can be felt by a young entrepreneur for years and years,” Lau adds.
Futurpreneur mentors often bring years of entrepreneurial experience and knowledge from the business world to their mentor-mentee relationships. These are successful individuals who share insights, strategies and practical advice based on their own successes and failures.
Lau says mentors tap into their lived experiences and provide entrepreneurs with guidance on developing specific skills needed when launching a business such as problem solving, leadership and negotiation. They can also be a sounding board for working through complex challenges or understanding business fundamentals such as revenue generation, sales, marketing and cash flows.
“Futurpreneur mentors bring real-life experience and have often experienced the same issues as our Futurpreneurs,” says Lau.
“As entrepreneurs, the first two years can be the toughest time and they can feel like they’re going through it alone. Through a mentoring relationship, young entrepreneurs find a companion to accompany them on their journey.”
Lau argues that Futurpreneur mentoring relationships are designed with the entrepreneur’s success in mind. In these relationships, mentors are volunteers and they cannot invest or do business with the entrepreneur mentee, ensuring there is no conflict of interest. Most individuals become a mentor to give back to the entrepreneur ecosystem and to help their mentee(s) reach their business dreams.
Lau says one powerful tool mentors use in supporting entrepreneurs is asking questions.
“What do you think would happen if you did this, or didn’t do that, or if you took a different route?”
At the same time as challenging them, a mentor can validate an entrepreneur’s ideas and business plan. In all cases, their input can help entrepreneurs see their business from different angles and highlight potential blind spots.
“Everyone’s journey is different. Maybe what didn’t work for me will work for you. [Mentoring] is about sharing. It’s up to the individual [mentee] to say: ‘I’ll take this and leave that if it applies to me,’” Lau says.
Lau believes the keys to a great mentor-mentee pairing is authenticity, candour and a mutual commitment of time and effort to make the relationship work.
“It’s great when you have someone that you can open up to, talk with and be transparent about when it comes to your fears,” Lau shares. “To get the most out of these relationships, both sides need to put in the time and be present for the conversation. I’ve seen how the return can be so impactful on the mentee as well as the mentor. Mentoring can mean big business for small businesses!”
Lau advises that finding the right mentor is key for young entrepreneurs to gain the most benefit from a mentoring relationship. She believes the human connection can be just as important matching experience or skills.
“Knowing someone believes in you, someone thinks you can make your dream a reality, it forms a special bond,” says Lau.
The mentor-mentee bond can push entrepreneurs toward their goals and ultimately provide a valuable surge of confidence during a startup’s early years. Financial support may be an important tool to pay for things like equipment or operational costs but mentoring may be the investment that truly takes your business to next level.”
“Mentoring can change the course of your business and your life,” says Lau. “Time and again, I’ve seen its transformative power. It can be the game changer for a young founder.”