Mentoring is music to his ears

Paul Maxwell

Paul Maxwell, founder of Maxwell’s Music House, performs in his venue in Waterloo, Ont.

Music man Paul Maxwell was just 23 when he opened the doors to Maxwell’s Music House in Waterloo, Ont., just five years ago.

Today he has nine instructors giving voice, keyboard, drum, electric guitar and song writing lessons to budding rock stars aged four and up.

“Rockstar camps” engage kids from eight to 16 during March break and the summer months, and live performances draw customers to his 3,100-square-foot facility 300 nights a year.

Music has always been a passion for Mr. Maxwell. Growing up he played in bands and gave private lessons. He went on to attain an honours degree in business administration with a minor in music from Waterloo’s Wilfrid Laurier University.

It was during his final year at university that he developed the concept for a full-service music facility. “The turning point was when a professor motivated me to enter a business competition,” Mr. Maxwell says. “As a finalist I won $10,000 and was introduced to the Canadian Youth Business Foundation (CYBF).”

CYBF was impressed with the young man, his business plan, research and strategy. They provided him with a $15,000 startup loan and matched him with a mentor for two years.

There were two major challenges when he was starting out, says Mr. Maxwell. “The first was being a young entrepreneur trying to raise the quarter of a million dollars I needed to open my business. The second was being inexperienced.”

The startup loan from CYBF gave him the leverage he needed to seek additional loans and overcome the first challenge.

Mentoring from Steve Farlow, executive director of the Wilfrid Laurier University Schlegel Centre for Entrepreneurship and volunteer CYBF board member, helped with the second.

“My mentor brings not only strong business acumen, wisdom and experience, but connections and successes from his own businesses,” says Mr. Maxwell. “He also taught me how to network very well — it’s the biggest gain that I have received.”

Although the formal two-year CYBF mentoring period is now complete, Mr. Maxwell remains connected to his mentor because of the value that the relationship brings. “Whenever I have new developments or a major turning point in my company, he is the first person I go to for advice and support and to talk through ideas.”

Mr. Maxwell highly values his mentoring experience, which is why he is paying it forward as a volunteer CYBF mentor.

“Although I am extremely busy growing my business, mentoring was such a positive experience for me that I make time for it,” he says. “The best reward is seeing the passion of a brand new entrepreneur first-hand. I remember being just as hungry and eager at the beginning and it has reignited the spark in my own entrepreneurial life.”

“Mr. Maxwell is one of our greatest success stories,” says Tessa Mintz, vice-president of volunteers and programs for CYBF. “That he has chosen to become a mentor to the next generation of entrepreneurs is one of the highest compliments that he could pay his mentor and CYBF.”

Every mentoring relationship is unique and each entrepreneur has their own personal needs that form the foundation of these one-of-a-kind matches, says Ms. Mintz.

Along with the thrill of entrepreneurship, many of the young people in the program benefit from the intergenerational exchange that comes with mentorship, she says.

“Though many feel that learning in these situations is one-way, there is an enormous amount of learning in both directions.”

Mentoring can also lead to smoother career transitions. Even when taking a break people can remain engaged and connected in the business community through mentoring, and it adds a credibility factor to the resume, she says.

In addition to the two-year mentoring experience provided to Mr. Maxwell, CYBF has a number of other programs to support entrepreneurs, including a six-month intensive mentoring sprint for those who do not require financing, but can benefit from the one-on-one experience. Entrepreneurs and mentors also have access to 25 subject matter experts through a CYBF LinkedIn community from Accenture, a global leader in management consulting, technology services and outsourcing.

Face-to-face networking events and timely e-newsletters offer learning and development opportunities across the country; and a mentor-in-residence is also available.

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