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Articles

The Value of Mentorship

A mentor can help entrepreneurs learn how to navigate many of the challenges typically faced by social entrepreneurs.

A mentor is a business professional with the experience to provide personalized support, sound business advice and encouragement to help emerging entrepreneurs develop their own abilities and insights. A mentor’s value stems from the fact that they’ve “been there and done that,” giving you the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and successes.

The role of a mentor is to:

  • Help build your self-reliance and leadership skills
  • Help you discover your own insights, abilities and solutions as you start and grow your business
  • Support your self-directed learning and help you come to your own conclusions and decisions
  • Listen to your ideas and answer your questions truthfully
  • Give emotional support while also challenging you
  • Provide real world business advice when requested/appropriate
  • Celebrate milestones and successes

Being given the “answers” can make your life easier, but that isn’t the primary type of support a mentor provides. Your mentor will enable you and provide opportunities for you to learn how to solve problems and make decisions, ultimately helping you to help yourself.

“My mentor provided major value – everything from emotional support through the tough times to real world business advice. Most valuable was the ability to have a third party sounding board that wasn’t shy to tell me the truth.”

– Robb Price, DeliverGood, Futurpreneur Canada entrepreneur

Why is Mentorship So Important?

Mentors are an essential ingredient for the success of any social entrepreneurship. They can help you learn how to navigate many of the challenges typically faced by social entrepreneurs, such as:

  • conceiving a viable business model that creates both social and financial value
  • measuring and evidencing social impact
  • governance and legal structures
  • processes
  • attracting investment
  • organizational structure

In the experience of Futurpreneur Canada, the chance of succeeding in business is much higher when a young entrepreneur is being mentored. In fact, Futurpreneur Canada entrepreneurs – all of whom are matched with a mentor – have a 94% loan repayment rate. Furthermore, research has demonstrated that:2

  • Learners that will transfer a new skill into their practice as a result of learning a theory = 5%
  • Learners that will transfer a new skill into their practice as a result of learning a theory and seeing a demonstration = 10%
  • Learners that will transfer a new skill into their practice as a result of theory, demonstration and practice during the training = 20%
  • Learners that will transfer a new skill into their practice as a result of theory, demonstration, practice and corrective feedback during the training =
    25%
  • Learners that will transfer a new skill into their practice as a result of theory, demonstration, practice, feedback during training and in-situation coaching or mentoring = 90%

Through mentorship, an entrepreneur gains feedback and encouragement and can learn how to overcome challenges that range from current legal structures and financial models to staff management and investment decisions.

My mentor has helped me achieve my goals and overcome obstacles through meeting with me on a regular basis; creating goals and plans with me; then holding me accountable.

–Melanie Breitkreutz, Be’ato Coffee Company, Futurpreneur Canada entrepreneur

I’m Convinced – Now How Do I Find a Mentor?

There are many business mentoring programs and opportunities available to entrepreneurs in Canada. Some offer one-on-one matching between entrepreneur and mentor, while others help entrepreneurs establish relationships with mentoring advisory boards. You can also look for a mentor on your own, without being part of any program.

The Futurpreneur Canada Start-Up Program hand matches every entrepreneur to a qualified mentor, a matching of needs to skills and personalities. To help kick-start the relationship, Futurpreneur Canada holds an interactive orientation session during which the entrepreneur and mentor work together to establish objectives, meeting dates, important milestones and more.

Just as you wouldn’t necessarily settle for the first family doctor that you meet, you should take your time to find a mentor who suits your needs and personality. The best match is made when a mentor complements your own skills, experience and needs. If you have worked in a social context for years but have limited business-related expertise, a mentor with strong business skills who gives advice that’s relevant to the real business world would be most helpful.

The greatest value to social entrepreneurs is having a mentor’s support during start-up and the first two years of business development.

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