Many emphasize the importance of finding a business mentor, especially for young entrepreneurs. As a college student and co-founder of Star Toilet Paper, I can affirm the value of this advice. My prior “business” experience was limited to camp and caddying work, making mentorship crucial for my entrepreneurial journey.
Within the startup community, many individuals are willing to assist, but there’s a distinction between those who offer occasional guidance and those who are genuinely interested in both your company and you as an individual. The latter is what truly matters in a business mentor. They must be genuinely invested in learning about you and how you intend to change the world with your new venture.
The question is, how do you find such a mentor, and how do you determine if they are the right fit? Here are four key questions to consider as you seek out that “elusive” mentor for your small business:
Where to find a business mentor?
In college, you have access to both people and resources, but this access is not limited to students. Major cities typically have incubators, accelerators, and universities that serve as hubs for innovation and knowledge. Consider your surroundings and how you can make the most of available resources. Often, the best mentor opportunities arise from secondhand or thirdhand connections.
When to start seeking a business mentor?
The answer is simple: start as soon as possible! Even if your business has generated thousands or millions in revenue, a mentor remains beneficial. There is always room for improvement and a need for a sounding board. A mentor offers the advantage of an external perspective. When you immerse yourself in a project 24/7, you may lose touch with the thoughts of the end users. A mentor provides a valuable bridge back to that perspective without the need for extensive testing or surveys.
How to approach someone to be my mentor?
The process is straightforward: just ask! Access to people and resources is a good start, but it doesn’t automatically lead to mentorship. Individuals interested in becoming mentors may reach out with offers like, “Hey, let’s catch up and see if I can help in any way!” They understand the value of their time, and you should do the same. Explain what you’re seeking and why you specifically want them as a mentor. Showcase the contributions they can make to your company. Don’t hesitate to ask directly.
Who to approach to be my business mentor?
This decision is not one-size-fits-all and depends on your personal preferences and specific needs. In our case, we seek expertise in fields like toilet paper, marketing, and business development. It’s unlikely that a single individual embodies all these qualities. Thus, it’s beneficial to have mentors with diverse expertise, ensuring that the questions you pose receive answers from experienced professionals in each area.
Moreover, when considering a potential mentor, assess your comfort level in engaging in lengthy discussions about both the company and yourself. A mentor should be passionate about your work and your enthusiasm. Ensure that they are as interested in you as they are in your business.