As the Mentoring Program Manager, I talk to a lot of women business owners. They tell me all the time, “I can only talk to my friends and family so much about my business.” These days, when your friends and family are dealing with their own stresses due to Covid, you might feel even more reluctant to share your business issues with them.
Connecting with a mentor who is an established entrepreneur can provide that much-needed support – whether you’re struggling to make it through, or using this time to innovate in your business.
At Women’s Enterprise Centre (WEC), we’ve opened applications for our One-to-One Mentoring Program to help women business owners all over BC receive support and guidance. If you’re a woman business owner in the first five years of business, watch for the next program intake planned for this summer.
In 2018, Camille MacDonald, Owner of Pop Media in Prince George, participated in our One-to-One Mentoring Program, and was matched with Bobbi Carpino, Co-Owner of Salmon Valley Campground and an Entrepreneur in Residence at WEC.
“My mentor was such a shining example to learn from! She is sweet and caring, but also makes sure to hold you accountable! When I first started Pop Media, I NEVER would have thought I would have been able to do all of this, especially at such an early stage in the business. It just goes to show that my only barrier is what I think is possible.”
Since working with Bobbi, Camille has seen a dramatic increase in monthly revenue for the business. Camille and her business partner have also gained clarity on their direction, and which services to focus their time on.
While many people turn to mentoring to grow their business (and it can do that!), here are four ways that connecting with someone who is more experienced than you can also get you through the tough times—plus notes from some of our past mentees:
1. A mentor can help you focus on what’s important, so you can make confident decisions
A lot of women business owners, particularly in their first five years of business, are solopreneurs. They’re doing the marketing, the operations, the sales, the financials, the product development – all by themselves!
When a challenge comes along, it can be difficult to make decisions on how best to move forward, or you can start spinning out as you try to decide where to focus your energy. Someone with an outside perspective can provide much-needed clarity.
“She gives me more business context for decision-making and is a voice outside of business that can approach my business problems with fresh eyes.”
2. A mentor can help you find your next step
You may wonder whether a mentoring relationship turns into a couple of women complaining about how hard it is to run a business.
At WEC, we use solution-based action learning, so you leave each meeting with specific strategies and takeaways. Next time, you’ll come back and report on your progress. Did it work, or was it a flop? How can you adjust your strategy?
“I want to thank you for running such an excellent mentoring program. I have to say you provided me with a great match. [My mentor] brought excellent experience, energy and ideas to the table. She has been a great sounding board for me as I grow our business. She has given me some good insight on our growth in terms of sales, distribution, manufacturing and also in our headcount. I would highly recommend both my mentor and this program to others!”
3. A mentor can relate to your situation and share her hard-earned experience
A mentor has been through a lot of the same situations you’re dealing with, and has come out the other side. While Covid might be an unprecedented situation (at least in our lifetime), an experienced mentor has a solid knowledge base from her years of running a business, and she’ll share her insights based on her own experiences.
“My mentor was invaluable in dealing with unexpected challenges that required communication, understanding and grasping a complex and sensitive situation. She was able to assist me to clarify my communication with others and understand how to best handle a difficult situation. Her insights were invaluable.”
4. A mentor can help you build your confidence
During the pandemic, our advisory team has assisted hundreds of women entrepreneurs in finding their next step. What they’ve noticed is that most of our clients are taking the right steps—they just need some outside validation to boost their confidence.
Before entering our mentoring program, only 39% of our mentees report feeling confident in running their business. After six months of working with a mentor, that number increases to 95%!
“It has given me the confidence that I was lacking, and a clearer vision of what is possible. Also, having a mentor has helped me define my market and my goals as an entrepreneur.”
About the author: Kaitlyn McConnell is the Mentoring Program Manager at Women’s Enterprise Centre, which is a non-profit organization devoted to helping BC women start, grow and lead their own businesses. Kaitlyn helps women business owners who are in the early stages of business overcome their entrepreneurial challenges and develop their capabilities and skills by matching them with experienced entrepreneurs for a mentoring relationship.