As an entrepreneur, there are myriad things you likely don’t know and are forced to learn. Where can you seek support, useful tips and direction?
Mentoring provides guidance and opportunities to develop business and leadership skills. Mentorship can happen organically, especially if you know where to look and what you’re looking for. Read on to discover seven easy ways to find a small business mentor.
schools and universities
Whether you attend the occasional workshop or take classes more regularly, you’re surrounded by like‑minded people. Seek help from a fellow student, and learn about your classmates’ personalities, talents and strengths. Exchange skills and experiences, or ask your instructor for help.
Classrooms and post-secondary institutions offer plenty of opportunities to meet mentors. The University of Alberta’s School of Business offers small business mentoring, as well as a number of resources for small business entrepreneurs.
Finding a mentor isn’t as mysterious or elusive as you may think, particularly if you belong to a professional association. Trade and professional associations often operate mentoring programs for business owners just starting out. Some offer both formal one-on-one mentoring and group networking opportunities.
Networking and speaking events, industry expos and conferences
Designed to put people in contact with one another, networking events afford the perfect opportunity to expand your professional network. Don’t overlook industry expos, conferences or speaking events, either. These are perfect places to find an experienced mentor and to learn more about your industry. The key to making the most of such events and opportunities is to talk to as many people as possible. However, rather than being too forward, wait for a potential mentorship to present itself.
The greater Edmonton area has a thriving startup scene, with several entrepreneurial hotspots. From startup incubators to open workspaces, such hotspots allow you to meet like-minded entrepreneurs and business people in your industry. Learn from a range of experts, including government agencies, service providers and fellow entrepreneurs. Preflight, PeerSpark™ and the Business Link’s mentors are just some examples of tailored mentorship programs available in the Edmonton area.
Are you working on a tech-enabled product and looking for ways to explore and move it, and company ideas, forward? Preflight by Startup Edmonton supports entrepreneurs’ efforts to build, launch and grow a tech‑enabled product. Preflight is a year-round, part-time program of mentorship, guided sessions and access to corporate partners to get your product to market.
A program of Alberta Women Entrepreneurs (AWE), PeerSpark™ helps build confidence, improve business acumen and accelerate business success by uniting successful female entrepreneurs. PeerSpark™ develops members’ skills in an interactive setting and lets participants share experiences, build lasting relationships and learn from experts.
The Business Link
The Business Link has assembled a group of business professionals including lawyers, accountants, marketing consultants and other, experienced business professionals. For a nominal fee, you can connect one-on-one with local professionals via phone, in person or via Skype. You can also learn from experts and interact with local professionals via the Business Link’s free webinars.
Online social networks
LinkedIn connects you to your trusted contacts and helps you exchange knowledge, ideas and opportunities with a broad network of professionals. In much the same way, MicroMentor is a free, easy-to-use social network that let entrepreneurs connect with volunteer mentors spanning occupations and industries. From successful small business owners to active CFOs, MicroMentor volunteers help with business planning, market strategy, finance and more.
Other mentorship opportunities
A number of non-profit organizations, social enterprises and companies offer paid mentorship or free mentorship. These mentorships are often structured and timebound to ensure that participants remain committed to achieving goals. Detailed codes of conduct, confidentiality agreements and conflict of interest agreements hold mentees accountable.
Don’t underestimate volunteering with one of these non-profits or other organizations: volunteering is a surprisingly good way to make connections with people who can teach you something new. What’s more, by giving back to your community, you’ll also be raising your company’s profile and enhancing its reputation!
Mentoring offers powerful rewards. Thriving entrepreneurs often view mentoring as vital to their success. A mentor can help you grow your network, build your self-confidence and business acumen, and limit common startup mistakes. In addition to providing a sounding board to guide decision-making, small business mentoring can also help you develop key listening, motivating and planning skills. Not only will such skills help your business thrive, but they can also help you build a strong foundation for future growth.