Mentoring is one of the major factors that help make entrepreneurs successful. There are many elements that impact the early success of start-ups, but the one ingredient that really impacts the sustainability of these new businesses is mentoring. In fact, research from the UK and the US has shown that 70 percent of small businesses with owners who receive mentoring survive for five years or more. That’s double the success rate of businesses run by entrepreneurs who don’t have the support of mentors. With this in mind, it might come as a surprise that only 30 percent of small and medium-sized businesses in Canada are using mentors. There’s a huge gap of opportunity in this country for talented business people and entrepreneurs to support new start-ups.
At Futurpreneur Canada, we help aspiring entrepreneurs aged 18-39 to launch successful businesses. This group traditionally has difficulty securing financing, so we provide entrepreneurs who meet our criteria with collateral-free loans of up to $45,000 together with our partner, the Business Development Bank of Canada. We also help prepare these entrepreneurs with our suite of business resources, such as our popular interactive Business Plan Writer. Finally, we match every new entrepreneur we fund with an experienced volunteer mentor, for up to two years of support, through our industry-leading mentoring program.
We have a lot of tools in place to help our mentors build strong relationships with their mentees, and to be the best mentors they can be. It starts with our hand-matching process, where we find the right mentor with the right skills to support each entrepreneur. We make sure that we have the right relationship fit in place before we disburse the loan, to help create the right conditions for success. Once matched, both the mentor and mentee use a tool called Ment2B™, which helps them to set goals and expectations before embarking on the mentoring relationship. Our Mentors-in-Residence also work to help the organization continually develop the best possible tools and training materials for our mentors and entrepreneurs as they explore different stages of the mentoring relationship.
We have more than 2,800 volunteer mentors who give business advice, as well as support and encouragement, to our young entrepreneurs. In fact, it’s that moral support—that feeling that someone else “gets” it—that many entrepreneurs point to as the biggest benefit they get from mentorship. In a recent survey we did at Futurpreneur Canada, 78 percent of the young entrepreneurs who responded said they wanted to become mentors themselves. The impact on them is so great that they immediately want to pay it forward—and some have already begun doing so. We have several mentors who started as “Futurpreneurs”!
We often find that potential mentors shy away from volunteering because they think they’re not experienced enough, or that they need to be entrepreneurs themselves, or that it will be a major time commitment. In reality, our biggest goal is finding mentors with good character and credibility, who demonstrate the skills and competencies that will most benefit our entrepreneurs. These skills are based around key values, such as honesty and accountability, and soft skills that benefit relationship building, such as leadership and empathy. Then, from an experience perspective we ask that our mentors demonstrate at least five years of entrepreneurship or people management experience, and be able to commit just a couple of hours per month to the mentoring relationship over the course of two years. Since so much of mentoring is about the support, even those with just a few years of experience can add tremendous value to a young entrepreneur’s start-up experience.
Our mentors also play a key role in the impact Futurpreneur Canada makes as an organization. We helped launch 995 new businesses across Canada in the past 12 months with the help of our volunteer mentors, and 39% of these were solely owned by women. The currently reported national average for female-owned small businesses is 13.5%.
Mentoring a young entrepreneur is a great way to give back to the business community. Plus, mentors have a lot to gain from the experience professionally. For example, we partner with TD Bank Group in Newfoundland to invite its own staff members to various Futurpreneur Canada events where they can network, share insights and realize the impact of mentoring. Mentoring opens up opportunities to raise your profile, to network with other mentors and to build relationships with the next generation of business talent. Jeff Ryzner, Futurpreneur Canada mentor and winner of the 2015 BDC Mentorship Award called mentoring his “most rewarding personal experience”.
Our mentors often speak about how much they learn from helping young entrepreneurs, in addition to the personal satisfaction that comes from knowing they’ve made a difference. I think Devon Brooks, Co-Founder of Blo Dry Bar and Futurpreneur Canada Board Member and volunteer mentor, said it best: “Each time I begin a new mentorship, I benefit from a start-up experience right from square one. It keeps me on the front lines.”
Scott Andrews, Business Development Manager for Futurpreneur Canada & Program Manager for Newfoundland and Labrador with the Entrepreneurs’ Forum
Scott has been involved in the economic development sector since 1998. He has a Commerce degree (Marketing Concentration) from Memorial University and started working with one of Atlantic Canada’s biggest advertising agencies immediately after graduation.
Scott has spent the past 17 years working with entrepreneurs in various stages of their business life cycle with a focus on new business start-ups. He has spent the bulk of his professional career with the Y Enterprise Centre as a Business Consultant assisting entrepreneurs with the development of their business venture.
He currently acts as the Business Development Manager for Futurpreneur Canada and the Program Manager for Newfoundland and Labrador with the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, two non-profit agencies that assist local entrepreneurs.