How to Find a Business Mentor

As solopreneurs, freelancers, and independent contractors, we’re running one-woman shows. How do you find and cultivate mentors to support your growth? What are the best practices of a mentor-mentee relationship?
Written by
Maddie McElhenny
Published on
May 16, 2024

Launching a business is not for the faint of heart. As solopreneurs, freelancers, and independent contractors, we’re running one-woman shows, constantly learning new and different skills. We may not have existing resources and networking that we would in a corporate setting readily available, but that doesn’t mean we have to navigate this journey alone.

Mentorship is an invaluable resource you can use to your advantage. How exactly can mentorship benefit you? How do you find and cultivate mentors to support your growth? What are the best practices of a mentor-mentee relationship?

90% of startups fail over time. Mentoring changes that statistic, giving small businesses a 70% survival rate for five years or more—twice as high as those without mentoring relationship

Mentorship and Entrepreneurial Success Go Hand in Hand 

Mentorship is a relationship where conceptually, the mentor, or someone more experienced,  supports the mentee, someone less experienced. The relationship is built on mutual respect and a commitment to the mentee’s personal and professional growth. The mentor supports their growth in various ways, including through guidance, connection, and insight.

Mentorships vary in terms of formality, and are typically known as one-on-one relationships. However, they can also include group mentoring, peer mentoring, distance or e-mentoring, reverse mentoring, and speed mentoring. 

Source: Association for Talent Development1

It’s no secret that 90% of startups fail over time. Mentoring changes that statistic, giving small businesses a 70% survival rate for five years or more—twice as high as those without mentoring relationship2.

Exploring the Benefits of Mentorship

Mentorship can help you on your entrepreneurial journey in the following ways:

Gain insights and perspectives

Mentorship provides exposure to new ideas and experiences outside of your regular purview. It opens you up to new perspectives and approaches you may not have considered otherwise. Additionally, while no entrepreneur is devoid of mistakes and failures, mentorship allows you to learn from someone else's mistakes and failures so that you can try not to repeat them whenever possible. The same goes for successes.

For example, suppose you need help innovating within your industry or overcoming a budgeting challenge. A mentor can draw from their own successes and failures, share their experience, and suggest ways to solve the problem. Through exposure to new and different ideas and approaches, you not only overcome the specific hurdle but also learn how to face future challenges with confidence and creativity through enhanced problem-solving skills.

Expand your network

Mentorship can introduce you to a broader network of contacts, resources, and opportunities, expanding your horizons to valuable resources and opportunities that can accelerate your business's growth.

For example, if you're seeking to raise capital or expand your client base, your mentor can tap into their networks to facilitate introductions to key stakeholders or strategic partners. Personal connections matter in business; an introduction is the first step to getting your foot in the door. 

Receive emotional support

The highs and lows of entrepreneurship can be taxing. Having a mentor by your side gives you emotional support from a trusted confidant and supporter to lean on during challenging times. By offering emotional support, a mentor helps you weather the inevitable storms of entrepreneurship and fosters a sense of camaraderie and solidarity, reinforcing your belief in yourself and your vision.

For example, suppose you're grappling with self-doubt or imposter syndrome. Your mentor can look at the bigger picture and offer reassurance and confidence by reminding you of your strengths and capabilities. Or, if you're facing a setback or failure, your mentor can provide empathy, encouragement, and practical advice for moving forward, helping you develop resilience and determination.

Source: Women of Color in Tech Chat, Unsplash

Finding the Right Mentorship

Finding the right mentor is similar to finding the right physician or therapist. You want to ensure they’re a good match. You may have a mentor in your network that you already know, or that person may come from an unexpected place. Here are a few places to start:

Browse your existing network

Your existing network has more value than you can imagine. Search the people you’ve already connected and consider them in light of a mentorship opportunity. You can also expand your network by asking colleagues, former bosses, or mentors for recommendations of someone in their network, as many people are happy to make connections.

Attend industry events

Industry events of all sizes — whether in person or virtual — pull large audiences of like-minded professionals together. While networking may not be your favorite thing to do, go out on a limb and strike up a conversation with others. You never know what connections may follow.

Participate in online platforms 

You can leverage communities who specialize in fostering mentor-mentee connections. ADP List has a community of over 26k mentors. SCORE exists specifically to help small businesses. You may also have luck with LinkedIn groups to mentor pairing.

Cultivating Lasting Mentor-Mentee Relationships

Source: Kobu Agency, Unsplash

Connection, mutual trust, and respect are three key components to a successful mentor-mentee relationship. 

It doesn’t have to all be about business

You’ll want to build a strong relationship with your mentor beyond your career aspirations. Start by getting to know one another, including personal experiences. This strong foundation of trust and respect will carry you far beyond the mentorship relationship.  

Set clear goals and expectations with your mentor

The more specific your objectives are, the better the outcomes will be. Be ready to put in the work to achieve these goals, and regularly revisit them to ensure both parties remain aligned and motivated toward success.

Stay proactive and present throughout the mentorship

While your mentor is here to help expose you to new thoughts and ideas, you as the mentee should really be driving the relationship. Once you engage with a mentor, show them that your heart is in this for the right reason. Be proactive, including for all things communication like scheduling meetings, drafting agendas and following through.

Go above and beyond to thank your mentor

Your mentor is going above and beyond for you, taking time out of their already busy schedule to support you. Reciprocate the time to show you acknowledge and appreciate their time and expertise. Even a handwritten note can go a long way.

The Lasting Impact of Mentorship

Mentorship can be a game changer in your entrepreneurial journey. The power of connection, insights, and network speak volumes. Especially when the journey feels lonely or scary, having someone in our corner to weather the storm can make all the difference, paving the way toward innovation, resilience, and success.

The foundations we build with your mentor also equips us to reinforce the fabric of the entrepreneurial community by paying it forward. Start your mentorship journey today, as tomorrow, you may become the mentor someone else has been searching for all along.

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References 

1 Association for Talent Development, “What is Mentoring?”, td.org [online]

2 AI Contentfy, “The role of mentorship in entrepreneurship,” aicontentfy.com, Nov 21, 2023   [online]

Ramotion, “How Mentoring for Startups Can Affect Business Growth,” ramotion.com, Feb 27, 2024,  [online]

B. Basara, “The Power of Mentorship: How Mentors Can Help Startups Succeed,” linkedin.com, April 21, 2023  [online]

J. Rizvi, “The Power Of Mentorship In Business”, Forbes, Mar 27, 2024  [online]

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