Where and How to Find a Small Business Mentor
Unless you’ve owned a business before, starting your own small business is an entirely new experience. What better way to gain some insight into owning a business from someone else’s experiences. Locating a mentor willing to offer their wisdom and advice will take a little bit of work, but what they have to offer can be completely invaluable. In fact, 70% of small businesses receiving mentoring survive more than 5 years. Learning from their accomplishments and failures is one of the best ways to prepare your business for success. You just need to know where to look – and how to determine who will be the right fit.
Where to Find a Small Business Mentor?
When actively searching for a mentor, it’s best to put yourself in the position to network as much as possible. From standard networking events to SCORE offices, here’s where to locate a small business mentor.
One of the more obvious places to look for a mentor, networking events are organized specifically to facilitate business introductions. Take advantage of these opportunities because attendees are there for the same purpose – to make connections.
Startup incubators or open workspaces often exist in areas with thriving startup scenes. Take advantage of this and use it as an opportunity to meet other startup owners.
SCORE offices, sponsored by the SBA itself, offer a number of resources to small business owners, one of them being mentoring. The office will help to match an entrepreneur to a mentor for free, among its over 13,000 available mentors. With 11,000 office located across the country, mentors are widely available.
Small Business Development Centers
Also sponsored by the SBA, SBDCs help local entrepreneurs with a number of services, once again, including mentors. There are 1200 SBDC offices in the US, making it available to business owners across the country.
Indirect competitors may understand the industry better than others, making their insight extraordinarily relevant to you. If you’re selling socks and know another retailer selling ties, they may be a good match because they understand the garment industry, without being in direct competition with you. The same sock retailer in question may also seek the advice from another sock retailer in another state, as they won’t compete locally, or if the competitor is too big to see your startup as competition.
Industry associations, local chambers of commerce, and suppliers can all be great sources for finding a mentor. They’re knowledgeable in your industry and may be willing to help out. Keep your eyes open for good mentors among these groups.
Reach Out to a Stranger
Is there a business owner that fascinates you? Or maybe a profile of someone influential in a trade magazine that interests you? Try reaching out to them! Ask for their time in the easiest way for them possible and build the relationship from there.
Volunteer Your Time
Not only does volunteering mean helping out a good cause, but it can be a great way to network. You meet volunteers of all ages – from students to retirees; providing a variety of insight. Additionally, if they are dedicating themselves to the same cause as you, there’s already some common ground in that relationship. Even if you don’t meet a mentor while volunteering, your service can provide a small boost to your business’ reputation.
Women and Other Minorities
Both Women’s Business Centers and the Minority Business Development Agency can be great sources for mentors provided specifically to those qualified. These centers want to help these small business owners succeed, so take advantage of their help.
You may already know your business mentor – don’t neglect to discover what your loved ones have to offer. If they aren’t the right fit, check your contacts list; one of them may have a relative or friend with some expertise. That contact can make an introduction.
A little vague, but you can meet a mentor anywhere doing anything. Being open and willing to meet and talk to new people can mean stumbling upon the perfect mentor. Even something as simple as an elevator ride can mean an important connection, so regularly introduce yourself and strike up conversation; you never know where it will lead.
Pay for a Mentor
If you can’t find expertise for free, there are plenty of consultants willing to offer up what they know… for a fee. You can find expertise in a variety of business functions this way. They’re also a great option when you don’t have time to invest in cultivating an organic mentor-mentee relationship. Depending on the consultant, the cost for their time may be well worth the investment.
Be Open to Introductions
Mentors can be found anywhere. Search the network you have, regularly introduce yourself to new people, visit local small business centers; you never know where you’ll meet the mentor that can change the course of your business.