I Mentored 45 Young Entrepreneurs in 2.5 years 👀: Here's What They Taught ME
Before I take you down memory lane, let's open this blog post with WHY mentorship is not only for the young.
I feel as we get older, we lose room to make mistakes, ask open-ended questions and look silly. Being mentored allows space for all of this, but adult mentorship is as rare as Chef Gordon Ramsay using his indoor voice.
Maturity doesn't immune us from bucking our toe at various stages in life.
We still require someone to support or sponsor our work and character to help propel us to the next level. I recently read a gem-packed article which touched on the importance of side to side mentorship via Media Mogul, Necole Kane of XONecole —you should skim through it once we're finished here. Mmmkay!
Now, WHY I decided to become a trusted advisor to 45 young entrepreneurs in the first place?!
Long answer: People have shown up for me at different ages of my life from recess to student loans. All unrequested but a blessing of direction, can I get an AMEN! The kind of sage direction that led me to my first dream job and to an all-expense-paid trip to Ghana, Africa. Yes, THAT happened, and it was one of the best experiences for my soul.
Short Answer: I'm paying it forward.
It was spring 2017 when I pitched my workshop services to different companies around the city. Although I didn't secure a project at the time, I eventually partnered with The Summer Company to become one of their mentors instead.
I pondered about the offer for 24 hrs.
1. Would I have the time to commit?
After-all I am running a full-time Copywriting business here, and It's a 12-week program with bi-weekly meetings.
2. Would what I have to share be beneficial?
Hello, imposter syndrome. Anything I undertake, I must add value. No matter how many courses, experience or education you possess —you still want to know "Am I the right fit for this?".
Survey says —I was.
Not because I was the only woman and youngest mentor in the room, I was also the only black one too. More than anything else, representation matters on all fronts because I didn't get to see —what I could be —when I was growing up. Had I did, I probably would have been a black Bill Gates in the making.
So what did these budding entrepreneurs teach me, you ask?
Figure Hard Stuff Out (Because Everything is Figure-out-able)
A round of speed mentoring was underway, where each mentee had an opportunity to talk with the mentors about their business.
This one girl shared with me her education path of studying to be a Computer Engineer (shoutout to girls who code). Building upon the rapport, I shared my journey, "That was the path I would have taken as well if math wasn't a prerequisite." I said. So I took the beaten path of social work instead.
She responded, "You could have gotten a tutor, as I did. It's not an easy program."
It made total sense.
Now, as a full-blown adult that figures hard stuff out all of the time, not as the 17-year-old who wanted things easy. Hands down, this oversight on my journey stunted my professional growth. It's incredibly vital to know/see anybody who took the road less travelled and can show you it would have been worth it.
Hello, future of technology, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN WORTH IT.
Where are you currently stuck? It could be as simple as hiring help.
Shamelessly Ask For Help, Especially When Stuck
There has been a lot of keen and ambitious mentees throughout the program; however, one stood out to me more by how persistent he was on pursuing solutions to a problem.
He had the best questions:
Should I charge by project or by the hour? (READ)
What should I outline in project contracts as a freelancer? (SEE)
How do I follow-up with customers without being annoying? (Download these scripts)
He knew what to ask to get him to the next stage. And that folks —is a skill!
Asking the right questions to pass GO and collect $200, in the game of Monopoly and life. Which, full disclosure, I hated that game because my sister always won. She would scoop up every property she landed on and own the block.
So what I'm saying is this, it's a good strategy for life and business.
Can you shamelessly ask for help when you get stuck?
Bet on Yourself, FIRST
I'm not going to lie to you, not every entrepreneur mentored went on to create a successful business —a few decided to win instead.
The most successful rising star I mentored came in knowing her niche, target audience, and the platform to reach them on. She hosted fashion-focused pop-ups in the city as a meet & greet to attract new customers and engage with existing ones. The best position I could play as her mentor was to be the biggest baddest cheerleader. In my rich Kris Jenner momager voice, "You're doing amazing, sweetie!"
Her game plan was to make contemporary fashion history accessible in Toronto. She did intense customer research, studied eBay engagement, minimized her shipping fees and, even took a flight to Japan to spark ideas of how to curate a full collection of rare and obscure fashion pieces.
BEFORE the validation, co-sign or recognition of her mission.
How often do you bet on yourself, first?
These young entrepreneurs became my Mr. Miyagi and taught me some valuable lessons —that ambition, determination and drive are only a slice of the entrepreneur pizza pie.
You also need to embrace the lesson in everything and adjust as you pass GO.