Entrepreneurship requires a constant desire to learn and grow. Where’s the best place to turn? Look towards those with the most experience: the women who built their own companies and brought them to scale. Mentors can make a huge difference in the lives of female entrepreneurs, but developing that relationship can feel daunting.
How do you start? Read on to learn practical tips from both mentors and mentees on where to look, how to approach a potential mentor and what your mentoring mindset should be.
Where to find mentors
- Resources from your city’s Chamber of Commerce
- Industry-specific business associations (tech, marketing, coaching, etc.)
- Employer programs
- Alumni associations
- Conferences and events
- Social media (LinkedIn in particular)
- Industry Facebook groups
- Mastermind groups
Starting the conversation with a mentor
Lauren Mabra, Founder, Lauren Labeled
When reaching out to mentors, I was specific about what I needed help with. I didn’t include statements like “let me pick your brain.” I kept my outreach short and concise but showed them that I was putting the work in and doing my own research.
State who you are, what you do and what you need help with. If you need help with starting your business, dive deeper than that. Ask if there’s something they wish they had known when they were first getting into business. Or you could ask for the go-to resources they use when they’re dealing with the lows and self-doubt of entrepreneurship.
Kiara Santos, Esq. Founder, Santos Legal Group
I mentor other women. The mentees I have had thus far have directly reached out to me and asked me for my opinion and guidance on several different topics. This includes coaching on actually opening up their own law firm. Most of the connections came from social media, although some come from colleagues in my same network.
There are a few reasons why I decided to mentor the specific women who reached out to me. It was because either I knew them or they were specific with what they were looking for. If someone connects without a real clear vision or goal, then I don’t mentor that person. Instead, I just give them a general one-time response to their inquiry.
Mentorship takes a lot of time. If I feel the person isn’t truly invested in their own growth, I won’t be willing to share my time. I would advise anyone looking for a mentor to be very clear on your objectives and to also try to make a soft introduction whenever possible. Connect with the person and try to genuinely interact with them before asking them to be your mentor. Organic relationships are always better and most beneficial for both the mentor and mentee.
Lindsey Wigfield, Owner & CEO, Sweet Home Marketing
I found a mentor through mutual connections on LinkedIn. We scheduled a phone introduction to discuss if we were a good fit for doing business together, and it turned into so much more. The conversation flowed naturally. I immediately knew we were a good fit for each other. We bonded over the mutual experiences that most female entrepreneurs go through, including things like pricing your services and when to hire help.
My advice for finding a mentor would be to be open-minded about where you look. Perhaps it’s someone who’s already an acquaintance. When you find someone who energizes you and is a positive influence, don’t let her go! Make an effort to stay in touch regularly so that you continue to grow together.
Kathleen Ahmmed, Co-Founder, USCarJunker
When we first launched our automotive business, it was rather intimidating to dive into an industry that is predominantly led by men. But I was very determined to find a mentor who could help me navigate through it. It was at that time that there were also a number of local car shows and networking events taking place in the city, so it just meant making an effort to attend some of them. From there, we took our time to expand our contact list by meeting people. We also asked for advice from speakers and attendees who were either in charge of leading companies or running similar businesses like ours in other locations.
You’d actually be surprised at how most people tend to be flattered by a request for advice. After that, it can often be easy to promote dialogue and build a relationship. In fact, it wasn’t too long before we managed to connect with one particular serial entrepreneur. We kept crossing paths with him at different events, and he was kind enough to agree to guide us through some of the initial stages of our business growth. It’s been two years since we met. I still rely on him for advice whenever I find myself facing a wall.
More practical tips for mentorship
Helena Lucia, Founder & CEO, SISU Journey
One of the things I make a habit of doing is setting up a recurring meeting (once or twice a month) with a new relationship that feels like it could be a good peer collaboration or mentorship relationship. Periodically, I check in with myself and the other person to ensure that the commitment is still working in our favor and that the time and energy spent are still serving us.
Maria A. McDowell, Founder, EasySearchPeople
There’s an old saying that you don’t know what you don’t know. Entrepreneurs are no different, which is why it’s important to have a mentor. A mentor can help entrepreneurs ease into the world of business, making it easier to succeed.
Here are some tips on finding a mentor:
- Try to find someone who has been doing what you want to do for a while.
- Reach out on social media sites such as LinkedIn.
- Reach out to your community for recommendations.
- Join networking clubs and attend events.
- Call local businesses and ask!
- Offer to help another business for free in exchange for a little bit of mentorship and guidance.
Marina Vaamonde, Owner & Founder, HouseCashin
I made the connection through a monthly meetup for female entrepreneurs in Houston that I helped organize. I realized that the best way to find a mentor was through my network, which meant that I had to work on aggressively building and expanding it.
There was also a monthly meetup I organized for female entrepreneurs to network and share resources and one day I talked to a lady I really admired. Instead of asking her to be my mentor, though, I asked her if there was anything I could do to help her.
Coincidentally, she needed help managing a property she owned, which is my expertise, of course. I helped her and she offered to return the favor and help me in some way. I told her that I needed a mentor and based on her incredible career experience and background, I thought she would be the perfect fit.
Years later, she’s still my mentor!
Develop the proper mindset
Helena Lucia, Founder & CEO, SISU Journey
My favorite philosophy that I have been subscribing to recently is to find someone who is where you want to be in five years. Then learn directly from them. An informal way to receive mentoring from them might be to follow them online, read what they’ve written and listen to their interviews. If they have books, buy them and read them. Reading someone’s books over a course of years is a great way to get an inside look at their growth process.
If they’re accessible to you, reach out to them and start providing value to them. See if you can forge a relationship that way before you ask them to mentor you. But definitely don’t be afraid to ask for what you need at some point.
Recently, I heard a great piece of advice. She said, “Tell everyone your dreams.” If you want to do something amazing, find someone who has done it and ask them how they did it. We are all in this together.
Sarah Salisott, Certified Parent Coach & Owner, The Foster Lane
The real work happens in between meetings with your mentor. I use my mentor as a mirror to reflect back to me the goals that I have and as an accountability partner to ensure that I am making progress on those goals. I feel like you absolutely get out of a mentorship what you put into it.
Sasha Laghonh, Founder, Sasha Talks
Most mentors don’t have a label on their forehead stating that they’re open to mentoring. It’s important to remain sensible if you’re seeking mentorship by remaining open to opportunities. Once you make a decision to mentor or to be mentored, be honest with yourself. Are you willing to make the investment? Time is valuable on all ends. Remember: mentors are critical of who they choose to mentor, the same as mentees who want to engage with the best contacts in their development journey.
Kristina Witmer, President, Witmer Group
Prior to starting Witmer Group, I had a challenging business partnership. Around that time, I started a small lunch group with five other successful entrepreneurs or executive women in business. My goal was to hear from women in different industries but also have a trusted place where I could share my own journey, frustrations and successes. Whether it’s a single mentor relationship or a small group, the most important factor is trust. For me, being able to share the nuances of navigating life as a woman in business made me feel that I was stronger, among friends and going to be just fine no matter what.
Christine McKay, CEO, Venn Negotiation
I actively mentor women who are early in their careers. My mentee, Anika, lives in the UK. We met when I was speaking at an event for students late in their secondary education or early in their university experience. I made an open offer to all of the 100+ attendees, inviting them to connect with me on LinkedIn and to schedule an appointment if they were interested in talking to me about mentoring.
Anika is the only person who contacted me. We’ve worked together for nearly a year now. I help her think through which companies are most appealing to her, assist her with interview preparation, give her access to my network and include her in the events I am involved with in the UK so that she can further her experience and her own network. We also talk about things that are more personal, including family relationships impacting her life right now.
I appreciate that Anika acted on my invitation to be a mentor. She showed initiative and drive, while the other participants with the same invitation did not. She’ll achieve much in her life and career. I value our mentoring relationship and am constantly learning with her as we continue our journey.
My advice: say “yes” to mentorship opportunities when they present themselves, whether as a mentor or a mentee. Manage boundaries, but say “yes” more often!