How can mentoring help young entrepreneurs reach their potential

Written by Jo Gray, Head of Mentoring, Youth Business International

Young people are and always will be a critical resource. However, with 71 million young people currently unemployed globally, this big potential is not realised and in a rapidly evolving economic environment the very future of work appears to be changing. Supporting young people to become entrepreneurs, think entrepreneurially and acquire entrepreneurial skills is a powerful way to respond to these challenges.

As YBI launches its third annual Global Mentoring Masterclass in London with support from Accenture, it is the perfect time to reflect on why and how mentoring can support young entrepreneurs to reach their potential.

Why is mentoring important for a young entrepreneur?

“If you ask any successful person, they will always have had a great mentor at some point along the road.” – Sir Richard Branson

Entrepreneurs face many unique challenges:

  • Decision making: Strong decision making is crucial when starting and growing a business. However, when you are the business owner, it’s often hard to take a step back and make the important decisions which could mean failure or success.
  • Loneliness: Many entrepreneurs report that entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey. They often work long hours alone, with less time to spend with friends and family, shouldering the burdens of their business with little or no support.
  • Managing finances: Whether getting the money to start up, or carefully working with what they already have, sound financial management is critical to ensuring an entrepreneur’s business is sustainable.
  • Staying entrepreneurial: A great business idea is just the start. As a business takes off and new challenges arise, keeping that dream and vision alive can be a struggle.

How mentoring can help young entrepreneurs

Mentoring helps entrepreneurs to tackle these challenges. YBI is working on a research project with Middlesex University (The Impact of Volunteer Business Mentoring on Young Entrepreneurs) which has shown that mentoring support improves interpersonal communication, business management, confidence and self-esteem.

We also know that entrepreneurs desire mentors to help them to strengthen their businesses. Sage, who surveyed more than 11,000 small and medium-sized businesses in 17 countries across the world, have found that 93% of owners of small and medium sized businesses agree that mentoring can improve their chances of success.

 Srikanth Bolla and Jagan Mohan - mentoring

Srikanth Bolla (right) with his mentor Mr. Jagan Mohan

Mentoring is so effective because it provides entrepreneurs with:

  • Experience: Sometimes, you just don’t know what you don’t know. It is priceless to be able to draw on the experience of someone who understands the challenges involved in starting and growing a business, who can share wisdom and provide helpful insight and guidance.
  • Networking: Great mentors support young entrepreneurs to make connections. That doesn’t mean making connections for them, but identifying the right people, ideas and opportunities and giving them guidance on how to access them.
  • Encouragement: Entrepreneurs are often recognised for their grit and determination, but even the most resilient person benefits from a cheerleader at crucial times. It is invaluable for them to have someone who is on their side, a sounding board who pushes them to keep going through the tough times.

Having a mentor is a significant advantage and it can often make the difference between an entrepreneur giving up and them reaching their full potential. Take Sandra Letio, an entrepreneur supported by YBI member Enterprise Uganda, as an example:

 Sandra Letio

The Global Mentoring Masterclass

Over the past 9 years, YBI has supported 41 member organisations around the world to start, build or strengthen their mentoring programmes for young entrepreneurs. YBI’s community of mentoring practitioners is sector-leading, with over 14,000 volunteer business mentors who inspire and empower the young entrepreneurs they support to reach their personal and professional potential.

The third Global Mentoring Masterclass supported by Accenture, taking place in London from the 9th to the 13th of October, will mirror YBI’s approach to mentoring:

  • Building rapport of the group: The event offers participants the chance to develop key relationships with their peers, giving them support long after our week together ends.
  • Action planning: Mentoring at its best is a conversation with a purpose. We look to make our masterclass a week with purpose, enabling and encouraging people to take what they learn forward and use it to improve and develop their programmes.
  • Learning: We are a unique global community, and we at YBI are certain that there is not another occasion where a network of 34 mentoring programme managers, whose programmes are all based on similar understanding and approach, gather together for a week of learning.

The Mentoring Masterclass week will be a celebration of the breadth of diversity in YBI’s network, with 34 mentoring Programme Managers attending from across the YBI network: Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America and North America. As mentoring practitioners, we know about the potential for learning through our differences. This will represent an invaluable opportunity for us to embrace this diversity, reflect how far we have come as a network, and plan for the exciting future ahead.

It is a privilege to host this event and be a part of such a dynamic community whose mission is aligned in providing crucial support to young entrepreneurs.

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