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Mentoring: vital support for young entrepreneurs to fulfil their potential

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Young people are a critical resource. However, over 64 million young people are unemployed around the world and, of those that are working, many are not earning enough to lift themselves out of poverty. This means that their potential is not being realised.

Supporting young people to become entrepreneurs is an important part of tackling this global challenge. Successful young entrepreneurs create jobs, strengthen communities and shape local economies. Young people with entrepreneurship skills are better equipped to navigate today’s rapidly changing world of work.

However, the journey to becoming an entrepreneur is tough. Young entrepreneurs need not only business skills but sector specific knowledge and skills, and “soft” skills such as complex problem-solving, resilience and adaptability. To be successful they also need networks, finances and access to markets. 

A good mentoring relationship can be the difference between business success and failure. It is key to the holistic package of support that YBI’s global network provides to young people. We have developed mentoring programmes in over 40 countries and built a network of over 14,000 volunteer, business mentors providing one-to-one, personalised support.

Evidence consistently demonstrates that mentoring has a positive impact on both mentees and their businesses. Furthermore, recent research commissioned by YBI found that mentoring played an important, accelerator role – young entrepreneurs supported by YBI members consistently reported that their businesses would not have made the progress they did at the speed they did without mentoring support. 

Of course, it is not only young mentees and their businesses that benefit from mentoring but mentors too. Moses is a mentor working on a programme run by YBI member Enterprise Uganda. He reflects, “being a mentor has helped my communication and listening skills, as well as my capacity for self-reflection”.

So, what is it about mentoring that works? A mentor can offer valuable insight and encouragement tailored to individual needs – supporting good decision-making. Sandra runs Online Traductores, supported by Youth Business Spain. She notes, “it’s great to have an expert on hand to discuss solutions to problems as and when they appear”. Working closely with a young person over an extended period means that a mentor can help them build their confidence and self-belief. A mentor can also help to establish networks, connecting their mentee to people and opportunities. 

According to Jo Gray, YBI’s Director of Programme Delivery, “the powerful dynamic between a mentor and mentee is the driving force behind the success of mentoring”. The nature of the commitment in a mentoring relationship is unique. Accountability for achieving set goals sits with the mentee. However, while they do not want to let their mentor down, they know it will not impact on them directly. Ultimately, this creates the right conditions for personal responsibility to take hold and embed. 

If you are a young person looking for support to start or grow a business in England and Scotland, visit YBI member Virgin StartUp. All funded businesses get exclusive access to a 12 month post-funding programme which includes: 6 months of 1-1 business mentoring, webinars, networking events and exclusive opportunities within the Virgin Group. If you live elsewhere and are looking for mentoring support or to become a mentor, see here if there is a YBI member that might be able to help.

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