For new entrepreneurs and small business owners, the value of a great mentor is immeasurable. A business mentor can:

  • Share their hard-won experience and business savvy

  • Act as a sounding board for new ideas

  • Help shorten your learning curve and avoid common mistakes

  • Suggest ways to generate startup capital

  • Recognize potential pitfalls and red flags

  • Potentially help open doors and make connections

  • Share knowledge on specific areas of expertise, like marketing or operations

  • Encourage you on your entrepreneurial journey

There are benefits for the mentors as well. Mentoring offers a chance to give back and share valuable knowledge. Mentors can gain fresh points-of-view and an energizing dose of enthusiasm from new go-gotter entrepreneurs. For retired leaders and executives, mentoring is an outstanding way to stay involved in the business world while still enjoying a well-earned retirement.

Ideas for Finding a Business Mentor

1. Look to your own circle.

Do you have a family member or family friend who is successful in business? How about someone at a non-profit you volunteer with, a civic group you’re part of, or a place of worship? These connections are the easiest to make, as you already have something in common.

2. Become part of your local business community.

Attend networking events and join professional associations and organizations. As you build connections, a mentoring relationship may very well result.

3. Consider reaching out to entrepreneurs, innovators, founders, executives and other business leaders you admire.

Industry events, trade publications and business profiles in newspapers are sources of potential mentors who may be a good match.

Before reaching out, do your research into their company and background. Then, depending on their accessibility, you can call or reach out through email or LinkedIn. Briefly introduce yourself, what your startup is doing, and your reason for reaching out. Be specific, make it relevant to them, and make it easy for them to help.

Ask if you can schedule a call (or meeting if appropriate and feasible) so you can ask some questions or generally pick their brain. If you’re going to be attending the same upcoming industry event, this is even easier—simply ask for a quick coffee meeting. The worst that can happen is that they overlook your request or say no.

If your first call or meeting goes well, you can suggest a future call or meeting. Over time, if they seem receptive and schedules allow, you can broach the idea of a continuing mentoring relationship.

Even if this doesn’t happen, the small amount of time from one meeting is golden. You may just learn something that will revolutionize your approach to your business.

Mentoring Programs & Resources

There are several nonprofit and government programs that help connect mentors and mentees, both in person and online.

  • SCORE: The Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) is a nonprofit association with over 300 chapters around the country. Experienced executives and business leaders volunteer their time as mentors to new entrepreneurs and small business owners, either online or in person. SCORE also offers training, workshops and resources for entrepreneur education.

  • MicroMentor: This free online service connects entrepreneurs and small business owners with mentors. Their goal is to help small businesses grow, thrive and employ more people.

  • The Small Business Administration’s Mentor-Protege Program enables successful firms to provide business development assistance to 8(a) BD Program Participants. The goal is to help these participants achieve entrepreneurial success and contribute to economic growth.

  • The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs runs a Mentor-Protege Program that pairs mentoring firms with small businesses owned by service-disabled veterans and other veteran-owned small businesses.

  • Women's Business Center: WBCs offer business counseling and training for women entrepreneurs. They operate nearly 100 educational centers across the country.

Contact one of these organizations to find a mentor or volunteer to be one!