My business – designing and sharing my creations with customers who enjoy them too – is in equal parts a joy and a challenge. Luckily, over the years I’ve been mentor and mentee, and I know mentoring is invaluable. I’m keen to share my experiences to encourage others to do it.
My first mentors – Mum and Dad
My parents are entrepreneurs who have had a variety of successful businesses – from a dairy to a ladies fashion boutique!
Their experience means lots of great advice on tap. I’ve benefited from the unique wisdom that accompanies age and experience. Of course, having mentors who know me as well as they do helps enormously.
Formal mentoring with The Key
Four years ago, pregnant with my first little boy, I met Christine McGrory. I loved her positivity and recruited her immediately as a business mentor.
Christine established her award-winning personal development business, The Key in 2010. The Key runs amazing weekend courses that teach people how to work out what they want from life and then how to make it happen, using the principles of the Law of Attraction. They also offer mentoring and work with businesses and young people. Christine’s approach has been hugely influential; even the Queen has recognised it!
She guided me through a challenging period of change in my business. We focused on specific issues and she really helped me determine what I wanted from it. My experience is in her new book, The Key Story Book – the profits from which are going to a charitable arm of the main business aiming to offer wider access to the courses. Essentially my experience with the Key course and mentoring was completely transformational and gave me the confidence, mindset and support I needed to take my business to the next level.
Cultural Enterprise and the benefits of being a mentor
I’ve now been a Flourish mentor for three years. Supporting someone at a critical stage in their business journey is lovely. ‘Flourish’ is a program run by the Cultural Enterprise Office. It’s unusual in that mentor and mentee are typically only 5-10 years apart in business stage, which means the mentor can still easily remember the challenges and issues the mentee might be having. I think It also makes both parties more relatable to the other and can foster a close and supportive relationship.
The value of proximity in business stage shouldn’t be underestimated. I once had mentoring that wasn’t right for the stage I was at. My first meeting with a very impressive guy at the end of a long illustrious career focused on money, exit strategy and my 20 year vision. All good stuff, but at that stage I needed to focus on a creative vision for my business, not a plan to exit it More importantly I wanted a career I would enjoy so much it didn’t feel like work – that was more important to me than the money stuff.
The way I mentor
Cultural Enterprise’s set up is great. It’s not about me telling the mentee what to do (thank goodness for them) It’s about having a near-peer to support and question them – sometimes playing devil’s advocate! I help them to make good decisions by themselves.
We set SMART objectives, focusing on the mentees issues and aims but these become a rough guide rather than a set-in-stone manifesto.
Circumstances can change quickly within small businesses. It’s good to be flexible with the agenda. Our meetings can reflect the specific support mentees need that day or week.
Mairi Helena and I
This year I’ve mentored designer and photographer Mairi Helena. As well as the above (and from a purely selfish position!) getting out for coffee and cake with her is lovely. Mairi is such a creative individual and hearing all about her business is fascinating! Her products are inspiring and it’s been an utter pleasure from start to finish.
Learning from mentees
I learn from my mentees; I always find that working with people from different backgrounds with varied skill-sets introduces new perspectives. Digging into the mentee’s problems, opportunities and goals can be a great reminder to get your own house in order!
I’ve learned that while making money is obviously essential in any business, for a lot of creative businesses enjoying the journey is what really counts.