Running a small home business (that hopefully grows into a large business!) is a dream many people share. However, not all people with this dream pursue it.
There are many reasons this is the case, but many people feel they lack the knowledge and experience they would need to build a strong business, and they don’t know where to turn for help.
Luckily, there are many resources available to budding entrepreneurs interested in developing their knowledge and talents. In particular, a mentor can serve as one of the most valuable sources of support and advice for new entrepreneurs. A mentor who has built their own business can share their expertise, answer your questions, offer feedback, provide encouragement, and generally assist you during the early stages of growing your business.
But what do you do if you don’t know any successful business owners who would be willing to act as your mentor? How do you meet people who would be willing to mentor you? The following tips can help you find a mentor who will help you launch and grow your business.
Attend Networking Events
It’s important to understand that you shouldn’t think of your business mentor simply as a resource to help you achieve your goals. You can only benefit from mentorship in the long run if you have a genuine relationship with the person helping you grow your business.
Start your mentor search by attending networking events. Trade shows, conferences, professional organizations, university alumni groups, events hosted by local business incubators, and small business development centers (SBDCs) all offer great opportunities for networking. Don’t try to find a mentor right away at these events. Instead, focus on meeting people and developing relationships with them.
Volunteering is another good strategy for finding a mentor, particularly if you volunteer with an organization that’s related to your field. Even if you volunteer with an organization outside your field, you’ll still meet plenty of people from many walks of life, all of whom can teach you something new and expand your personal network. And of course, you’ll also be giving back to your community.
Use Online Resources
If you’re only looking to pick up a specific skill, consider that you might not need a mentor for that purpose. There are plenty of learning resources available to you online, including sites like Study.com, Udemy, Khan Academy, and others. Community colleges and university extensions often offer online classes as well.
However, the internet is also your friend when you’re seeking a mentor. Online services such as MicroMentor and SCORE mentoring are designed specifically to connect business mentors with mentees. You may also want to try looking for local groups on Meetup focused on careers and business networking.
Ask Friends & Family
This probably seems obvious to you. Of course, if you already know someone who has successfully grown a business, you would have likely asked them to serve as your mentor already.
However, even if none of your friends and family members have ever owned a business, they might know someone else who has. There’s a good chance one of your friends is also friends with a business owner, and you just weren’t aware of it. So if you ask your friends and family if they know anyone who could serve as your mentor, they may be able to set up a meeting with someone.
This point underscores an important truth about networking: even if a connection can’t directly help you, they can probably put you in touch with people who can. Increasing your primary connections exponentially increases your secondary connections and your odds of finding the help you need.
Contact Owners of Similar Businesses
You obviously don’t want to look for a mentor who owns a business that would compete with yours. There’s little chance they’d be willing to help you out.
That said, you might consider looking for businesses that are somewhat similar to yours, but not direct competitors.
For instance, perhaps you want to start your own graphic design business. If you’re looking for a mentor, you could research similar creative businesses in your area to find a mentor. Because the nature of their work is similar to yours, but not similar enough to make them a competitor, you might reach out to the owners of these businesses to ask if they’d like to take you on as a mentee.
An Essential Point to Keep in Mind
As the above tips illustrate, finding a business mentor doesn’t need to be as difficult as you might assume. However, you do need to remember a key point when developing this type of relationship: the relationship also needs to be valuable for your mentor.
There are plenty of instances when mentors simply enjoy the rewarding experience of helping someone grow a business. However, even if your mentor is helping you for altruistic reasons, you should still ask yourself how you can help them. Maybe you have a different form of expertise they lack. As they mentor you in business, you could mentor them in another area. Maybe you could introduce them to a helpful connection, or you could provide your business’ product or service to them free of charge.