Journal of Business: Helping mentors, startups mingle

Journal of Business: Helping mentors, startups mingle

Monday, August 22, 2016

Editors Notebook: Helping mentors, startups mingle

One of the roles I’ve filled for the Journal in recent years has involved interviewing business owners and community leaders for question-and-answer articles.

Those stories give us an opportunity to provide insight into a source’s journey, through his or her own words.

One common thread in those pieces is the mention of mentors. Some don’t use that word, but nearly all talk about someone early in their careers who helped them find their professional path.

That, coupled with my own experiences in the workplace, made me glad to hear about a planned new program through Greater Spokane Incorporated’s Startup Spokane, called the Startup Spokane Mentor Connect Program.

With that initiative, Startup Spokane plans to connect business and industry professionals with entrepreneurs, the simple idea being that those who have been successful can share insights with those who are just getting started.

As Startup Spokane points out in its literature about the program, the first year is a critical time in the life of a company, and the organization is working to ensure that those young concerns can access key resources and get advice that can help them to be successful.

Meagan Garrett, interim entrepreneurship program manager at Startup Spokane, says the organization plans to host its first Mentor Mingle event in October. During that event, budding businesspeople will be give one-minute pitches on their business—or business idea—and what kind of help they’re looking for from a mentor. Ideally, she says, those entrepreneurs will leave the event with a mentor.

Currently, the organization plans on hosting two such Mentor Mingle events a year, she says.

Beyond the events, Startup Spokane hopes to compile a list of willing mentors that it can pair with startups as the need arises.

Startup Spokane has put out the first feelers on the event and is pleased with the response, she says. Fifteen potential mentors have stepped forward, saying they’re willing to help entrepreneurs.

However, she says she’d like to find more businesspeople to participate in the program. Between two and five startups contact the organization seeking assistance in a typical week, Garrett says, and she suspects the demand in the market for mentors is great.

“We want to build out an extensive network of mentors,” she says. “We want them to know they have this resource available.”

She adds, “This is a critical component. We’ve seen it move the dial.”

Based on the stories I’ve heard—and the experiences I’ve had in my own career—many professionals are generous with their time and insights when connected with a person new to the business world. An initiative such as Mentor Connect likely will benefit a number of young companies and become a rewarding experience for those willing to help.

People involved in startups talk a lot about creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem. A big part of that could be to bring along business owners who understand the importance of helping those who come after them. The new program could be a big step in that direction.

To view the article on the Spokane Journal of Business website, click here.