Different Types of Mentoring Available for Women Business Owners

Cathy Burrell July 20, 2022
Two women laughing

Mentoring is having a bit of a ‘moment’. Maybe you know a fellow business owner who has had a Mentor and you’re trying to decide if business Mentorship is right for you. 

I’ve volunteered as a One-to-One Mentor and I’ve led several Peer Mentoring Groups, and the experiences are completely different. So how do you choose the right one for you?

Here are some things to consider:

One-to-One Mentoring

What it looks like

In this type of Mentoring, a ‘seasoned’ entrepreneur is matched with an entrepreneur who has been in business for 1 to 5 years. 

The Mentor and Mentee meet via Zoom, telephone, or in person for an hour each month for six months. Each meeting has an agenda and a list of items to discuss. The meeting ends with a decision on the date and topic for next month’s meeting, and a list of to-do items.

The Mentee is responsible for setting the agenda, based on what she wants to talk about. Maybe she has a business challenge she has to manage or a business opportunity she wants to capitalize on. 

The Mentor is responsible to the Mentee to provide relevant information and resources, as well as providing a bird’s eye view of each challenge or opportunity. 

Why it works

A woman who has been in business for a year or more is BUSY! She’s following her business plan, working on her marketing plan, hiring staff, purchasing product, manufacturing, and/or providing a service multiple times a day. The Mentee may feel that every single thing on her to-do list is priority number one.

On the flipside, the Mentor has been there. 

She uses her experience to provide insight into what actions may be taken, and how the decision may impact the business, based on her own experience. The relationship is a two-way exchange of ideas and information as the Mentor answers questions, provides resources and acts as a sounding board. 

How you can benefit

One-to-One Mentoring can fast-track your business growth by helping you avoid the common mistakes that new business owners make. Your Mentor has the benefit of hindsight, so she can share the lessons she learned the hard way so you don’t have to. Many Mentors and Mentees stay in touch long after the program is complete, and are long-term Champions for each others’ success!

“I learned to stay focused on your numbers. Learn your messaging and how to target your market. I also learned to always prepare for meetings with your mentor, to stay organized, and really understand your numbers.”

Angela Saxena, Lav and Kush, Vancouver

Peer Mentoring Groups

What it looks like

A group of 6 to 8 women who have been in business from 1 to 5 years (Mentees) meet with a Peer Mentor Facilitator (the Mentor) who guides them through a structured process. 

The group meets regularly (weekly, bi-weekly or monthly) for two hours for six to eight sessions. Each month one woman is chosen to be ‘the Situation Owner’ and shares with the group some background on their business, as well as a specific business challenge or business opportunity that she would like the group to help her solve, and/or capitalize on. 

Why it works

These groups are all about the ‘Hive-Mind’. 

As the Peer Mentoring Facilitator, I share resources, and provide insights; however, it is the entire group that gives the individual Mentee their complete attention each month.

In my experience, the group acts as a collective, adding to the discussion by sharing their experience, and providing insights from a variety of industries. The groups are structured so that the six Mentees are non-competing. So if you own a hair salon, the other five Mentees may own a coffee shop, or manufacture fencing material, or specialize in destination weddings. 

The benefits of metaphorically walking in another woman’s stilettos or work-boots, cannot be overstated. Each participant has written a Business Plan, created a Cash Flow, and has a marketing strategy. Some Mentees may be leasing a commercial space, or may be running an online business. Your business opportunity or challenge may reflect another Mentee’s future opportunity or challenge. 

You may be strong with financial management and weak with social media marketing, while another woman may run a communications business and be weak in the financial side of her business. You can fill each others’ gaps with your areas of expertise, and gain a circle of support in the process. 

How you can benefit

In the groups I facilitated through the darkest days of the pandemic, the number of ‘light-bulb’ moments were staggering. Never underestimate the power of six women talking about business for an entire two hours smack dab in the middle of a crisis! The support and insight was incredible. 

I owned and operated a retail ladies clothing store for nearly 20 years. During that time, my husband was working for a large retail chain. We talked about business and retail all the time! The reality for most women in business, is that they don’t know many other women who own and operate a business.

The benefits of a Peer Mentoring Group is that you get two dedicated hours a month to work on your business with women who understand and with a facilitator who has perspective on opportunities and challenges, because she has experienced them.

“The women in our peer group were such a huge, huge help to us – I loved that time, I really did. I’ve learned so much I didn’t think I would.  It was great to see other women in business who were like us trying to learn, tying to make things better, trying to grow, it was awesome.”

Janelle Eftoda and Jessie Porter, Twisted Orchid Beauty Supply, Prince George 

The Difference Between a Mentor and Business Advisor

After reading this, you may be thinking ‘I just have a question, do I need to sign up for a whole program’? And the answer is ‘No.’ 

Sometimes you just need a referral to a government grant, or support to build your export plan, or a second set of eyes on your cash flow spreadsheet. In this case, a Business Advisor can assist with that.

At WeBC, our Advisory Services are free, and can be an easy option to get your business questions answered. You may even use both an Advisor and a Mentor!

In my opinion, you can never have too many sources of support—it takes a village to raise a business. So, One-to-One Mentoring or a Peer Mentoring group. Which one will you choose first?

About Cathy Burrell

Cathy Burrell is Client Service Support for WeBC and an entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience owning and operating a variety of businesses. She has a Master of Education degree from the University of Calgary, specializing in adult, community and higher education. Cathy believes COVID-19 highlighted the importance of clear communication, both online and offline. She currently helps clients develop their social, listening and critical thinking skills. Cathy works with busy business owners teaching digital literacy and communication education to give them insight into their digital customer base. Follow her on Twitter @CathyCavern

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