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Mentorship and Advice for Small Business Owners

Been There, Done That

Whether you are struggling to get a start-up off the ground or growing an established company, a mentor can help guide you through difficult periods of transition and transformation.

A mentor is an individual with practical experience, knowledge, or skills, who generously offers his or her advice to budding business owners.

Whether they bolster your network, connect your business with lenders and investors, or help you navigate around potential hazards, mentors seek to build a structured, mutually beneficial relationship with new small business owners.

What can a mentor do for you? That all depends. A mentor is a tool, and how effectively you utilize your mentor will determine how much value the relationship provides for your business.

Before you reach out to potential mentors, make a list of your personal and professional goals. Are you interested in finding a mentor with a particular skill? What do you expect from a mentor?

Ideally, a mentor will want to understand your vision, your passion, and your business goals. Your mentor is not a paid consultant. While a good mentor can help you find solutions to fit your particular needs, you should not expect a mentor to do all the heavy lifting. Be organized, prepared, and consistent. And, finally, be grateful!

How to Find a Mentor

1) Family and Friends: Ready to build a mentor-mentee relationship? Begin by looking close to home. Who do you know? Do you have a former boss or business partner with experience in the small business world?

Friends and family often offer business owners unsolicited “advice” that is of little value, but by digging deeper into your network, you might find an uncle or a cousin with skills and wisdom that can help you solve a problem.

 2) Government-Sponsored Mentor Organization: Through the SBA and SCORE, the government offers many free resources and services to support small business owners across the country. SCORE provides free, confidential counseling both online and in person.

The Small Business Administration’s Small Business Development Centers offer management assistance and financial counseling in all fifty states.

3) Trade Associations: Many trade associations organize mentorship programs for members. And unlike SCORE, trade associations typically seek to connect business owners with multiple mentors to provide a more holistic experience. This can be a great opportunity to build your network.

Plan your mentoring sessions in advance. Always come prepared with specific questions. Never dismiss your mentor’s insights out of hand. Keep an open mind and be flexible—you never know when a mentor might suggest a course of action that will help you take your business to the next level.


Marshall Walker Lee graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Michigan's Honors College with degrees in Writing and Philosophy. As a freelance writer and designer he has developed branding strategies and programming for J. Walter Thompson, Nike, the Kellogg Foundation, Spike TV, Sony Films, and General Motors. He is the co-founder and director of Poor Claudia, a 501(c)3 non-profit publishing enterprise based in Portland, Oregon.