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Need Advice? Get a Mentor!

Web sites and tips to help you find a mentor and get the most out of the relationship

(YoungBiz.com) - Every entrepreneur needs someone to turn to for advice, no matter how many rungs up the ladder of success you've climbed. Owning your own business, after all, is a journey, not a destination. And that's a fact that hasn't slipped past 'trep K-K Gregory.

The 19-year-old's journey began nearly a decade ago, when she invented Wristies, a fleece warmer worn between a coat and gloves to keep the snow out, and opened her own business. Since then, Gregory has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show and, more recently, the Ananda Lewis Show. Wristies are now sold in stores around the country and on the Web at www.wristies.com.

Learn More
Find out more about getting the most out of a mentor relationship in "You're My Idol."

Along the way, as her business grew from the samples she made for her Girl Scout troop to the 2,700 pairs she sold in just six minutes on the QVC channel, Gregory has needed plenty of business advice. That's when she turned to her own in-house advisor and mentor: her mom, Sue.

K-K says her mentoring relationship has been key to her success. "If you ever have an idea, find somebody to work with who believes in it," she says. "It's really hard to do it by yourself, especially for young people, because it's not easy to get people to take you seriously. When you've found that person, go for it!"

If you don't know someone who can act as a mentor to you, how do you go about finding one? Relax. It's not as hard as it might seem. Here are a few resources to get you started.

Go Online First
There are many business sites to turn to on the Web for help in finding a mentor, but if you want personalized service free of charge, check these out first:

  • SCORE: While the Small Business Administration may be the granddaddy of all business sites, it's SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives), one of the SBA's resource partners, that offers 'treps help from those who've actually been there. SCORE boasts more than 11,500 volunteers, 900 of whom are e-mail counselors. The service is free and confidential, and users can choose the mentor they want to talk to after viewing a list that includes the mentors' names and brief bios. The site also offers how-to articles and success stories, and 'treps can locate a SCORE chapter in their area for one-on-one meetings.
  • Entrebiz: A Web site that bills itself as the "online entrepreneurial resource center," Entrebiz offers chat rooms, message boards and business advice in more than 50 categories. The site offers speeches in audio versions or downloadable forms, software, books and hundreds of business forms. 'Treps can also post profiles and descriptions of their services to potential buyers or auction their products.
  • EntreWorld.org: A comprehensive Web site, whether 'treps are just starting out or have been in business for years. Entreworld offers live daily webcasts with well-known entrepreneurs; links to the Kauffman Business EKG, where 'treps can assess their company's financial vital signs; a free e-mail newsletter; tutorials; quizzes; as well as areas for starting a business, growing a business, supporting entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship.
  • International Small Business Consortium: This organization offers Scuttlebutt, a moderated business discussion group, as well as a list of other helpful business sites.

Working With Your Mentor
Making the connection is just the first step. Once you hook up with a mentor, whether online or in person, there are several ways to get the most out of the relationship:

  • Be dependable. Keep in mind that your mentor is doing you a favor. Even if the mentor is retired (as are all of the volunteers at SCORE), his or her time is valuable, and mentoring is an added responsibility he or she has agreed to take on. Whether you meet with your mentor online or in person, always be on time.
  • Be inquisitive. Your relationship with your mentor is a two-way street. Spend a few minutes before your meetings to jot down some thoughts about what you hope to gain from the relationship as well as any questions you have.
  • Be open. You may not always like what you hear from your mentor, but learning to accept criticism and being open to handling aspects of business in a different manner are part of the journey.
  • Be willing to have more than one mentor. Mentors have specialties and may not be able to help you with every challenge you face in your business, but they may be able to suggest others who can offer advice with a particular problem.

Along the way, keep in mind that asking for advice is never a sign of weakness. On the contrary, it's the 'treps who reach out for advice who have the greatest advantage in business.

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