How Women Entrepreneurs Can Find Women Mentors
To run a successful small business, along with properly protecting your business with small-business insurance, it helps to learn from another successful business owner. For female entrepreneurs, it can be challenging to find a mentor who understands the unique challenges faced by women in the business world. Finding a role model is key for those women who are ready to grow their small businesses and become successful entrepreneurs.
The importance of a business mentor.
A female business mentor can be advantageous for a number of reasons. First, a successful woman entrepreneur can be an excellent role model. It is hard to achieve what can’t be seen, so it is important to see and recognize female leaders who have established themselves as entrepreneurs. A female mentor can also offer advice about how to navigate business relationships and management as a woman.
Men, even when they are hugely successful, face different challenges than women. Male entrepreneurs might not have to worry about being taken seriously when hiring staff, for example, but that could be a serious issue for women running their own small businesses.
A female mentor is also a fantastic networking tool. Networking is a way to grow a business and make new contacts. By establishing a relationship with a female business mentor, you can expand your list of contacts to include professionals who have already proven to work well with female business leaders.
Decide what you want from a mentor/mentee relationship.
Before reaching out to a potential female mentor, take time to determine what you would like to get out of a mentor/mentee relationship. This process can help in two key ways. First, it makes it easier for you to choose the right female mentor. Second, it can create a plan of action once the relationship is established. Ultimately, what you want to get out of a relationship with a female business mentor can depend on you, your business and your personal experience.
Some women may want to learn as much as possible about a specific industry. Others, however, may want to know how to successfully balance being a parent, a spouse and a business owner at the same time.
Searching for 'Ms. Right.'
Next, it is time to begin the search for a short list of potential female business mentors. You might already have someone in mind, which makes this step much simpler. If you aren’t sure where to start, do some research to find women in the same industry that you’re currently in.
If you have a business that does internet retail sales, for example, look for someone in the same arena. Another approach is to plot out your ideal career trajectory. What’s the next step you would like to take in your business venture? This could be establishing a brick-and-mortar retail shop or creating a franchise. Whatever the next goal is, look for a female business mentor who has achieved that goal. That way, she can guide you through the process, and she will have firsthand experience in the area you need it most.
It is OK to have a short list of potential female entrepreneurs to work with in a mentoring relationship. Not all of the women you approach will be interested or have the time, but with a few choices, there is a greater chance of finding the right fit.
Establishing a relationship.
With one or two potential mentors in mind, it is time to establish a relationship. In some cases, women may already have a social or working relationship with their desired mentors. However, you don’t need to know someone in advance for her to make a great mentor. In fact, some mentors and mentees live in different cities, and they communicate primarily through email or over the phone. It helps to be up front when establishing a relationship.
Explain to the female entrepreneur why you respect her and why you would like to learn from her. Many women are proud to share what they have learned so that it can help others. While a few well-placed compliments are fine, don’t gush or be overwhelming. It is important to retain a sense of professionalism and set the tone for a working, business-oriented relationship.
Maintain the relationship.
One of the biggest problems women face when establishing relationships with female business mentors is a lack of follow-through. Don’t just ask a female entrepreneur whether she can mentor you. Follow up with regular communication in order to maintain the relationship. This takes the burden off the mentor.
Successful women entrepreneurs are busy, so daily calls are unlikely. However, take time to email, send a text message or leave a voicemail with specific questions. Instead of leaving things open-ended, a clear request will help professional women know what you’re after. If a few requests go by without an answer, don’t give up. Rather than asking questions, keep your mentor informed on your own successes and progress.
The more she feels invested in your business, the more she will want to help you grow and succeed when she has the time.
Giving back in the world of female entrepreneurship.
Many small-business owners want to have female mentors to help them grow. However, far fewer women realize that they could be mentors themselves. Keep the cycle of female empowerment going by sharing what you learn with others. Even women with brand-new small businesses can help other women establish new companies. Being a mentor to a young woman can also help teens explore new career avenues and not feel limited by gender.
Having a business mentor can be a savvy way to learn more about owning a business and succeeding in a competitive market. As a female entrepreneur, having a female business mentor brings many benefits and can be a great source of knowledge, support and encouragement.
A version of this article first appeared on Hiscox.com.