Every business owner should have access to a mentor. A mentor is someone who has been there and done that and can share their knowledge with you regularly. A business mentor can be a great resource when starting or growing your business in a down market. A mentor with experience in business management can provide valuable guidance and a sounding board to help you test new ideas or solve business problems.
Many options are available today to find mentorship for your business at no or very low cost.
Public Mentoring Agencies
For example, the SCORE Counselors for America’s Small Business (SCORE) has existed for more than forty-five years and provides access to more than 12,000 volunteer mentors across the United States. These mentors offer their expertise in mentoring across more than 600 business disciplines. A SCORE mentor can be contacted by email, face-to-face, or both. Many SCORE Chapters provide detailed profiles of every volunteer mentor. This allows you to review the mentor best suits your business needs and interests.
Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) across the United States offer free mentorship to entrepreneurs. SBDCs are available through state economic development agencies and academic institutions. SBDCs offer no-cost consultation and low-cost training in many business disciplines.
Corporate Volunteer Mentors
Many corporations offer the opportunity for employees to volunteer their time as mentors to people looking to start or grow their businesses. This type of mentoring can be especially useful if the volunteer mentor has access to an industry-specific network and certain technology solutions that could help the up-and-coming entrepreneur tap new markets. MicroMentor is a non-profit agency that offers free mentoring for business owners. MicroMentor allows you to search for mentors available and connect with multiple mentors to help your venture grow.
Special Interest Mentors
Mentoring relationships can also be offered for special interest groups such as veterans, women, and people with disabilities. These mentoring resources are often available for free. Many special interest associations provide mentorship and other resources for entrepreneurs.
American Corporate Partners (ACP) is a non-profit organization providing veterans with free mentoring and career counseling. The volunteers are from universities and corporations. ACP supports veterans interested in starting their businesses through mentor skills and business mentoring. The Office of Veterans Business Development (OVBD), which hosts a Veterans Business Outreach Program, provides veterans with mentor services on-site. This program assists with financial planning and management. You can access OVBD by visiting the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) website and choosing Veteran Business Outreach Centres from the dropdown menu.
Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) are business mentors focusing on women entrepreneurs. WBCs, like OVBD, SCORE, and SBDCs, is partially funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration. WBCs can be accessed through the Office of Women’s Business Ownership on the U.S. SBA website. Click on the Local Resources option and choose Women’s, Business Centers.
The Minority Business Development Agency, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, facilitates mentoring for diverse minority-owned business interests. The MBDA is America’s only federal agency that supports minority-owned businesses. MBDA provides referrals to mentors via over 40 Minority Business Development Centers (MBDCs) free of cost. It also offers business support services for a nominal fee.
Individuals with disabilities can access mentorship and other entrepreneurial development services through state-based vocational rehabilitation programs, typically administered by the state Department of Education. Mentoring guidance is designed to assist individuals with mental or physical disabilities to become more independent through self-employment, venture creation, and employment. You can search Google for vocational rehabilitation and then enter the name of your state to find out where you might be able to connect with mentor services.
The Right Fit
Working with a mentor is a great way to get the most out of your volunteer business. Finding the right mentor at the right time and for the right reasons is important. Mentoring relationships that provide structured and unstructured business guidance in line with your interests and needs are more likely to yield the highest return on your time and effort.
There are thousands of free government and non-profit business assistance programs across the United States. This means you don’t have to do everything when starting, growing, and succeeding with your business.