I recently sat down with a group of women who identified as freelancers, side hustlers, and founders and asked them to raise their hands if they had a mentor. The majority of the group winced while a few semi-raised their hands suggesting “maybe?” at best.
Mentorship is a fundamental principle at the core of what we do at IFundWomen. We are on a mission to drive funding into the hands for female founders and while 72% of women cite the lack of access to capital and cash flow as one of their top challenges, it’s about more than just the funding.
I asked the “maybe” group of women who their mentors were and got a mix of former bosses and relatives. They shared that while these types of mentors offer years of experience and expertise, the support was lacking relevance to their current entrepreneurship journey. They each had experience in something, but it wasn’t the right thing.
It's almost 2020 and mentorship needs a rebrand. It’s no longer about finding that one mentor who will guide you the whole way through. It’s about strategically creating a committee of mentors who can support you on the wide array of obstacles you will face throughout your entrepreneurship journey. But how do you start to cultivate your team of mentors?
Find your tribe - both virtual, and in real life. There are a number of growing communities that are designed to bring you together with a diverse group of women with a common mission. We recently teamed up with Girlboss, a platform dedicated to redefining success for women in progress, providing the tools, resources, and community to help them advance. Members of the Girlboss community have raised over $700K on IFundWomen and we are offering exclusive coaching opportunities to their community so that they can launch and grow better businesses with the support of start-up experts. These are the kinds of opportunities a community will bring to you.
Look to your peers: When I asked the group of women I met with if anyone had a mentor that was younger than them, not a single person raised their hand. That is a huge missed opportunity in a very quickly evolving workforce where skillset demands are changing overnight. Someone may only have 6 months of experience doing the task you have at hand, but that’s 6 months more experience than what you currently have.
Be specific in your ask - and respectful of your mentor’s time. Directness is key. Make sure you are easily able to articulate exactly where you currently are and ask the one question that aligns with the reason you sought out their assistance. If your question requires more than 10 minutes of typing, then don’t ask over email or text. If you are having a phone call or coffee, plan to spend 30 minutes or less on your problem.
Be prepared to give as much as you take. What are you able to do to give back to your mentor or community? Consider your own superpowers - when a friend calls you up and asks you for a favor, what do they usually ask you for? What are the kind of things that get you jazzed up at the end of the day because you find them fun and easy? These might not seem important to you - but they could be the things that other people need help with.
Invest in yourself. If entrepreneurship or your personal growth is your top priority for the year, then your hours and spending patterns should reflect that. Our time and money are our most precious resources and where you spend them is where you will grow. If you are ready to make the commitment consider volunteering for a community, dedicating time each day to respond to people’s asks online (such as Girlboss’ message board or the IFundWomen Slack network), enrolling in a co-working space, taking courses/workshops or investing in private coaching. FYI - IFundWomen’s on-demand coaching program puts you a phone call away from a team of experts in their fields right when you need it.
The path to successful female entrepreneurship is being paved right now. There’s never been a better time to be a female founder thanks to communities, co-working spaces, accelerator programs, funding platforms and more - and we see mentorship playing a large role in your success. Get started now.