Across personal finance blogs and in the self-improvement world, one of the most common pieces of advice is to find a mentor. A recent Lifehack article identifies the reasons a mentor is a must have as:
- Mentors Coach
- Mentors Motivate
- Mentors Challenge
- Mentors Protect
- Mentors Advise
Now you might be saying, as the teacher I am the mentor for all of my students. Of course you're not wrong. You absolutely do all of these things for every student you come across on a daily basis. But... the problem is you are typically stretched too thin to be an effective mentor for every Simple StartUp under your supervision.
Why not let this be a great learning opportunity for the future? Students can learn the value of finding a mentor to help them in a specific part of their life and then hopefully see the broader application too. For the Simple StartUp project, let’s pair them up with mentors in the business world!
I’m sure your next question is “where do I find these mentors you speak of?”. The answer - they are everywhere. You don’t need to get Bill Gates to pair up with a student (though how awesome would that be?!), but rather you are looking for local business owners or entrepreneurs in your network. They would need to be willing to pair up with a student business and either meet in person, communicate via phone, or video conference.
Look for local business, entrepreneurship, and enterprise groups in your area. A quick Google search should bring them up. Examples that are common across the US and world are: local Chambers of Commerce, branches of StartUp Grind, Small Business and Economic Development committees, College and University Entrepreneurship Incubators, and Innovation Centers. These are often networks of local business owners in an area who have a mission to help new businesses get started. Get in contact and see if they can rally a enough business owners to pair one to 1-3 of your Simple StartUp businesses. Ideally it’s 1-to-1 but we’ll take what we can get in the beginning.
The Simple StartUp Facebook Community is another great place to find virtual mentors for your students!
Check with your school for their policy on guest speakers. Make sure that they are running background checks on your mentors before they speak with students. Once you have you mentors in place, ask them for a commitment to check in with your students once a week (or more) while you are running your project. Student’s should be the ones to initiate the contact, but ask your mentors to be a little more forward for the first couple of meetings. Give them guidance as to what you are looking for from them. You are asking them to help the student business under their guidance to be successful. They are not taking over the business, but rather acting as the coach for the students as they venture out into new territories and start to bring their ideas to life.
Finally, when you find good mentors, don’t let them go! Send thank you cards, and invite them to do it again next year. Build a list of reliable and great mentors who have your students’ best interests at heart, communicate well with students, and are able to make the time to meet with students. See what you can offer them in return. Can you invite your local press to come in on a day when your mentors are visiting your class. Let their volunteer involvement be known and let them get the positive press for it. Invite them to your culminating event or hold a social party at the end for all your mentors and Simple StartUps.