“A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.” – Oprah Winfrey
With data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor showing that about 20% of small businesses collapse within the first year, mentorship can mean the difference between startups scaling or failing.
Research supports this. A survey of tech firms in New York City between 2003-2013 found that one-third of founders who were mentored by successful entrepreneurs became leading performers in significant acquisitions, investor traction and internal scale – outperforming their peers at other New York City-based tech companies by more than three to one.
But the benefits of mentorship aren’t limited to impressive figures in a startup pitch deck. Founders also enjoy intangible benefits such as gaining valuable information and advice, improving problem-solving skills and expanding their professional network.
The benefits of mentorship aren’t confined to founders either. Mentors often become better business leaders and communicators as they develop a wide range of skills, including listening, coaching and giving constructive feedback. Unlocking the talent of rising mid-career experts and established entrepreneurs only increases the benefits of becoming a mentor.
Despite the known benefits of mentorship, several studies reveal that Black entrepreneurs are less likely to find suitable mentorship opportunities as easily as their non-Black counterparts.
“Our landmark survey of over 1,500 Black entrepreneurs showed that less than 40% of respondents had sufficient access to mentors and supporters to help launch and scale a business,” said Ken Ebie, executive director of Black Entrepreneurs NYC.
In addition to the research, Black entrepreneurs have shared their lived experiences of being unable to find mentors who look like them – or understand them – at the start of their business journey. And this lack of mentorship has a profound impact on the trajectory of their entrepreneurial pursuits.
Rudy Cline-Thomas, founder and managing partner at Mastry, Inc., perhaps put it best when he said: “The biggest obstacles facing Black founders are mentorship and money.”
With this in mind, in September 2020 the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center designed a Mentorship Circle for 12 early-stage Black founders and entrepreneurs, that sought to solve their most-pressing problems alongside industry expert mentors. This Mentorship Circle accelerates one of the critical elements that the Center has always stood behind – mentorship for all. In fact, Circles was a clear indication of how much more was needed in support of mentorship for all and since that time the Center has launched a major movement called Mentor Makers, a free mentor matching platform for entrepreneurs.
While the founders and entrepreneurs in this group shared their highest business priorities with their mentors (and each other), mentors committed to offering tactical, high-touch subject matter expertise in a specific topic or sector to individual founders, entrepreneurs and to the group as a whole.
The program covered various topics starting with branding and ethical leadership, followed by go-to-market strategy. It concluded with a four-minute pitch event with a panel of venture capitalists.
Throughout the mentorship experience, the founders and entrepreneurs formed peer relationships, built mentor relationships and cleared the path ahead for success in their business.
In our new Inclusive Entrepreneurship section and as an extension of our Purpose Initiative, we at Nasdaq are dedicated to amplifying their voices by telling their stories – of success and struggle – along with those of their mentors because as Shantrelle Lewis, co-founder of SHOPPE BLACK, says, “Mentorship is a two-way street.”
Here is a snippet of what you can expect from the founders, entrepreneurs and mentors:
Mentorship Matters: Founder and Mentor Perspectives
- Irene Okoronkwo-Obika, CEO and co-founder of Afrinanny, shares her experience of mentorship helping her overcome self-doubt and “imposter syndrome.”
- Tony Rice II, founder of Unarmed, talks about the role mentorship played in improving his sense of belonging as an entrepreneur from the Black community.
- Jillian Manus, Managing Partner at Structure Capital, says mentorship grants founders access to networks or “social capital,” which can connect them to a critical relationship that changes the trajectory of their startup.
- Briana Patrick, Senior Brand Strategist at Goodby Silverstein & Partners, believes mentorship can help founders build their personal brand and an “iconic” business brand.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.