Last year we wrote a report on access to funding for female founders. One of our recommendations was to increase access to mentoring for women scaling their businesses. This year we acted upon that recommendation and have held three mentoring sessions across the UK. Our first session in London was a great success, as was Cambridge, and on Thursday we finally we arrived in Manchester.
The format of the event is similar to speed dating. Each mentee spends six minutes with a mentor, and then the mentee moves on to the next mentor. Mentees seek advice on how to solve their biggest challenges, all of which are shared with the mentors prior to the event to maximise the utility of the six minutes.
After a few speeches, cups of tea and chatting, the mentoring commences. The first six minutes flies by. It’s always difficult to drag the mentee away from their first mentor; it doesn’t get any easier as the day goes on. All the founders always seem engrossed in the sessions – a sure that there should be more mentoring events available to female founders!
One thing that I noticed talking to the female founders on both sides, mentees and mentors, is that a lot of them experience loneliness. This seems to be an aspect of running your own business that few people talk about. Mentoring events like these let entrepreneurs realise that their hiccups and worries are experienced and felt by others. Often, the best paired founders are those in completely different sectors. It’s more about finding a spark with someone, rather than finding someone in the same sector.
The mentoring sessions have been incredibly insightful for our annual report, which this year is taking the form of a practical guide for scaling female entrepreneurs. It will comprise of six sections: why mentoring matters, hiring, innovation, leadership, work/life balance and pitching. The aim of the first section is to inspire female entrepreneurs across the board to take part in mentoring. The other sections are focused around a skill: each section will open with research around those skills, followed by insights from female entrepreneurs excelling in that skill.
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