Mentorship for Startups: How to Choose a Mentor

Nazli Allie, Wednesday November 28th 2018

Are you looking for funding? You might think that your company is ready for investment but is your company investor ready?

One thing to consider when preparing yourself for investment is to get yourself a mentor. Mentors are a great way to help you build onto your company vision, to assist you in company ownership, team and structure, help you filter into the networks that work to your advantage, introduce and assist you in creating strategic relationships and business planning. These are all the challenges that a mentor may assist you with and guide you through your journey

MEST attended the annual investor summit, Africa Early Stage Investor Summit in Cape Town on 11 November which was held in the Workshop 17. The flagship event focuses on early investing and international networking, education and ultimately looking at how local investors can put Africa on the map. It looks at how to drive support, opportunities, networking and build success stories out of the opportunities that exist inside the startup community in Africa.

The first masterclasses presented by Jozi Angels around mentorship, we took home some great advice on mentorship for both mentors and mentees. Here’s what we learned for anyone who has a business or idea and is looking for advice from industry experts, company builders, personal growth experts or technical experts.  
The role of a business mentor is simple, it’s a mutually respectful business relationship focused on the activation of furthered growth and development of both the mentee and their business/position held. -  Victoria Jackson, Regional Director at MEST South Africa

Tips we took away from Abu on how  to choose a business mentor:

  • Look for someone who has extensive experience in the field you are looking for advice in and someone who has contacts that you would not ordinarily have access to.

  • Do they have time to allocate to you? A mentor who has the time to be of great value to you will understand that any contact from you is urgent and the wisest way to find out if they are able to cater to your concerns is to find out how much time they have available, when they would be open to getting assist you with your concerns and it is also a good idea to set clear. 

  • They enjoy having coffee and solving problems: they understand that startups have problems and that you need help. They might not have all the answers but they will help you solve them with their network.

  • Curiosity. The best mentors will have an authentic sense of curiosity when it comes to about the latest trends in consumer markets and business. What creates value for them is working with new businesses and working to understand what is best to assist in your success.  

  • Their 9 - 5 is not fulfilling and they need a side hustle.

Remember that at the end of the day the most valuable asset that a mentor can give to you is time. - Abu Bakr Cassim, co-founder of investment platform, Jozi Angels.

Understand that a mentors experience and knowledge is limited and that you might benefit from gaining insights and advice from many resources as you as the entrepreneur need to take the most suitable advice for your business success. You want to make sure that you have enough information to decide on what works for the path you want to take and the objectives you have created for yourself. It's important to know what your mentor is hoping to gain from this relationship. And what they care about most is your success.  Ask the right questions and you will find the best-suited mentor for yourself and remember that it is up to you to do the work and make the most out of this business relationship.

We have started recruitment for the next group of bright minds to join our 2020 cohort of Entrepreneurs in Training at MEST. If you think you have what it takes, you can apply here.