How to find a business mentor

Editorial Team

7 min read
Two men meeting with laptop and notebook

Although there are tons of resources with tips and tricks on how to run your business, there’s no official roadmap for success. This holds true for established businesses in mature industries, let alone startups in niche fields.

If uncertainty has been hampering your small business pursuits, consider the benefits of working with a business mentor. Often, this means finding someone who is further along the path in the same industry. However, you should also be prepared to broaden your focus. From accounting to productivity to web design, there are all kinds of skills and experiences you can learn from those who have more “know-how” than you do.

This article outlines some of the benefits of working with a startup mentor. It also includes tips on how to find the right person to help you grow your business.

Why every entrepreneur should find a small business mentor

Below are four of the main reasons why you should partner with a mentor for your growing business.

1. Learn new skills

One of the biggest benefits of working with a business mentor is that it allows you to learn the ropes from someone who has been down the same path. The wisdom and experience of long-time merchants can serve as a guiding light for aspiring entrepreneurs. This isn’t to say that you should ditch the workshops, videos, or DIY books. But often, direct personal experience is one of the most effective ways to master new skills.

2. Avoid costly mistakes

Good mentors can help you avoid making some of the same mistakes that they made. Their advice may not always be a perfect fit, since every business journey is different. Yet, imagine how much time and money you can save by avoiding some of the common pitfalls that trip up many new business owners.

3. Expand your network

Anyone with more experience in a particular field likely has a network of vendors, service providers, and professional organizations that they interact with on a regular basis. This network can help provide you with access to connections–and by extension–more business opportunities.

4. Stay motivated

Working with a business mentor creates accountability, since he or she will expect to see progress toward the goals you discuss together. This could help motivate you to start–or in some cases, finish–tasks that you might otherwise procrastinate doing, such as organizing your inventory, consolidating vendors, or starting a marketing campaign.

How to find a business mentor 101

Once you understand the benefits of having a business  mentor, how do you find one? There is no universal formula for how to find a business mentor. However, the most important step involves introducing yourself so that you’re on this person’s radar. Thereafter, stay in touch by sharing details or asking questions you think might interest him or her. If this individual appreciates the value you provide, you may end up forming a relationship that could potentially grow into a mentorship.

Below are some strategies to help maximize your chances of finding the right startup mentor for your business.

1. Tap your current network

You’d be surprised how many opportunities can pop up simply by letting friends, family members, and co-workers know that you’re in search of a business mentor. Keep in mind, a mentor doesn’t have to be someone older than you. Gen Z small business owners are proving to be some of the savviest business owners of all time.  

2. Contact your alma mater

Your school or university likely has a searchable database of alumni in your area. This is a great place to start, since you already have a connection established.

3. Attend industry events

From professional associations to meetup groups, there are organized events – both in-person and virtual–for every niche, industry, and interest under the sun. Consider starting your search using a professional social platform, like LinkedIn, to find the groups and organizations that may be a fit for you. Follow their pages to learn about new events and resources.

4. Use professional databases

There are all kinds of free and paid databases to help you quickly connect with professionals in your field. Don’t forget about the wealth of startup resources on the web, many of which can be found in our guides on how to start a business and seven habits of successful entrepreneurs.

What’s more, any U.S. citizen or permanent resident can connect with a free business mentor through SCORE, the Service Corps of Retired Executives. You can also connect with mentors from all over the world through MicroMentor, a nonprofit service. 

5. Reach out to your ideal entrepreneur mentor

There’s no harm in reaching out to your dream business mentor–no matter how rich, famous, or busy this person might be. The worst he or she can say is no. If you don’t ask, he or she can never say yes.

How these Clover merchants found their business mentors

Mentoring can take many forms–formal and informal. As these Clover merchants demonstrate,  finding a business mentor can sometimes be as simple as learning from those right in front of you. 

1. Taking an apprenticeship

Paris Patt of Patt’s Guitar Repair started playing music as a child. He loved music and instruments, but got frustrated with repair shops that didn’t explain why one instrument sounded better than another or how an instrument had been fixed. Patt took a position in a guitar shop, where he apprenticed and learned the trade. Later, he and his wife decided to go into private practice, opening Patt’s Guitar Repair.

2. Learning on-the-job 

“I’ve always felt drawn to the food industry. I love the energy inside a commercial kitchen and the restaurant atmosphere in general. My first job as a teenager was as a dishwasher in a pizzeria,” says Arturo Garza, owner of Gonzo’s Rock And Roll Pizzeria in Sandwich, Illinois.

Garza went on to work under a man who would ultimately become his lifelong mentor, Gary Schaefer, AKA “Gario,” a local pizza legend. “I credit him with so much. He taught me a lot about the business during those early days in my career and gave me endless inspiration,” says Garza.

“Eventually, with [Gario’s] blessing and namesake recipe, I opened Gonzo’s Pizzeria in 2007 and renamed it Gonzo’s Rock and Roll Pizzeria in 2011. His name is very well known within this community, so it really boosted my reach when I first opened to let people know I was using his recipe.”

3. Paying attention to family

Mentoring can come from within your own family. Gladys Harrison of Big Mama’s Kitchen in Omaha, Nebraska, learned much of what she knows about the business of food from her mother. 

Her mother, known to her grandchildren and many in her community as Big Mama, built the beloved soul food business out of her home kitchen and taught Harrison all she knew, culminating in the opening of her first restaurant in 2007.

Ready to find a mentor for your business?

It may be challenging to find someone who is ready, willing, and able to walk with you on  your business journey. In most cases, you’ll need to diversify your mentor search by working with advisors across several industries. Multiple mentors can arm you with  diverse perspectives, skill sets, and networks along the way.

To learn more about starting a business, check out our collection of helpful resources, or contact a Clover Business Consultant.

Popular Topics

Recent Stories

Please share your contact information
to access our premium content.