The mentors behind the magic
Behind every great startup success story, are the mentors that helped to get them there. At L-SPARK we have witnessed, first hand, the value of an expert mentorship team.
We also know that being a mentor is no walk in the park either. Our mentors spend countless hours with our founders and their teams working to help these startups succeed as if they were the founder themselves.
It’s that unique and valuable mentor mentality that makes all the difference, and we’re proud to say that our mentors are sincerely committed to seeing our founders succeed.
Meet a few of the mentors behind the magic:
Founder and formerly CEO of Eastern Fluid Power Inc, a design/build custom fluid power technology firm.
Much of my work is with women entrepreneurs. As well as the business goals, I find it valuable to focus on the entrepreneurs’ personal development. Women tend to be hard on themselves, and often have competing priorities, so I try to embrace all of their life missions. My goal is to open doors, challenge thinking, facilitate success, and provide the wind beneath their wings!
It is a privilege to work with start-up entrepreneurs. Starting your own business and putting everything on the line is not for the faint-hearted; it requires vision, courage, tenacity and mental toughness. When an entrepreneur shares their journey; the daily grind, the excitement and the heart-stopping moments, the relationship can become an intimate one, which demands a high level of integrity and mutual respect. There is nothing more rewarding than sharing that trust with a founder, and guiding them on their path.
Most startups face similar obstacles, but often assume that their challenges are unique to their circumstance. By listening and querying, we discover roadblocks that limit their growth potential. I listen more than I talk. Sometimes, the startups just need a sympathetic ear to discuss their struggles, with no fear of judgement. I have walked their path. I understand the pain and, sometimes, the loneliness and fear that are natural when you are starting out as an entrepreneur and a leader in your organization.
My role is to help navigate the startups through the treacherous world of entrepreneurship. I try to help them avoid the pitfalls that hindered me, so that they can reach their goals even faster than I did.
As both a director + mentor here at L-SPARK, Mike Laginski gets a first hand look at many of the companies that come through our programs.
I found the mentor role a real adjustment when I first started. In high tech, it’s all about jumping in, taking ownership and running fast and hard. But with mentoring, there is a real need to primarily focus on guiding based on the founder’s skillset, and potentially limited resources. It’s vital to leverage their extensive domain knowledge. As a mentor, while you may have ‘experience depth’, your domain depth rarely compares.
The most rewarding experiences are the breakthrough moments for the entrepreneur – their wins, their excitement, seeing their face light up and watching them grow as they build their dream. It’s also cool to dig into their stories and domain knowledge and learn from them. There is nothing better than their infectious drive, enthusiasm and storytelling, and witnessing that ah-huh moment: the moment they realize just how big their idea could become.
Founder and Advisor at WTC Solutions, a customer-centric SaaS consultancy.
As I reflect on the entrepreneurs I’ve mentored, the process has generally involved five steps. First is their vision and values. What are they trying to build, and why? What are their core values? Next, we consider where the business is at today, on multiple dimensions, and what skills they want to develop personally, versus hire for. After that, we develop a phased approach and pick two to three top priorities to focus on. We expand their network by connecting them with experts who can advance those priorities. Finally we set up a drumbeat of progress and accountability through regular touch-point meetings.
To me, mentorship is a collaborative, iterative process, where the entrepreneur and I are partners in advancing the future of their business. For the most recent founder I mentored it was incredibly rewarding to see how mentorship raised her confidence to forge ahead, armed with a more robust entrepreneurial toolkit.
Customer Experience and Transformation Strategist at Differly, a digital transformation consultancy.
My approach to mentoring start-ups follows a simple mantra: to get them where they’re going, you have to meet them where they are. That starts with establishing an understanding of the entrepreneurs themselves – their vision, experience, and strengths. Next, I find out what stage their company is at on its journey, understanding both the opportunities and the challenges they are facing. Within that context, we define their specific objectives for the mentorship.
In our conversations, I ask them questions about their most pressing issues, giving them a chance to consider new perspectives. I share ideas and stories to prompt them to think differently, and most importantly, I become a fan; encouraging them, building up their confidence, and advocating for them. It is especially rewarding to see founders be receptive to a diverse range of ideas; to evaluate those ideas, make adaptations, and implement them, all without compromising on their vision.
Would you like to be put in touch with any of our mentors? Reach out to Community Manager, Natasha, at firstname.lastname@example.org.