The Importance of Mentoring Start Ups
In our latest blog, Michelle Hua, CEO of Made With Glove and Co-founder of Women of Wearables talks about why mentoring is important for startups.
According to StartUp Britain, 347,970 start-ups have launched in 2017 in the UK so far with 657,790 launched in 2016. While the numbers are positive, four out of ten small businesses fail in the first five years.
There could be various reasons why they fail, from poor cash flow to disputes between founders and employees, to lack of product market fit. One reason that we never hear about is the lack of mentorship, or more specifically, the lack of access to the right mentors at the right time.
They call early stage investors “Angels”. However, I think the real angels are the mentors who are there for founders when they are faced with challenges, when they need to make difficult decisions and when they need support and guidance at different stages of their business and sometimes, life.
Eric Parsloe, Director of the Oxford School of Coaching and Mentoring, defines a mentor as one who:
“supports and encourages people to manage their own learning in order that they may maximize their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and become the person they want to be”.
Women in tech community organisations in the UK are all too aware of the importance of mentors and mentorship for females and female founders. Most, if not all, offer formal and informal support for their members.
An example is She Says Manchester (SheSaysMCR). SheSaysMCR is a community organisation set up to provide a platform for women in non-diverse, and diverse working environments in the creative and digital sector to share their stories. SheSaysMCR has grown a supportive, collaborative network for all genders so it is not exclusive, it is inclusive of every person and is focused on evoking positive change through support, empathy and understanding of differences and similarities whilst showcasing the different journeys that incredible women have undertaken.
In 2017, SheSaysMCR started a mentorship program for their members focusing on career and lifestyle. This is because mentoring is not and should not be solely focused on a person’s career. A person’s life journey also impacts their career so co-founders Vimla Appadoo and Mahnaz Yusaf developed a mentorship program in Manchester which gives their community of women the opportunity to act as mentors and anyone to sign up as a mentee.
“So far, we have had 79 sign ups and we have matched 44 mentors and mentees with each other. When we started, we didn’t anticipate the amount of sign ups we would receive and the feedback from both the mentees and mentors has been very positive. Every day, there are new sign ups and our community actively promotes our program. We have also had men signing up to be mentored which confirms that it isn’t just women who need mentoring. Mahnaz and I do this on a voluntary basis and we are extremely excited to be nominated for two awards for our mentorship program” says Vimla.
Women of Wearables is an organisation based in London and Manchester that aims to inspire, support and connect women in wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT and AR/VR. We have a global network of women building wearable tech products who are at different stages of their product development cycle. Since my co-founder Marija Butkovic and I have been in the industry for the past three years building our own wearable tech start ups, we understand the challenges that people and women face in this industry and offer mentoring and support to female founders.
We have solidified our role as mentors by partnering with Wear Sustain, an EU funded €3 million research and innovation project that engages artists, designers and creatives with technologists and engineers to build wearable tech and e-textile products with an ethical and sustainable solution.
Wear Sustain recognized that mentorship and support are crucial for the 50 participating teams to build viable and sustainable wearable tech and e-textile businesses and products. They have successfully matched the funded teams with suitable mentors and hubs from across the UK and the EU.
Women of Wearables have been selected as a Hub and will provide mentorship for the teams who will each win €50,000 in funding over a two year period to develop their products. The first 23 teams have been selected with their projects due to commence in July 2017.
From my perspective, I am extremely grateful to have had a mentor very early on in my career. And it wasn’t just one mentor; there have been many along the way that I have relied upon at different stages of my business and life. It is only because of my mentors that I am still running my start up, Made With Glove. I am passionate about paying it forward, giving back to my community and partnering with organisations that take mentoring seriously.
Being an entrepreneur is not just about my start up, it is about growing, learning, teaching and inspiring others too.
This blog was written by Michelle Hua, Founder of Made With Glove and co-founder of Women of Wearables. Michelle is a mentor at SheSaysMCR, Inspiring the Future, Wear Sustain and is a STEM Ambassador based in Manchester United Kingdom. Follow Michelle on Twitter @MadeWithGlove or visit her website at www.michellehua.co.uk
The IoTUK programme is looking for mentors to join the Mentor Network. If you are interested in mentoring startups that are working on Internet of Things products and services, please find out more here: https://iotuk.org.uk/iotuk-mentor-network/