Youth Business T&T
From November 18-24, Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) will be celebrated in more 130 countries worldwide, inspiring people of all ages to "explore their potential as self-starters and innovators." During GEW, which started in 2007, thousands of activities centred on entrepreneurship development are hosted by private and public-sector agencies, NGOs, schools and other academic institutions and even investors.
Youth Business T&T (YBTT), under the chairmanship of retired banker Richard P Young, is the official host for GEW in T&T. In the lead-up to GEW, YBTT will highlight several issues surrounding entrepreneurial development in T&T and its own work as a charitable body devoted to providing support for young start-ups.This article explores the importance of mentoring as a key requirement for successful entrepreneurship.
Youth Business International (YBI), the umbrella body for the network of non-profit initiatives that support start-ups for young entrepreneurs, defines mentoring as "personalised support in helping young entrepreneurs develop their abilities and insights as they start and grow their own business."
Indeed, mentoring may be described as a professional relationship between a mentor and his/her mentee, during which the mentor aims at providing entrepreneurial advice, as well as professional and personal enrichment to the mentee. This relationship is underpinned by an atmosphere of trust and commitment and may involve both formal and informal agreement.
In a 2011 global survey conducted by YBI, a significant number (37 per cent) of young entrepreneurs considered their mentor to be more influential than money to the success of their business and in a third of the countries surveyed young entrepreneurs felt that their mentor made more of a positive difference to their business than money.
Despite the new wave of mentorship programmes being conducted worldwide and right here in T&T, there is a paucity of information on the impact of these programmes on the success rate of start-up enterprises in this country.
Youth Business T&T, an accredited member of the YBI network, has a very active mentoring programme whereby volunteer mentors are assigned to young entrepreneurs who are granted loans to finance the start-up of their businesses. Indeed in some cases a mentor is assigned at the request of the entrepreneur even if there is no loan.
At YBTT, mentorship is a major component in its package of support for young entrepreneurs aged 18-35. We were able to obtain the perspectives from three people who have been involved in YBTT's mentoring programme for several years and continue to make meaningful contributions to the organisation's work as a charitable body.
Georgina Terry, an Amazon best-selling author, who is a self-employed professional business and people development coach, has also served as a YBTT mentor supporting two budding entrepreneurs. Asked about her experience as a mentor, she said, "There is a strategic alignment between training and mentorship, and therefore, are both necessary in ensuring the success and sustainability of our young entrepreneurs."
It is interesting to note that Ms Terry now serves on the board of directors at YBTT.Colin Hosein, an experienced banker who has been a director of YBTT since 2009 and was also a former mentor, described his mentoring experience as most rewarding. According to Hosein, "My tenure as a mentor allowed me to give as well as gain valuable insights in assisting young entrepreneurs. As a mentor, I was able to help them to minimise the number of the mistakes made during their entrepreneurial journey."
He also believes that a significant proportion of successful young entrepreneurs have attributed their success to the mentoring to which they were exposed.Praima Hosam, a successful insurance executive and YBTT mentor for the past four years, also shared her mentoring experience: "I was influenced to become a mentor through my passion and commitment to helping young entrepreneurs. I have my own business and did not have any formal leadership training."
She also felt: "Mentoring also produces benefits such as self-confidence as well as additional knowledge of running a business."One view that is certainly shared by these professionals is that despite its benefits as a form of non-financial support to entrepreneurship, mentorship is still grossly underutilised. It is noteworthy that in some countries mentorship is now being valued as a substitute for collateral and is seen by some financial institutions as reducing the risk of lending to the youth.
While this practice has so far not reached our shores, YBTT continues to utilise mentorship as a mandatory component of its core mandate and is always accepting requests from experienced professionals to serve as mentors.