Updated: Oct 22, 2021
Better guidance. Practice. Connections. Development teams, start-up tips, Governance, all the above. There are so many positive outcomes that entrepreneurs can receive by serving as a mentorship with a seasoned company owner. Getting real-world advice and guidance from those that have experienced things first hand from business owners and experts can be a make or break factor for an ambitious entrepreneur’s venture. And entrepreneurs have to be open to listening and applying the advice that they are being provided.
I have had the pleasure of being a part of numerous mentorship programs; either offered by Entrepreneur, SCORE, or my local economic development assistance programs. Over the past 3 years, I have heard from other entrepreneurs and their mentors, and some really sound advice that they have been provided. With their blessings, here is what they had to share, and hopefully it inspires or empowers your ambition.
1. Mark Kohler - Keep Slow to Get it Right
Often the initial impulse of entrepreneurship is to work quickly, and then sort out the specifics. CEO and co-founder of Oakland Sabrina Mutukisna, Calif.- based The Town Kitchen, discovered that the right way can often be the complete opposite.
Her business, The Town Kitchen produces and provides lunches prepared by the locally sourced chef. It recruits, trains, and gives start-up advice to the young people who have been under-served to learn career skills with chefs and businessmen.
It is good advice to go slow to get it right. In 2015, when Mutukisna co-founded the company, much thought came into its project, less about meticulous bookkeeping and having the ambition to find the right structure for the business. So, she started working with Mark Kohler, a longtime accountant. What she found is that sometimes, the first time it pays to go slow and do it right.
“Oftentimes, you act quickly instead of fully researching how things like business structure and investment terms will impact your long-term sustainability,” Mutukisna says. “Mark’s been helpful in clearing up common misconceptions about types of corporations and their tax implications. He’s focused on getting us to see how our accounting and financials will impact The Town Kitchen in the future … three years or five years down the road.”
2. Greg Shugar - There is Success No Formula
Scott Lininger co-founded Bitsbox, in 2015 a company based in Boulder, Colo, which develops a monthly subscription box and website which teaches children about computer programming. Let us move forward to 2017 in which Lininger and his team members targeted laser on product refinement and PR.
Many, and I do mean, many entrepreneurs admire the mentorship of Greg Shugar, he did what so many start-ups dream of doing, he created and sold online menswear company The Tie Bar, and then co-founded Thread Experiment, to help Bitsbox revive its marketing and PR efforts. Crazy awesome right? The beauty of working with someone like Shugar, is that he has been in the same situations as Lininger. This is why finding a mentor in the same industry is so important, like Shugar, that was invaluable. Speaking with Shugar, helped Lininger discover there is no single way to succeed.
“The hardest part about selling online is finding the best channels to reach your customers,” Lininger says. “The advertising landscape is constantly shifting. Things that worked last year won’t necessarily work this year, and techniques that yielded results for one company won’t always work for another.”
3. Cynthia Johnson — The Digital Marketing Advice for Small Business Owners
When you have the ambition of spreading the word about your brand online, it is just as if you know the best of your goods and business, indeed. You know this is my wheelhouse, but not everyone gets it right off the bat.
This is the lesson mattress company Leesa Sleep’s digital marketing manager, Alex Realmuto, learned from his mentor, Cynthia Johnson, a highly sought after digital marketing specialist. Alex said that creating his brand was a catalyst for marketing at Leesa.
“By participating in forums like industry events or guest blogging, not only does it allow for genuine opportunity to grow awareness about your business, it facilitates a conversation to share, learn and garner feedback from influential industry experts,” Realmuto says. “Meanwhile, you get to share proven digital marketing tactics, to contribute to the overall evolution of the e-commerce community — no matter the vertical.” Fantastic point.
“Working with Alex at Leesa has been a wonderful experience,” Johnson said. “He has so much to offer to other entrepreneurs and marketing experts. With his knowledge in marketing and advertising, I think that together we can grow his reach and strategically grow his network and audience to directly benefit Leesa.”
I recently started offering mentorship and advice in digital marketing and banding on mentoring in Facebook groups, and after just a few weeks we can see the results of just looking at things differently. The digital marketing advice for small business owners and the ambition of success open the gateways of achievements in this ever-changing world. An experienced mentorship can contribute to developing a better, skilled, and engaged start-up team. The entrepreneur’s advice upgrades the scale of entrepreneurship.
4. Robert Herjavec — Grow or Die
In 2018, this was my second year at the ASI Show in Chicago as an attendee and I am pumped yet I cannot get out of my own head — “what am I doing wrong, I need to get on this level.” The exhibitors and other suppliers were doing great at that year’s show. But self-doubt and fear were holding me back because I was simply scared to take a deep dive into the business. I was the one-man army, taking on the world, fighting for every sale and for what, foolish pride that was masking fear.
Fear of what exactly? Change. Trust. And another failure. All I can think was, I see these other entrepreneurs in the promotional products industry and they have the courage to travel to Chicago, make sales, put everything on the line and full of energy, why don’t I have the same confidence? So after the show, I went home and went over all the tactics and strategies I was trying to put together from all of the classes I had just attended. There was one day left and I wanted to get the most out of the show I purchased a ticket for a meet and greet with the event’s keynote speaker.
That year the keynote speaker was one of the stars from the show Shark Tank, Robert Herjavec and I was like hey, just wanted to get some advice and it was a once in a lifetime opportunity, I wasn’t expecting it to be an eye-opener. I caught his speech and it was like he was speaking to me. Literally. His story had too many similarities to my own in regards to the dedication to his Father. For me, it has always been my Mother. Making sure I could take care of her and pay her back, although she never asked for anything, this has been a driving force since I was a kid. Robert’s story about how he always wanted to get his Father the car of his dreams because his Father could not afford it. That hit me and opened my ears to his message. When meet and greet time came, I made sure that I was one of the first people to meet him. While others were asking about investing, getting start-up funded, and typical Shark tank types of stuff, I had a totally different question — “what could I be doing better?”
So the time came, it's my chance to meet one of my favorite sharks (Barbara Corcoran and Daymond John are my other two favorites). I walk down the aisle and there he is real chill, laid back, and with the most welcoming, “What’s your question?”, from there I just laid out my dilemma and concerns and his answer was, “You have to grow, its grow or die. Bring in team members, find partners that challenge you, but you have to grow. Believe in yourself and your goal, trust it, challenge yourself, and grow.”
I got more out of a 15-second meet and greet than some get out of hours of schooling because I was willing to listen and more importantly I was about the questions that I needed answers and input. Now I have a team and we can help so many entrepreneurs, I took the deep dive and trusted in myself and the great people around me to build a platform to help other ambitious people like myself.
As entrepreneurs, the same thing that can lead to our success is the same thing that can hold us back. Ego, pride, and fear can easily seep into your thoughts and actions preventing you from making the best out of a situation or asking the right question. There are sins as an entrepreneur that we must do our best not to let them control us. If we do, then we run the risk of not reaching our full potential, given it all that we got and ended up living a life with regret. Don’t become your own biggest obstacle.
I devote my professional life to helping entrepreneurs and small business owners reach their goals. So stay in touch by dropping a comment and connect on IG and Twitter!
I’m Ehren Muhammad, Founder of EMPro, Ltd
EMPro, Ltd — Branding & Digital Marketing
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