Mentors are important because they see things we can’t — whether it be a friend of theirs that we really must meet, the pitfalls of a particular organizational structure, or our own strengths and weaknesses. There is no more efficient avenue to learn, problem-solve, generate ideas or expand your network (and thus grow your revenue) than by clinching a great mentor. It’s like having a MBA, best friend, and publicity director all rolled into one fantastic package.
Female entrepreneurs can benefit even more by partnering up with someone who has faced similar challenges or experiences in the past. This is especially true if the mentor is also a female. After all, women business owners face a unique set of challenges.
Yes, several studies have concluded that gender diversity has a positive impact on profitability. And yes, the report finding that the number of women entrepreneurs in New York City has increased 43% since 2002, nearly double the growth rate for men. But despite the fact that the city has nearly 359,000 women entrepreneurs who generate about $50 billion in sales annually, it’s not an easy road for us. A gender gap still has New York men owning 1.5 times the number of businesses, employing 3.5 times more people and raking in 4.5 times more revenue. We still face so many challenges, like access to capital and valuable business networks.
Whether your business has been around for 10 minutes or 10 years, a mentor can encourage you to take risks, help you see the things that elude you and give you the necessary edge to compete on an uneven playing field. The good news is, finding a mentor isn’t nearly as daunting as it used to be. Fortunately, New York City (and the internet) have loads of programs and resources available. Here are some top picks:
1. SCORE Mentors NYC
SCORE NYC offers both male and female mentors across a number of industries and business functions. Mentors are available in-person or remotely for free, confidential consultations to help solve specific problems or to simply explore new ways to grow your business.
With a volunteer team of 70+ experienced business mentors and advisors in a range of industries, finding a mentor has never been easier. There are also dozens of workshops available to learn concepts, strategies, and practical actions for starting a new business and for growing an existing business.
2. National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) NYC
NAWBO is a national organization that represents the interests of women entrepreneurs across all industries, and offers a one-on-one mentorship program for those who want an intense, immersive experience. This program offers long-term support and is completely tailored towards your individual business needs.
3. Women Entrepreneurs NYC (WE NYC)
Launched by the City in conjunction with Citigroup, WE NYC treats women as the key economic drivers they are, and offers small group discussions and brainstorming sessions with female mentors who are subject matter experts on entrepreneurship and everything from talent management to branding to raising capital. The initiative’s Connect Mentor Sessions are free, two-hour coaching sessions with plenty of allocated networking time.
For those of you that want to pursue your mentorship remotely, curtailing the time spent relationship-building without losing a the benefits of support and accountability, try a service like MicroMentor. You can join a virtual community of entrepreneurs for free and connect with seasoned executives by searching their volunteer database by the desired area of expertise, the industry and your business stage.
If a formal mentorship arrangement seems like too much, at least consider joining a local organization that can connect you to other women entrepreneurs and offer less structured educational and networking opportunities. You may naturally form a bond with another successful business owner who can offer support more organically. And whatever you do, never discount your peers! Form as many friendships as possible with other business owners. The camaraderie helps, as will the opportunity to share lessons learned. And when one small business friend makes big strides, chances are she’ll do all she can to take you with her.