Today is International Mentoring Day, which is a great excuse to take a moment to reflect on the role of mentoring on your life’s journey so far, whether you’ve acted as a mentor or a mentee. Share a story, tag the person who has helped you, or give a shout out of encouragement or celebration to those you have been supporting.
I have always found supporting others with their challenges more rewarding than solving my own, and firmly believe that ‘everyone can help someone, and everyone should’. I can’t think of one occasion when a first-time mentor in my team or network hasn’t found themselves surprisingly helpful and the experience more rewarding and informative than they ever imagined.
I formalised my journey as a mentor with Expert Impact in 2016, a charity focussed on matching social entrepreneurs with the world’s best founders and brand builders. I was matched with mentees who could really get the most out of my experience. Six years on I’m still in touch with the majority of my matches and gain enormous pleasure and pride from seeing their achievements.
One of the first was Cemal Ezel, founder of coffee company Change Please (and now Serious Tissues) which had been trading for just more than a year when we met. As I was CEO of Belu at the time, Cemal was interested to discuss how we attracted our customers, but also how to hire the right staff, as Change Please was growing quickly. I also met Max Tobias of Dusty Knuckle, a bakery offering employment opportunities to young offenders, the same year. Max had been trading for three years and was also keen to know how we had grown Belu.
Even despite the challenges of trading during the Covid-19 pandemic, both Cemal and Max have seen success in the last year. Change Please acquired coffee chain AMT and Dusty Knuckle opened a second branch of their bakery (which also does amazing pizzas). Both are stories of incredible impact and growth.
They are not just successful businesses, but businesses that are focussed on solving the problems of the world at the same time. And of course, they can grow exponentially with the right lightning bolt of an idea, a door opened, or sometimes just confidence building, offering reassurance they are on the right path. That’s the value of mentoring for me.
Early in 2021 I helped Expert Impact with a strategic review and I’m now leading the business as a part time CEO. And (drum roll please!) if you haven’t seen the news already (announced very late in 2021) we are now part of the Social Enterprise UK family, joining forces to give the best support we can to social enterprise, and bringing two of my favourite organisations closer together to support Expert Impact in taking a brave step in 2022.
What is that step? Well, keep your eyes peeled for Expert Impact news over the next few weeks. On our journey to move from grant funded mentoring we’re on a mission to become self-sustaining and to increase our impact. We have a new business almost ready to launch and will be making a formal announcement in a couple of weeks.
Until then, if you would like to read our 2021 impact report, you can find it here. To all of you mentees and mentors – a very happy International Mentoring Day.
Karen Lynch has mentored many social entrepreneurs through Expert Impact. If you’d like some help with your business from Karen or any of our other mentors, start here