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The Importance of Representational Mentorship in Entrepreneurship

Mona-Lisa Prosper, Director of the Black Entrepreneur Startup Program, Futurpreneur

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From developing new business ideas, pivoting in the pandemic, or launching side hustles, we are living in a time where more people are taking the plunge into entrepreneurship. At Futurpreneur, we’ve also seen an increase in the diversity of the applicants applying to our programs, and it’s exciting to see more representation in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

However, being an entrepreneur can be challenging and, at times, lonely. When you add in the barriers faced by underrepresented groups, it makes the idea of starting a business that much more daunting. That’s why mentorship is such a powerful tool. It allows budding business owners to tap into the minds of the industry experts who have been before them; learning from their mistakes, gaining valuable insight, broadening their networks, and ultimately achieving more business success.

But it’s much harder to become something that you can’t see. When we talk about diversifying the entrepreneurial ecosystem, we also need to think about the importance of diversity in mentorship. For example, traditional business advice has historically been tailored to white men, who are still the most dominant group in entrepreneurship. With the increase in diversity among entrepreneurs, this kind of advice is no longer one-size-fits-all. There are more social dynamics at play that have not always been taken into consideration.

Mentorship is so personal, and being able to receive advice from someone who has been in your shoes and has faced the same obstacles can have a significant impact on your future success.

On the other hand, having a mentor of a different race or cultural background also offers a completely different set of benefits. Consider how marketing tactics vary between demographics. A mentor could bring to light nuances that you may never have noticed before, challenging your perceptions of how your business idea may be received by different communities. They could also offer valuable insight into how your business can authentically engage with a community that’s different from your own. It may surprise you what you can learn.

At the end of the day, the ultimate goal is for entrepreneurs to have the opportunity to build a relationship of trust with a mentor– whether that is someone from a different background who can offer a fresh personal perspective or someone who can empathize over shared lived experiences. But it’s bigger than that. If we want to have access to a diverse group of mentors, there needs to be more diversity in entrepreneurship and the workforce at large. Actions must be taken on a much broader scale in order for these mentors to even exist. This is something that we focus heavily on 1at Futurpreneur, by ensuring we have entrepreneurship and mentorship opportunities for business owners from all backgrounds that are tailored to their needs and the specific barriers they face. As our programs further evolve, we hope to continue seeing more diversity in the mentors who
volunteer with us as well.

By providing entrepreneurs access to expertise and mentors that will help them break down barriers, we can foster greater sharing of perspectives and develop effective mentor-mentee relationships.

One thing is for sure: a diverse set of mentors brings a diverse set of perspectives, ultimately leading to better outcomes for your business. We just need to have the goals and actions in place to ensure that diversity and inclusion prevail at all levels.

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