I can’t quite remember what got me thinking about being a mentor. I had a ladies clothing store for 17 years. I remember when I decided to close my last store, I felt a little lost. I was determined to do a career transition, but hadn’t decided to ‘what’. For the previous 17 years I had been ‘Cathy Cavern’…the girl with the store. Now I was Cathy ‘blank’ just Cathy. When I contacted the Women’s Enterprise Centre to enquire about mentoring, I was unsure what I could offer. Because I had closed both my stores rather than selling them, I felt a little like I had ended my retail career without a definitive ‘WIN’. Like I had gone out with a whimper, not a bang! I was worried that my mentee would think I had not been a truly ‘successful’ retailer.
A month later I was matched up with a young woman with enthusiasm, drive, and optimism! What she lacked, I had: Experience. Our 1st meeting was supposed to last an hour, but 2 and a half hours later I felt like I had started a business all over again! The questions, the worry, the people telling you a million different things…. I had experienced everything we talked about in that first meeting,. The commonality of having started a retail store created a bond between us. The more she talked, the more energized I became. The more I talked, the more confident she became.
Our 6 months together flew by! We strategized through her challenges, and celebrated her successes. She needed someone to listen and hear her. I needed to share what I knew. That mentoring experience singlehandedly gave me the confidence to start my career as a retail consultant. I will never forget how much I learned about myself, by sharing my knowledge with such an incredibly dynamic young entrepreneur.
I would encourage everyone who has had their own business to consider being a mentor. Sharing your experience with a fellow entrepreneur is so rewarding. Knowing that you helped someone gain clarity and confidence just by explaining what you did in a similar circumstance takes little effort, but makes a huge difference. I know I will always be a mentor. I believe in small business and I believe in community. Young entrepreneurs are building communities for the future. They just need a little help…from a mentor.
Cathy Burrell is the owner of Cavern Retail Consulting in White Rock BC. She is a Retail Consultant and Social Media Coach. She works with busy business owners who like most people, know very little about Social Media but are curious how they can use it to grow their business. Follow her on Twitter @CathyCavern