Priya and Barbara’s story
Priya first joined our Mentoring Women in Business programme as a mentee back in 2011, matched with mentor Barbara. Years later, they reflect on their long journey together.
India and Germany
I was not aware I could be so useful for another person in another business context on another continent.
When Priya Srinivasan joined our Mentoring Women in Business programme in 2011, she was already an experienced entrepreneur. She had established her business after noticing that, although the Indian education system had changed rapidly in recent years, there was an increasing demand for creative learning. Priya used her background in media and communications to establish The Pomegranate Workshop, which offers theatre, writing, and visual arts courses to children and adults.
Priya joined the programme hoping to find a mentor who could help her scale up her courses and reach students in more cities across India. She was matched with Barbara Griefing, a senior expert in Corporate Health Management at DPDHL Group, with a background in education, as well as experience in NGO and corporate settings. Barbara’s participation was made possible through a partnership between the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and DPDHL Group, which offers its employees the opportunity to support a women entrepreneur through online mentoring. From the outset, the pair both felt that the accuracy of the match was “uncanny”.
Although most pairs work together for just one year, Barbara and Priya have continued their mentoring relationship far beyond this timeframe and are now in their fourth year together. In their first year, Barbara supported Priya to develop new HR, branding, quality control and organisational structure processes. These processes generated a “ripple effect” as they enabled her team to understand more clearly what the business stood for and become more confident and motivated. Priya says that “once we put the processes in place I literally began to breathe better. The company took on a life of its own.”
In their second year together, Barbara’s project management experience helped Priya to improve her organisational skills, enabling her to expand her business from operating in six schools to 12 schools in the space of twelve months. She also launched a year-long performing arts programme, which brought in additional revenue.
As they moved into their third year, Priya decided to focus on marketing her business. In July 2014 Pomegranate hosted a large performance at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Mumbai, one of the most prestigious venues in South Asia. Priya invited Pomegranate’s entire customer base and the occasion gave her a fantastic chance to showcase her business and deepen relationships with existing clients.
By the end of her third year, Priya’s annual revenue had increased by over 30%. Her business now has a positive cash flow and Priya is in a strong position to approach investors to raise the capital needed for further expansion.
Priya said that Barbara was “the perfect mentor” to support her through these big changes because she would always offer honest advice, but ultimately let Priya decide the best way forward. As a result, the mentoring relationship has been very rewarding not only for her business, but also for her confidence as she feels better equipped to make decisions.
Similarly, Barbara said she gained a wonderful friendship with Priya, while also developing a new-found confidence in her own knowledge and ability. She said, “I was not aware I could be so useful for another person in another business context on another continent.” The mentoring process helped her to develop leadership and communication skills, which she feels she will be able to apply to future business challenges.
Priya believes that Barbara has helped guide her through the most difficult phases of her entrepreneurial journey and feels almost as though they are “scripting a story together”.
Find out more about our global Mentoring programme
Mentoring Women in Business is one of the Foundation's three flagship programmes. We pair businesspeople everywhere as mentors with women entrepreneurs in low and middle income countries as mentees for an incredibly rich, personalised, cross-border, online experience. This is transformative for mentees and mentors alike—and their companies.
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