Our Mentoring Programme Officer James Mitchell reflects on Graduation Day for the latest graduates of our Mentoring Women in Business programme.
For the Mentoring Women in Business programme Tuesday 8th June was Graduation Day, a special day marking the achievements of 100 women entrepreneurs and their mentors who have graduated from the programme.
Our graduating mentees and mentors wrapped up their one-on-one mentoring relationships with their very own Graduation Ceremony, where they heard from speakers Cherie Blair CBE QC and renowned tech entrepreneur Rebecca Enonchong, who delivered an inspiring commencement speech. In addition to watching a presentation from Mentoring Programme Manager Efe Olokpa about their journeys, participants discussed what they’d learned from the programme and the improvements and growth they have seen in themselves and their businesses.
It marks a year since May 2020, when the intake began their mentoring journey. At that time, our mentees set out to improve their business skills, confidence and networking abilities through strong relationships with fellow business professionals. Find out more about how the Mentoring programme works here.
May 2021’s graduates all embarked on the programme in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has vastly disproportionately affected women entrepreneurs. The increased care burden borne by women during the pandemic, as well as the heavy hit taken by women-dominated industries such as retail and crafts has exacerbated existing inequalities and brought the need for the Mentoring Women in Business programme into even starker focus.
Thank you to our guest speakers: our founder, Cherie Blair CBE QC, and renowned tech entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Apps Tech, Rebecca Enonchong!
Facing these challenges, the mentoring team matched mentees with business professionals from around the world. The team used their experience and our matching algorithm to find the perfect mentoring pairs.
By driving the relationship and being accountable, the mentees progressed through our four phase approach. They got to know and agreed ground rules with their mentors, they set goals, worked on those goals, and finally reflected on their journey together.
Throughout this time mentoring pairs had access to direct personal support from the Mentoring Team. They also received monthly webinars on topics such as time management, confidence, accessing finance and selling on social media.
The Mentoring programme flexibly supports a wide range of women entrepreneurs from varying sectors and countries. The May 2020 intake saw mentees graduate from 25 different countries from around the world. We supported mentees from 21 different sectors, with education, arts and crafts, and agriculture making up the most common sectors supported.
Overall, 98% of our graduating mentees told us that they gained new business skills. These skills spanned a range of twenty areas, with 70% developing skills in business planning, 57% in business development, and 43% in marketing.
We were so proud to see that 86% of our mentees informed us they have been inspired to go on and mentor others in their community and beyond.
Mentees also developed personal skills while on the programme. 50% of our mentees informed us that the programme directly led to an increase in confidence. Mentees such as Caroline from Kenya found that made a huge difference to her business: “I developed a great deal of confidence in myself and my skills and abilities to be able to run my business. I would have given up on entrepreneurship completely if I had not gone through the mentorship programme.”
For many mentees, the timing of the programme was essential, especially against the backdrop of COVID-19. The focus of the programme on the importance of goals, and the ability to formalise them on the Mentoring Platform helped 76% of mentees build skills in goal setting. Rabia from Turkey tells us how important this was for her: “When we had first started, I was lost in the journey of my business. The goals I had from my past felt empty inside somehow, there was always something missing. Many thanks to this programme and my mentor, I rediscovered the spirit in me and my brand has become ready for a re-birth. I found this programme just at the right time, when I needed the support the most.”
Dolly from India says: “The programme helped me to stay motivated during the crisis period. I remained positive, and my mentor is a great listener with whom I could discuss all the difficulties I was facing. She consistently helped to keep looking forward and stay put.”
Because of their work on the programme, some mentees have been able to grow their businesses despite the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. 63% of our graduating mentees were able to implement a more effective business strategy, and 64% actually created new products or services as Yanique from Jamaica tells us: “Having my mentor for the past year not only helped me with better organizing my day-to-day operations, but also helped me to start laying out a strategy for scaling my business. As a result, I am completing some training to up level my skills so I’ll be able to offer more in my business at higher price points. I am much more confident in what I can do and achieve as an entrepreneur.”
Ultimately, our mentees graduate having made invaluable connections, as Banani from India says: “I love my mentor, she has given a new direction to my business and I’m so happy with the knowledge and the skills she shared with me”.
Our mentors come from a wide range of countries around the world. 32% of our mentors were from seven countries in Europe, 30% were from six countries in Asia, 29% came from four countries in the Americas, 5% came from two countries in Africa and 4% came from Oceania.
The power of mentoring to transform and empower participants is truly a two-way street. Our graduating mentors conclude their time on the programme having developed new skills, learnt how to do business in another country and formed relationships with meaningful connections that will last lifetimes.
As Tapiwa from the UK said: “I am so glad to have been a part of this programme. It has been a privilege to be a part of my mentee’s entrepreneurial journey, and to witness the impact our mentoring sessions have had on her business growth and confidence as a business owner. The experience has helped me learn and grow too.” Tapiwa is far from alone in growing while on the programme, with 97% of mentors informing us that they gained new skills. Mentors gained skills in fifteen different areas, with 89% saying that they gained knowledge and awareness of a new culture, 67% improving their listening skills, and 43% building leadership skills. Other skills developed include confidence, problem solving, and communication skills.
95% of mentors told us they were either satisfied or very satisfied with the support given to them on the programme. Libby from the US agrees, saying “the program is very well organized and all in all extremely rewarding. I am most appreciative for the opportunity to build this life long relationship and have the utmost respect for my mentee.”
Finally, an incredible 99% of graduating mentors would recommend the programme to others. As Doosughun from Nigeria said: “Being a mentor during this programme helped me to live out my purpose in life. It felt fulfilling guiding and empowering a woman just like me. Finally we can bring our own table to the meeting whether they put out a seat for us or not.”
The Mentoring Women in Business programme will be open to applications from programme participants looking to start their mentoring journey in August on Wednesday 16th June. If you’re a woman entrepreneur looking for a mentor, please click here to find out more and apply. If you are an experienced business professional and would like to mentor a woman entrepreneur, please click here to find out more and apply.
Our world-class Mentoring Women in Business programme matches volunteer business professionals with woman entrepreneur mentees in low and middle income countries for one year in a mutually-beneficial business development relationship.
This remote, virtual model stands as a bold example of how women business owners can be supported during the current crisis, and how supporting women entrepreneurs can be centred in a post-pandemic economic re-build.
Find out more how your company can partner with our Mentoring programme and give your employees the opportunity to become mentors!
Independent, self-funded mentors can also give the gift of mentoring to others. Find out more and apply as an independent mentor now!
Finally, we have newly created the Scholarship Fund to open up the opportunity to mentor to women entrepreneurs from low and middle income countries who have previously taken part in our programmes but cannot fund their own place. Please donate now!