Here at the Foundation, we know that having a mentor can make all the difference to women entrepreneurs. Mentors provide guidance and support at crucial moments, helping to accelerate progress on the path to success.
Since its inception, our Mentoring Women in Business Programme has matched 1,800 women entrepreneurs in developing and emerging economies with mentors from around the world. Of the mentees who graduated from the programme last year, 98% were able to realise key business achievements, 97% developed business skills and 95% boosted their confidence.
Last week, over 100 of our mentors from across the UK and Europe came together for our annual Mentor Appreciation Day. The event gave our mentors an opportunity to share their experiences, meet our Founder, Cherie Blair, and celebrate the difference they are making to so many women’s lives.
Hiroo Chothia is one of our dedicated mentors who has contributed a huge amount of time and support to our programme. She spoke at the event about why she got involved.
“I was particularly inspired to apply to the Foundation for two reasons. Firstly, because of its approach and emphasis on women in developing countries – and, in particular, the way the Foundation framed these women positively, as potential entrepreneurs who would benefit from business mentoring. This created a very different narrative from the way that women from developing countries are usually portrayed in the western press.
Secondly, having been both a coach and a mentor myself, I was aware of the need for a good fit between the mentor and mentee and I was particularly encouraged by the matching process used by the programme.
Mentoring is a two-way street. As mentors we are not expected to be experts in every discipline and we can use each other as well as the wealth of information on the Foundation’s platform. Finally, we must remember that there are two ‘experts’ in this relationship.”
One of our longest-serving mentors, Julian Stodd, also spoke about the powerful impacts of his mentoring experiences.
“One of the first things I learnt as a mentor was about preconceptions and stereotypes. I started my relationship with Shyamla in Mumbai by populating the scene with my exotic views of Indian life.
Our relationship started formally: we were polite to each other, we were process driven, and we were efficient. We worked together on a business plan and had some success. But we weren’t necessarily engaged.
Until one day, when we started talking about the view from our windows. I painted my stereotyped picture of what I thought Shyamla’s world was like and she painted her assumptions about mine. And it turned out they were not very accurate. India is not all about vibrant markets, bright orange colours and elephants, and there are no castles or Beefeaters in my back garden.
It turns out that life for Shyamla is about family, about work, about money, about a fierce type of pride. A pride that she was investing in her business. Much as it is for me. That conversation broke us out of just the process and into a journey where we found pride. Together. Alongside each other.
When we finished our formal mentoring relationship, after a year, we spoke of that pride with tears in our eye.
Through this programme, we are connected to people: people who we may never meet in person, people whose lives we touch for a short period of time. People who we teach and who we learn from. People who we help to be proud, to achieve their goal, to transform, as we ourselves are transformed, and find our pride.”
We are incredibly proud of all our mentors, and so grateful for the time and passion they put towards empowering women entrepreneurs across the world. To each and every one we would like to say a huge thank you!
Thank you to our partner Dentons for hosting our Mentor Appreciation Day event.