Posted: Wed 15th Mar 2023
Enterprise Nation is one of the small business support providers delivering voluntary mentoring as part of the government's flagship Help to Grow: Management Course.
Ninety per cent subsidised by the government and delivered in collaboration with industry experts and experienced entrepreneurs, the 12-week course provides a combination of online sessions and face-to-face learning, delivered by business schools. It's aimed at senior leaders of small and medium-sized businesses with five or more employees.
Mentorship is a crucial element of the course, with mentors providing insight into business processes and management, acting as a personal sounding board, facilitating networking, and encouraging creative thinking.
Senior business leaders who want to pursue mentoring can match with a mentor through the Help to Grow: Management Course platform. Once connected, they have access to 10 hours of one-to-one support.
In this blog, we talk to one of our recent mentoring matches:
Mentor Catherine McManus is a small business marketing expert, having worked in the field for 30 years supporting multinationals, small businesses and start-ups in the UK and worldwide.
Mentee Lauren Bell is the owner of Belle Ame, a hairdressing salon in Lancaster.
Catherine, can you give us a summary of your career and professional background up to now?
Catherine McManus: My current role is founder of Small Business Marketing Consultant, which offers marketing services to small businesses in the UK relating to brand strategy, concept development, digital marketing and local marketing.
Digital marketing services include web design, SEO marketing, social media marketing services, search engine advertising and brand collaboration. I'm basically a marketing one-stop shop for SMEs!
During my career, I've acquired 30 years' experience in marketing and business development across multinationals, SMEs and start-ups in the UK and internationally. I learned best practice from one of the biggest companies in the world, Nestle, while honing my skills through various industries including fashion, finance and hospitality.
I always dreamt of being an entrepreneur, and aside from launching my own small business marketing consultancy, I've learned a great deal from launching two ethically-made fashion brands.
Lauren, tell us about your business.
Lauren Bell: Belle Ame is a hair salon in Lancaster with a focus on incredible hair and good vibes. Our hairdressers come from a place of passion, creativity and expertise while always going the extra mile for customers.
Together, we've created our unique Belle Ame hairdressing experience – a space that clients can trust, enjoy and walk out of with big smiles on their faces.
We've been open for four years and have a team of six stylists and one apprentice. I decided to open the salon after gathering 15 years of experience. Having worked my way up from the shop floor to management, it just felt like the next step.
Why did you want to become a mentor for other business owners?
Catherine: I'm a solutions person and love helping wherever I can. I often find myself unofficially mentoring or coaching clients, and when I saw the opportunity, I thought it would be great to learn how to do it properly.
Small businesses see significant development through mentoring: Become a mentor and provide 10 hours of one-to-one support. Find out more
How did you find out about the Help to Grow: Management Course?
Lauren: I learned of the Help to Grow: Management Course when I attended a free 'Pricing with purpose' course at Lancaster University Management School.
The team leading that course recommended the course for anyone who is looking to scale up their business. It really appealed to me, so I thought why not give it a go!
What areas of your business did you need help with, and what kind of mentor were you looking for?
Lauren: I was seeking clarity on what direction to take the business in, so I wanted someone who I could bounce ideas off and who could help me plan ahead with marketing Belle Ame.
For a while, I knew my downfall was brand strategy, content planning, SEO and basically anything to do with social media. It was key for me to find a mentor who was on my wavelength and could help with these aspects, especially after our mentorship had finished.
I chose Catherine and she's now working with me on refining Belle Ame's concept, our web design, our SEO and our social media. She really understands all areas of business and is a breath of fresh air to work with – personable, fun and switched-on. I felt like I'd hit the jackpot when I spoke to her.
What do you look for in a mentee? Why did you choose to work with Lauren?
Catherine: I need to think that I can satisfy the mentee's objectives and add considerable value that will make a real difference to the mentee and their business. I think good chemistry between mentor and mentee also helps, along with mutual respect and appreciation.
When Lauren approached me, I recommended we first have an 'exploratory' conversation to be sure that we were a good fit – and we were!
How much potential do you think Lauren's business has? What did you hope to help her with specifically?
Catherine: Lauren's business has huge potential. It's performed well through challenging economic times, and both Lauren's clients and her team are very loyal. She's focused time and energy on creating an amazing service and developing her team.
Her work ethic, expertise and passion shine through, and she has some unique work experiences and connections in Dubai to draw from. She's talented and ambitious but also just a really lovely person.
The success of her business and how fast she wants to grow it are entirely up to her. I'm hoping to help her find clarity in what she wants to do, prioritise the next steps with her and explore growth and development opportunities in all areas of her personal and professional life.
How regularly did you meet with Catherine? For how long?
Lauren: Catherine and I both have busy schedules, so we would normally set up a remote meeting every other week for two hours. I had 10 hours of mentorship over this period.
How does mentoring business owners benefit you?
Catherine: Mentorship is extremely rewarding in a number of ways. I'm passionate about entrepreneurship and small businesses – hence why I set up my small business marketing consultancy.
Understanding the particularities of each business and industry and seeing how each owner navigates the challenges and 'wins' is fascinating. Getting to know the mentee and building a relationship of trust, where both parties share and learn from each other, is a welcome break during the working day.
What's the best thing about being a mentor?
Catherine: The best thing is probably the feeling at the end of every session that you've made a real difference to a small business owner's life.
Some mentees choose to carry this relationship on after the official mentorship has ended. I'm over the moon that Lauren has hired me as her small business marketing consultant to help with refining her concept, optimising her website, marketing the business and more.
What are the main benefits of mentoring for business owners like Lauren?
Catherine: Ultimately, it gives small business owners confidence, perspective and some fresh ideas.
Finally, what are the main things you've learned from your mentoring with Catherine?
Lauren: I've learned so much from Catherine. I would say the most important thing, which I hadn't even considered, was my own development. Catherine dug deep to find out about my personal wants and needs and how they could align with my business.
As a hair salon owner, I think you forget to prioritise yourself. Catherine made me realise I have to be happy, balanced and have things outside of Belle Ame in order to sustain a successful business long term. I now understand the importance of having a short-term and long-term plan both for Belle Ame and myself.
Catherine helped me to focus on brand strategy, the importance of SEO and promoting the business in the right way so that we get the perfect clients who fit our brand. She went over every aspect of my business, and now I feel more confident and comfortable that my weaker area, marketing, is being taken care of and in good hands!
Want to help a small business grow?
Being a mentor goes far beyond the rewarding feeling of 'giving back'. Mentors gain a range of personal development benefits from the experience.
Become a voluntary mentor for the Help to Grow: Management Course and commit 10 hours over 12 weeks to support businesses with their growth action plan. Sign up today
The national mentoring element of the Help to Grow: Management Course is being delivered by a partnership of Newable, Enterprise Nation and the Association of Business Mentors on behalf of the Department for Business & Trade.