Posted: Mon 5th Dec 2022
Enterprise Nation is one of the small business support providers tasked with delivering voluntary mentoring as part of the government's flagship Help to Grow: Management Course.
The programme is a 90% government funded, 12-week course with a combination of online sessions and face-to-face learning, delivered by business schools. It is open to businesses with five or more employees.
Here, we talk to Keisha Shah, one of the voluntary mentors involved with the course. Keisha shares her experiences of mentoring and gives her thoughts on the advantages mentoring can bring to anyone who owns and runs a business.
Keisha, can you tell us about your professional background?
I've always enjoyed learning new things and working with new technology. As such, I've been blessed with a very colourful corporate career spanning a variety of roles – project-managing national and international blue-chip clients, teaching, language training, translations, interpreting for the police and corporate clients, overseeing thought-leadership projects and so on.
When our little boy arrived in 2017, my priorities in life changed. I decided to use my skills and knowledge, as well as my background in education, to develop effective educational resources that would inspire a love of learning in children, naturally encourage them to have free conversations and enrich their vocabulary. That's how my own brand and business, Teddo Play, began.
The various play-based learning products in our range are my effort at incorporating tactile, conversation-rich play and learning into children's daily lives. They help make an extraordinarily positive impact on children's intellectual growth and development, confidence and self-esteem as they grow up into fine individuals.
What made you want to become a mentor to business owners?
I think with my innately helpful nature, I didn't quite realise that I'd already been 'mentoring' and helping fellow business owners for a while now.
However, when the Help to Grow: Management Course came along, I trained with the Association of Business Mentors to be able to better support those small businesses that are taking part in the programme.
I didn't get involved to make mentoring a profession but rather because I love to share my knowledge and experience of running a small successful business.
Being a teacher, I find it exciting and easy to drive helpful information to people. People find me approachable and knowledgeable in a number of areas and I believe in the idea of growing together, so I'm always helping out businesses and people in general.
I like to do thorough research and find it satisfying when I'm able to save someone's time by directing them to the right resources for the information they need. That might be around safety testing of children's products, where to look for funding opportunities and grants, or information about manufacturing, marketing, PR and so on.
I also regularly join roundtable discussions and contribute to research papers which help feed into government policies.
Small businesses see significant development through mentoring: Become a mentor and provide 10 hours of one-to-one support. Find out more
What do you see as the main attributes and characteristics a good mentor should have?
The ability and the willingness to listen. Running a business is no mean feat – there are lots of ups and downs, twists and turns and an incredible amount of learning to do as you go along. It's even more challenging when you're balancing work life and bringing up a family.
At times, all that a mentee wants is to speak to someone who gets it – who's been there and clearly understands the place where the mentee is coming from.
Do you think anyone can be a mentor or does it take a specific type of person?
I don't think mentoring is for everyone, but it's a very rewarding skill that many people can learn and do. It's a process where you not only offer help, guidance and support to others, but one where you're also able to empathise and facilitate other people's learning and development.
I believe it all comes down to how willing you are to help someone out, save them time and prevent them from making expensive mistakes by sharing your own learnings and experiences.
Self-motivated, driven individuals who are able to see the bigger picture and understand the importance of giving back for collective growth and progress make for ideal mentors in my opinion.
How does mentoring benefit business owners specifically?
Being an entrepreneur can become quite a lonely journey. Having access to mentors could be very rewarding both on a professional and an emotional level. It opens doors to new opportunities and resources which you might not have known existed.
I believe it also helps achieve a more open mindset and makes you want to look into areas of your business from a new perspective.
And personally, what do you get out of mentoring?
As well as the satisfaction I get knowing that I've been of help to someone and was able to give back, I find the whole experience very enriching.
Not only do I get the opportunity to share my learnings with other people and potentially save them from making expensive mistakes, but I also get exposed to so many different businesses from different industries.
I find it very interesting to learn about people's business journeys, mindsets, different styles of working, different strategies for growing their businesses and so on. It also fills me with more confidence as I expand my own knowledge and cross paths with more individuals.
What's the best thing about being a mentor, and what's the biggest challenge?
I absolutely enjoy meeting new people, making connections, learning about their business journeys, and building relationships.
I put in a lot of time and research for every mentee I work with to make sure they get the most out of every hour with me. I personally get to learn a lot about different industries as a result, which I find to be a very enriching experience overall.
However, I find that the biggest challenge in mentoring is to have to learn to not carry the weight of your mentee's success on your own shoulders. You become emotionally attached to your mentee's business and story at large, but it's important to remain aware that you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. It's down to the mentee to take action.
What are your hopes for the Help to Grow: Management Course?
It's a great initiative and it's made business education so much more accessible. There are nearly six million SMEs in the country, bringing millions in revenue to the UK economy but run by people who are ploughing away solo.
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.