Posted: Mon 27th Mar 2023
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 Svetla Stoyanova-Bozhkova, one of the volunteer mentors involved with the course. Svetla discusses her foray into business mentoring, how mentorship aids her own development, and the wealth of benefits that business owners can take from the process.
Please take us through your career and professional background.
I worked for a corporate business in a senior executive position for 12 years. I was involved in setting up and managing departments such as marketing and sales, PR, and research and development. The business I worked for owned and managed subsidiaries in manufacturing, hospitality, transport, construction and real estate, to mention just a few.
I then moved into academia, first working on international projects and then taking on a vice-rector role at a leading higher-education provider in Eastern Europe.
I've always been interested in business research and in 2007 accepted an offer from Bournemouth University to work on a research project looking into economic development in transition economies, which led to my PhD.
The next phase of my career took me to London, where I was head of the strategy, marketing and T&H department at CU London and managed the MBA suite of programmes. I was the liaison with the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and gained my Chartered Management status in 2014. It was then that I joined the CMI business mentoring scheme.
In 2017, I moved back to Bournemouth University, where I teach strategic management and marketing. I'm also deputy head of department for People and Organisations, which is the home of the MBA and business and management programmes. In addition, I manage a large team of academics at Bournemouth University Business School.
What made you want to mentor other business owners?
Being involved in business mentoring through the CMI scheme for the last 10 years allowed me to mentor aspiring entrepreneurs, small business owners and middle and senior managers from corporate organisations, leading UK universities and professional bodies.
It was satisfying to see these individuals change their thinking, gain confidence, build their leadership skills and ultimately succeed in their careers. I witnessed first-hand the positive impact of mentoring on people from different generations and walks of life, and it's been a rewarding experience.
Small businesses see significant development through mentoring: Become a mentor and provide 10 hours of one-to-one support. Find out more
What makes a good mentor?
It may sound cliché, but a good mentor must possess a genuine interest in other people and a desire to help them grow and develop. Being empathetic is a key attribute.
It's important to be able to act as a sounding board, a discussion partner and a critical friend. Last but not least, a good mentor should bring a lot of experience and be well connected.
Do you think anyone can be a mentor or does it take a specific type of person?
This is an interesting question. I think anyone can develop to be a good mentor as long as they have the desire to support other people and adapt to their needs.
I've always considered a mentor a gardener – someone with a lot of patience who can see the potential in a small seed and nurture it while it's growing into a strong, independent plant that can brave the elements.
How does being mentored benefit business owners specifically?
Business owners can benefit from their mentor's knowledge and expertise. They have the chance to discuss ideas confidently and get unbiased feedback from someone who's not only highly experienced but also wants to see them develop their skills and ultimately achieve their aspirations in life.
What do you get out of mentoring other people?
I'm in the final stages of my mentoring relationship with a business owner under the Help to Grow: Management Course, and we both enjoy it.
I've been a business mentor for the last 10 years and have always found it a rewarding and intellectually stimulating experience. I enjoy working with people – there's something energising and uplifting about seeing them progress and achieve their goals.
I still remember the joy when one of my first mentees started their own business following a difficult time in their personal life. As we went through that period together, I felt like I was a part of their success. It was a wonderful feeling.
Mentoring is also a great way for the mentors themselves to develop their personal mentees, enhance their skills and knowledge and raise their profile and visibility within their organisation, network or community.
What's the best thing about being a mentor, and what's the biggest challenge?
The best thing is the sense of pride in seeing people achieve their goals and aspirations, being part of their achievements and feeling their recognition and gratitude. The biggest challenge? It can be easy to get carried away and offer consulting solutions instead of guidance.
What are your hopes for the Help to Grow: Management Course?
I think this is a fantastic initiative, and my hope is that more business owners will appreciate its value and benefit from the opportunities it creates.
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.