The Value of Mentorship in the Season of Giving

I have a lot of energy that I draw in many different ways. But, one way that might surprise you is that I get energy by giving my energy away.  I have been mentoring young people for quite a number of years and I always get back more than I give. I really enjoy helping the younger generation navigate through new challenges as they start their careers.

Mentoring serves to remind me of what it was like when I first got started. It’s easy to forget how hard it seemed when I was younger. Working as a mentor, I get to assure my mentees that the issues they are going through are normal and are issues nearly everyone goes through. I have found there are some really smart people out there, with fascinating views of the world.

One of the cool things is that the people I mentor have different expectations than you might imagine. They look at starting a business more as an adventure and not as a business. Maybe it’s because they are doing something they are very passionate about. They are much less risk averse and less interested in the end game. Making a fortune and looking for the exit is not even on their radar. It’s really very refreshing to see.

Here in Seattle, I have already become involved in three different mentoring programs. I am working with the University of Washington, Microsoft, and Seattle Hackathon, offering advice to students and budding entrepreneurs on how to build a company and how to use data to make decisions.

The University of Washington, otherwise known as UW (u-dub), has an entrepreneurial program as part of their MBA program. The students I am working with have chosen to bring forth a very unusual idea. Their idea is to build a platform to improve resources for the homeless in Seattle.

The goal of their platform is to connect homeless artisans with buyers as a way for the homeless to trade their arts and crafts for resources like groceries or other needed items. The platform will provide a personal blog space for each artist. It’s a cool approach that combines community and business. The great thing is that the mayor of Seattle is very interested in their idea and said he looks forward to seeing a presentation of their final product.

Microsoft has a program for startups called Accelerator. They offer this program three to four times a year to new companies with promising ideas. We meet with participants every other week to help them create their business story and messaging that they need for fundraising.

We help them think through their business model, the different disciplines of business, competition, and pricing. In the end, they should be able to tell whether they have a valid business model for their idea. Unlike the students at UW, these entrepreneurs are typically more business savvy and know what they are looking for.

Lastly, I am involved in the Seattle Hackathon. It’s five days of intense, personal work with a group of people who are still experimenting on what it means to be an entrepreneur. These sessions happen about four times a year and generally involve young, inexperienced people, even young school kids.

During a Hackathon session, seven or eight groups will rotate through teams of four to five mentors. These mentors help them with core questions on what it means to be an entrepreneur. It provides a great experience for the participants getting to meet mentors in a variety of fields.

In this season of giving, I encourage you to find your own ways to give back and find out how much it can recharge you to do so.