Mentoring relationships are known to be critical to success in entrepreneurship, which is exactly why The Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship made Mega Mentoring an integral part of the Founders Summit on Thursday, April 11. The Blank Center paired 100 alumni founders with 100 student entrepreneurs for two consecutive 30-minute discussions. From a foundation of shared industries and interests, the conversations flowed.
The entrepreneurs brainstormed, shared ideas, and gave and received feedback. As observed by Sara Ferrer ’08, CEO and co-founder of Zoey Koko, this counts as entrepreneurship: “Just sitting around a table for 30 minutes is entrepreneurship encompassed.” At Mega Mentoring, she met with undergraduate Xiomara Kelly ’21, who is working on an idea for stick makeup, and Jake Maude MBA’19, founder of BikeLord. Ferrer related to these two entrepreneurs, and emphasized the importance of the fundamentals: research your competitive set and your industry, identify your customer, and analyze what works and what doesn’t work.
This important advice holds true even after you’ve launched. Ferrer was inspired to level set: “It was a great reminder to me. I need to assess the same things. My competitors are changing. The industry is changing.”
The mentoring sessions were thought-provoking for Aria Mustary ’21, who is working on Mai Soli Foundation, a social venture that invests in and develops the entrepreneurship potential of young women in Bangladesh. She met with Dr. Julie DiBari MBA’05, CEO and founder of The Capacity Group, and Diana Yuan ’15, co-founder and VP of Talent & Operations of Indico. They touched on many topics, from tactically developing and delivering curriculum to strategically building a sustainable venture. Ultimately, Mustary is optimistic about her venture’s future: “I’m nervous about doing it right, but I’m excited about the prospect.”
Leaving the mentoring conversations motivated was no small thing. Ashley Taylor MBA’20, co-founder of Taylor Custom Rings, was energized by her sessions with Jason Reuben ’07, CEO and founder of Baguette Atelier, and Colleen Connors MBA’12, CEO and founder of Bquipped. She described the support she received as an “11 on the scale of supportiveness.” Feeling that “we have some people in our corner,” Taylor pitched at the B.E.T.A. Challenge just a few hours later and won both the $20,000 Graduate Challenge and the $10,000 Centennial Award.
Mega Mentoring was just the beginning for these new relationships. As Taylor explained, “Both of them kept the door open and were really inviting.” Reuben understood and related to Taylor, and, from that understanding, came a desire to help: “Mentoring her and helping her up the ladder of the custom jewelry business is something I’m excited for,” shared Reuben, who is grateful to his mentors and feels a strong commitment to pay it forward to his mentees and to the Babson community. As he explained, “We can connect and help each other … even though we don’t know each other,” adding that a shared Babson background translates to knowing each other.
Thiago de Faria Dias MS’19, president and founder of Tax Advisor, a bilingual accounting and tax preparation franchise, and one of this year’s B.E.T.A. Challenge semifinalists, was mentored by alum founder John Esler MBA’97, who has extensive experience in franchising and licensing. Dias had done his research and planned to ask Esler specific questions. But, as Dias explained, “He knew the questions I was about to ask.” The pair dug into the often complex nature of the franchisor-franchisee relationship, discussing the ideal size of franchisee territories, franchise agreements, and fees, and the responsibility of the franchisor to the franchisees. Ultimately, Esler’s advice was actionable and impactful: “He just opened my eyes.”
Mega Mentoring reinforced what we know about mentoring interactions, in a big way and on a big scale. The 200 mentoring sessions that took place yielded ideas to the alumni founders and student entrepreneurs alike. And, whether the students are working on an early idea or facing a turning point in their growing businesses, the conversations were meaningful, inspiring them to take next steps with new insights and information.