Why you need a mentor in your business journey

Last week I wrote about how I got into the second-hand clothing business; a path I followed not because I had the passion for it but because I wanted to grasp the concepts of running a business.

My journey into entrepreneurship began with me shadowing my brother Dennis, who at the time ran a thriving clothing store.

He was my mentor.

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Through him I learnt that a good mentor is supposed to lay out the plan for you but step back to allow you to express your ideas freely.

And learning goes both ways, because, just as much as you are learning from your mentor, they are learning from you too.

I have had one of my mentors say that he loved my grit and the way I executed my ideas, and had applied some of my ideals in his business.

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Your mentor will teach you a lot, owing to his experience, but don’t feel small either.

They learn from you too and the more they figure they can learn from you, the more inclined they will feel to keep you around. But back to my brother Dennis, what can I say he taught me about business management?

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Own something

A good mentor is like a school that holds your hand even after graduation until you are thriving in your career or business.

My brother drummed it into me that while it was important for me to seek out a mentor and learn all there was to learn about business, I had to practice what I was being taught and thus I needed to start my own business.

Working with him at the clothing store, I learnt a lot about effective communication with customers. And pretty soon, I was wooing many into the shop and closing plenty of sales.

Dennis noticed this and one evening, after counting the cash we had made that day, and mentioning how big a profit we had made, he stared at me pensively and asked why I didn’t want to be a business owner counting my own profits after a long hard day of labour.

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He then asked me how long I planned on standing in his shadow, and pretty much ordered me to put a business idea in motion and quit procrastinating. As though the fates were colluding with him, a week later, the shop next door was put up for sale and with the little savings I had, I was in business.

I started my clothing shop right next to my brother’s and the rest, as they say, is history.

Today, when I mentor anyone, I make sure that I pass on this lesson to them; that you can’t remain a student forever. A time comes when the student needs to start putting in the work. 

The world is your oyster

After I set up my store right next to Dennis’, I set about creating a customer base. Business was good and thriving, and I was happy.

Often times, I would pop in next door to trade stories with my brother and one particular day, after we had both posted impressive profits, he told me quite bluntly that I was choking my mind with mediocrity.

He felt that I wasn’t living up to my greatest potential and that I needed to let go of my limitations. At first, I thought that maybe he didn’t like that I was in competition with him and was just trying to put me down.

But then he said something that gave me pause. He said that I should be bigger and better than I was.

That I should be a major industry player. He saw something in me that I didn’t quite see in myself.  And that pushed me to do better, be better.

The confidence he had in me sparked a fire in my belly. The following two years saw me launch my music career, own a customised clothing line, start a printing press, learn design and become a studio sound engineer.

This was all despite the fact that our clothing stalls along Jogoo road had been pulled down thanks to a Government initiative. I was done playing small.  

And so should you. Find yourself a worthy mentor and get that business going. Then let’s meet in the big leagues.  

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