Looking to start or grow your small business idea but haven’t the first idea where to start? Here’s why mentoring could be the key to your success…
Ashleigh founded Cook It Up, a Nottinghamshire-based healthy food fusion business, in January 2021.
Inspired by her travels, Cook It Up was born from Ashleigh’s love of tasty, nutritious world cuisine that transported customers to far-flung places – a USP that brought comfort to those still spending a lot of time at home post-pandemic.
Following a career in media production, broadcasting and supporting entrepreneurs, Ashleigh knew she needed to grow her core skills in order to support her fledgeling business.
It was in the November of 2020 that she decided to find a mentor to help her push her career further.
Looking to take the next step? Here, Ashleigh draws on her own experience to explain why a mentor could help nudge you in the right direction…
1. It helps you lay the groundwork
“I think when you’re starting off, whether that’s a career change or business idea, everything can seem daunting,” says Ashleigh.
“So, to have that kind of support at such an early stage is incredibly encouraging and motivational.
“At the beginning, despite having some marketing experience I knew that I had to make sure that Cook It Up idea was going to be profitable. Would people buy into what I was offering?
“Having a mentor helped me lay the initial foundations, so I knew I was building the company right. They impressed upon me the importance of getting the business fundamentals in place before I sold anything.
“That helped improve my own awareness about the future and the direction my business was moving in.”
2. You'll find out how to build a brand
“Before getting a mentor, I didn’t even have a logo!” admits Ashleigh.
“Luckily, I met with Mahima Karol, a design consultant who’s worked with the likes of Disney and BMW.
“As a mentor, Mahima really brought these skills to the table in terms of influencing the look and feel of the brand identity.
“She suggested things such as loyalty schemes and branded flyers with discount codes to place in my delivery boxes – initiatives that I wouldn’t have even thought of myself.”
“Once the logo had been created, I then used my other mentors as a sounding board. We talked a lot about being recognisable, the right colours, again, things I wouldn’t have considered to be key decisions by simply looking at it.
“Through speaking with them, I realised that something as small as my logo was how I was going to be represented in the world, so it had to be right.
“They inspire another level of thinking, and a new depth to consider when making even the smallest decisions.”
“Mentors encourage you to try and implement new things which you can then measure against your success. It’s like an ongoing conversation that’s tailored to your business and business needs.”
3. You get your own personal toolkit
Ashleigh found her mentors after coming across the non-profit organisation Digital Boost, which provides online mentoring for small businesses, start-ups and charities.
To reach even more people, Digital Boost is also working with MasterCard as part of Strive UK.
A programme from the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, Strive UK will provide support to hundreds of thousands of small business owners to help them succeed in the digital economy. MasterCard and Digital Boost are together offering 1:1 mentoring for the small business owners of the future, connecting them with a whole host of professionals each offering skills tailored to their specific challenges.
From SEO to HR advice, the scheme encourages businesswomen like Ashleigh to gather information from multiple mentors in order to successfully grow their businesses.
“Along with SEO, maintaining the back end of my website (and improving its user journey), the scheme has also given me access to a lot of other tools,” says Ashleigh.
“I completed a digital marketing course via Digital Boost which is accredited and sits on my LinkedIn. The scheme also introduced me to Canva, an app that helps me with my brand artwork.
“I did a degree in media production so had some of the skills already in place, but this app allows me to work directly from my phone or laptop which is super handy.
“My mentors also helped me with Excel spreadsheets as well which is essential when keeping on top of the mundane things like accounting.”
“Practical tools aside, the mentorship scheme has also helped me foster a positive mental attitude.
“A lot of the mentors I met with on the platform just get my business, which in turn got me fired up and excited about what I could achieve.”
4. You're encouraged to think about the future
“It takes courage and confidence to start your own business,” says Ashleigh.
“But I believe that if your idea comes from a place of integrity and you want to share what you have with people, and you believe in what you’re doing, you can’t fail.
“I feel like I have this incredible opportunity to share my love of healthy world cuisine with the community, and that drives me.
“In the beginning I was operating a certain way and I pivoted based on advice from the mentoring scheme. It allowed me to think differently when approaching not just what I wanted to gain from Cook It Up, but what it could offer my customers too.
“The scheme has encouraged me to think about working with other businesses, and what it means to foster relationships with other companies.
“I’ve also worked charity events where I’m in a position to give back while still giving my business visibility – community is something that’s extremely important to me.
My advice to anyone thinking about using this online platform is to do it. Seek guidance from as many qualified people and from as many different industries as you can.
“And think about what it is you need from them; is it accounting or HR advice, is it branding, and then find the best expert to help you meet that challenge. Explore all their advice and put it to the test.”
From 1:1 mentoring to online workshops, discover more about the Strive UK programme online.