Mentoring empowers young entrepreneurs to grow and succeed: A conversation with Futurpreneur VP Corinne Lau

A mentor can transform the course of a young entrepreneur’s business and life. 

Corinne Lau, Vice-President of Client and Mentoring Experience at Futurpreneur, has witnessed it play out time and time again through her more than 20+ years with the organization. Lau says mentoring can have a transformative power on young startup founders, and it is a critical part of the services Futurpreneur offers.  

“Entrepreneurs recognize Futurpreneur as an organization that offers financing and mentoring and often they’ll tell us a mentor ultimately provides them more value than the dollars they receive from us,” she shares.  

“While money comes and goes when starting a small business, the lasting impact of mentoring, and the relationship established with a mentor can be felt by a young entrepreneur for years and years,” Lau adds. 

Futurpreneur mentors share relevant experience 

Futurpreneur mentors often bring years of entrepreneurial experience and knowledge from the business world to their mentor-mentee relationships. These are successful individuals who share insights, strategies and practical advice based on their own successes and failures.  

Lau says mentors tap into their lived experiences and provide entrepreneurs with guidance on developing specific skills needed when launching a business such as problem solving, leadership and negotiation. They can also be a sounding board for working through complex challenges or understanding business fundamentals such as revenue generation, sales, marketing and cash flows. 

“Futurpreneur mentors bring real-life experience and have often experienced the same issues as our Futurpreneurs,” says Lau. 

 “As entrepreneurs, the first two years can be the toughest time and they can feel like they’re going through it alone. Through a mentoring relationship, young entrepreneurs find a companion to accompany them on their journey.”   

Mentoring can challenge you to grow 

Lau argues that Futurpreneur mentoring relationships are designed with the entrepreneur’s success in mind. In these relationships, mentors are volunteers and they cannot invest or do business with the entrepreneur mentee, ensuring there is no conflict of interest. Most individuals become a mentor to give back to the entrepreneur ecosystem and to help their mentee(s) reach their business dreams. 

Lau says one powerful tool mentors use in supporting entrepreneurs is asking questions.   

“What do you think would happen if you did this, or didn’t do that, or if you took a different route?” 

At the same time as challenging them, a mentor can validate an entrepreneur’s ideas and business plan. In all cases, their input can help entrepreneurs see their business from different angles and highlight potential blind spots.   

“Everyone’s journey is different. Maybe what didn’t work for me will work for you. [Mentoring] is about sharing. It’s up to the individual [mentee] to say: ‘I’ll take this and leave that if it applies to me,’” Lau says.  

Finding your person 

Lau believes the keys to a great mentor-mentee pairing is authenticity, candour and a mutual commitment of time and effort to make the relationship work. 

 “It’s great when you have someone that you can open up to, talk with and be transparent about when it comes to your fears,” Lau shares. “To get the most out of these relationships, both sides need to put in the time and be present for the conversation. I’ve seen how the return can be so impactful on the mentee as well as the mentor. Mentoring can mean big business for small businesses!”  

Lau advises that finding the right mentor is key for young entrepreneurs to gain the most benefit from a mentoring relationship. She believes the human connection can be just as important matching experience or skills. 

 “Knowing someone believes in you, someone thinks you can make your dream a reality, it forms a special bond,” says Lau.  

The mentor-mentee bond can push entrepreneurs toward their goals and ultimately provide a valuable surge of confidence during a startup’s early years. Financial support may be an important tool to pay for things like equipment or operational costs but mentoring may be the investment that truly takes your business to next level.” 

“Mentoring can change the course of your business and your life,” says Lau. “Time and again, I’ve seen its transformative power. It can be the game changer for a young founder.” 

Learn more about Futurpreneur’s mentoring program or join us: apply to become a mentor! 

Building the Future Through Mentoring

For notary and business owner Veronique Semexant, the impact of an entrepreneur goes beyond creating a business. “Our businesses have a social impact; they contribute to a society and a community,” she explains. To pave the way for the next generation, entrepreneurs need to collaborate and pass on their knowledge.

“We need to make a difference and stop telling ourselves that we have nothing to bring to the table or that other people can do it instead. That ‘other’ is you. Even if we think we have not reached our potential, or that our experience isn’t that different,” says Semexant. In her opinion, sharing our experiences is what matters. By doing so, we influence others, who will, in turn, have an impact on those crossing their path.

Mentoring has allowed Semexant to do just that. After having, gone through Futurpreneur’s mentorship program herself, she shares: “Maybe, I’m at the stage of paying it forward.”

The notary brings along her experience, keeping one thing in mind: openness — an approach fostered by her own mentor, who taught her to think big and look at challenges with a fresh pair of eyes.

The mentoring relationship is compelling because of the conversations about roadblocks and new directions, among other things. She shares how her coaching style focuses on engaging in discussions and getting to know people and their projects. Semexant wants to know “what drives them, what can reduce the time it takes to achieve better results.”

In this spirit, Semexant invites us to get out of our offices and be open to the future: “Let’s make a change.” By seeing entrepreneurs who look like us and, even better, entrepreneurs who are supportive of us, perspectives and possibilities start to open. “Then one can see that someone did it, that it’s possible,” the notary asserts. Then, we can envision more for ourselves: “It gives a vision of hope because when you start, you can feel uncertain. When looking at statistics, it can be bleak. However, we should remind ourselves that yes, it can be done.”

Mentor Profile: Jennifer Ménard-Shand

Community leaders have the unique opportunity to build the next generation of visionaries. Mentorship can be seen both as a duty and a responsibility towards building a stronger entrepreneurial community.  

Jennifer Ménard-Shand considers mentorship rewarding and close to her heart. Following a ten-year career in hospitality with Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment, she made her mark in staffing between 2008 and 2018 at The Bagg Group (now Talent World), a full-service staffing firm where she was originally hired by her mentor. 

In 2018, Ménard-Shand acquired a portion of the company and created Staff Shop, a full-service staffing firm that serves clients across Canada, USA and the Caribbean.  While being a successful entrepreneur, Ménard-Shand remains grounded by her Indigenous roots. Her ability to relate to young Indigenous and women entrepreneurs has been a cultural asset through which she shares her business knowledge as a mentor today. 

“I know how difficult it can be as an entrepreneur, especially an Indigenous entrepreneur, plus being a female, there are many entry barriers and I believe it takes representation to understand that and help remove those barriers,” she says. 

“As a First Nations Ojibway and French Canadian who didn’t always connect with my roots due to the stereotypes that exist out there until later on in my teens, I faced typical oppression challenges faced by Indigenous women especially.” 

Ménard-Shand recognizes the systemic barriers facing Indigenous entrepreneurs through her own experience, highlighting the strength and bravery in their entrepreneurial paths. 

“By the time you’re sitting in front of an Indigenous entrepreneur, you can assume that it’s taken a lot for them to get there. It would be a waste to have them not succeed because of a lack of representation or connection to those who can relate,” she says. 

Tyra Paul is a young Indigenous entrepreneur who owns the clothing brand Drip Avenue 902. Paul is mentored by Ménard-Shand through Futurpreneur.  

“I love Jennifer,” Paul says. “I definitely connected personally with her, and I feel really comfortable talking to her.” 

Empathy is part of Ménard-Shand’s approach to mentorship. 

“I put myself in her shoes, at her stage,” Ménard-Shand says. “I give her the space to be who she is while I provide direction, ideas, and advice. But it’s really up to her. I try not to force too many solutions or stop her from making mistakes.” 

Paul says she appreciates Ménard-Shand’s approach to mentorship – sometimes strategy, sometimes support. 

“It was really nice to have somebody in my corner, especially through these challenging times,” Paul says. “It’s made me feel empowered, and when you feel strong you behave in a way that you never thought was possible before.” 

Over-mentoring is one trap mentors often get caught in, according to Ménard-Shand. While a mentor is there to provide guidance and wisdom, the entrepreneur is the ultimate decision-maker for their business.  

“It’s important that she thinks for herself and learns how to make decisions, takes responsibility for those decisions, and leans on me for what she needs at her own pace, Ménard-Shand says of Paul. “Of course, as soon as I see an opportunity to help with resources or fast-tracking, I will, but I’m also very careful about the balance between my doing versus her doing.” 

Having grown a business with the assistance of mentorship, Ménard-Shand shares attributes of good mentorship. She recalls the importance of professional moral support from her mentor. 

“He saw potential and invested in me, believed in me more than I believed in myself at the time, and I didn’t waste that opportunity. Fast forward a little over a decade later, and I was able to purchase the service line that I created within his company before he sold the rest of it. And that’s how Staff Shop was born. I re-named the service line Staff Shop and it’s the gift that keeps on giving. It has not only benefited me, but the thousands of employees that we deploy across Canada and the hundreds of clients we service across North America.” 

Mentorship played a key role in her own entrepreneurial journey, so she doesn’t miss any opportunity to pay it forward.  

“I personally wouldn’t have made it this far without all of the mentors and Yodas in my life who cleared the path for me to succeed,” she says. “Our battle cry at Staff Shop this year was ‘Leadership Factory’, and we’re always looking for ways to ensure that our team members are growing in or out of the organization. And if we can create more leaders, there’s mutual ROI for everyone involved.” 

For those who have grown their careers to be able to give back, Ménard-Shand has one piece of advice: to pay it forward. 

“I would just like to encourage other leaders to donate their time to help create more leaders. It’s our responsibility to give back. I would also advise entrepreneurs to find the right mentor for them. Find the right Yoda, since no one makes it alone.” 

Janelle Hinds: Entrepreneur, mentor and champion of diversity in STEM

This year, in honour of Black History Month, Futurpreneur is profiling a series of exceptional Black entrepreneurship leaders in our network—entrepreneurs and mentors who are making a difference in their communities.

Janelle Hinds wears many hats – and the collection is only growing.

Toronto-based Hinds is the founder and executive director of Helping Hands, an app created to help youth find meaningful volunteer and leadership opportunities. She’s an advocate for young women, people of colour and newcomers to find opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), with diversity consulting and public speaking gigs filling her already-busy schedule.

Last summer, Hinds added another title to the list, becoming one of the newest members of the Futurpreneur Board of Directors.

“As an entrepreneur, there’s a lot of support and resources that you need,” Hinds says, citing funding, which can often be difficult for young founders to obtain, to mentorship and guidance in navigating the business world.

Hinds says she jumped at the chance to be part of an organization that focuses on helping young entrepreneurs get their start.

“Futurpreneur is so focused on making sure that it’s the entrepreneur first – like, ‘Does this really help the entrepreneur, yes or no?’ We will make sure that the entrepreneurs coming through our programs are getting the best experience that they can.”

Hinds knows the ins and outs of entrepreneurship firsthand. An engineer by training, she founded several tech-focused initiatives before creating Helping Hands in 2015. The app-based service helps youth find volunteer opportunities, helping them satisfy graduation requirements while providing them with tools to build valuable early-career experience, pick up transferable skills and establish professional networks.

Advocacy and consulting were never part of her game plan – but Hinds found herself taking on that work as she increased her involvement in engineering and entrepreneurship.

“A couple of years ago, I was noticing issues around women in the engineering space. The community in the university I went to wasn’t very entrepreneurially focused, and a lot of other women didn’t want to speak about different issues. I went to Twitter thinking, ‘I just need somewhere I can talk about this.’ “

Others took notice, and Hinds soon began receiving public speaking invites, as well as requests from companies to advise them on their diversity-related practices. Now, she’s regularly invited to speak at non-profits, schools and larger organizations.

“I realized I have a voice, and people are listening – I may as well speak,” she says.


Much of Hinds’ consulting and advocacy work focuses on the “underestimation” of Black employees and entrepreneurs – a concept she emphasizes over that of “underrepresentation.”

“Black founders aren’t underrepresented. There are a lot – a lot – of small business owners, and if you go into Black communities, you’ll notice just how many people are small business owners,” she explains. “It’s that people don’t assume these business owners know what they’re doing, so they’re not even offered the opportunity to grow their businesses.

“I frame it like this: Is your (organization) underestimating them? Those entrepreneurs exist – you just don’t see them.”

Providing those opportunities is a focus at Helping Hands: In addition to focusing on diversity in hiring internally, the team is currently working on a mental health and allyship guide geared toward Black youth and allies. The guide, based on a similar document Hinds created in the wake of Blackout Tuesday last June, is being created with input from Black youth and will focus on mental health support as well as how friends and allies can support Black peers.

Helping Hands also prioritizes outreach to groups serving newcomers and Black youth to ensure that they have access to the program.

Proactively trying to ensure access in that way, Hinds says, is a step that all too many groups and companies skip when it comes to fostering diversity.

“It’s like any marketing effort – you have to make sure you’re doing the effort to [address the needs] of your audience,” she says.

“I know organizations say, ‘We were looking at doing a youth employment round table, but no youth signed up.’ I asked some questions and I found out they did it in the middle of a school day.” Same goes, she says, for networking or professional events held after hours, when many working parents who don’t have access to childcare can’t make it.

“Again, from hiring to selling your services, it’s not hard to look and think, “Who are we targeting? Where are we marketing? Who are we missing?”


“Until you start a business, you do not realize how many little things you have to figure out and learn until the day you decide to start,” Hinds says – another reason why Futurpreneur’s focus on mentorship appealed to her.

At the start of her career, she benefited greatly from a mentor who was also in the social entrepreneurship space – which, at the time, was “little more than a buzzword.”

“There wasn’t a lot of popularity, programming or support around it, so she helped me clarify and understand my business model better and learn how to position myself to be recognized as a valid business and not just a charitable outcome,” she says.

Hinds is also quick to extol the virtues of peer mentoring. “It doesn’t always have to be someone that’s had 20 years in the business – it could be a peer mentor who’s a couple of steps ahead of you and just making sure that you’re not falling down.”

Hinds is part of a chat group of Black women who work in tech and business: “We’re constantly sharing resources with each other, but also asking for advice,” she says.

“Sometimes we’ve had discussions about our hair, or about how our clothing is perceived,” Hinds adds. “We never have to explain ourselves – and a lot of the time, when I’m talking to someone else, I find myself going, ‘Let me give you some context.’ We never have to do the context-building with each other – we just go straight into the problem.”

By staying close with her peer mentorship group, she has also been able to learn about other fields she doesn’t work in – e-commerce, for example – which allows her to pass on that advice to others if they’re in need.

The experience has made her a better mentor – and a better entrepreneur overall, she says.

“I’m faced with a new problem every single day, and I’ve been able to build up the resiliency because I feel confident in figuring out a solution.”

Want to learn more about how Futurpreneur can help launch your business? Click here.

Mentorly, the Platform Built to Break Down Barriers to Mentoring

Mentorly is the brainchild of two women artists and entrepreneurs, Ashley Werhun and Katherine Macnaughton, who after facing the personal experience and pain points echoed by hundreds of artists and young entrepreneurs, sought to make mentorship more intentional, accessible, and immediate. They created to bridge the gap in education, offering mentees “real world” guidance and, ultimately, contributing to a more vibrant, global community.

Mentoring is a proven approach that can improve a start-up’s chances for success. When starting a business, simply adding a mentor relationship into the equation can increase an entrepreneur’s success rate by 20-30%. Mentoring is not limited to the entrepreneurial world alone, however. Similar results can be seen in the more traditional work world, as well as in education.

Mentorly: towards a more inclusive mentorship

At a time when inclusion is more important than ever, the two women have successfully met the challenge of expanding this vital educational approach, making it accessible to a broader audience.

Mentoring has long been seen as a relationship between two people from the same community, the same network or the same social circle. The drawback to this approach is that an island effect is created where only people in the same social circles ever have access to making connections and finding mentors, while diverse and underrated talent is sidelined. With an online platform like Mentorly, mentees and mentors from different cities, provinces or even different countries can connect easily and take advantage of an experience they would not have gotten in a traditional face-to-face setting.

“Four years ago when we started Mentorly, we were dismayed to find that mentorship, if not sidestepped altogether, was often informal, unstructured and inaccessible to most,” says Katherine Macnaughton, Co-founder and COO. “It drove us to create a solution that would break down barriers that keep mentees and mentors from connecting, so that they could focus on building strong, meaningful connections and leave the rest to us.”

Mentorly: supporting organizations through COVID-19

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, the platform launched a new business solution to help companies and organizations navigate this crisis. Originally designed for one-on-one mentoring sessions between emerging creatives and industry professionals, the new enterprise solution integrates perfectly into schools, workplaces and large organizations across industries.

Mentorly saw a rise in usage of over 300% in the month of April because it offers a complete and efficient system that includes easy navigation, a booking system, video calls, tracking tools, and mentor matching and recommendations. In addition, organizations were seeking to maintain their mentorship programs during these difficult times. Such was the case for Réseau Mentorat.

Formerly known as Réseau M, Réseau Mentorat has been a leading business mentorship provider in Quebec for the last 20 years, providing high-caliber, in-person mentoring programs to entrepreneurs from all backgrounds. Given the time and resources required for face-to-face meetings, the Montreal branch of the organization had already decided to team up with Mentorly prior to lockdown to incorporate digital mentoring into its offering. The COVID-19 crisis served as the accelerator to get the service up and running as soon as possible. Réseau Mentorat plans on rolling out digital mentoring services to all of its 3,000+ Quebec members after completion of the first phase.

To learn more about Mentorly, click here


Mentor Spotlight : Frederic Moreau, Founder of

When entrepreneurs go through Futurpreneur Canada’s Start-Up Program, along with receiving financing and access to key resources, they are also paired with a mentor for two years.

While this mentorship is extremely valuable for our entrepreneurs, it also works both ways. Many of our mentors say that they learn as much from their mentees as their mentees learn from them.

Frederic Moreau, founder of FACILE.CO, a community of facilitators in business transformation, is one of these mentors.

Frederic fell into entrepreneurship when he was a teenager. Originally from a family of entrepreneurs, Frederic was quickly immersed in business.

“At 12 years old I started to help in the family business, in the warehouse to store and destock products,” says Frederic. “So I went quite naturally to studies in business and marketing.”

After spending more than a decade in marketing consulting and digital strategy, Frederic slowly specialized in business transformation in Luxembourg, before moving to Montreal eight years ago where he decided to set up his own business.

Through his activity as a trainer in personal agility, Frederic helps companies cope with sudden changes in modern society by offering support and learning activities.

“One day, I woke up from a long sleep to realize that the world had changed,” says Frederic. “So I went into the dance to evolve. Now, I help humans do the right thing to move easily in a turbulent environment and then change the world. And that for me is the best job in the world.”

It was, therefore, natural for Frederic to become a mentor.

“Sharing is one of my three motivators in life with helping and creating. It is also a form of advice very different from the posture of coach and the posture of consultant. Personal development also goes for me,” says Frederic.

And for him, mentoring is an essential part of starting a business.

“Anyone who starts an activity or takes on a new role in an organization should find a mentor to help them get started. […] I had several mentors in my career and they saved me valuable time that led me to lead teams early and create mine. A mentor is a guide who shares his experience, which does not have all the answers but which helps you find your way more easily,” explains Frederic.

But how can I be sure that the mentoring relationship works? According to Frederic, it is necessary for both the mentor and mentee to have, “courage, humility, curiosity.” He adds: “The courage to say that one does not know, the courage to recognize one’s mistakes.”

And if Frederic had one last thing to add, he would say “Congratulations to the entire Futurpreneur team for its commitment to help entrepreneurs realize their dreams, and to integrate the mentor into a role of support and development.”

And we thank him for being a mentor with us!

Interested in becoming a volunteer business mentor? Click here to find out how!

Written by: Charlotte Robert, Bilingual Copywriter, Futurpreneur Canada

Mentor Spotlight: Paul Ross, Co-founder of Reptile

When entrepreneurs go through Futurpreneur Canada’s Start-Up Program, along with receiving financing and access to key resources, they are also paired with a mentor for two years.

While this mentorship is extremely valuable for our entrepreneurs, it also works both ways. Many of our mentors say that they learn as much from their mentees as their mentees learn from them.

Paul Ross, co-founder of digital agency Reptile, is one of those mentors.

He has been passionate about business and digital strategy from an early age. When he was still a little boy, his entrepreneurial spirit was already well developed.

“When I was six, I asked my parents to buy me a computer and I sold rocks door to door. I think it says everything about me,” says Paul.

For him, the most important thing a new entrepreneur can have is a supportive community.

“When I started, I had the privilege of being supported by a variety of mentors, including my father who was Vice President at Domtar. I would not be where I am today if these people had not accompanied me. [That] is one of the keys to success,” says Paul.

Paul also recognizes the importance of a mentor/mentee relationship based on listening, sharing and communicating. Discover his relationship with his mentee, Vincent Gagnon, founder of M2GO, an online furniture company supported by Futurpreneur.

“I think the Futurpreneur program is a really a great tool for young entrepreneurs. I want to congratulate you for setting up such a program. I think it’s important to support entrepreneurial succession, there is so much talent here,” says Paul.

You can check Paul Ross’s business,, as well as his entrepreneurial project,

Interested in becoming a volunteer business mentor? Click here to find out how!

Written by: Charlotte Robert, Bilingual Copywriter, Futurpreneur Canada

Valerie Crisp and Daniela Kelloway: Making the Most of Mentoring

Finding your perfect mentor match is a little bit like dating.

After all, just like a romantic partner, your ideal mentor is usually someone who shares your values, but also offers a unique perspective that helps you see your goals in a new light. And like a first date, it’s always a good sign when your first meeting goes overtime.

This was definitely the case for entrepreneur Valerie Crisp and mentor Daniela Kelloway. Valerie has a background in fashion design and worked as costumer before founding her backpack company, Watson, a year ago. Daniela is a serial entrepreneur and the founder of ClutchPR, a client-focused public relations agency with clients in a variety of industries.

While the two come from different professional backgrounds, they realized right away that their skillsets and personalities complemented each other well.

“We met for breakfast and talked endlessly, getting to know one another and sharing experiences,” says Valerie about their first meeting. “Daniela struck me as creative, unafraid to take risks and knowledgeable about all things entrepreneurship and PR. Within the first hour, I was already learning how to look at situations through different lenses.”

Daniela was similarly impressed by Valerie: “She struck me as professional, assertive, thoughtful and prepared. All things I really value,” she says.

From that first meeting onward, their relationship has continued to blossom into a truly productive pairing – and the two have only been working together since January!

For Valerie, what she appreciates most about working with Daniela is her ability to pinpoint the key areas she needs to work on and help her think more strategically about her business.

“Every time I speak with Daniela, she gets right to the heart of the matter,” says Valerie. “She sees the overarching themes and offers a holistic view when I’m a bit stuck in the weeds. I really enjoy brainstorming and riffing together and I always leave our calls energized and full of ideas.”

Additionally, Valerie’s experience is proof that mentorship is not a one-way street. Mentors can gain just as much knowledge and insight from their mentees.

“Every time I talk to Val, I feel I learn something new,” says Daniela. “She has a strong vision for her company and a real understanding of her product and the unique value proposition she brings to the world. I love when I can mentor someone and they teach me things.”

Of course, it hasn’t been entirely smooth sailing for the two of them. Scheduling biweekly meetings between two busy entrepreneurs is not always easy. Fortunately, both of them know that strong communication, co-operation and commitment are big components of a successful mentoring relationship so they do their best to make it work.

Plus, for both Valerie and Daniela, the benefits of mentoring far outweigh the cons.

“I decided to become a volunteer mentor because there is nothing greater in life than the feeling that you’re able to help someone with something they’re working on,” says Daniela. “Giving is living and with each new business I mentor, I get the opportunity to learn about that business and to grow with that entrepreneur. It’s a beautiful journey.”

Valerie’s company will be launching their flagship product this spring and after only a few months of working with her mentor, she feels more confident and focused than ever. With her branding and mission more aligned under Daniela’s guidance, she knows she’s ready to take the Canadian backpack market by storm.

“Daniela has seen many types of businesses and offers a birds-eye view of how my mission fits into the world and all the different ways that can be crafted,” says Valerie. “This relationship has already blown my mind.”

National Volunteer Week 2018 Futurpreneur Canada

What about you? Who’s your mentor? We want to know! Share your story with #FuturMentor and #NVW2018 on Twitter and Instagram!

Written by: Jasmine Williams, Social Media and Content Specialist, Futurpreneur Canada

Celebrating Mentorship with Vincent Gagnon and Paul Ross

It’s National Volunteer Week! From April 16th-20th, we’re celebrating mentorship by recognizing our almost 3,000 volunteer mentors and their commitment to Canadian entrepreneurs.

And because we recognize the value of a good mentor match, what’s better than a video of mentor and mentee sharing how their mentoring relationship helped them achieve business success?

Meet our Futurpreneur Vincent Gagnon, founder of M2GO and his mentor, Paul Ross, founder of Technologie Reptile Inc., talking about their valuable relationship.

 What about you? Who’s your mentor? We want to know! Share your story with #FuturMentor and #NVW2018 on Twitter and Instagram!

Written by: Charlotte Robert, Bilingual Copywriter, Futurpreneur Canada

Mentor Spotlight: John Gregory, Opencity Inc.

When entrepreneurs go through Futurpreneur Canada’s Start-Up Program, along with receiving financing and access to key resources, they are also paired with a mentor for two years.

While this mentorship is extremely valuable for our entrepreneurs, it also works both ways. Many of our mentors say that they learn as much from their mentees as their mentees learn from them.

John Gregory, of Opencity Inc., is one of these mentors.

Currently residing in Kitchener, Ontario, John describes himself as, “an energetic Brit living in Canada,” with a passion for starting new initiatives. He started out as a sales representative for a global pharmaceutical company. From there, he worked in big and small pharmaceutical and medical device companies and eventually came to Canada in 2003.

“[The company I was working for] asked if I would be willing to move to Montreal for two years if they paid for everything,” says John. “It was the fastest decision I ever made.”

After writing a blog post during the 2012 Olympics that topped Google, John transitioned into more communications work. His extensive background in the healthcare industry lead him to his current position as a Strategy and Digital Communications Consultant with Opencity Inc., an agency that helps start-ups build thought leadership and brand authority online.

John first heard about Futurpreneur at a presentation at The Accelerator Centre in Kitchener. After experiencing the tech start-up ecosystem in the area, he was inspired to get involved and give back as a mentor.

Currently, he mentors Abby Tai, a holistic nutritionist and owner of PrimePhysique Nutrition. Not only has John helped Abby build her business, she has helped him with his podcast.

“Abby has considerable experience with 15 episodes of her The Eczema Podcast,” says John, “She has provided valuable suggestions to help bring my new Charity Spotlight podcast series to fruition.”

He also says he’s currently writing a book about start-ups, and his relationship with Abby and other members of his entrepreneurial community have provided him with excellent case studies.

However, beyond his personal benefits, John believes wholeheartedly in the power of mentorship in supporting Canada’s start-up ecosystem as a whole.

“We now live in a global society. Any Canadian startup is competing with competitors who can do the same thing, cheaper, from somewhere else in the world,” he says. “The most successful startups listen to the mentors, customers and emotional team that surround them.”

And for experienced professionals like himself, mentorship provides a sense of purpose.

“It extends your own networks, building new valuable links,” says John, who cites his experience presenting at a Futurpreneur Expert Exchange event as an example.

Of course, the mentorship road is not always a smooth one. John says he has personally struggled with taking a step back and allowing his mentee to solve their own problems.

“In working with other consulting clients and people in general, it is easy to say, ‘I’ll do that’ because you know it will be quicker and easier to do yourself,” says John. “However, that makes people dependent and doesn’t build their technical and problem-solving skills.”

Still, he says that he wishes that he had this kind of mentorship in his own career and offers a few nuggets of wisdom for prospective Futurpreneur mentors:

“Be open and honest. Be transparent. Treat the other person as you would like to be treated yourself. Put your ego aside and expect nothing in return except the curiosity of where the journey leads.”
Interested in becoming a volunteer business mentor? Click here to find out how!

Mentor Spotlight on Margo Soucy: Making Business Development Personal

January is Mentoring Month and to celebrate, we wanted to share the mentoring story of one of Futurpreneur Canada’s most passionate ambassadors.

Margo Soucy is the Executive Director of Community Business Development Corporation (CBDC) Cabot, an organization that assists in the creation of small businesses and in the expansion and modernization of existing businesses by providing financial and technical services to entrepreneurs.

We caught up with her to learn more about her career in business development and her experience as a Futurpreneur mentor.

Tell me a bit about yourself.

I worked in business development on the east coast of Canada. Newfoundland and Labrador will always be my home – I enjoy all that it has to offer and the people that make it amazing. Business is a long time passion, and being on the advisory side is most rewarding – and never a dull moment!

I get energized by the entrepreneurs I work with and organizations I volunteer with. I’ve been employed by the Community Business Development Corporation for over fifteen years, a family I’m grateful to have lucked into! I also volunteer with several organizations, largely with a business-related theme.

Tell me about your experience and career path. 

I had no idea how rewarding a career in business development would be when I started out.  I was pursuing a career in accounting when a mentor of my own opened my eyes to business development, an unexpected but most welcome career focus.

From the very first day on the job, I’ve had the opportunity to meet incredible people, and am proud to be a part of their stories now; it’s inspiring, each and every day. Entities like the Community Business Development Corporation and Futurpreneur Canada have had a significant impact on the lives of many, including my own, and truly shaping small business in Canada.

What made you want to become a mentor?

I first viewed mentoring as a specific relationship with defined terms, more or less, but I’ve learned it is about much more.

For me, perhaps it was due to not having exposure to entrepreneurial programs through my own youth that when I learned all there was to offer, I had to get involved and wanted to inspire others, for my own missed opportunities.

It’s also a great way to pass on some of the great stories, knowledge and experiences I’ve been immersed in, in working with entrepreneurs – many of whom who are too proud to tell their own stories.

What has been the most rewarding part of being a mentor?

I think it all boils down to impact. Simple gestures of thanks, or seeing entrepreneurs progress through challenging times, reaffirm the power of relationships and reaching out for help when needed.

What has been the biggest challenge of mentoring?

I would have to say working with people that success doesn’t happen easily for.  Some are fully committed and doing “all the right things” but for one reason or another face challenges that even the best of supports are unable to help them get beyond.

Those are particularly tough, as when you work so closely with people you become part of their business, and their challenges often become your challenges.

Why do you feel it’s important young entrepreneurs have mentors?

Not just for youth, but everyone stands to gain from having a trusted mentor. I often see youth being dismissed for lacking years of experience to learn from past mistakes.

However, young entrepreneurs often make up for their years in other ways, like thinking more creatively, being more open to possibilities, or being passionate and following instincts without reservation.  The relationship also works both ways, as I often get more from the deal than those mentored!

Why would you recommend that other people become mentors?

It is a great opportunity for growth, self-reflection and making a positive impact. We all have share-worthy insight, knowledge and experience; if we don’t pass it on, no one stands to gain.

What do you feel makes a successful mentor/mentee relationship?

Trust, respect and openness. Mentoring lends more to personal and professional growth and connections than knowledge found in textbooks and online sources.  Mentoring can happen in a variety of ways, but I have always found face-to-face interaction tough to beat.

Anything else you’d like to add?

We all have a unique perspective, based on our education, experience and the relationships we’ve developed, that others stand to benefit in learning from.

While it is easy to find ourselves overwhelmed at times, life and opportunities can pass us by quickly, so use the resources around you to keep you forward focused.

Challenge yourself to keep thinking big!

Interested in becoming a Futurpreneur mentor? Learn more here

Written by: Jasmine Williams, Social Media and Content Specialist, Futurpreneur Canada

Mentor Spotlight: Q&A with Brian Scharfstein of Canadian Footwear

Here at Futurpreneur, we are big believers in the power of mentorship.

The right mentor can help a young entrepreneur turn a burgeoning business into a successful enterprise.

Brian Scharfstein is just one of the many mentors volunteering their time to support new Canadian business owners. Based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, He is the principal owner of Canadian Footwear and the FootHealth Centre in Winnipeg and Calgary. Brian’s passion for footwear and foot care dates to his childhood as his family owned a footwear business.

We caught up with Brian to learn more about him, his experience and his passion for mentorship.

Tell me a bit about yourself.

I have been self-employed in Winnipeg for approximately fifty years. I have been a chronic entrepreneur since I was seventeen years old. I have both successfully and unsuccessfully run a number of businesses. My formal education really did not begin until I was forty years old. Brand building, Marketing, and promoting my businesses have always been my specialty.

Tell me about your experience and career path. 

I started my sales career buying outdoor clothing and footwear, then traveling to northern communities selling my products. I opened my first wholesale distribution company when I was seventeen. Shortly after that, I opened my first retail outlet. I constantly marketed and promoted sales events. Retail has always been in my blood. In the 1980s, I took a short sabbatical and sold both residential and commercial real estate. In 2000, I achieved my designation as a Certified Pedorthist (Canada). Combining my new profession and my retail experience, I bought Canadian Footwear.

What made you want to become a mentor?

The best way to learn is to help others. Mentoring has gifted me the opportunity to challenge myself and others.

What has been the most rewarding part about being a mentor?

Investing my time in listening and sharing the ideas that entrepreneurs are so passionate about, provides me with the fuel to continue to grow my interests in business.

What has been the biggest challenge of mentoring?

The biggest challenge is finding the right mentee. A bad match is not a good thing.

Why do you feel it’s important young entrepreneurs have mentors?

Everyone should have a sounding board. It can be a small selected group or one person. Mentors provide the opportunity to reflect and self-examine.

Why would you recommend that other people become mentors?

Being a mentor keeps you on your toes all the time. Mentoring is inspiring.

What do you feel makes a successful mentor/mentee relationship?

When both the mentor and mentee are willing to listen to each other, then you have half of the recipe for success. The other half requires a proper plan for the process.

Anything else you’d like to add?

You’ve heard this before. Remember your personal strength. Success is based on relationships and experiences. Always be honest and sell yourself first. You are the primary brand in your business.

Interested in becoming a volunteer business mentor? Click here

Written by: Jasmine Williams, Social Media and Content Specialist, Futurpreneur Canada