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Just between you and me, mentoring has entered the electronic age.
“CYBF offers mentoring support to young Canadian entrepreneurs because we know that this is a key ingredient to help them succeed in business,” said Chris Ransom, Director Programs at the Canadian Youth Business Foundation. CYBF is a charitable not-for-profit organization founded in 1996 that has evolved into a leading organization that encourages and supports over 2,100 young entrepreneurs across Canada.
Ransom’s statement is backed up by empirical evidence from the Prince’s Trust in the United Kingdom, an organization with over 25 years to experience mentoring young entrepreneurs.
For many years the Prince’s Trust had been offering loans to young entrepreneurs without providing a mentoring component. “Initially the success rate of these businesses was only 40 per cent. Just three years after the introduction of a mentor program, the success rate of the young entrepreneurs’ businesses soared to 75 per cent,” said Ransom.
The success of the Prince’s Trust program was a key stimulus and a model for the development and implementation of CYBF’s own mentoring program. Using the Prince’s Trust program as a framework, CYBF developed its own program with a focus on the Canadian perspective. The end result of this process was Entre Nous.
“The title of this mentoring program is ‘Entre Nous’ which means ‘between you and me’ in French, and reflects the purpose of the program – the transfer of experienced business knowledge to young entrepreneurs,” explained Ransom.
The main objectives of the Entre Nous program are:
1. Linking young entrepreneurs and mentors in a supportive relationship;
2. Introducing the concepts and benefits of mentoring;
3. Stimulating business learning through a mentor’s experience; and
4. Enhancing mentoring and communication skills.
Ransom noted that while the program led to an overall increase in the success of participants, there were some drawbacks. “Our face-to-face training sessions were held on a quarterly basis in each community and were held in the evenings. This was not convenient for many mentors or entrepreneurs,” she said. “Some worked in the evenings or felt they were too busy with their business start-up to attend. Some didn’t understand the positive impact mentoring would have on their business and didn’t see the value in attending the session. This resulted in the orientation being done months after the business began or, in some cases, never done at all.”
To correct this situation, CYBF extended and enhanced the original model by incorporating the added tools and benefit provided by the Internet.
“Moving from the face-to-face training session to the online training session format has been extremely positive. With Entre Nous Online, it is more accessible and the training is occurring sooner at the convenience of the entrepreneur and mentor’s schedules,” explained Ransom.
Although the training, learning resources and follow up/support are facilitated through the Internet, the entrepreneur and mentor continue to meet face-to-face.
Since the launch of Entre Nous Online in September 2003, 100% of new loan clients have participated in the program with their mentor. The Entre Nous Online model will be shared internationally to facilitate future business mentoring around the world.
CYBF is always looking for qualified business mentors. To find out more about volunteering as a mentor in your community, visit their website at www.cybf.ca.
reprinted with permission from Corporate Training Magazine – www.ctmonthly.com