Mentors do matter

Students at Lavin Entrepreneurial Action ProgramTake just a minute and ask yourself: Who’s the person who has played the most influential role in your career?  Chances are it was someone who listened to your ideas and gave you feedback—but left the real decision up to you. Or someone who encouraged you just at that point when you were about to give up on your plan. Or someone who made a few key introductions that opened a huge door for your start-up.  A mentor. And mentors REALLY matter when you’re a young entrepreneur.

The Center’s Lavin Entrepreneurial Action Program, named for Alberto Culver’s Leonard Lavin, admits freshmen to an “honors program” in entrepreneurship. No, it’s not based on the students’ GPA or SAT scores, but rather on their level of entrepreneurial drive. Many of these students started their first companies in high school, and most them are already thinking about their next start-up.

Part of the Lavin Program’s promise is matching the students with entrepreneurial mentors, and CIE’s 28-person Advisory Board volunteered to be the “first line of mentors.” At the Center’s winter board meeting, director Connie Bourassa-Shaw moderated a discussion on mentoring, which elicited comments and stories from both board members and students. The group then began “mentor speed-dating,” with 10-minute intervals for striking up new conversations.  “I’d expected the students to be a little reticent, a little shy,” said Lisa Hjorten, the founder of Informia, “but there was none of that. The Lavin students had business cards ready to hand out. And had come to the meeting knowing which of us they wanted to meet. I never could have done that as a sophomore!”

There are now 20 mentor-student pairings going forward, with more on the way. Read more about the Lavin Program.

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