In a dynamic and ever-changing business landscape, entrepreneurs and business owners face a multitude of challenges. These challenges can range from navigating complex regulations to securing funding, from marketing their products or services to expanding their reach, and from understanding the latest technologies to developing a solid business plan. Having access to the right information and support can make all the difference to a small business. Alberta entrepreneurs can access these types of support through Business Link, a government funded non-profit, who plays a crucial role in empowering Alberta businesses to thrive and succeed.
Business Link’s mentorship program is a new pilot project that aims to connect business owners, or mentees, with experienced entrepreneurs acting in a mentor capacity to offer their knowledge, wisdom, and insights.
The project will run for three months in total, organized into three cohorts of 25 mentees. Each cohort will run for one month. So far, over 60 prospective mentors have submitted applications to join the project. As the program continues, Business Link will monitor which parts of the project are working well and which aspects may need to be adjusted.
Business Link Executive Director Paul Cataford explains that if they find good value in the program, they will approach their government sponsors to see if they’re willing to support it on an ongoing basis as a standalone program.
“Like any other type of a pilot project, we just want to make sure that we get it right,” said Cataford, “that we make some tweaks and changes and make sure it’s responding to the needs of the entrepreneurs or small business owners.”
Cataford describes the program as different from other mentorship programs in the province in that it caters to the needs of Business Link’s client base, which are more grassroots types of businesses (generally single proprietors or with a couple of business owners). The focus is on providing linkages between prospective or relatively new (less than a year) business owners with people who have been “at it” for three to five years. Some of the questions that business owners in the early stages might have include:
- When do they get a lease?
- How do they hire people?
- How do they pay their employees?
The Mentorship program will provide introductions between mentors and mentees after screening to ensure there is an alignment between the two parties. There will be two initial steps. The first step is a 30-minute interaction to see if the two parties’ expectations are appropriately matched. The mentee or mentor can choose to try matching with someone else at this point, or they can continue on to the second step, which is a 90-minute meeting. After the second meeting, it is entirely up to the mentor and mentee as to how they would like to proceed. They can choose to continue meeting at an interval that works for them (weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.).
Cataford explains, “We see ourselves as kind of the matchmaking service and then try to keep this as free-flowing as we can.”
Business owners who would like to learn more about this program can find all the relevant information and/or apply to participate from the Business Link website (businesslink.ca/programs/mentor-program).
Business Link serves as a knowledge hub, providing entrepreneurs and business owners with a wealth of information and guidance on various aspects of running a business. Whether you are looking to validate your new business idea, are in the start-up phase or you have a long-established operation looking to grow, the team at Business Link is there to support and guide you. Established in 1996, Business Link is funded at the federal level through Prairies Economic Development Canada (PrairieCan) and the provincial level through the Ministry of Jobs, Economy, and Trade. They offer business owners a wealth of resources and services at no cost, assisting roughly 5,000 clients a year.