MentorRaad is a mentoring project for enterprise start-ups in Rotterdam. Its main objective is to transfer know-how and experience from established entrepreneurs or people in middle or higher management in business (mentors) to starting entrepreneurs (mentees). MentorRaad is a project for entrepreneurs in Rotterdam with a specific formula: based on the advice needed, a mentor is matched to an entrepreneur. The mentors are experienced entrepreneurs who offer their know-how and experience free of charge.
A sub-objective of the project is to build, maintain and expand entrepreneurial networks in municipalities. The project has a sophisticated matchmaking process for the mentor and mentee.
Duration: 2000 and ongoing
SMEs both new and currently active regularly make important decisions. Besides advice from well-known organisations such as Chambers of Commerce, banks and trade organisations, entrepreneurs may be able to relate more to objective and professional advice from their fellow entrepreneurs.
The MentorRaad project offers support during the different life phases a company goes through. Questions and problems in the field of administration, acquisition, business planning, personnel, financing, atomisation etc. that may arise are addressed. For this reason the council and municipalities in Rotterdam have decided to offer entrepreneurs in need of support a sounding board of experienced entrepreneurs or other knowledgeable people (advisers or managers). The mentors will offer their experiences and acquired knowledge free of charge.
The pivotal issue is how mentors can be acquired to be linked up with mentees at the lowest possible costs? Furthermore, how can entrepreneurs' concerns, questions and problems be addressed in the most adequate way?
MentorRaad was launched in the municipality of Delftshaven in 2000. In 2001 the project received an honourable mention during the "Project of the Year 2001" elections. As per 2002 MentorRaad has had an urban character. At the end of 2003 the most important participants decided to prolong the project for 3 years. MentorRaad is therefore able to continue matchmaking mentors and mentees until the year 2006 at the least.
The project group consists of representatives of participating bodies and entrepreneurs, and acts as a sounding board for the project and guarding the progress and continuation.
GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
The main objective is to transfer know-how and experience by established entrepreneurs or people in the middle or higher management in business (mentors) to starting entrepreneurs (mentees). Both starting and established entrepreneurs seem to value having a sounding board to be able to discuss bottlenecks in the daily management within the enterprise as well as advice in the field of strategic decision making or challenges.
A sub-objective of the project is to build, maintain and expand entrepreneurial networks in municipalities.
STRATEGY AND IMPLEMENTATION
The matchmaking process between a mentor and a mentee is achieved by:
Step 1: initial interview with mentee
After the application follows through the project coordinator tries to get a picture of the criteria, needs and preferences of the entrepreneur (mentee).
Step 2: Search for a suitable mentor
With the information obtained from the initial interview the project coordinator seeks a mentor that can be of added value to the specific situation and desires of the mentee.
Step 3: Matchmaking conversation
Once a suitable mentor has been found he, together with the mentee, set up rules, regulations and agreements concerning the contents of the mentoring process. This is to be sure that both parties have the same expectations before implementation.
Step 4: Support
According to the agreements made during the matchmaking conversation the project starts, meaning that mentor assists the mentee and that the project co-ordinator is available to both.
The results achieved in the period 2000-2003 for matchmaking, mentees, mentors and network are the following:
During the past 3 1/2 years MentorRaad has made approximately 140 matches in 6 of Rotterdam's boroughs. Minority groups were also reached by the project. One in three are ethnic entrepreneurs, and one in four are women. The latter group has increased steadily in recent years, as is shown by this table:
- In 2000 there were 19 matches, of which 12 were male and 7 female, 16 were native entrepreneurs and 3 were from ethnic minorities
- In 2001 there were 23 matches, of which 17 were male, 6 female and 9 were ethnic entrepreneurs
- In 2003 there were 63 mentees, of which 43 were male, 20 were female 47 were native and 16 ethnic minority
Mentees In the period between 2000 and 2003 the MentorRaad project has come into contact with hundreds of entrepreneurs that showed some form interest in the project. This was achieved by publications in regional media, local mailings, newsletters, and via Chambers of Commerce etc. 150 entrepreneurs were eventually interviewed.
Mentors Collaborations have led to intensive relationships with key contacts. Within the so-called ambassadors of the Mentors' Network a network has been established with a few hundred potential mentors.
Network The MentorRaad Network is made up of 250 entrepreneurs and representatives. This group has its background in 50 different branches of industry, trade and services.
EVALUATION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Mentors prefer to use their time to effectively solve their mentee's concrete problems. This leads to a lack of written or oral evaluations from the mentors. Participating mentors and mentees highly recommend the project to colleague entrepreneurs, managers and advisors.
Attention to the overall process, intake conversation and matchmaking is of crucial importance for the quality and the sustainability of the relationships formed. In the next period more attention will be focused on the ethnic and female target groups and the acquisition of mentors from these groups.
The most important reasons for the procedure being cut off short are:
- premature plans
- unclear or incoherent description of the need for advice
- inadequate function of the soundboard role
- unsuccessful matchmaking conversations
- entrepreneur has stopped his or her activities
PO Box 1220
3000 BE Rotterdam
Tel: +31 10 413 21 77
Fax: +31 10 413 35 89
In July 2008 MentorRaad relaunched as Your Navigator at http://yournavigator.nl