With the startup industry filled with so many fresh ideas, things can often get competitive. Finding the right mentor can make a huge difference to your startup - especially when mentoring female leaders.

When Heidi Holmes and Lucy Loyd were friends in high school, they never thought they would be leading a successful mentoring business together, many years later.

After high school, they both went on to have different careers, but still shared one thing in common – their passion for connecting people.

One night, over a glass of wine, the two sat down to catch-up, when they suddenly found themselves brainstorming an idea; what if there was a dating site for mentoring relationships?

“We believe the right connection can change your life. We all benefit when a colleague or connection shows us the ropes, gives us a push, or sponsors us for a new opportunity,” Heidi said.

That night, they planted a seed and went on to grow Mentorloop -- a cloud based platform-helping organisations build an internal culture of mentoring.

Since founding in 2016, they’ve grown the business from two employees to twelve, and tripled revenue, working with over 60 clients worldwide.

Heidi and Lucy knew they needed to break the traditional perception of mentoring, and take an out-of-box approach toward growing their company.

“We realised that people often have a very specific view of what mentoring is, and who it applies to -- and that is that it’s a formal, offline relationship formed behind closed doors. It’s often elitist and revolves around the concept of the chosen one,” Heidi said.

Mentoring female leaders of the future

Mentorloop works with many different organisations to help run mentoring programs, as well as connecting women in their communities. The process removes the admin burden that some organisations face when coordinating a mentoring program by using a “match-making” technology to ensure a productive experience. This allows people to connect with the best fit for their career.

While there are women in the startup space that are dominating in their industries, they’ve often had to undergo many struggles.

Lucy and Heidi knew this and wanted to help women connect with strong female leaders who have done it all before.

They began the #MentorHer campaign, which aims to help women achieve their goals through strong mentoring relationships.

Heidi says, after the #metoo movement, there were unexpected effects they needed to bring attention to.

“Since the media reports of sexual harassment first emerged last year, male managers are three times as likely to say they are uncomfortable mentoring women and twice as uncomfortable working alone with a woman.”

“People with mentors are more likely to get promoted, yet women are 24% less likely than men to get advice from senior leaders. We need to ensure women get more mentorship and sponsorship, not less.”

MentorLoop’s top tips to help mentor women

  1. Think about what their struggles are
    If women’s struggles are around gender or because of how they identify, it’s important to find a mentor who’s valuable to your end goal.
  2. Like-minded mentors
    Connecting with other somebody who identifies the same as you is important, according to Heidi. Whether they’re male or female, it’s important to think about what problems you want to solve, and set a brief.
  3. Diversity in mentorship
    MentorLoop believe that everybody can offer help to somebody, and give back to the community --so, diversity in mentorship is important. Recognising that you as a founder can bring people together from the sidelines and introduce mentorship when it doesn’t naturally, can make a difference.

Common mistakes managers can make with women

Heidi says some of the best mentorships are reciprocated, where both parties feel like they’re getting something out of it. Creating a brief and identifying what you want to get out of the mentorship is vital.

“You can’t be what you can’t see, so as two female founders Lucy and I are conscious that it’s important to be visible in the startup community,” Heidi said.

Sometimes, managers can make mistakes that overshadow what good mentorship can look like.

According to Heidi the more specific the brief, the better the result.
“Avoid the chitchat. Being goal orientated, task focussed is vital,” she said.

Having a clear purpose is also important, where both parties are equally participating in the mentorship. Heidi says that in her experience, sometimes the best way to learn what good mentorship looks like, is to challenge yourself, as a founder.

“Begin by challenging what your own perceptions of what you think is a good mentor, and work from there.”

Often the best mentors are the ones that are just a couple of years ahead.

3 tips for integrating mentorship in your startup

  1. Experience mentoring yourselfAs a startup founder, MentorLoop believes it’s important to experience both being a mentor and mentee to understand what good mentorship looks like. A good tip is to connect with mentors who have walked the same path you want to walk before.
  2. Connect with mentors
    A good tip is to connect with people you can learn from. MentorLoop’s Marketplace is a great place to start. It’s designed for startups and small businesses to get the ball rolling when it comes to finding good mentorship for their employees and even for themselves.
  3. Set specific goals
    Knowing what you want to get out of mentoring is key to the process. In the early stages, thinking about what you or that person may want to seek from mentorship will help along the way. The more specific goals, the better