Whether you’re a mentor or a mentee, being part of a mentoring relationship is powerful. The American Psychological Association says having a mentor can be “lifechanging.”
According to Bridget Weston, the acting CEO of SCORE, the country’s premier source of free business mentoring and education, “Entrepreneurs who work with a mentor are five times more likely to start a business than those who do not have a mentor. And, small business owners who receive three or more hours of mentoring report higher revenues and increased growth.”
Mentorship can take many forms. But for small business owners, getting assistance from successful entrepreneurs (like at SCORE) or corporate giants can be especially helpful.
Imagine getting advice (and more) from one of the most successful American companies—Procter & Gamble, a multinational consumer goods corporation, founded in 1837. Sound like an impossible dream? It’s not. P&G Ventures is the internal startup studio within Procter & Gamble. Established in 2015, it “partners with entrepreneurs and inventors to discover and create consumer products, brands, and businesses that solve people’s needs in categories new to P&G.”
P&G Ventures has created a unique partnership model, “providing funding and access to their experts, resources, and capabilities to help partners find their best customers, prove their technology, and create their brand.” The idea is to marry P&G’s many decades of business expertise with the “scrappy entrepreneurial approach.” As a result, the partners are able to develop their products with the full force of P&G’s consumer insight, branding, and regulatory expertise behind them.
The core belief at P&G Ventures is that great ideas can come from anywhere—which is one of the reasons they created the Innovation Challenge, an annual event taking place during the Consumer Electronics Show.
Lauren Thaman, Director of Communications at P&G Ventures, says the Innovation Challenge is a great opportunity to reach entrepreneurs and inventors. Companies that are chosen to participate in the Challenge are flown to Las Vegas, given access to CES, and pitch their idea. The winners are chosen and get $10,000 on the spot.
That’s when the mentoring kicks in. P&G executives are there to offer advice. Thaman says they’re “committed to helping entrepreneurs. Sometimes they don’t know what they don’t know. [We help] them understand what’s possible.”
Sometimes partners get seed money; other times they need marketing help. The partnerships, says Thaman, are a “win/win for the partners and us.”
Committed to women
Mentorship at P&G Ventures goes far beyond the Innovation Challenge. P&G Ventures teamed up with Vinetta Project, a chapter-based organization that connects women founders to capital and resources to scale their businesses.
Betsy Bluestone, the Commercial Discovery Leader at P&G Ventures says gender equality is incredibly important to P&G, and they weren’t seeing a lot of deal flow from female founders. So they teamed up with Vinetta Project to help female founders scale.
Vinetta Project holds pitch events, dinners and boot camps. They pair founders with “coaches” within P&G. Bluestone says this helps them “understand the challenges [the founders] are facing.” They had their first official cohort last year, but Bluestone says, “many of the relationships continue informally.”
Madelaine Czufin, Director of Platform for Vinetta Project says, “There’s a funding gap. Less than 3% of VC [venture capital] money goes to women.” By creating a platform that provides programming, networking, mentoring and more, it’s about “what will allow female founders to get access to growth.”
Bluestone underscores the power of mentoring. “People don’t think about strategic partnerships or how corporations can be a supportive partner” for small businesses. Helping with “brand building can be as valuable as giving money. Plus, there are “other ways to provide resources to help their businesses grow, such as paying for clinical trials or doing consumer testing” for their products.
Vinetta and P&G are “looking to support product-driven, consumable companies with recurring revenue models” in eight areas:
- Male Wellness
- Non-Toxic Home
As a Vinetta Project mentor, Bluestone advises her mentees to “think about what your potential exits are and to build relationships with those targets early.”