Last summer a woman named Karen Cross came into the brewery to discuss Descendants joining the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce. The membership fees weren’t that high and there seemed to be some great networking opportunities (we aren’t great networkers, both being introverts) and there was a lot of good programming put on by the Chamber that I thought would be of benefit in the future. So, I signed us up. At the time, I was so busy I really wasn’t paying attention to the newsletters they send out to me. Each day was about surviving the onslaught of “new” and the “I never realized this would be a factor in my business”.
Last Winter Robin said to me, “I wish there was some sort of course we could take, something with mentorship so I could ask people who’ve done it what has worked for them. Someone who will help me with determining our KPIs and decision making when it comes to big and small opportunities.” (I am paraphrasing as there’s no way I can remember the exact wording from 9 months ago). A few days before that I saw a tweet from the Chamber of Commerce about applying to their Startup Mentorship Program. I did a little research and went back to Robin with “I think this might be exactly what you are looking for” (that is an exact quote!). It was the Start-Up Mentorship Program at the GKW Chamber of Commerce.
We applied and after an interview we were accepted. We began in March and in March when they said the program ran until September I thought, “wow, this is going to be long”. I am writing this blog to tell you that not only was it not long (we would happily stay for another year) it was quite possibly the best choice we’ve made for our business thus far! No exaggeration.
Here is a list of reasons why, in no particular order:
The sessions were not too long. One of our concerns was the amount of time we would be taking away from our business. We met every other Wednesday for 2 hours and then we set individual meet up times with the mentor on the subsequent week.
The information that is shared is accurate and timely.
The discussions that occur when you’re in class allow you to think of challenges from a new perspective or even look at something a completely new way.
The course is divided into areas of specialization and the mentors are experts in their area.
We were exposed to issues, actions, risks and precautions we were not even aware of until the course.
We’ve been able to develop business partnerships and other opportunities through the mentors.
The mentors are actual business people, connected people in the community who not only have the experience but they are doing it now, everyday.
The absolute best part is that the mentors legitimately want us to succeed and have gone above and beyond in several circumstances. So many of them have told us that they don’t consider the mentorship over when the course ends, that they will continue to support us.
And Christine Hogle who runs it is always organized, helpful and accommodating.
We literally never missed a week. Once I had to miss due to our son being ill and once Robin had to miss because of a schedule conflict but the other person was always there. We loved it more than I can say. We looked forward to it every week. We would discuss the classes with each other afterward and countless decisions have been made since March about the direction of our company because of what we learned in the basement of the Chamber (ooooh that sounds so ominous).
Today was the last day and I am being completely honest when I say we are sad it’s done. We know we can contact any one of the mentors for help, advice, even a shoulder should we need it but we are sad that we don’t get that infusion of fresh ideas and learning about our business every week.
Thank you so much to Christine, Lester and everyone else who participated in this program. We are forever grateful.
Addendum: We are in no way affiliated with the Chamber beyond membership. We have not been paid in coins or croissants to write this. We feel every small start-up should take this course. That’s strictly our personal opinion.