Tuesday 27 October 2020 3:11 am

The magic of mentoring can unleash an entrepreneurial revolution

Alan Edwards is founder of The Outside Organisation

During times of uncertainty, great opportunity emerges from the darkness. 

That’s why new businesses are created in the midst of economic recessions. It might seem reckless to launch a company during this time of enormous disruption in society, but this is a chance to unleash our wildest dreams and experiment with new ideas. 

When big corporations are unsure, entrepreneurs have the perfect moment to make a real impact.

Read more: Business schools: Your country needs you… to save our SMEs

I started my company in the 1970s — a similar period of turmoil. The country seemed to be on the verge of collapse.  It was no coincidence that the Sex Pistols hit number 1 in the charts with Anarchy in the UK — despite the best effort of the authorities to ban it. Punk was a great illustration of the energy and determination of young people, and I was in the thick of it, working with these bands. 

My office was based in a squat in Covent Garden, which was then a deserted fruit market.  Rents were low or non-existent, so new businesses were popping up on every corner. One of them, about 50 yards from our office, was a small tailoring shop run by an earnest young man from Nottingham called Paul Smith. Sir Paul’s bespoke British designed shirts and suits ended up becoming a world-beating brand which now has stores all over the world. 

From economic adversity came a determination to prosper. The magic ingredient was letting young people get on with developing their own ideas, uninhibited by outrageous rents and miles of red tape.  

This is what must happen again now. 

As major chains wobble, young business people — whatever their background, training or ethnicity — can build something new and better. 

The difference between now and the 70s, of course, is that we are in a global, digital marketplace. Technology means entrepreneurs can create businesses from or aimed at anywhere in the world, that cross borders at lightning speed. They can exchange ideas more quickly than ever, with limitless potential. 

But every entrepreneur needs someone to guide them — a mentor. And today, on National Mentor Day, we are launching a major new movement: Mentor Makers. 

While the vast majority of small business owners agree that mentors can  have a direct impact on their venture’s success, access is limited.  We want to change that by building the greatest exchange bank of expertise for entrepreneurs in business today, bringing together 50,000 mentors from all industries and backgrounds to commit to supporting entrepreneurs at this crucial moment. And in keeping with these tech-fuelled times, this will be a global service accessed through an online platform, so even a pandemic can’t hold us back.

We encourage entrepreneurs from all walks of life, whatever their background or aspiration, to join us and find a mentor who can help take them to the next level. And we’re calling out for experienced business leaders to share their expertise and help and support the next generation.

Entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of all major economies. They are more vital now than ever before — and they need our help.

On National Mentor Day today, let’s give it to them.

You can find out more about Mentor Makers here.

Main image credit: Getty

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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