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Economy and entrepreneurship

Mentoring that makes a difference: successful entrepreneurs share their experiences

January 12, 2023

Isabelle Chung, founder of Les Bougeottes

Entrepreneurs have a lot of responsibilities. They can also feel isolated because they sometimes don't have many people they can turn to for advice. Mentoring can make a big difference for entrepreneurs. That's because mentors understand what you're going through and can become someone you can count on.

Isabelle Chung is the young entrepreneur behind Les Bougeottes, a company that has been encouraging children in a playful way with psychomotor games and gymnastics classes, and she has to say about mentoring. According to Isabelle, her mentors made a difference in her entrepreneurship journey, giving her tools and guidance when she started her company. Thanks to their support, Isabelle was able to develop her business instincts and make many ideas come to life.

School was difficult for her when she was younger, and sports helped her pull through. After graduating, she saw the benefits of physical activity but didn't see herself as a coach or consultant. That's when she had an idea to start her own business: "I'm a kid at heart, and I wanted to get kids moving and work with them," said Isabelle.

She wasn't taught how to be an entrepreneur when she was studying kinesiology. She had some ideas, but no clear process. Having a mentor gave Isabelle the tools she needed to start her project on the right foot. "Don't be afraid to seek a mentor. Having one makes a difference, no matter where you are in your entrepreneurship journey," said Ms. Chung.

"A mentor gives you shortcuts and helps you find answers to your questions. It's like a having a super powerful Google search engine."

    Isabelle Chung, founder of Les Bougeottes 

The young entrepreneur is part of the Adopte Inc. cohort. Her mentor, Gérald St-Aubin from Desjardins Group, came to her at a critical time in her company. Faced with many development opportunities and a head full of ideas, she was looking for answers to a fundamental question: Who am I as an entrepreneur?

Isabelle's mentor helps her define who she is as an entrepreneur and ask the right questions. The experience also helps you on a personal level, because wanting to work on yourself and make the right decisions by taking a step back also means becoming a better person—a better entrepreneur.

"I'm in the action. My mentor gets me to consider areas that I don't intuitively explore so that I can do some much-needed soul-searching and think beyond the business opportunity. He helps me focus on what I want and need as an entrepreneur."

    Isabelle Chung, founder of Les Bougeottes 

One of the human qualities we often see in mentors is their ability to listen to others. "Mentors need to be attentive to the needs of their mentees, because we want to feel understood. That's how a mentor can introduce the right resources at the right time," said Isabelle. Listening and being open-minded are the keys to a successful mentoring experience for both the mentor and the mentee.

Entrepreneurs don't need to look far to find a mentor; they can even turn to their friends and family. Isabelle has another amazing mentor in her life: "My mom is a role model entrepreneur. She has a beauty salon. When she came to Canada, she put herself out there despite all the challenges. She didn't speak the language, but she just went for it," she said proudly. Her mom's strong character and experience as an entrepreneur motivated Isabelle to take the plunge and go all in. Her mom's business is still very successful today. 

"My mentor made a big difference in my life"

Like Isabelle Chung, many successful entrepreneurs have benefited from the experience of a mentor early in their careers.

Pierre-Olivier Drouin, Co-owner of Firebarns: "My father, Marcel Drouin, is a mentor who has really made a difference in my life. When I was young, I was a little too sure of myself. But once it clicked that I needed to listen to his advice, I started making progress as an entrepreneur. I realized how important it is to work as a team instead of going solo. I'm learning from his strengths and weaknesses, and it's an honour to work alongside him."

Judith Fetzer, President of Cook it: "I was lucky enough to be adopted by Alain Bouchard of Couche-Tard in 2016 through the Adopt Inc. program. I really wanted to be paired up with him: he was my dream mentor. His vision and willingness to take chances are an inspiration. To this day, he still makes time to share advice at key moments in Cook it's growth, and I'll always be so grateful to him."

Peter Han, Founder & CEO, Bluekey AI Technology: " My mentor Rasendu Nanavati played an important role for me. As an entrepreneur, I know my limits but for something I don’t know, so I rely on a professional mentor who has more experience in the particular field. "