One of the most important things to do when starting a business is finding a mentor. Richard Branson's mentor was the aviation entrepreneur Sir Freddie Laker, who supported him during the early days of Virgin Atlantic. Every entrepreneur who receives a Start Up Loan through Virgin StartUp receives 12 months of exclusive support as part of The Funded Club. This includes regular opportunities to meet with specialist mentors and an experienced mentor who'll work with your business for six months.

Why is a mentor an important asset for entrepreneurs?

At Virgin Start Up, we see a mentor as a critical friend and hopefully a role model. Your mentor should support your own personal development and, in doing so, will help you make sense of what is happening in your start-up.

A good mentor will listen to your problems and help you think through possible solutions, often giving you their experienced perspective in the process. A mentor isn’t there to judge you or scrutinise the financials (unless you ask for it, of course). A mentor isn’t there to tell you off if you didn’t do what you said you were going to at your last meeting and a mentor certainly isn’t there to do everything for you.

It’s like having a really good friend, only that friend will tell you exactly what they think and doesn’t have a hidden agenda. That builds self-reliance – something every entrepreneur needs.

How do I get a Virgin StartUp Mentor?

Every entrepreneur that receives a Start Up Loan is enrolled in our mentoring programme, entitling them to a year’s worth of mentoring support free of charge.

We've recruited hundreds of mentors to the programme, each of whom is then interviewed and trained. We spend time building their profiles, their personaility and character traits, their skills and experiences. We then use state-of-the-art matching software that compares our mentors' profiles to yours, in order to find the right mentor for you.

We look at your needs, skills gaps that we feel exist in your business and your personality, and draw up a shortlist of potential mentors. We then make the final selection ourselves. More often than not, our selection will not take into account the sector or your business.

We then introduce you to your new mentor - and the rest is up to you.

What support will I receive from a Virgin StartUp Mentor?

Our mentors are committed to providing 8 hours of support over 6 months. They’ll listen to you talk about your business, help you bounce ideas around, provide advice on any problems you might have and will generally keep you inspired and focussed. You’ll get out what you put in though, so it’s up to you to work effectively with your mentor and talk to them openly about your goals and expectations.

Virgin Startup mentoring in action

In the video below, our Virgin Startup mentor Manny Kanabe, explains a bit more about his experience of working with exciting start-ups: