The Secret Ingredient to Success

A good mentor by your side will boost your chances of creating a successful business.
15 Mar

The Secret Ingredient to Success

You can have all the knowledge in the world at your fingertips (and we do, thank you Google!), but if you don’t have the impetus to take action on your ideas, then you might as well forget about becoming a (social) entrepreneur.

So what ignites that drive to stop thinking about all the things wrong with society and instead to start acting to change things for the better?

I believe the secret ingredient to success on this front is having a suitable mentor by your side.

A good mentor should give you encouragement, energy and inspiration, even if you’ve been struggling.

A good mentor helps you to reframe any current problems you might be having and remind you of why you decided to take on this challenge in the first place.

A good mentor understands your values and gives appropriate advice with your best interests at heart.

Good and Bad Mentoring

I’ve had experience with a handful of mentors over the years, some chosen by me, some assigned to me. They’ve ranged from restaurant owners to IT project managers to social enterprise specialists. And the quality of mentoring was just as varied!

One was a complete disaster – a corporate suit and tie guy from EY who just bragged about how much money he made, for himself and his oil and gas clients. He was so ‘busy’ that he didn’t even research 4Lunch before meeting me. A big no-no.

And on the other end of the spectrum, there’s my current mentor Nicci Dickens, who I met through a University of Manchester social enterprise programme. She is someone who’s meetings I enshrine in the 4Lunch calendar.

Nicci and I meet up once every two months at my house to talk through what’s been going on at 4Lunch, any difficulties I’ve been having and how to approach new projects and ideas that have been evolving.



With the mentor that has stuck with me over the last four years – Nicci Dickens is a social enterprise specialist who has helped me to refine and develop 4Lunch into what it is today.


It is an immense relief to talk to someone who just ‘gets’ what you’re trying to do and who has experience working in social enterprise. When you are trying to establish a non-traditional business, surrounding yourself with people like Nicci is the secret to not going insane!

Nicci knows what the characters of social entrepreneurs are like. She says:

“Working with people who are passionate about their work requires a specialist type of a mentoring relationship. It’s not just a job for many of my clients, it’s their life.  I take that investment seriously and see my role as a facilitator, to listen and help my clients work through things themselves”.


The Benefits of Having a Mentor

Being mentored by someone that truly has your best interests at heart will help you to weather the personal and professional challenges that come with the tricky job of starting your own social enterprise.

Asking for help and advice is a very simple, but immensely powerful way to make progress and feel more confident in your ideas.

Most people are nicer, kinder and more receptive than you think, especially in the social enterprise world! But if you are looking for a mentor, be sure to value that person’s time and to respect the worth of their expertise.

You should consider finding a mentor, especially if you are new to running a business, for the following reasons:

  1. To have someone tell you how it is. They are not a friend or family member, and their priority is your professional business life.
  2. To access expertise. You can avoid making common mistakes by consulting someone who’s been there and done that.
  3. To have a person to talk to. You can’t rant to your customers or colleagues, but your mentor can be someone you can express yourself to, unfiltered and uncensored.
  4. To help you solve your own problems. Mentors can’t wave a magic wand and make all your problems disappear. But they can help you to reframe your situation and offer suggestions from a different perspective. Entrepreneurs spend so much time in their own heads, so it’s important to gain a new perspective on difficult challenges.


Finding a Mentor

When finding a mentor for yourself, make sure you both align on your personal and professional values. For example, if you want to start a community food project, don’t find a mentor motivated by only profit. And of course, you and your mentor just need to get along as people!

It’s been reassuring and refreshing to meet such supportive people in my journey with 4Lunch. Though I am a solopreneur, I am certainly not alone. I have support and expertise an email or phone call away.

Having benefited greatly from being a mentee myself, I know what a difference mentoring can make to the business journey of a new entrepreneur. Which is why mentoring forms a core part of 4Lunch’s Recipe for Success course.



With my own mentee, Najwa, who I still meet with regularly, even after many years. I learn as much from her as she learns from me, and her business has flourished ever since.