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8 Places to Find Your own Free Business Mentor

No matter what type of business or startup you run, having a “mentor” to help guide you can increase your odds of success, big time. Having a wise, loyal advisor – especially one who’s “been-there, done-that” – is like money in the bank.

Mentors can’t make decisions for you.  That’s your job.  But their expertise can be invaluable as a sounding board or reality check.  Mentors aren’t in it for the money.  Generally they work with business owners for free, for the satisfaction of helping out.

So how do you find such a person? Here are some places and organizations that help match mentors with business owners or startup entrepreneurs:

1. SCORE (

Probably the best-known organization providing free (and confidential) mentoring to small business owners via its national network of some 13,000 retired business executives, leaders and volunteers. SCORE’s volunteer mentors share their expertise through both in-person and online counseling (via email).

2. Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs)

Another great source of free or low-cost help and advice for current and would-be business owners of all types in all locations. There are over 1,200 SBDC locations nationwide. For help locating one, visit

3. Women’s Business Centers (WBCs)

WBCs offer business training, counseling and other resources to help women start and grow successful businesses. To find your nearest WBC check the Office of Women’s Business Ownership at

4. Minority Business Development Centers

Part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, MBDCs offer free help to minority-owned businesses through about 40 centers nationwide.  Visit the Minority Business Development Agency at


This specialized SCORE program helps biz owners use web-based technologies to grow their businesses.  An experienced SCORE technology mentor available through this program can provide personalized advice – for free.  Go to the “Find a Mentor” section at eBusinessNow to find a SCORE location near you, or search for a mentor online.

6. Trade or Professional Associations

Many trade and professional associations operate mentoring programs for business owners just starting out. Some offer formal one-on-one mentoring sessions as well as group networking opportunities.  Check associations in your industry.

7. Mentors for Government Contracting

If your business plans to sell to the federal government, the General Services Administration (GSA) offers a Mentor/Protégé Program designed to encourage prime contractors to help small businesses be more successful in government contracting and enhance their ability to perform successfully on government contracts and subcontracts. You’ll find it at

8. Your own Network

Who do you know? Is there a previous boss who was very inspiring to you or a friend who is a business owner? Ask that person to be your mentor or share his or her successes and struggles. You have nothing to lose. Just be prepared to share with them why you chose them in particular, your goals and what you are looking for from them. The best way to connect these days is LinkedIn. Make sure you’re on it!

Here are some tips for getting the most out of a mentoring relationship:

  • Be organized, prepared and consistent. No one wants to waste their time if you aren’t serious about success.
  • Plan your mentoring sessions in advance. These could be as simple as having a one-on-one consultation or lunch meeting once a month to discuss where you are against your business goals, how best to tackle business obstacles, getting advice on business processes or regulatory requirements that you don’t understand, and so on.
  • Casual one-on-one sessions are good, but also have more structured sessions that address different aspects of starting, running, managing and growing your business. A good starting point is for you to prepare a detailed agenda of items to discuss at each meeting.
  • Take notes, take change of your “action items” and review progress against these in your next session.
  • Be respectful of your mentor’s time. Use their insight and apply as you best see fit. It’s still your business.

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Free Technology Training and Advice for Small Business

Keeping up with technology (or getting in the tech game to begin with) is something millions of small business owners and startups struggle with.  Many have dreamed of having a “technology mentor” they could turn to for expert advice, and access to free tools for learning how to put tech to use. Happily, there’s something new that promises just that. – a new program just launched by SCORE with backing from a bevy of big tech companies – is in a mission to help small business owners better understand how new web-based technologies can help boost their businesses, and show how to tap that technology for business growth.

Online, on-demand “Tech Made Simple” workshops form a core component of eBusinessNow. These include:

  • Technology:  Boosting your business using tech
  • Roadmap: Creating a tech plan for your small business
  • Build a site: Building the perfect website for your business
  • Sales:  Using technology to jumpstart your business
  • Cash Flow:  Applying technology to improve your cash flow

But workshops are just the beginning.  eBusinessNow also offers helpful “how-to” guides in these same five topic areas, as well as local Tech Made Simple events held in cities across the country.  

Putting a SCORE Technology Mentor on Your Side

And here’s one of the best parts: An experienced SCORE technology mentor can provide personalized advice – for free.  Whether you’re just starting out, or already have a business, these SCORE mentors will help you harness the power of cutting-edge technology to grow your business.  Go to the “Find a Mentor” section at eBusinessNow to find a SCORE location near you, or search for a mentor online.

“When I first met Emmett, my SCORE technology mentor, I was a senior at the College of William and Mary,” says Frank Taylor, founder of Campus Massage. “I wanted to operate automated massage chairs on college campuses using a unique payment system. Before coming to SCORE I had encountered some technological barriers while trying to get the concept off the ground. Emmett has helped me refocus my business plan and navigate the complex process of developing a new technology.”

A SCORE tech mentor helped Yamile Jackson, founder of Zakeez, Inc. in Sugarland, TX, tap the potential of high-speed Internet. “Broadband is not a luxury, it is essential for my business,” selling products and services for healthy babies, she says. “Because our resources are limited, it is important to be efficient in how we distribute advertisements, news and sales efforts to a wide audience. Broadband also allows me to reach customers around the world, conduct web conferencing and keep an eye on my competition.”

eBusinessNow’s backers include AT&T, Best Buy, Cisco, Constant Contact, Google, HP, Intuit, Microsoft, Skype and Time Warner Cable, plus the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

These heavy tech hitters ensure that eBusinessNow has legs.  “The fact that we have such a strong list of high profile companies attests to the critical importance of technology mentoring and training for small business,” says Ken Yancey, CEO of SCORE.

Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.