Interview with Marcele Silva - GYES award-winning mentor
Marcele Silva became a mentor for YBI member in Brazil, Aliança Empreendedora, because she wanted to share the knowledge she had gained through mentors as an entrepreneur herself. She has won our 'Mentor Recognition' Award at the 2019 Global Youth Entrepreneurship Summit - Youth Business International’s flagship event.
Tell us about your experience of being an entrepreneur.
I started a hostel business six years ago with four friends. I also had a job as a consultant, but two years later, I lost my job and the business became my only source of income. It was very difficult but I realised that despite having a lot of theoretical knowledge, only day-to-day experience would make me a successful entrepreneur. I received a lot of support from experienced mentors who brought a new perspective to my business.
Why did you decide to become a mentor?
I took part in one of Aliança Empreendedora’s projects to support young entrepreneurs, Prêmio Citi Jovens Microempreendedores, and was one of the prize winners. When I won the award, it became my mission to share my knowledge with as many people as I could. When I was selected to be a mentor with Aliança Empreendedora, I felt very happy because it was an opportunity to give back some of what they had done for me.
How would describe the job of a mentor?
I see the mentoring relationship as an exchange between someone with experience and someone who can benefit from that experience, in this case, an entrepreneur starting their journey. The mentor can help them with some of the things that they have already experienced. My experiences with a mentor helped me to understand different methods with their experiences and I am now doing this same job as a mentor myself.
Do you have any examples of what you have helped your mentees to achieve?
I have had three mentees so far. I have helped my current mentee to rethink her entrepreneurial journey. She runs an online fashion business that breaks down barriers and empowers women. Together, we conducted a SWOT analysis and made a timeline mapping her activities and I acted as a source of encouragement during difficult times. After unsuccessfully moving to offline sales and making big investments, I helped her to think about ways to resell on the internet at no cost and create a plan of action for the online market through a virtual store.
What’s the main benefit of a mentor for young entrepreneurs?
By participating in a mentoring relationship, they have more security for making decisions, especially in the hard moments. The problems entrepreneurs experience are almost always the same, so when you have the support of someone who has already experienced these problems and who can show you how to overcome them, the entrepreneur feels more secure. Sharing experiences and failures allows the mentee to understand that difficult moments are part of the journey of every entrepreneur. The difference is in who gives up and who keeps going.
How do you benefit personally or professionally from your relationship with a mentee?
I have received various benefits through being a mentor. As my mentee’s business is very different from mine, I have had to gain different knowledge that I didn’t have and learn more about B2C businesses. The exchange is always very intense as it’s a continuous learning process, but this broadens my field of knowledge. I believe in empathy, collaboration, and the exchange of experience and mentoring also trains me in all these points in a very positive way. Being a mentor also developed my listening skills and this made me connect more assertively with my mentees.
What has been your biggest achievement?
My greatest achievement in mentoring has been realising that I had the ability to win the trust of my mentee. Entrepreneurship can be a very lonely journey and having someone you can trust and who has already experienced situations similar to yours provides great personal and professional growth.
Why would you recommend being a business mentor?
I would definitely recommend it because it’s a win-win situation for both parties as both improve themselves. The mentoring relationship develops empathy and collaboration and eventually becomes more like a family relationship because you become very close.
What advice would you give other mentors who are about to start working with a mentee?
Getting to know each other during the first few meetings is very important because you need to start the mentoring relationship based on trust. The first moment is important to understand their business, the person behind the business and to start building the trust relationship. You must listen carefully and understand what the mentee wants from the relationship to make it productive.
Mentoring at Aliança Empreendedora
Carolina Calefi, Mentoring Programme Coordinator, said “We are very excited that Marcele has been recognised for this award. It is great to see someone who has passed through our entrepreneur training become a mentor for new entrepreneurs – this is our ideal journey. As a well-known female microentrepreneur in Brazil, she is very engaged with the ecosystem and her commitment, work ethic and focus on female empowerment are really inspiring. Our mentoring programme has been growing in the last few years and this recognition is great for our work and our entrepreneurs’ development.”
Aliança Empreendedora’s mentoring programme offers mentoring to entrepreneurs at the end of their training. After sharing their interests, business profile, personal skills and personality, the entrepreneurs are connected with a mentor. Training is offered to both mentor and mentee, online and face-to-face, and the progression of the relationship is continuously monitored. Over 1000 people have signed up to be volunteer mentors so far, with over 350 trained online across 2018 and 2019 and over 250 working with entrepreneurs in 2018 alone.
Aliança Empreendedora is part of the Youth Entrepreneurship Programme in Latin America and the Caribbean (YEP), an initiative supported by the IDB Lab to help underserved young people across the region to start, grow and sustain a business.
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