Why I dedicated my time to mentoring a businesswoman in need (and why you should too)
Ensuring equitable access to resources and mentorship shouldn’t be a barrier preventing women from becoming financially independent through business. Rebecca Collins explores.
In Australia, we know that women earn on average $261.50 per week less than men. With this gender pay gap being a symptom of a broader cultural problem in workplaces. It’s for this reason that HubSpot has partnered with Global Sisters for its unique business coaching program.
To set the scene, HubSpotters volunteer with Global Sisters as Momentum Coaches and provide their ‘Sisters’ with valuable time and innovative, impactful and sustainable support to women who are unable to participate in mainstream employment. By removing the structural and systemic barriers they commonly face, through this program we’re making self-employment a viable option for women, enabling them to become financially resilient and stand tall.
As part of our partnership, I’ve shared my time, skills and business knowledge with my Sister and the woman behind Miss Mary Jewellery. Mary T supports in building confidence, setting goals and getting a business off the ground.
Lesson 1: Start with confidence
When we began our mentoring relationship, Miss Mary Jewellery operated exclusively as a physical pop-up stall. It operated in local shopping centres in Melbourne. However, with the onset of the pandemic and lockdowns making this venture impossible, Mary was forced to rethink her business strategy.
Mary cited digital literacy as being the biggest barrier to entering the online marketplace. She was apprehensive about pivoting to a digital strategy but recognised its necessity in the new landscape.
In mentoring Mary, I quickly realised that the biggest challenge wasn’t lack of access to resources. Instead it’s a lack of confidence. This is a barrier many women in similar situations would face. So, my chief role as Mary’s mentor was acting as a soundboard, offering encouragement, listening to her concerns and helping troubleshoot where possible.
These small steps in boosting confidence helped Mary make significant headway in her journey to digital literacy, and within a matter of weeks, she had an e-commerce store and active social media account which has amassed a following of highly engaged fans.
Lesson 2: Get specific with business goals
Setting specific goals and outcomes was the key strategy that helped break down Mary’s concerns about joining the online marketplace.
Mary’s goal was to sell twenty pieces of jewellery per week. Having a quantifiable objective to strive towards via the online marketplace made it easier to measure success. We worked on demonstrating the value of an online presence for growing the business. Since then, Mary’s expanded her product line to include chopping boards and now hosts clay classes to teach others her jewellery making techniques.
Leaning on people over online courses, Mary learnt how to use Instagram with the help of her daughter, as well as a friend who was a merchandiser and with strong social media skills. By learning from a network of women to improve her digital literacy skills, Mary launched her online e-commerce business and website which showcases her different product lines with the option to shop online and shares more about her story and how she came to launch her business.
In launching her Instagram, one strategy Mary used to grow her following was running a social media competition. Using this simple but effective strategy, Mary was able to grow her social media following, drive critical brand awareness and prompt customer loyalty.
Lesson 3: Redefine measures of success
When it comes to mentoring, there’s no one size fits all approach. Every business is built differently and every business founder has their own unique story to tell. For Mary, the focus was about building her confidence as a businesswoman after losing her day job because of the pandemic, which is a goal that’s difficult to quantifiably measure.
I believe that businesses can grow with a conscience and succeed with a soul. We build partnerships with organisations like Global Sisters and empower our people to donate their time to helping aspiring female entrepreneurs through education, incubation and acceleration.
Mentorship programs, like this one, are so important for building bridges, creating a “place at the table” for ambitious businesswomen and producing a pipeline of new businesses to the mainstream startup support ecosystem.
I found mentoring Mary and the process of sharing my time and knowledge as a resource incredibly rewarding. The simple act of taking an hour out of my day every few weeks, serving as a soundboard and sharing advice, meant that I was able to support Mary on her business journey and help to develop confidence that (I hope) will last a lifetime.
Rebecca Collins is the senior customer success manager at HubSpot.