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Leveraging Regional Assets: Presence of Mentors

While the scope of our research was aimed mainly at the direct correlation between the success of entrepreneurs and the location of the Kansas City area, a detail emerged from interviews we conducted with successful entrepreneurs. I’m talking about the utilization of mentors. An extremely high number, approximately 75% of the entrepreneurs we interviewed, had some form of mentorship as they founded their companies.

Some of these mentor relationships were formally structured, such as those through the Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentorship Program (HEMP) or Pipeline, while others evolved naturally. In some cases, an entrepreneurs previous employer became their mentor. While many had some sort of mentor, those who didn’t had previous experience working at a large successful firms.

The following quotes describe the relationships and advice the entrepreneurs received:
“I’ve never had a single formal, heavily invested mentor-mentee relationship. There are a handful of owners/executives that are highly accomplished that are a phone call away to answer questions and offer guidance and encouragement or inspiration or connections, to help any way they can.” (IT Firm C)

“The Helzberg program helped us a lot, because that was in 2003 and 2006. I would even go out on a limb to say we might not be around if we didn’t have that to lean on in the 2005 timeframe when we made some real bad management decisions and lost the money. Because I was able to pick up the phone, personally call Barnett and say ‘I’m in trouble, I don’t know how much trouble I’m in.’” (Business Services Firm M)