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Priya Lakhani: “There’s no greater reward than passing your knowledge on to others”

The Masala Masala founder on why mentoring is so important for encouraging young entrepreneurs – and why it's a mutually rewarding experience

For months now the government and the business community have been talking about ways to encourage young entrepreneurs in Britain. While there are many means by which they can be supported, mentoring is without doubt one of the most effective tools to help budding entrepreneurs on their way to business success.

But finding the right mentor can be the hardest part for young people starting out, and that’s why mentoring initiatives, like the Virgin Media Pioneers Control Shift campaign, are so fantastic. Through my involvement in the scheme I have been paired up with Zoe Jackson, founder of Living the Dream Performing Arts Company, and her level of energy and enthusiasm is inspiring.

I believe the main role of a mentor is to help their mentee keep on track with their business’ development. Each session we discuss how her progress is going and our conversation usually focuses around two key areas: what she needs to invest in and how to separate the different elements of the business.

It’s vital that she remembers what her goals are and what she should be focusing on, rather than wasting time on the less important details. I can recall this causing me the most difficulty when I set up Masala Masala.

Being a mentor has been incredibly rewarding, just knowing that your advice is helping another person achieve their goals. The campaign is great because it has the backing from such a big organisation, so it’s not going to get lost in the big pond of enterprise initiatives.

Business owners can always sit down with friends and family and talk about their ideas and ask for advice. However, it’s only through formal relationships like that of a mentor and mentee that they can be sure of hearing completely truthful and honest opinions, that aren’t tainted by underlying friendly loyalties.

For me the most significant element of mentoring is the confidentiality that surrounds the relationship. I have sat with Zoe and brainstormed ideas and she can literally say anything to me, knowing that I won’t tell anyone what we have discussed. And I have a responsibility to respond with well thought-out answers.

I’ve really enjoyed the mentoring experience and would urge other established entrepreneurs to consider taking part in this campaign – there is really no greater reward than passing on your knowledge and advice to others.

Young entrepreneurs are being matched up with high-profile mentors as part of a new campaign from Virgin Media Pioneers called Control Shift: The Rise of the Young Entrepreneurs. Priya Lakhani, founder of Masala Masala, is mentoring Zoe Jackson, founder of Living the Dream youth dance company; Joe Cohen, founder of Seatwave, is advising Abdul Kahn, founder of ratethatcurry.com; and Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, founder of the Black Farmer, is working with Ronke Ige, founder of cosmetics business Emi & Ben. Registration is now open for the second Mentor Match-Up competition. For more information, visit: http://www.virginmediapioneers.com

You can read Zoe Jackson’s account of being mentored by Priya here

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