Small Business Help: Mentors, Incubators and Accelerators

Teachers and guides are a part of life. Just as you couldn’t imagine getting through childhood without the help of school teachers, sports coaches and parental figures, neither should you think about growing your business without a mentor, incubator or accelerator. In this blog post, we will explore all three and how they can add value to your business.

Mentors

A mentor is a formal or informal arrangement between your company and a person or company in the same industry that is older and more established. Your mentor is your coach and gives you the benefit of their experience – experience that you lack as a startup.

Here is an example. Company A, three months old, sells beehive wax candles to the wedding industry. Company A has three employees and a small production facility/warehouse (read: basement in the founder’s house). Company A’s founder meets once a month with Company B’s founder, who runs a 15 person candle making operation that sells to multiple industries including cross-border. During the meetings, Company A discusses challenges and asks questions (When did you know you were ready to expand? What are some key considerations of selling cross border?).

The pros of mentorship are: guidance from an experienced person or company and network opportunities. However, a downside can be a breach of trust. Small companies in similar industries must be careful not to poach each other’s clients or take advantage of unsecured business opportunities.

For example, if Company B mentions that BigCorp is interested in a long-term contract that will have Company B supplying BigCorp exclusively with beeswax candles, Company A might be very tempted to call up BigCorp and mention that they too are in the candle making business and would love to send in a proposal. While not illegal, such action on Company A’s part would be highly unethical.

Incubators

An incubator is a controlled environment designed to nurture growth. In the business world, this means a structured organization or group of individuals with a vested interest in the business world providing mentorship and services to help startups get up and running.

An example of an incubator can be seen in Startup Edmonton where office space, access to capital, meeting rooms and networking opportunities are offered. Quebec is part of the Startup Canada organization. If you are looking for an incubator or other resources for your emerging business, contact Startup Canada.

Accelerators

You use an accelerator when you are ready to move ahead quickly. Accelerators are for companies that have a solid foundation and are ready to take a giant step forward. To accommodate rapid growth, accelerators offer (but are not limited to) access to capital, help with building a team, networking, organizational and operational support.

Crossover is seen in all forms of assistance

Each aspect: mentorship, incubation and acceleration, have some common elements. It helps to think of it this way:

Mentor – when you have an idea or just launched your company. The seed phase.

Incubator – used to nurture your small company from a “tiny seed” and help it “bloom”. The growth phase.

Accelerator – drives your established company forward at a rapid pace. The phase where fruit is produced in abundance.

More resources

Interested in learning more? TECHVIBES provides this list of local incubators and accelerators in Quebec.

AF Accounting provides boutique accounting solutions for small businesses, along with small business advice on our blog. Contact us to learn more about how we can help move your business forward, and be sure to stay tuned to our blog.

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