“I guess I’m a bit of a serial entrepreneur,” admits Emma Stewart, founder of mentoring platform ThinkBOLD. “I come from a long line of business men and women, so you could say it’s in my blood. You name it, I’ve pretty much tried it.”
One glance at Emma’s career portfolio proves it’s no exaggeration – from floristry to fashion labels, property and event management companies, and even her own stab at independent publishing, it seems this quick-thinker and her ideas know no real bounds.
“Some ideas have been successful and others, not so much,” she admits. “But hey, that’s the life of an entrepreneur.”
As an ideas machine, mum of two (with her third on the way), Emma explains that she never limits her plans to places that she’s already ventured – in fact, her inspiration tends to cover ground she’s never traversed before, creating a conundrum known not just to serial risk-takers like herself, but also those who are somewhere in between tweaking career trajectory, wanting a leg up on their current ladder, or considering a new career altogether.
“I craved the advice and wisdom from someone who was already in that field,” she explains of projects that took her away from her comfort zone. “I desperately needed mentors. I looked for them the good old-fashioned way: stalking and emailing until they said yes. But most of the time, and completely understandably, they were just too busy or the cost was way too far out of my startup budget. I thought, there had to be any easier, more affordable, way.”
Spoken like a true entrepreneur, Emma didn’t find a solution: she created one.
“My husband and ThinkBOLD cofounder, Callum, and I, wanted to create a one-stop shop where aspiring entrepreneurs could come and find that much-needed wisdom.”
ThinkBOLD is that platform. Gathering experts from a range of career fields, across marketing, finance, law, SEO and social media in the one place to provide one-on-one professional advice, ThinkBOLD acts as a kind of matchmaking service, connecting people who know with those who want to know.
Indeed, mentorship has become somewhat of a must-do du jour for the entrepreneurial community.
“More and more, I was hearing top business leaders speak about the importance of mentoring, learning and development, and this wasn’t just for those starting out. No matter where you are in your career, I believe that we can always be learning.”
For Emma, who exemplifies the gathering of experience on the fly, learning new skills is fundamental to any new venture and it’s the people around her that are giving the lessons.
“I am constantly learning from not only my mentors, but those around me,” Emma says. “I’ve never been an academic, so everything I’ve learnt in business has been from mentors or through experience. They’ve helped develop me into who I am today. I have mentors in so many different areas of my life, personal and business, and I know I can gain something different from each of them.”
That’s why the team has carefully crafted a knowledgeable, experienced faculty to cover all bases for ThinkBOLD members, relying on four indispensable criteria for choosing who’s right for the mentorship model.
“We want to make sure that they have the experience in their field to give truly great advice; they are passionate about helping to develop entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs; they are relevant and forward-thinking with their advice; and [lastly] that they are good communicators and genuinely good people,” Emma outlines. “We want them to have the same values as us because, ultimately, they are the ones that make up ThinkBOLD.”
Considering she’s literally in the biz of mentoring, what advice does she have for a successful mentee-mentor relationship?
“First of all, choose carefully,” she advises. “You may already have a mentor in mind, but ask yourself, what do they have to offer that you can benefit from?”
Preparation is also key, Emma confirms. “You don’t get hours upon hours with your mentor so it’s important to make the most of the time that you do have. Have questions prepared, a little brief on who you are and what you do.”
“Thirdly,” she adds, “take notes. If you’re anything like me, you get so caught up in the moment and in awe of everything that is being said, that the second you get out of a session, you’re left thinking, ‘Oh crap, what was it they said about this?’”
One aspect to mentorship you might not have considered? Ultimately, Emma explains, mentors are there to guide you on your path, not carve it out for you.
“This might sound funny coming from me, but go with your gut,” Emma says. “While [ThinkBOLD] mentors are incredibly wise and knowledgeable, they are there for guidance and they don’t know your business as well as you do. At the end of the day, it’s you who has to make the decisions and you who has to live with them.”