“A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.” – Oprah Winfrey
In the past few weeks, my personal aspirations for in-depth have prompted me to allocate more and more time into making progress on my online shop. I set a date for my first meeting with my mentor, Sharon Chai, and worked hard to finish prototypes so I could show her my ideas in a physical form and receive valuable feedback. That day, I realized something important about mentorship. Mentorship isn’t one-sided; it isn’t just a process where one person teaches another. Rather, it is about building a relationship together, based on a foundation of trust, a theme of authenticity, and a mindset of self-improvement, where we can achieve fuller versions of ourselves. In fact, research has shown that the best-designed mentoring programs require the mentor and the mentee to form genuine connections (Tjan).
I believe that this is how I wish to approach mentorship in the future. In my opinion, it is crucial for the learner to experiment in order to find the most effective way to achieve their vision of success. This is because the lessons that resonate most deeply with us are almost always a result of finding the unsuitable ways of accomplishing a task. In other words, we learn from our mistakes. Rather than listing rules for a learner to follow, the best teachers always have an explanation. In many cases, mentors are story-tellers, because they can relate their own experiences, hardships, and solutions to the learner, making meetings informative and engaging. For instance, my mentor, Sharon, showed me her way of running her shop when I visited her workroom for the first time. While she demonstrated the process of packaging her products, determining shipping prices, and calculating expenses, she also shared her story. Sharon began Bamboobino in 2007, because she wished to share a material that was soft, practical, and sustainable for the environment. She spent a year sourcing and finding a supplier for bamboo fabric which she could use to create her line of bamboo baby products, and her initial design of her now world-famous logo began as a messy sketch on a spare piece of paper. However, her nerve-racking start to Bamboobino wasn’t complete without her efforts in finding four local stores who were willing to take a chance on her product. To her surprise, that number had grown to over one hundred and forty retailers in just five years. Even now, I am in awe of Sharon’s integrity and commitment to quality.
Thanks to her, I departed from our first meeting full of inspiration and ideas for my project – something that Sharon had gifted me – including improvements I could make to my products, ways I could provide the most satisfactory customer experience, and goals I wanted to achieve. I began working on my business plan, which included the materials, cost, and my earnings per product. In order to give back to my community, I also decided to donate 20 percent of the profit to BC Children’s Hospital, giving me the opportunity to be active in improving the lives of children in need. I proceeded to create business contacts and to officially start my shop, full of accomplishment and pride at my work. However, that feeling was considerably diminished when I realized the expenses of sending my products to my customers, forcing me to come to a screeching halt. Shipping alone would cost double the price of the product. Although I have yet to discover a perfect solution to this setback, I have made a list of options and I consulted my mentor. I hope to reach a price which is fair to me and my customers alike.
Throughout the next few weeks, I will continue to take steps toward my goal. I am planning to meet with a friend over the weekend who will help turn ideas I have into a professional logo, and I will continue to improve the quality and selection of my shop by designing new prototypes and creating more listings. And while I’m doing this, I know my mentor will be at my side, supporting me, challenging me, and further defining my vision of success.
Tjan, Anthony. “What the Best Mentors Do.” Harvard Business Review. Harvard Business School Publishing. 27 Feb 2017. Web. 28 Jan 2020.