Mentoring is an effective learning and business support tool that can be used to reinforce the entrepreneurial skills that students have acquired and to support personal development as an entrepreneur. Effective matching of student and graduate entrepreneurs with experienced entrepreneurs will increase the business's chances of success and can help make other support services more effective. This is also an important activity to help student entrepreneurs build their business networks.
Effective mentoring could be provided by academic staff who have entrepreneurship experience or by professional coaches and mentors. To ensure that academic staff is interested and engaged in helping student entrepreneurs, HEIs need to ensure that appropriate incentives or rewards are in-place. Examples of incentives include:
- Monetary resources (budget, personnel, infrastructure);
- Reduced reaching/administrative responsibilities;
- Study visits; and
Alternatively, alumni are often a good resource because they are typically happy to “give back” to their alma mater and volunteer their time to help student entrepreneurs.
Key to developing successful mentoring relationships are the following: setting objectives and goals; limiting the relationship to a fixed duration of time to avoid building a relationship of dependence; and using feedback mechanisms to improve the relationships.
Peer and group mentoring can also be a successful method of providing personal support to student and graduate entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship clubs could provide an infrastructure for such support.