Futurpreneur Canada: the gold standard of mentoring programs

Kristle Calisto-Tavares, Mentor-in-Residence, Futurpreneur Canada

Kristle Calisto-Tavares,
Futurpreneur Canada

My StartUp spoke with Kristle Calisto-Tavares, a Mentor-in-Residence at Futurpreneur Canada, to learn more about their mentoring programs and how they can help drive mentoring relationships with Canadian entrepreneurs.

Futurpreneur is now approaching its 20th year promoting entrepreneurship and forging connections between start-up businesses, mentors, and financing.

Calisto-Tavares makes a compelling case that Futurpreneur now offers the “gold standard” of mentoring programs.


Kristle Calisto-Tavares speaks authoritatively about mentoring. In fact, the subject practically emanates from her pores.

“I’m passionate about mentoring because I have experienced it,” says Calisto-Tavares. “I see that it works;  I see that it has an impact. I see that it produces a more confident, more thoughtful, more well-rounded individual who is able to be resourceful and who can problem-solve: they have someone in their corner who is supporting them.”

Futurpreneur’s mentoring heritage means it is big on knowledge translation and skills transfer. Futurpreneur offers a wealth of resources, tools, and networking opportunities that help facilitate and drive mentoring relationships.

“We are subject matter experts on entrepreneurial mentoring,” says Calisto-Tavares. “We have a catalogue in our Business Resource centre on the website where there’s 20-some crash courses in “Prezi” format; 5-10 minutes covering a variety of topics.”

Futurpreneur’s mentoring philosophy focuses on the concept of strategic mentoring and covers three different areas:

  1. Business development
  2. Professional development of the entrepreneur
  3. Cultivating the mentoring relationship itself

Futurpreneur is a long-standing player in the world of entrepreneurship and it has evolved into one of Canada’s go-to resources for mentoring.

“We’ve included and integrated best practices from all of the greatest (mentoring) programs and are meeting international standards; we are actually a thought leader in this area,” says Calisto-Tavares. “We have something here that we have cultivated and evolved, and in fact, continue to evolve. That’s what makes our program one that we know that entrepreneurs and mentors want to be a part of.”

Many mentors are keen to give back, but that’s only one motivation.

“In addition to that, they might want to be able to build their network with other mentor-minded individuals, so they want to know: are there opportunities for that?” asks Calisto-Tavares. “We have an event framework called Entrepeer, which enables both young entrepreneurs and mentors to attend and do informal networking.”

What of the benefits of mentoring to a young entrepreneur? “We know there is a lot of knowledge and skill transfer between mentors and their mentees,” says Calisto-Tavares. “It’s the knowledge or the experience that the mentor shares, some of the story telling, some of the mistakes and pitfalls that they encountered in their journey that they’re sharing with the mentee–it helps to create opportunities for skill-building and for knowledge transfer.”

Calisto-Tavares provides a few overarching recommendations for entrepreneurs that can underwrite a successful mentoring relationship:

  • Be prepared to do the hard work of an entrepreneur
  • Be accountable
  • Be the driver of your mentoring relationship
    • Engage with your mentor
    • Articulate the kind of feedback or the kind of guidance that you’re looking for

There’s no arguing with the numbers if you’re looking for the value of a mentoring program at Futurpreneur: they’ve helped launch and support close to 6,000 businesses, with a promising stable of prospects coming down the pipeline.

“That number is jumping dramatically, because we’re financing a little over a thousand entrepreneurs in this fiscal year alone,” says Calisto-Tavares. “The growth is really extraordinary.”

The future of mentoring is another consideration that keeps Calisto-Tavares engaged.

“With more and more young people starting businesses, having that guidance and that ability to tap into skills and experience from someone who’s been there and done that is going to be more and more necessary if you do want to be successful.”

Futurpreneur’s various mentoring offerings and resources are well-covered on their website. Be sure to pay close attention to their motto as you consider the possibilities: “Fuel the passion. Leave an impact.”


 You can follow Futurpreneur’s Mentor-in-Residence on Twitter @FuturpreneurMIR

“The act of mentoring will forever influence what I do.”

Meet one of Canada’s top mentoring maestros: Devon Brooks

 Devon_Brooks_MentorI knew I was getting into something unconventional and intriguing the minute I reached out via email to Devon Brooks for an interview about her experience as a mentor.

Only an innovator would have such a whimsical and unorthodox automated email message. AND she called me back. On the telephone.

If you’re looking for insight into the mind of a high-performance mentor, you’ve come to the right place.

Devon took a few minutes away from her many duties to talk by telephone to My StartUp about why she loves mentoring.

Devon Brooks is unreservedly enthusiastic, which clearly serves her well in her mentoring role on Futurpreneur’s Board of Directors.

It’s a role that Brooks owns.

“It’s a phenomenal way to give back and support people at a time in their business and personal growth when I know and have seen the real, true impact and invaluable measure of a mentorship,” says Brooks.  “I definitely get something from it. It’s definitely my favourite way to stay fresh and stay close to the front lines of the start-up experience.”

Brooks comes by her mentoring prowess honestly enough, as she reflects on her childhood experience watching her own mother mentor in her community.

“I started mentoring before I really even knew I was doing it,” says Brooks with a laugh. “It was super innate for me…I saw my mom actively mentoring in her community from as far back as I can remember.”

As the co-founder of Blo Blow Dry Bar, Brooks was a successful entrepreneur before her 25th birthday. Her work has won her accolades and awards, including being named one of the top 30 entrepreneurs in Canada by Profit Magazine, and Chatelaine’s Hot 20 under 30 Women of the Year.

“I think that people learn best through stories,” says Brooks. “It’s really about the relationship and allowing people to learn through story-telling. I love the way I can help others through story-sharing.”

She is keen on the value of the mentoring program Canada offered by Futurpreneur and continues to elevate and mentor new up-and-comers with her site devsdevelopment.com.

One of Brooks’ keys to mentoring success is to think of it as a reciprocal arrangement.

“The act of mentoring will forever influence what I do and the way I do it because of the way I get things reflected back to me,” says Brooks. “One of the things that I love about working with such a variety of mentees is that (the diversity) always influences how you ask questions and how you learn to listen.”

A good alignment of values is also a critical building block in any mentor-mentee relationship.

“When I’m looking for mentees, I’m looking for people that have those shared values, so from day one, we have a synergy and a shared way of being that I know both of us find value in and respect,” says Brooks.

“I would definitely suggest that everybody try their hand at mentoring at some point in their life and career. You get so much from it and it teaches you such a great deal about yourself,” says Brooks.

The word “reflection” is a common link throughout Brooks’ many rewarding experiences as a mentor.

“Creatives and entrepreneurs who are elder stateswomen or statesmen in their craft or sector, there’s a lot you learn from being a mentor; you have to have your ego in check, you have to understand that it’s not a preachy, one-sided conversation,” says Brooks. “It’s truly a dialogue and you’re just there to be a mirror for that person. You’re there to help them reflect to find the answers on their own through story-telling.”

In the final analysis, mentoring to Brooks is as much a learning experience for the mentor as it is for the mentee.

“Whenever you have the opportunity to help somebody by sharing a story, it helps you and it helps that person,” says Brooks. “Every time you share, you get to reflect on the things you’ve learned; you get to reflect on how you might do something differently and you get to help somebody at the same time.”

You can follow Brooks on Twitter @devsdevelopment. Be sure to check out Brooks’ weekly mentorship session @periscope every Monday at 12:40 pm Pacific Time.

So much more than just business: an interview with a mentee

Much has been written on the entrepreneurial value of having a mentor, but little is said about how the role and outlook of the mentee is critical to the relationship.

Mentoring in Canada

Chris Johnson

Chris Johnson knows a thing or two about what goes on with the mentee side of the relationship. Johnson is the owner of Permission Click, a recent start-up that was chosen as one of 10 inductees for Futurpreneur’s Spin Master Innovation Fund, along with the associated $50,000 in seed money and up to two years of mentoring.

He spoke candidly and knowledgeably to My StartUP about how being a mentee affected his business, offering tips on what to look for in a mentor. His experience as a mentee produced keen insight on how indispensable it was for his growth, not just as an entrepreneur, but as a person.

Johnson is quick to point out the nuance of what constitutes a mentor, contrasting the multiple potential roles of a mentor with those of an advisor. Whereas an advisor might just focus on some of the day-to-day, operational nuts and bolts of your business, a mentor may be seen as a more holistic, all-encompassing role.

“Some mentors follow different roles of expertise,” says Johnson. “To me, a mentor is someone who is there with you through the ups and downs, left turns and right turns, who will help you through. (It’s) much more than just advisory.”

There are some particularly helpful attributes of a good mentee, according to Johnson, including respecting your mentor’s time and having mutual alignment on what both parties want to get out of the relationship.

Humility comes easily to Johnson as he reflects on how grateful he is for his mentors and how he sees it as a reciprocal undertaking.

“I mean, they’re just flat-out helping you,” says Johnson. “The only way I sleep at night taking value from my mentors is knowing that I can’t wait to pay it back to the next person.”

Ironically, the stereotypical personality (e.g., self-assured, motivated, confident) that drives many people towards entrepreneurial ventures is the same type that could possibly benefit the most from a mentor, yet might be least inclined to pursue a mentoring relationship.

“The funny thing is sometimes the people who need mentors the most are the people who don’t know that they need a mentor,” says Johnson with a chuckle.

The rewards of being a mentee are clear to Johnson. He breaks them down into three key areas in descending order of importance:

  1. Sober second thought from your mentor
  2. Connections/networking through your mentor
  3. Credibility provided through association with your mentor

For those start-ups considering the possibility of a mentoring relationship, the advice is straightforward, uncontroversial, and sage.

“Figure out whose friend you want to be and just reach out. It costs nothing to have a cup of coffee with someone,” says Johnson. “Think yourself forward 30 years: if someone phoned you and said ‘Hey, I’m five years out of college and I’m thinking about the next phase of life. You’re where I want to be. Can we just get together for a coffee and talk?’ Of course, you’re going to at least get together with him. Things like Twitter and social media are just beautiful for that: you can connect to anyone in the world instantly and find those things if you’re open to it.”

For Johnson, he found an informal approach to his relationship to be the most fruitful.

“Totally unstructured,” says Johnson, as he differentiates the mentor/mentee relationship from a formal, business-driven set-up. “These are people who swam the current ahead of you…they know all of the pressures you’re going through. You’re not just tackling a specific business issue; you need a way to be able to blow off steam and rant a little bit sometimes, and be validated on the way you’re thinking.

“You need someone who knows you well enough over time to tell you when to check it and when to wreck it.”

Johnson also counsels patience.

“Just like all other things in life, you might have to sow a few seeds, and it’s not an instant thing all the time,” says Johnson. “You’ve gotta watch the relationship grow.”

One key component of getting the most out of the mentee experience is truly fundamental: trust.

“(Trust) has to be there immediately. You don’t have a chance to build it up over time as friends,” says Johnson. “It has to be a very quick, two-way mutual trust relationship that develops. It’s deeply personal.”

So did the mentee experience shape Johnson’s business outlook?

“100 per cent. I wouldn’t be where I am had it not been for my mentor, no question,” says Johnson, reflecting on just how life- and course-altering this has been for him. “A mentor is someone who is so much more ingrained in your life than just business.”

In the end, the key thing remaining from Johnson’s journey as a mentee is lasting inspiration.

“I’m constantly inspired by the mentors,” says Johnson. “I always wonder will I ever have the guts to do some of the things they’ve done?”

Visit Johnson’s business online at permissionclick.com and look for their upcoming business spotlight on the Shop Small Biz Blog. If you’re interested in becoming a mentor for young entrepreneurs like Chris, contact Futurpreneur Canada at info@futurpreneur.ca

Lean on me: the power of mentoring with Futurpreneur Canada

Start Up Mentors CanadaMost people remember someone who helped them move forward in their career – whether it was a family friend, a teacher, or a manager that guided them in the right direction.

When it comes to small business, the impact of mentorship is clear: research from the UK and the US shows that 70 percent of small business owners who receive mentoring survive for five years or more. That’s double the success rate of businesses run by entrepreneurs who don’t have the support of mentors.

Mentors guide their mentees through tough challenges, helping them avoid pitfalls and stay focused on what’s important. It’s not just about teaching hard skills; entrepreneurs say it’s the moral support – the feeling that someone else “gets it” – that proves to be biggest benefit of mentorship.

Jérémie and Janelle Wookey of Wookey Films in Winnipeg describe their mentor as someone who has kept them on track. “He’s always a phone call or email away and has fully invested himself in our business,” Janelle shared. “The experience he brings has been instrumental to our continued success.”

Jérémie and Jannelle were matched with their mentor through Futurpreneur Canada, a national organization that helps entrepreneurs turn their ideas into viable and successful businesses through pre-launch coaching, online resources, financing and up to two years of mentorship from an experienced professional. With a database of over 2,800 volunteer mentors, Futurpreneur has built a strong entrepreneurial community and is dedicated to helping young business owners succeed.

Futurpreneur has several tools in place to help their mentors build strong relationships with their mentees, so mentors always go into a mentoring relationship feeling equipped and prepared. They start with a hand-matching process to make sure that the mentor possesses the right skills to support their entrepreneur. Once matched, both the mentee and mentor use a tool called Ment2B™, which helps them set goals and expectations before beginning their mentoring relationship. The organization also offers several free online resources to help mentors develop and grow their skillset.

While mentoring is a great way to give back to the business community, mentors also gain a lot from the relationship. Mentoring opens up opportunities to network with other business professionals and the next generation of business talent. Jeff Ryzner, Futurpreneur mentor and winner of the BDC Mentorship Award, called mentoring his “most rewarding personal experience” and noted that mentoring is often a reciprocal learning experience, with both mentor and mentee walking away with new skills.

Futurpreneur mentors play an integral role in the impact the organization makes in Canada and the success of Canadian entrepreneurs. In the last year, Futurpreneur helped launch 995 new businesses across the country, with each new business benefiting from a volunteer mentor. The organization is always looking for new mentors with good character and credibility to join the team and commit a few hours each month to a mentoring relationship.

To be a part of something bigger, and give back to the business community, learn more about the Futurpreneur mentoring program and register to become a mentor here.