The driving force behind the Start, Scale, Succeed Mentorship program created by the West Virginia Women’s Business Center is a simple idea: every woman deserves a mentor. Women in business have faced historical barriers and disadvantages, including a lack of mentors and networking opportunities.
For women of color, a fast-growing segment of entrepreneurs, this is a critical gap. Executive Director Nora Myers points out how the lack of access to resources is compounded in minority populations in West Virginia. “While it’s harder for women everywhere, in a rural state with a small Black population such as West Virginia, the lack of business resources can be significant. Having a mentor committed to your success can be invaluable.”
Black women entrepreneurs are an important presence in the US economy. In 2021, according to the Harvard Business Review, 17 percent of all Black women were starting or running a new business.
Myers says, “Women and people of color often have less access to the resources and connections they need to launch a business or level up, along with fewer entrepreneurial role models to look to for inspiration and guidance—which only hurts our communities and holds them back.”
The Start, Scale, Succeed Mentorship program facilitates one-to-one mentoring relationships that connect mentees with mentors across West Virginia to learn how to become better business owners. Mentoring helps expand networks, gain new knowledge and insights, and build new skills. Woman to woman mentorships help with both career and personal development. Mentors share their experiences and perspectives, keeping in mind the best interests of the mentee.
One feature of the Start, Scale, Succeed program is its flexibility. Once you join the program, you will get a suggested match based on your needs and interests, but you can also reach out yourself to choose a mentor. After that, you can decide how and when to meet, how much time you have for developing your relationship, and what kind of experience you want to have.
It has been demonstrated many times that mentoring improves business start-ups and success rates. In 2018, SCORE reported that entrepreneurs with a mentor are five times more likely to start a business and more likely to remain in business after one year. Another study reported in Forbes magazine found that entrepreneurs with mentors had a 13 percent higher survival rate than the average for new businesses.
The West Virginia Women’s Business Center provides tools and assistance to all West Virginians to help achieve their entrepreneurial dream. With offices in Charleston, Morgantown, Fairmont, and Huntington the WV WBC serves all 55 of West Virginia’s counties. The WV WBC has helped hundreds of clients start or expand their businesses.
The WV WBC is focused on providing services to women and other groups that traditionally face extra barriers to starting and growing businesses of their own. Improving opportunities for entrepreneurship benefits the whole economy in West Virginia.
The organization works hand-in-hand with entrepreneurs to discover their own definition of success and achieve it. Its advisors provide individual counseling, training on business and leadership topics, and access to funding. Whether someone is starting a business, ready to scale up, or looking for advice on maintaining success, the WV WBC can help.
Interested in becoming a mentor? Or are you a woman entrepreneur who would like to have support and encouragement to help you achieve your goals? Contact the WV Women’s Business Center at wvwomen.org or 304-825-5000 to sign up for the Start, Scale, Succeed Program.