Mentoring, Women in Leadership

Cross-Industry Mentoring: A Tale of Hot Dogs & Handbags

By Ian GoverJuly 25, 2014

What do a fashion designer and a hot-dog vendor have in common? Not much, right? And yet they’ve formed a surprisingly successful mentoring partnership.

You might think that your mentor needs to be someone who knows your business well. But sometimes the best mentors come from a different company or even a completely different industry, giving you the fresh perspective and surprising suggestions you need.

Hot Dogs and Handbags

Let’s go back to that fashion designer, Roseli Ilano. Last year, she won a contest for young entrepreneurs run by Toyota subsidiary Scion, scooping a prize of $10,000, a free car, and a career mentor.
That mentor turned out to be Melanie Campbell, owner of New York City restaurant Asia Dog, purveyor of hot dogs with exotic seasonings, garnishes and condiments.

Ilano wasn’t expecting to be paired with someone in the food industry, but says it “actually turned out to be really great.” Although they work in different industries, they’re both young entrepreneurs facing similar challenges. Campbell was able to give valuable advice on the financial side of being an entrepreneur, like writing a business plan and making cash flow projections.

It turns out that in a former career, Campbell was a buyer for clothing company Diesel, so was able to help Ilano devise strategies to get her handbags stocked in major stores. Sometimes mentors can bring unexpected experience that a quick look at their current job title wouldn’t reveal.

Although the mentoring started as a prize for winning a contest, Campbell says, “We’ve formed a relationship where I’ve said hands down, ‘I’m in it with you for the long haul.’” As for Ilano, she says, “Now I have Melanie as a friend, a mentor and somebody who’s going to be rooting for me, and I really am looking forward to seeing how our relationship develops for a lifetime.”

Author and Video Producer

Another Scion winner was author and publisher Jahmal Cole. He was surprised to be paired with a video producer rather than another writer.

“At first when they said, ‘Hey, we’re going to get you with Levi Maestro,’ I said, ‘I’m an author and a speaker, and he has T-shirts and does video. How is that going to work together?’”

In the end, it worked very well. Cole says he broadened his perspective by working with Maestro, learning a lot from his mentor about publicity, marketing, and diversifying his business to make money in ways other than writing and publishing. Another writer would probably have worked with him on his books, but Maestro was able to bring a totally different perspective, helping Cole to rearrange his business and start new projects like selling clothing.

Why it Works

These pairings are not outliers. At Everwise we’ve matched thousands of people for mentoring partnerships, and have found that pairing people with very different backgrounds tends to work extremely well. The different perspectives yield new insights.

Ilano and Campbell were both creative entrepreneurs who had to understand the financial side of their businesses, and Campbell could share her experience in that area. Cole and Maestro both used marketing and social media to expand their businesses, and Maestro could help his protégé follow some of the strategies that had made him successful.

So if you’re looking for a mentor, look beyond the people who first come to mind. The perfect mentor may be someone who’s not only able to see things from your point of view, but also has enough distance to be able to suggest things you’d never thought of before.

Could you be mentoring the next Rosali or Jahmal? Share your wisdom with rising talent today.

Ian Gover

Ian Gover

Co-Founder at Everwise

About the Author

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