My name is Robin Miller, and I am a PTYBS Volunteer Start Up Aftercare Adviser. I would like to share my experiences with you, and hope they may encourage some of you to volunteer to become a mentor too. Although I will be writing about the Scottish experience, you can volunteer for the Prince's Trust throughout the UK.
I live in Edinburgh; I am 67 years old and have been a volunteer mentor for the Prince's Trust, called an aftercare Adviser, since retiring in 2008.
I had been working full time for 45 years; the first 35 years with Royal Bank of Scotland and 10 years with Business Enterprise Scotland. In thinking about retiring, I knew I didn't want to ‘stop’ entirely. I also knew I wanted to continue to use the skills and experience gained in my business life. Acting as a support to businesses formed by young people seemed an ideal opportunity to become a mentor.
How did I go about it?
I contacted the Prince's Trust Edinburgh Office, said I was interested in volunteering and was invited in to meet with the local Manager.
It was explained that young people under the age of 25 wanting to work for themselves could approach PTYBS for a loan of up to £5,000; to obtain loan funding the young person had to present their business plan to a panel made up primarily of volunteers with a business background.
If the loan was granted the young person had to agree to work with a volunteer Aftercare Adviser. The role was explained as one which could help support the new start business and at the same time provide a link back to the Trust through the submission of quarterly reports. At the end of the meeting I reconfirmed my interest in being about to become a mentor and PTYBS agreed to take me on.
The formal induction.
The next stage if you want to become a mentor is formal induction. It was a straightforward process involving a one to one meeting with PTYBS Edinburgh Volunteer Manager.
I was taken through the role and the dos and don'ts of mentoring. The Trust place considerable emphasis on financial control and have their own book keeping system. Courses are run for new businesses. I attended one and also sat on a loan panel to complete my induction.
I was sent the business plans of two potential clients. I was comfortable that I had the skills to help. It was left to me to contact them. Then the initial face to face meeting-did I think the ‘chemistry’ would work, what were the needs of the business and where could I add value? Then trying to conclude the meeting with a set of goals or agreed actions.
How has it been for me?
I now have four PTYBS start-up clients all in different business but with one common thread. All have said they value the benefit of having someone to talk to. For me it’s been good to see these businesses progress; I have been able to add value with specific advice, signposting clients to other networks, encouraging them when choppy waters are encountered.
Having become a mentor with the Prince's Trust has not always been plain sailing.There have also been occasions when the direction of travel has had to be challenged or where the young client has not done what they agreed to do. The skill in these situations is influencing without authority.
There is a great support network for volunteers from regular newsletters, access to technical resources, network meetings and conferences giving volunteers the opportunity to meet other volunteers, new businesses and celebrate the success of young clients.
Put something back.
It’s been a win-win. It’s allowed me to put something back, use my skills and be part of a very worthwhile organisation. The young businesses have been able to benefit from someone else’s knowledge and experience.
For further information on Youth Business Scotland visit www.princes-trust.org.uk
Youth Business Scotland supports young people aged 18 to 30 years old to start-up and continue in business. By providing essential funding and professional mentoring support, Youth Business Scotland gives vital support to young people interested in entrepreneurship.
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