Enterprise Mentoring Works

Cloudia Vardon

Helping entrepreneurs make independent decisions about the direction of their business is at the heart of what we do at Tree Shepherd. Whereas the success of our Friday business surgery reveals that for many, a small amount of coaching and some pointers is all that’s required – we know that for others setting up or running a business can be a real challenge and the reassurance of regularly seeing an independent mentor proves invaluable in the early stages.

Mentee Cloudia Vardon (pictured), a designer who runs her own fashion label, sings the praises of her mentor Byron Cole “our meetings are always helpful, but what’s great is that he is always on the end of the line when I get stuck and I’ve really grown to value his opinion

We also know that it’s not just the voice of Tree Shepherd that hits home and we rely on the many and varied voices of mentors from professions across the spectrum. People with different fields of expertise help plug key knowledge gaps and the biggest gift for a new entrepreneur is somebody’s time. Focussed timeslots in which all aspects of a new business can be explored mean that the busy mentee can ‘put the head back on the chicken’ and make sure they are on track with their business plan.

In the first 6 months of this year’s programme we set up 43 mentoring introductions. Our mentoring programme attracted 27 volunteer mentors – some able to take on 2 mentees.  These were matched with 27 mentees in the fields of food and craft and a further 16 in other fields including IT, education and community support services. For the majority, the mentoring relationship continues to this day. For others, all that was needed was 1 or 2 meetings.

The businesses being mentored include one promoting yoga holidays in Croatia, a smoking cessation service, a variety of catering companies from hot pepper sauce to insect snacks, dress makers, textile designers and many more. What most of them have in common is that they started on the Tree Shepherd ‘start your own enterprise’ course, claiming benefits but determined to lead independent self-made lives. It’s an exciting journey and the mentors gain enormously from being a part of it.

In the next year, we will be welcoming on board up to 200 new entrepreneurs. We will be running a series of mentor induction sessions and the commitment after that for the mentor is a meeting once a month face-to-face plus a little admin. Mentors don’t have to be business people. Experience of management in any sector can be just as valuable to a start-up business.

All mentors automatically join the Lambeth Forest Enterprise Network and can be part of a host of other activities organised by Tree Shepherd, such as networking events and masterclasses.

Mentor John Garbett after his first meeting with Andy Kelliott (flavoured ice entrepreneur): “I think there is lots to investigate but also this is a good opportunity. I want him to succeed”.

Would you or do you know somebody who would like to volunteer to be an enterprise mentor?

Contact Lydia Gardner, Manager of Communications and Partnerships on 020 3697 1540 or lydia@treeshepherd.org.uk


The Tree Shepherd mentoring programme is supported by the Department of Business Innovation and Skills. It is delivered in partnership with Lambeth, Brixton BID, Waterloo Quarter, Vauxhall One, Morley College, Lambeth Food Partnership and Makerhood.

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