For any founder, their start-up is their baby. It’s no mere career path. At its core, entrepreneurship is a mindset that thrives on innovation, risk management, financial prudence, and the ability to gauge and take calculated risks at the right time.

New businesses need support. Guidance. Like a new baby, it needs grooming, hand-holding, and mothering before it can stand independently and further support before it can fully walk.

And now, we have data to back this up.

In the UK, new businesses were surveyed on the role of mentorship, and twice as many companies with an active mentor were likely to report increased revenue than non-mentored ones. 70% of mentored small businesses survive five years or more. In the US, SCORE’s data showed that mentored businesses had a 12% greater survival rate in their first year than the national average.

For women entrepreneurs, mentorship assumes greater importance. Besides providing a crucial link with established industry and funding networks, mentors guide women to navigate the demands of a growing business better, its risks and underlying opportunities.

Overcoming initial hurdles

India needs more women in the workforce and business. The country’s entrepreneurial environment is improving, but women face persistent challenges. It’s harder for them to become entrepreneurs because of entrenched societal, domestic, and economic biases. This makes their journey as entrepreneurs even harder.

At some level, the challenges for women entrepreneurs are systemic, where gender roles, especially in the domestic space, haven’t kept pace with the greater social and economic changes globally. That is where mentorship becomes critical. For women, the challenges in early-stage business transcend funding needs, customer acquisition, network support, peer groups, experience, and knowledge.

Mentors help navigate these treacherous early waters of entrepreneurship. However, few women have access to reliable entrepreneurial mentorship or know the various formal mentorship programmes for entrepreneurs. In some Tier II cities, there is a growing trend of local women’s industry associations actively mentoring female-led MSMEs, which come closest to being institutional mentors.

The situation is slightly better for family-run or inherited businesses, where support systems run deep. In a survey by the NITI Aayog-backed Women’s Entrepreneurship Council (WEP) and Microsave Consulting, 24% of women entrepreneurs “mention friends and family or relatives with business experience as their mentors.” Supportive male family members can make a huge difference, especially for early-stage businesses. Spousal and household support are the most significant reservoirs of support for female enterprises, often shouldering child-care and home-making responsibilities. .

Areas of support

The same SCORE survey in the US highlighted different areas in which women entrepreneurs most need mentorship. They primarily seek mentorship assistance for human resource challenges (61%), followed by growth and business expansion (59%), and start-up support (53%). The survey also found that the mentor’s gender is no bar to success, though success begets greater success. About 33% of the top-performing start-ups were mentored by other successful founders.

“A great mentor is someone who offers objective advice, provides counsel from a fresh perspective, is willing to collaborate, listen and learn, as well as helping you stay focused on your goals, your purpose and what you’re working so hard to achieve,” says Amy Zimmerman, Head of People Operations at Kabbage.

For most fledgling women entrepreneurs, an experienced mentor allows them to tap into a well-spring of experience and subject-matter expertise. They can help avoid common pitfalls and mistakes. They can serve as a sounding board for ideas, offering constructive criticism, valuable feedback, and suggestions to refine business plans and strategies. Mentors, especially female mentors, can provide emotional support and bring invaluable nuances to help women entrepreneurs across all aspects of their lives.

The mentor-edge

Community and artisan-led marketplace Etsy had a rough start and a revolving door of executive leadership until Chad Dickerson took over as CEO in July 2011. It wasn’t an easy time for the company. Etsy had robust funding but was struggling with a series of PR mishaps. That is when he turned to his old friend from Salon, Caterina Fake, who joined the Etsy board.

Flickr founder Fake steered Dickerson through the tumultuous period. She helped him hire top tech talent in New York and guided Etsy through multiple funding rounds and IPO. Today, it is synonymous with handmade or vintage items and craft supplies, approaching $10 billion in market capitalisation. . That is the difference a world-class mentor can bring.

In the Indian context, female business mentors can also serve as a bridge between underserved networks. Often, bussing women entrepreneurs expect their mentors to help them make relevant connections in their industry. A strong network is important. Many women and communities have historically lacked it compared to men. Access to different professional networks can depend on city and community, social and economic strata, and education levels.

Good mentorship brings knowledge of technologies, financing, planning, and more. At its best, female business mentorship today can guide new businesses to adapt, harness technology to build global connections and foster peer-to-peer communities of change. The government has woken up to the potential for change, learning from the micro-credit revolution to promote women to drive capital and value creation. This has seen transformations across many different sectors, and this is just the beginning. The next few years will see a boom in female entrepreneurship across India.

A program of mentorship

The ATLAS Edge Executive Program in Women’s Entrepreneurship knows that behind every great entrepreneur is an army of great mentors. The program is designed to cultivate mentorship – from industry leaders, successful women entrepreneurs, and a network of start-up founders. It emphasises the need to reach out and seek wisdom and actionable insights.

The program will provide budding women entrepreneurs t access to high quality mentors to drive transformational impact on both business metrics and entrepreneurial ability. There is already enhanced confidence in the market. The ATLAS Edge program taps into this market confidence and boosts those most need it.

Learn more about the program here.