TripAdvisor Employee Mentors Helping Small Businesses Survive COVID-19

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    Tripadvisor's Ben Drew facilitated the panel discussion featuring entrepreneur Cera Muchiri , mentor Amanda Mailey, and MicroMentor Executive Director Anita Ramachandran.

MicroMentor is proud to highlight the launch of an exciting new partnership with Tripadvisor, who is mobilizing their global base of skilled employees to participate as volunteer mentors to support the most vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since 2015, Tripadvisor and the Tripadvisor Foundation have been vital partners to Mercy Corps by investing in the future of refugees, helping communities survive COVID-19, and most recently, supporting small business owners through MicroMentor. By partnering with MicroMentor, Tripadvisor and their employees are helping to curb COVID-19's devastating economic blow to small businesses globally—especially micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises in industries such as tourism, food service, and retail.

Since launching in January, the MicroMentor/Tripadvisor partnership has seen over 60 new mentors from 7 countries sign up to participate with more to come after participating in MicroMentor’s Mentoring Masterclass, a transformational learning opportunity designed to help corporate volunteer mentors build confidence in their ability to help entrepreneurs solve real-world business challenges. Mentoring conversations cover a wide range of topics and vary in duration, with some connections extending over multiple months and exchanging 50+ messages back and forth.

As part of the partnership launch, MicroMentor and Tripadvisor collaborated to facilitate a panel conversation for Tripadvisor’s global employees. Prospective mentors had the opportunity to hear inspiring stories about the importance of mentorship from three MicroMentor community members: entrepreneur Cera Muchiri, mentor Amanda Mailey, and MicroMentor Executive Director Anita Ramachandran.

Read more about the panelists and check out three key takeaways from the panel below:

Mentoring Fills Gaps for Entrepreneurs

MicroMentor was founded to democratize access to social capital—an important resource for businesses around the world and one that is particularly valuable to women entrepreneurs and those from under-resourced communities who don’t otherwise have access to networks with business experience. According to MicroMentor Executive Director Anita Ramachandran, “Social capital is critical for entrepreneurs to succeed.”

Ecodunia founder Cera Muchiri wanted to give back to her home community in rural Kenya after graduating from university in the United States, but she didn’t know where to turn for advice: “I am the first person in my family to be educated.” After moving back to Kenya, Cera knew what she wanted to do and could envision the end state—but she quickly realized that she did not know where to begin: “I don’t know anything about business...I don’t come from people who have run businesses before and I really didn’t have anyone in my life who I could go to and ask for advice.”

Cera traveled from her small village in Kenya to a women’s group in Nairobi, where she connected with other women business owners, one of whom recommended MicroMentor. After completing her profile, Cera matched with a few potential mentors.

She knew that she wanted to find a mentor familiar with American markets, since her business registration and customer base is in the US. One mentor in particular, Eric Nashbar, stood out after sending her detailed documents and an application process for mentoring with him. His structured approach made Cera think hard about her business plan, and she knew that it was exactly what she needed.

With Eric’s questions to answer, Cera was able to complete a detailed business plan: “It was an entire weekend’s worth of assignments. They helped me think about business in a way that I had not thought before.” Under Eric’s guidance, Cera was able to get her business off the ground and make her first sale.

Mentoring Benefits Mentors

Mentoring is a two-way street and often mentors find themselves benefiting just as much as their mentees. That is the case for ALIST founder and mentor Amanda Mailey: “Everytime someone reaches out to me, I really don't know what is going to happen—that energizes me...Part of it is giving back, but I am receiving so much from this.”

In a recent survey, nearly ¾ of MicroMentor mentors found a greater sense of purpose and benefited from their mentoring experience, improving key business skills like collaboration, leadership, critical thinking and problem solving, and communication skills. MicroMentor Executive Director Anita Ramachandran said it best: “Mentoring is not easy, but it’s worth it. You have to invest yourself in the process—either as a mentor or mentee—but the rewards of it are life changing.”

Being a mentor doesn’t mean doing the work for an entrepreneur, as Amanda said: “I don’t have to give the right answer, I have to ask the right questions.” On her mentoring experiences, Amanda said: “[Entrepreneurs] can be anywhere in the world with who-knows-what resources in front of them...I’m a problem solver and I’m a listener. I like stepping into a situation and listening and adapting to what is needed. That was my job for so many years. But now I get to apply [those skills] to people wanting to go out and do something in the world and follow their dreams and take risks. We want everybody to be empowered to go out and make a difference.”

Everyone Has Something to Offer

Whether a mentor has three years of business experience or thirty, MicroMentor’s model is built on providing access to a wide-array of expertises. The best mentors come from entrepreneurial backgrounds, as well as corporate and non-profit careers across sectors. From guiding a small business owner through the process of building a business plan or showing them how to develop a social media marketing plan, mentors bring value in their unique professional and diverse cultural backgrounds.

Beyond offering subject matter expertise, mentors can also serve as a sounding board or cheerleader. Cera connected with a second mentor based in Washington DC, who helped her in a different way: “She was just there really rooting for me.” According to Anita, “Mentoring can look very different—it can be subject matter expertise or more like a life coach.”

  • Anita Ramachandran

    Anita Ramachandran is the Executive Director of MicroMentor at Mercy Corps and has been with the team since 2012 and has watched the platform grow to its now 100,000 entrepreneurs from over 170 different countries and counting.

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    Cera Muchiri is an entrepreneur on MicroMentor. Cera is the Founder and CEO of Ecodonia, a social enterprise with two goals: (1) to create work opportunities for Kenyan residents, and (2) to educate girls. Ecodunia creates handmade, sustainable and ethical products, such as reusable grocery bags and wallets.

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    Amanda Mailey is a mentor on the MicroMentor platform. She is the Founder and President of ALIST, a small marketing and business consultancy helping Small/Medium Businesses, mission driven companies and underrepresented (womxn and BIPOC) leaders reach their goals. Amanda is also the author of sidetracked, a personal story and must read for those needing a life reset.

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