New mentorship program launched for Columbia Valley businesses

  • Dec. 12, 2014 2:00 p.m.

In an effort to create a stronger, more resilient local business community, the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce is planning to launch an ambitious new program that aims to pair business owners with experienced mentors.

The first Business Mentorship Program event will be organized to connect like-minded individuals as soon as ten local businesses and ten mentors have registered.

Once we have that number, were going to organize an event thats like speed dating, said Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce executive director Susan Clovechok. During the speed dating event well explain how successful mentoring relationships work and what the responsibilities are for both parties.

How the relationship evolves is up to the participants to determine, she said, whether thats meeting for coffee once or twice a week, or Skyping from afar if a mentor, for example, heads south for a few months over the winter.

We dont want to manage or control the relationship between the mentor and the mentoree, or do we want to take any responsibility for the relationship.We just want to link them up.

Once connections are made after the speed dating-style event, the Chamber will follow up by connecting with the respective individuals separately to ask if they are benefitting from the program. Anyone having a positive experience will be asked to be a volunteer spokesperson to help continue the pilot mentorship program. As soon as enough interested parties come forward, another match event will take place.

Participants need to be aware that a mentor is not responsible for any results their advice might invite.

Mentors dont necessarily have to have owned their own business. Anyone age 55 or older who has headed up a department, such as human resources, or has expertise in a particular area, can put their name forward.

In this community, we have many retirees, young retirees, people who have been so successful in their careers, Mrs. Clovechok said. Whats great about this program for mentors is they get to volunteer but the time is on their terms.

There are no age limits for individuals wanting to be mentored. The only requirement is they own a business, or are thinking of starting up or

buying one.

The program is intended to create a safety net for the local business community, one that could potentially prevent businesses from closing down and instead direct owners toward succession planning, as well as foster innovative ideas that will help businesses grow.

If business owners have an idea or are concerned about a particular area of their business, they have no safe place to go to say, Im worried about this or bounce ideas around to get feedback on what they need to do to move their business forward, said Mrs. Clovechok, who is hoping word of the program will spread through the valley.

Sponsoring the program are the College of the Rockies, the District of Invermere and the Union of British Columbia Municipalities. COTR is a partner in kind, helping develop the program and offering discounts on select business courses participants may decide they need. The District of Invermere, through a UBCM grant, has provided the Chamber with funding to create the program that has so far been spent on advertising.

A membership with the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce is not required to sign up. Register online at by visiting the Mentorship Program tab on the home page.

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