Sydney startup wants to provide mentorship to entrepreneurs who can’t afford expensive programs

- May 12, 2015 3 MIN READ

Ask nearly any business leader how they came to be successful and they will tell you that they had a lot of help and advice from mentors along the way. Now, mentoring – or the facilitation of it – has turned into a business itself.

From The Entourage to Rare Birds, a number of mentoring services have emerged over the last few years. However, Sydney entrepreneur Michelle Dixon has decided to create Kindred Global Mentorship to focus on the types of businesses and entrepreneurs she believes have often been left behind by other established services.

Dixon believes that Kindred will attract entrepreneurs who don’t want – or don’t need – to go through a set, structured mentorship program like those offered by other services.

“Kindred is a complementary platform to those others in many ways, but differs in that it represents more industries, and has more variety and possibility in terms of how mentorship is delivered, and more choice in that you can browse and choose anyone you like,” she said.

“Although a long-term, structured option is there, our sole focus is not just to insist on long-term structured relationships. Not everybody needs or wants that, sometimes we just want some advice.”

As well as tech, the platform hopes to offer mentorship for tradespeople and entrepreneurs in the hospitality and service industries.

Kindred, which is launching in July, will be looking for entrepreneurs who feel they can provide mentorship to create a profile on the site. Entrepreneurs seeking mentorship can then browse profiles and chat with mentors on the platform to see who’s a good fit before signing on for sessions.

Mentors can decide what kind of advice they want to offer and the format they will offer it in, whether it be email advice, a Skype call, or a one-off in-person meeting. Mentors can also set their own prices for their services.

“Kindred welcomes anyone who would like to mentor on the platform, with the burden on the mentor to demonstrate their skill set and capacity, as well as what they can offer. This is important because we incentivise mentors not just through payment, but also through the ratings and reviews of the mentees, which they can then post back to their LinkedIn profiles and use on their CVs to further their own careers,” Dixon explained.

Mentors will receive 85 percent of their fee through the platform, with Kindred donating 15 percent of its pre-tax/post-expenses revenue to charities helping independent small businesses in developing countries.

“One of our core values is to be a social good business, and specifically to contribute to solutions to poverty by fostering small business independence,” Dixon said.

As part of this goal, Kindred recently partnered with Kiva.org to help provide micro-loans to business owners in developing countries.

Kindred will be launching a crowdfunding campaign next month to help further its development, which Dixon has funded through family loans thus far. Dixon, a separated mother of three, said that her experience asking family for loans is similar to that of many other women entrepreneurs, and hopes that Kindred can help them.

“They don’t have the support or confidence to take the risks necessary to launch a startup, and one of my hopes is that the platform will be so user-friendly, accessible, and affordable that it will de-mystify business for women in my situation and allow them to take the steps necessary to become successful businesswomen,” she said.

Dixon believes many women she has coached are intimidated by business programs that require lengthy application processes and incur significant costs.

While mentoring services are nothing new, the fact that Kindred is both open to industries often left out of the mentoring circle and relatively cheap for as little or as many sessions as the mentee needs – taking part in the structured Rare Birds mentorship program will set you back $4450 – could see it grow a significant user base. The rating of, and leaving feedback on, mentors should see a suitable quality of mentorship.

Kindred will be looking to raise $10,000 through its crowdfunding campaign. A place in an incubator program and strategic partnerships are also on the agenda.