West country-based entrepreneur Joe Burke, 26, started his mobile catering business, Thirst Solution, with the help of a grant from the Prince’s Trust – which is also how he met his mentor. The pair were introduced through the Trust three years ago and so far, says Joe, it’s been a highly productive relationship.
Joe says he and his mentor communicate with each other either once or twice a week. “I keep him up to date with how my business is going, and he helps me out, especially if I need advice on import and export or to do with dealing with China, because he has quite a lot of experience there,” he says.
During the two years that he’s been working with his mentor, the relationship has changed, says Joe. He acknowledges that, like with any relationship, there have been strains. “We haven’t always agreed – it’s up to me whether I take his advice or not, and there have been certain times that he’s tried to bring me close to his business.”
“Obviously, if he’s got £300m in the bank he must be doing something right, but I need to make my own mistakes in order to learn from them. I want to be able to run my business without feeling constrained to do what he tells me,” says Joe.
Moments of tension aside, Joe says his mentor has always been there for him when it counts – not least in recent times, when Joe, who suffers from Crohn's disease, was confined to hospital for three weeks. “He really helped me out by moving stock around the country at the last minute,” explains Joe.
Mentoring can provide advantages to both sides of the equation, and Joe admits that he believes being associated with the Prince’s Trust has been good for his mentor’s image. “Of course he gets enjoyment from helping young people in business. But I’m sure having associations with the Trust raises his profile as well,” he says.
However, Joe’s experience of mentoring has shown him it’s something he’d like to get involved in again. “Would I recommend it? Yes, of course! I’d like to become a mentor one day.”