Episode 180

How To: Mentorship with Paulina Cameron & Karen Danudjaja

This month, we hear from a community builder and entrepreneur about their experience navigating mentorship functions and best practices.

Episode Overview

Mentorship is a relationship built on trust, active listening and respect. It allows founders to navigate their unique situations with guidance, allowing them to notice their inner wisdom, trust their own intuition and arrive at solutions that lead them to new growth.  

Karen Danudjaja, who owns and operates a line of plant based, ethically sourced and organic blends, discusses the ups and downs of her mentorship journey – it’s an example we can all learn from. Paulina Cameron, a community builder who started Canada’s largest women’s mentorship program, draws on Karen’s experience to illustrate principles and tactics that will set us up to achieve our mentorship goals.

Guests:

Karen Danudjaja is the Founder and CEO of Blume, a line of plant based, ethically sourced and organic blends.

Paulina Cameron is the Founder and CEO of The Forum, a program that exists to leave no women behind.

Resources:

Episode 180

Episode Transcript

Hey everyone, it’s Kayla Isabelle, CEO of startup Canada. We are so excited for this new show. And I can’t believe Episode One is ready, and you are here with us listening to it now. Thank you. We’ve been working on a new format for the startup women podcast show for quite some time. And we truly believe in this new structure and the impact it will have on women identifying entrepreneurs. We’re going to continue to showcase the stories and experiences of women entrepreneurs on this show. And in addition, we’ll be pairing these real stories with true and tactical advice from experts who can deconstruct the challenges of starting, running and growing a business. It is our mission to help you overcome the challenges standstills and failures that you will experience along your journey. We know that the journey for women identifying entrepreneurs looks different. It comes with systemic barriers, funding challenges, societal pressures, and so many unique challenges that we’ll dive into here on the podcast. Knowing this it’s really crucial that women entrepreneurs have access to information, knowledge, support, and an incredible community behind them. This new series will air each month and will explore a key area of business, everything from funding and sales to marketing and HR. Each episode I’ll host a founder and the topic expert. And through these conversations, I believe you our listener will be better able to understand the important stages of business and learn of new resources, support organizations and key information that’s going to help you move forward in your entrepreneurial journey. Let’s go Karen Danna Jaya is the CEO and founder of bloom, a line of plant based, ethically sourced and organic blends. Karen also experienced firsthand the power of the forum’s mentorship program, providing her with the contextual comfort that comes with mentorship.

Karen Danudjaja (Blume)   

There was the ability that I received through that mentorship was that what I was experiencing was normal, and that the only way forward was a step forward. So I think that just like understanding through the community and through mentorship that the experience I was having was okay to have, you know, it didn’t mean that I wasn’t a good entrepreneur, it didn’t mean that my business wouldn’t be successful. And it didn’t have belief in my products. It it just meant that I was human, and I was doing something for the first time that was scary, and that I was having a human experience. And just that was enough to keep me kind of going and taking these scary steps because they are scary

Kayla Isabelle   

Thanks to a mentor who actively listened and who was ready to help Karen realize a larger vision for not only her business, but herself as a founder, Karen was able to take her first steps into a mentor and mentee relationship. This experience allowed Karen to put the issue she was facing front and center the very first step in building confidence and transforming Karen and bloom in ways she expected and ways she may have not. That’s where Paulina Cameron comes in, an incredible connector in the women’s entrepreneurship space and CEO and founder of the forum, a program that exists to leave no woman behind.

Paulina Cameron (The Forum)   

Formal mentorship structures or programs can really provide women with that contextual comfort to dive into business and growth conversations where perhaps without that structure, they feel less comfortable doing so like they might be imposing on someone or maybe you know how to navigate the conversation what to actually bring up what’s confidential. What’s not. 

Kayla Isabelle  

Mentorship is a relationship built on trust, active listening, and respect. So founders can navigate their unique situations with guidance that allows them to notice their inner wisdom, trust their own intuition and arrive at solutions that lead them to new growth. In this conversation. We bring together Karen and Paulina’s expertise and experiences to talk about mentorship and how women entrepreneurs can access it, navigate it and grow from it. Welcome to the show Paulina and Karen.

Karen Danudjaja (Blume)   

Thank you, Kayla. Thanks for having me.

Paulina Cameron (The Forum)   

Thank you. So good to be here.

Kayla Isabelle   

So Karen, before we dive into your experience of having a mentor, we would love to know, you know, was mentorship, always something that you wanted to explore as an entrepreneur, if not what changed your mind,

Karen Danudjaja (Blume)   

to be honest, it was something that I always wanted, but didn’t feel necessarily was available to me, when I was introduced to Nanon through the pitch for the purse, you know, I was really at the beginning of my business, and we’ve had some traction and seen some customer fit, but I was still really trying to find my place as an entrepreneur and my place in the business. And so you know, it’s something that you want, and you know, that you kind of need, but not necessarily having the network and relationships to go out and find that person. And not even knowing what exactly you need from them. I think that going into pitch for the purse was, you know, enlightening in the sense of things that I needed to focus on I needed to draw attention to, and just the people who were willing to give time to new entrepreneurs,

Kayla Isabelle   

and Paulina, do you find that women, you know, are looking for mentorship, when they’re in a difficult phase of their business, at the very beginning of their business? You know, are women, you know, a bit more proactive seeking out that relationship? So it’s alive and nurtured and available when they’re facing challenges? 

Paulina Cameron (The Forum)   

Yeah, thats a really good question. And I’d say I’d seen both, you know, I think Karen’s story and example is definitely a common one. I’ve seen women seek out mentorship in moments of challenge, but also sometimes in moments of possibility or potential. And I think that was Karen’s example, where she had a really strong foundation with her business was growing was excited for opportunities ahead and wanting to have that support and navigating the next pieces. And, you know, although everyone’s context is so different, I think they’ve also seen that formal mentorship structures or programs can provide women with that contextual comfort to dive into business and growth conversations were perhaps without that structure, they feel less comfortable doing so like they might be imposing on someone or maybe you know, how to navigate the conversation, what to bring up what’s confidential, what’s not, I think, some cultures especially have been more haven’t been as exposed to even business conversations if you’re not from a business background. And so there can be a feeling of oh, what if I ask a dumb question? Or? Or can I even ask this or should I even be sharing this and just getting comfort like that I think programs structure programs can provide that level of this is what this is the sole purpose of this. And this is why this relationship will be there to exist and can provide some of that nuance around it. And can also provide that clear expectation that this is what you’re able to be confident and comfortable bringing to the conversation. And I think that can really not only open networks but also just open how you’re able to navigate that relationship.

Kayla Isabelle   

Oh, yeah, I love what you said, contextual comfort resonates with me that just having that infrastructure and what is, you know, normal? What are these conversations intended to achieve? And what are the terms you know how much time commitment is, you know, both parties contributing, and having some of that structure can help so that it liberates you to get into the business and get the advice that you need through that trusted mentor? Fabulous. So, Karen, you appeared in one of The Forum’s fabulous videos, called where women entrepreneurs thrive. And you described your mentorship experience as one that provided you with validity and I love that you’ve, you’ve captured this word here, and made you feel like your journey just made more sense that definitely, I think can resonate with a lot of our listeners here. Can you walk through one particular instance where mentorship helped you in this capacity? As a women founder? Why is that feeling of validity, so valid in or vital rather, in the early stages?

Karen Danudjaja (Blume)   

Yeah, this could go so many different directions. And then on really, she the early parts of my conversation with her was so much more about like my confidence, being an entrepreneur and me feeling like insecure kind of going into, you know, business meetings and sales meetings and hiring people. And it was really about saying, like, what she provided was that it wasn’t an uncommon feeling, basically, that, you know, there was the validity that I received through that mentorship was that what I was experiencing was normal and that the only way forward was a step forward. So I think that just like understanding through the community and mentorship, that the experience I was having was okay to have, you know, it didn’t mean that I wasn’t a good entrepreneur, it didn’t mean that my business wouldn’t be successful, and it didn’t have belief in my products. It just meant that I was human. And I was doing something for the first time that was scary, and that I was having a human experience. And just that was enough to keep me kind of going and taking these scary steps because they are scary. And I think when we talk about CEOs and entrepreneurs and founders, we talked so much about the romance of it, you know, like and also the success stories, and there are a lot of small scary moments and big scary moments that lead to that. And we don’t talk enough about that. So I think that through my mentorship experience, I got a gut check that just because something didn’t happen exactly according to plan didn’t mean that I wasn’t doing the right things. 

Kayla Isabelle   

I love that answer, Karen, that that is fabulous. And I think something that many women entrepreneurs in particular struggle with have, you know, where can you have those conversations in a safe space and not feel that you know, you’re going to be letting down your customers or, you know, entering into other spaces where you don’t want to diminish, you know, the trust that you might have with those different stakeholders. So mentorship, I think, can play a unique role there, Paulina, The Forum has made this incredible mandate to leave no woman behind. I love this in all of the messaging that you see behind the organization, why is including and making sure women have access to mentorship and this infrastructure so important? What impact have you seen come out of the forum’s mentorship network?

Paulina Cameron (The Forum)   

You know, I loved how Karen talked about this piece of both confidence validation and not feeling alone in it. Because especially for so many entrepreneurs, that is the experience. And you know, in the space of supporting women entrepreneurs, I think we often hear the stats about what is needed to support them, we hear the stats around how little funding goes to women entrepreneurs. And while yes, that is a systemic and deeply frustrating reality. The other barrier, or, you know, a historical challenge that I’ve seen, and that has persisted is access to the right people, the right networks, the people who hold power and decision making, as well as the relevant experience. And it’s access to those networks, those individuals that can be just as powerful, sometimes even more and transformative to a business as capital can be the, you know, the trope of the old boys club extends in many contexts, and sometimes access to the individual who’s going to make a difference for your business can be part of that. I think a lot of women have also been, perhaps in the narrative that, you know, women don’t talk about money. And if we don’t talk about it, if we don’t talk about these things, and how are you going to be able to navigate it and mentorship and a community that shows up for you, in my opinion, is the antidote to capitalistic patriarchal power structures. And I’ve seen that once women find their people, not only do they effectively work through the opportunities and challenges for the business, you know, those tactical ones, like what should my next marketing plan be? Or how do I get into the procurement division within this business? But as Karen said, they also feel confident, they feel seen, they feel understood. And ultimately, and this is where like, I get goosebumps of excitement is that their visions of what is possible expand to and so the stories we so often hear is, you know, I thought I wanted to do this, or I thought I could do this. But then now I think about this and that transformative power. I mean, that is so exciting. And I think mentorship comes in, you know, many forms, sometimes informal connections, which can work, and sometimes it’s the formal mentorship programs which provide new, new points of access to individuals or networks and can bring those unexpected relationships forward. And I do believe that mentorship is practicing community as a verb and is so deeply transformative.

Kayla Isabelle   

I’d love to dive into that a little bit deeper Paulina with what is the actual role of a mentor? Because I think, you know, clarifying who is an advisor versus a mentor versus, you know, these formal and informal structures where you can access information or advice, what is and isn’t the role of a mentor to you?

Paulina Cameron (The Forum)   

Yeah, it’s such a good question. I mean, we hear the word, mentor, advisor, investor, champion sponsor, there’s a lot and all of them are such valuable roles to bring forward. So in my view, the role of a mentor is one of support of offering their experience of sharing their learnings of asking thoughtful questions, of holding space of holding brave space, of offering considerations of expanding possibilities. And ultimately, and most importantly, showing up with the best interest of the entrepreneur in mind, and seeing that it’s about the entrepreneur. Because in reverse, I believe that the role of a mentor is not to instruct, perhaps not even actually to guide not to assume that their answers or way should be or is the right one for the entrepreneur and not bringing their ego to the table of dictating which was right or wrong, not making assumptions as well, and then not expecting their advice to be applied unequivocally. I think that’s where sometimes we see sticky points in relationships is a mentor would say, Oh, but I told them to do this. And like us step one, you told them to step to you than expected and assumes that that is the path. And so I think that the distinction that I see between the two questions offering their experiences, showing up with that potential possibility mindset in the interest of the entrepreneur and knowing that at the end of the day, it’s the entrepreneurs business, the entrepreneur’s decisions, and being there along with them. That is the distinction I see and feel is really important between the two.

Kayla Isabelle   

Do you think that there is much minimum time commitment or topic structure, like when you look at those relationships? Are those variables that need to be standard? Are they kind of flexible across the board? 

Paulina Cameron (The Forum)   

Yeah, I think contextually depends a little bit too. Like for some entrepreneurs, I would say, particularly ones that maybe have done business before. shorter, more topical mentorship, and more informal may work. In the forum’s experience, we have found that a committed longer relationship helps get through and like peel the onion layers to get to some of the core pieces and build and establish that trust that is so important and so needed. And then you have more opportunity to also see different moments of the business. You know, entrepreneurship is a journey like this, something like this. For those listening, I’m waving my arms around, Upside down, upside down, inside out. And over a short period, you just don’t experience that much of it. But over a longer period, that person can be there with you through those pieces and establish that in terms of, you know, regularity, and cadence like, yes, that is so helpful, not only because everyone’s schedules are busy, so knowing when you’re having them, you can prepare, but you also then have that touchpoint and can also have a moment of reflection. So if it’s, you know, once a month, you also get these touchpoints of what, how is the business? How am I progressing month over month, which provides that committed piece and I do find it helpful? And I’ve heard from entrepreneurs and mentors as well, that having a sense of an agenda, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be agenda of, you know, here’s exactly what we’re talking about. But every time we connect, we will talk about what is a challenge? What is a blue sky idea? What is something so it could be broader guidance, or it could be we’re digging into our marketing plan for the next six months. So let’s track our KPIs. And let’s see what we want to bring forward around that.

Karen Danudjaja (Blume)   

If I can just add on to that. I’ve experienced that on with my mentor and as a mentee that, you know, the first few sessions, it’s really like gratitude, you’re just grateful for the time, you don’t want to you know, don’t want to go over that 30 minutes, want to make sure you’re getting every little nugget, every question answered that you you know, is top of mind for you, and not necessarily digging into the root of things because you’re thinking about, you know, being mindful of their time, what can I can’t share. And I feel like it took months for me to get into the stuff that was bothering me and that I needed a mentor for. So I do think that long-term relationships just provide different fruit out of the conversations, they have more context, you’re more comfortable, you know what, you know, you can share. And I think that for like the relationships that I’ve had in this space, they almost don’t get productive until you’ve invested into them, in my opinion. So I think that long-term relationships just help you get to the nugget, the things that are going to transform your business.

Kayla Isabelle   

So Paulina, over to you with a question about founder blind spots. Why do you think it’s important? Do you know, that these exist when beginning a relationship with a mentor? How can you assess those blind spots as a mentor and help support the mentee that you’re you’re working with?

Paulina Cameron (The Forum)   

Hmm, yeah, that’s a really good question. And maybe just at the top, I’ll offer a slight slight word language shift here and reword it to a blank spot instead to acknowledge that blind spot is considered ableist language. So a founder blank spot would be, you know, what is it so areas of business, or their own business or perhaps looking at the market around them, but they might not be as tuned in or aware as they need to be, which is normal, because your day to day is so full of so many things, that sometimes seeing the forest for the trees can be tricky in a day to day basis. And so, again, it will depend on the business, the set the size, the stage of it, but it could be things like you know, how our customers experiencing the product or service or what our directions or trends and where the market is going or headed, or culture or HR challenges are one that often comes up actually, is how the entrepreneurs own leadership is affecting the business and the team. And so a little bit of that emotional intelligence and leadership piece. And I think the most important piece is just acknowledging and knowing that there exists is humans, as Karen said, at the very beginning, like it is a human experience, it is humans doing this and knowing that I think well, help everyone feel that it’s less personal unless like we’re alone and doing it but rather seeing them as areas for growth, that only really someone that is trusted could help us identify and address and I think that piece around the longevity of the relationship is really important because it allows that mentor to also start seeing that and seeing where the entrepreneur is bringing things forward but also where they aren’t, which might, which might indicate that there is a blank spot around that.

Kayla Isabelle   

And Karen, do you have any specific examples of how your mentor helped you assess some of those blank spots in your business?

Karen Danudjaja (Blume)   

Yeah, actually, and one of our early calls, I had been focusing on product, you know, I talked a lot about product about, you know, performance taste and, and how that was top of mind for me. And my mentor called out, like, maybe you’re more of a chief product officer, you know, based on what you’re focusing on. And that was a knife to the gut, to be completely honest. It was, it was this like, very stark reflection on what I should and shouldn’t be focusing on as a CEO. And I got off that call livid, you know, really taking it personally and feeling very defensive. But it did shift my priorities in terms of what I should and shouldn’t be focusing on. And I think that it was an important shift, one that I needed to have. Other people are the better at, you know, everybody’s good at different things. But I wanted to be that for my business like I wanted to be a visionary, I wanted to be forward-thinking, I wanted to be looking at growth. So sure, from that feedback, I could have said, Okay, I’m going to be Chief Product Officer, I’m going to bring somebody else in to do the vision piece. But what I didn’t set at that moment was like, Okay, this is who I want to be, this is what I actually think is important, and where I want to take my career and my business. So I have to start instead of being more thoughtful about how I spend my day and what’s on my to-do list. So, you know, it’s, it’s interesting because I think that, you know, maybe I could have known that myself from like, a book or a friend or someone on my team could have pointed that out to me. But having it from this external person that I respected and trusted was just, it was like a different way to receive that information. And it was a way that like, in an instant, you know, it was like, you’re either this or this, you can’t be both. And it really, I think shifted how I focus and spend my day

Paulina Cameron (The Forum)   

That is such a good example, Karen of so many things and like a way to go to take embrace that and move through the uncomfortableness of that initial. very real and like make and turn it into the opportunity and ask yourself, what do I want, then? If it’s not that, like, if that feels like a punch to the gut, then what is it? And then how do I move towards that. But I also want to take a second to spotlight what an amazing mentor trait that is. So we’re just talking about, you know, what is a mentor and what isn’t a mentor, and then on is incredible. And one of the things that made me think about is the trait of listening and actively listening. Because it’s not like Karen, you came into each of those meetings saying my priorities products, therefore, here’s my update. But really, she took the time to she looked she was listening to you actively and thinking about and going, huh, she seems to be telling me about a product a lot. That must mean this and like applying that, and again, not doing it from you know, I don’t I didn’t hear you say that she said you should or shouldn’t be doing that. But rather going, Hey, you’re talking about products a lot, that would be a chief product officer. Think about that. What does that mean? And so the offering but also the listening, which I think some folks might have a perception that in the mentorship relationship, the mentor is like talking a lot or instructing a lot or going through it. But the magic has been that transformative piece comes forward through that critical thinking. And then just offering the perspective that you notice there.

Karen Danudjaja (Blume)   

Yeah, it was coming from like a place of you know, you can be and do whatever you want. And out of my best interest. And I think over the initial shock, it’s like, this is advice for you, do you can do this, you want to be a product officer, awesome, do that. And that’s where it comes back to like, where I go to for personal advice at for me as an entrepreneur versus, you know, I have a legal issue, and I’m going to an advisor, I think at that moment, she was really what’s best for you. And, and it did take me some time. You know, we’re speeding through kind of how I may be grazed over how I was about it. But um, but yeah, it did shift my perspective. And I think it if it’s coming from a place like a good mentor is giving it to you safe in your best interest and giving you options for a way out, you know, giving you a path for the way and she did all those things.

Kayla Isabelle   

Karen, is there anything else that surprised you when you began your relationship with your mentor?

Karen Danudjaja (Blume)   

Well, she didn’t mince words, I would say, you know, like, like going into it. You know, we were paired through the program, and I wasn’t sure how productive or how deep it would be, you know, there. I didn’t have expectations because I didn’t have a mentor before. So but our first meeting she’s like, What do you want? What’s your vision? And I was like, who asked me anything? I think what surprised me was how ready she was to To look at the bigger vision, and, and what opened up was how little I had done that. We touched on it earlier, but I think it’s something that’s worth kind of circling back to. So many entrepreneurs are under-resourced, understaffed. You know, they’re balancing personal lives too. And it’s really hard to sit down and be like, Okay, today, I’m going to think about 2025 What I want my business to be in five years. And I think for people maybe not in small business or startups, it’s like, no, you just do that. Like, that’s, you need to have that when you get started. And, but it’s, you’re answering customers, you’re dealing with, you know, fires all the time. So I think like, something that I that she did, right from the beginning was like, if you don’t have that you don’t have anything like you have to have the vision. And that really like was a reframing of what I should be concentrating on and what I needed to do all those operational things, I needed the greater vision, so I knew what I was trying to work towards. So it seems obvious, and I guess it is obvious, but I needed that check. And it was something that I got out of like the first call with her.

Kayla Isabelle 
Incredible Paulina, any other lessons, you’ve seen some of the mentors or mentees either learn or things that they were surprised at when they were engaging in their mentorship relationship?

Paulina Cameron (The Forum)  

I think one thing that’s so interesting is that often entrepreneurs will come to the table saying, I need a mentor that looks exactly like this, they have experience here or have done this exact thing before and have like a, I guess, archetype of someone they think they’re looking for based on their needs. And the challenge we always have in those moments to say like, yes, we hear you, we know these pieces, and can you have a moment of trust with us, where you are also open to a breath maybe or something different, that will also bring it forward. Because again, difference between like a technical adviser like a legal adviser, a financial advisor, marketing advisor, versus a mentor. And that’s not to say, the two can’t overlap in that Venn diagram can overlap a little or a lot, and still be fruitful. But I think that open openness, and then what we have seen is the entrepreneurs have been really open to that or just, you know, handed over to us have a great experience that is so surprised are so surprised by what the outcome is. So that’s been one thing that’s been interesting to observe.

Kayla Isabelle  

Amazing. So diving into that in more detail, what is step one for women entrepreneurs that want to find a mentor? How do women navigate this space? You know, what should they come prepared with at the table with that flexibility, obviously, in mind, Paulino, what is step one?

Paulina Cameron (The Forum)  

You know, I think step one is to bring yourself to some grounding questions or considerations. If you think, you know, mentor, there’s probably something behind that, like, what are you hoping to get out of their relationship? What are you willing to commit to in the relationship? Are there you know, are you coming to another round? Are there really specific areas you could use more support? Are you looking for some experience or some industry or access to a network like really digging in to understand what’s driving it? And again, then having a pause in a moment to go am I is that a mentor is that an advisor, like just gut checking where you’re landing with that, and then any other considerations that might be important? You know, I’ll say, because we support women, on women entrepreneurs, as a lot of mothers that come through our program, and sometimes for them having someone who’s also been a mother and an entrepreneur is helpful because one of the things they do want to talk about is the is holding both of those at the same time. And so those are really important considerations because you’re not an entrepreneur over here, and then like a human over here, and then a parent over here, those are all part of our identities, and will all come to the table in an in a trusting respectful mentorship relationship. And so to think about any of those contexts or nuances that might be important to you. And then with all of that, yes, context and nuances and that openness of unexpected connections to happen, and just knowing that if it is more tactical support, maybe you are actually really talking about an advisor or coach and being open to that, Brett. And then I would say once you have that grounded sense, in those considerations, there’s a few ways that you could approach it, you could ask around in the community, that’s anything from sharing with friends or other entrepreneurs that you know, you could research Google, Google and LinkedIn search. That’s a lot of how our team can find people, especially for looking for a really specific industry or background is getting into LinkedIn and going, Hey, we need someone in this industry or this kind of a background and then getting to know them a little bit. And then, of course, formal programs, which have been, as we talked about earlier, really great for folks who maybe aren’t sure how to navigate like the relationship itself or first time, getting a first time mentor it really in a business sense or who might have any kind of qualms about gosh, is this going to be confidential or I feel nervous asking you about this or I want that structure like that is so helpful for that. But also to access different networks, you know, especially in a, in a, I’ll call the before the time when we are gathering in person, it was easier to meet people who maybe were in adjacent industries or even geography geographically when we were traveling. While digital makes it easier, it sometimes makes it harder to find people who are closely connected in that way. So we’ve also had entrepreneurs who have said, Oh, gosh, I’m based in Vancouver, but I really want to open and grow my network in Toronto to grow my business next, so would love to be supported that way. So I think that accessibility is really helpful. And then if you’re approaching someone directly, be clear, be clear about it. You don’t need to beat about or beat around the bush around it. But you can set up you know, an informational coffee or tea meeting and simply say, like, I’ve admired your journey or your experience or expertise, this is what I’m doing. And I would love it if you would consider being a mentor, here’s what, here’s the kind of structure I’d love to put on the table. So lead with that, so that there’s that clarity, how will you honor their time. And I think this is great, I always appreciate when people do this, is to give people a graceful way to bow out you know if the timings not right, or they just can’t commit, or they don’t even think they’re the right person. Just always say like, absolutely respect you. And any decision you may make and understand if now is not the right time, just let people be able to gracefully say no, that always feels good, and then usually decreases their chances, they’re gonna say no, because they just see how kind and thoughtful you’re also being about that. And then, you know, I would say to remember that it’s a reciprocal relationship, and our mentors continuously say that they get as much out of the relationship as they think the entrepreneur gets, if not more, and so know that going into it like this is not one person has all the answers, and you are getting everything from them. And there is nothing back like that isn’t how the relationships feel. And so know that too so that you’re not going into it from a mindset of scarcity or have less than but really abundance for both and of both sides. And that it will be that reciprocal relationship.

Kayla Isabelle   

Those are really helpful pieces of advice, Paulina. Yeah, leading with that structure, honoring the mentor’s time and with the graceful bow out, I think that’s a really helpful piece of advice that makes that potential, you know, open call on LinkedIn a little bit less daunting than you’re positioning it. Through that. That’s, that’s great advice there, Paulina. So, step one, you’ve identified your mentor, you’ve done your reach out, and you’ve sought, you know, support from different support organizations, then you have your first meeting. Karen, what were the first meetings or calls with your mentor? Like? How would you recommend that entrepreneurs prepare themselves? Paulina has asked some great questions in that kind of initial context-setting? What are you looking for in this relationship? But how do you structure those initial sessions to get the most in building that trust and building that relationship from the beginning? 

Karen Danudjaja (Blume)  

Well, I think the first thing is like your intention, setting the right intentions. Sometimes they see relationships that are about accessing your mentor’s network, and only about that. And I think that’s the wrong way to go into a relationship and the wrong thing to expect as well. So going into a new mentor relationship, I think should you should be thinking about, like, what you need out of it, and being clear and communicating that to your mentor, because maybe what you’re looking for is, you know, support on balancing motherhood and entrepreneurship. And maybe that’s not something that your mentor wants to, or isn’t something they have expertise in, or isn’t something that they want to dig into, and that they aren’t the right match. I think being honest with yourself about what you need support with, and being honest with your mentor, is the first place to start. Because otherwise, you’re starting on Uncommon Ground. And it’s just like not the right way to build a genuine relationship that’s going to be fruitful. So my first meeting with Nanon was, you know, it was related to the pitch competition. So there was support from the forum in terms of how to how approach these conversations, how to be ready, the things you should bring to it. And I think the first conversation we had, other than her calling me out on the vision piece was about what do I need? You know and was she the right person for it, and just making sure that we were aligned. And that was something that we continued to do, you know, checking in on my goals, my vision, and how she could fit into it. So another thing, I think is that you know, I don’t go to my, my mentor, or an advisor, or any of these relationships, asking, like, how do I solve this? You know, asking for an answer. It’s, you know, I can present I’m having issues with team culture. These are some of the things I’m seeing, this is what I’ve read, what do you think about this? Have you ever ever experienced anything like this, I’m not saying what should I do to solve this issue? Because, realistically, even if you have long-term relationships, even if you’re seeing them every two weeks, they don’t know your business as you do. So present solutions, get feedback, use them, the sounding boards, versus expecting them to be kind of the answer for everything. 

Kayla Isabelle 
Yeah, overall problem solver of all problems. 

Karen Danudjaja (Blume) 

And I think that there’s a real danger and, you know, obviously, these mentors, you go to them for a reason, they’re experienced, they, they’ve done it before you respect them, but you still have to come with like confidence in yourself, the knowledge of your own business, and be able to, you know, take what they say and transform it, where it fits your business. It’s not cookie-cutter, it worked for them, you can take that knowledge and you can adapt it for the landscape of your business. So I think the main things are like being genuine about what you need, and be not expecting them to have every answer for you.

Kayla Isabelle 

That’s a great answer there. And with the intention-setting, Paulina, with some of the mentees that are coming through the forum. What if you genuinely don’t know where to even begin you’re completely overwhelmed with every part of your business and finding yourself you know unclear as to what to prioritize first and how to engage that mentor Do you have any advice and how to set that intention and potentially focus the conversation with key priorities?

Paulina Cameron (The Forum) 

I would recommend having a self mentorship meeting first. And so what I mean by that is if you’re imagining coming to a mentorship meeting, and you’re hoping that you know the mentor gives you all this clarity and points in a direction about a week or two before your first mentor meeting book time with yourself book two hours take yourself to wherever you have really good energetic space if that’s you know, the forest outside or a coffee shop or you know, a comfortable spot in your home and pick up a journal or if you like to voice things forward, recorded voice memo, and just really talk through these questions that you’re hoping the mentor is going to ask you and talk through them with yourself. And if it’s more comfortable for you call a friend if you have access to that but really kind of dig into yourself to under to bring forward where you might have clarity and you might not have, you might not find the answers, but perhaps what you get through that process is actually to the core of a question or like the one root of something that is driving it. And that might be the confidence piece that might be the, I don’t know how to create a business strategy, or I don’t know how to prioritize, because it all feels competing, like that is a great challenge to bring to a mentorship conversation of, I’m struggling prioritizing. There are so many things, what are frameworks or concepts that I can do, but being able to least narrow in on that, or maybe it’s like, it’s deeply overwhelming, and you need advice on how to either simplify or structure your time or as so many things can come up from that. But I think, you know, as Karen was saying earlier like the mentor offers their experience and expertise. But it’s also not like the golden ticket, because they don’t know all the context and nuance. And I find often there’s so much inner wisdom that we do have that we either forget or don’t take the time and space to tap into. And it can feel easier to maybe look externally or like that’s what we should be doing. But spending the time to first try to tap into our inner voice, will also make the conversation with a mentor so much more fruitful when you’ve been able to do that first too.

Kayla Isabelle  

I love that! I keep sort of visualizing, you know, this, like the scaffolding of the mentorship relationship that they can sort of help scaffold the building, but ultimately, you’re the one building the house, but you have to be the one leading that charge and you know, being the architect and builder, etc. But they can help you kind of refine some of those different moving parts. And that inner wisdom coming back to that, that I think we often lose that sense that, you know, we can feel incredibly overwhelmed building businesses across different industries at different stages as well. But if you keep you know that space to revisit those conversations with yourself, we need to honor that time more so than ever when everything else is so busy. And we’re managing so many different competing priorities. tap into that inner wisdom regularly. And put some time into your calendar to sit with yourself and get to the nuts and bolts of where you might be struggling. I think that’s great advice, Paulina of the inner wisdom timing. So what if a mentorship relationship isn’t working? Paulina? How do you know that the signs of a mentor-mentee relationship might not be a good fit? And where does that you know, openness and maybe flexibility? Where’s that line drawn with? Maybe this is not the right fit and not the right person that I should be connecting with as a mentor?

Paulina Cameron (The Forum)   

Yeah, well, if trust and respect are really core to the relationship, which I do think they are, Karen, I heard you use that as well, then we kind of know when we don’t feel trust, when we don’t trust and we don’t feel respectful that he might find yourself holding back, you might have like a nagging gut feeling. Or you might just find yourself even dreading the time that you have bugged or not even responding and just kind of flaking out on those pieces. So it’s like those little signals that we have that’s like, oh, something’s not quite at the root here. And so again, spending time to go, what is it? What is happening here? Is it that I haven’t been showing up? And I haven’t been honest and transparent, and that’s why we’re not getting at it, or am I not feeling like there is trust and respect mutually here. And, you know, a little bit depends on the game context and how long the relationship has been. But I think often with those pieces if it does feel like trust and respect are at the core, then it probably isn’t going to work out, you know, it’s real trust and respect, are tricky to kind of resolve it’s different if you feel that it’s a challenge or communication style that you can work on together. And I think you know, for those conversations, one prepare for them, always script them. And to it’s easy to know, I don’t think it’s about blaming, but rather to get to kind clarity, and saying that, you know, this isn’t working for me at this moment. I’m so grateful for all the support you have offered me to date. And what I will say is this is one of the benefits of structured programs is that usually the program’s teams, in the case of the forum, the Programs team can step in and support navigating, navigating that because what I have heard also from some entrepreneurs who maybe have been doing it alone is that they’re so worried they’re going to burn a bridge and then it might impact negatively their business especially if it’s you know, a mentor that might be close in their industry or their community and network. And so if that is the situation like lead with Grace and honor and know that and if you’re part of a structured program, that’s really where the program can also program team can support navigate that piece do so that it wraps up in an in a kind, conscientious way.

Kayla Isabelle 
Kare,  any thoughts there?

Karen Danudjaja (Blume)  

I think like one thing may be just about like how these relationships other than Well, I think respect is a big piece of it. So where are these relationships can get tenuous and when it starts to not work is when you stick to a calendar when you don’t have things that you need to ask or you don’t have things to work through. I think it’s respectful of people’s time. There is like a reality I’d like a graceful and respectful way to extend, extend breaks between meetings when you don’t have things you need. And, and that’s not a, in my opinion, that’s not a rude thing, that’s a respectful thing, you don’t have things that you directly need to bring up with them that you need advice on that you need their time for. So save it for when you do. And I think that having meetings, and I’m guilty of this, this isn’t something that, you know, like, I’m saying this, because I’ve done this, and I wish I hadn’t. Where, you know, you’ve set up a cadence, and you don’t have things for that meeting, and it ends up, you know, not you’re not prepared, you don’t have things to talk through, and your mentor feels it. And I think that’s where trust and respect are roads. So I think like one thing is like bringing flexibility to relationship to also protect it from getting there, where, you know, you can be honest ahead of a meeting, saying, you know, I don’t have things this week, I would rather you know, pick it up again, in two weeks, when I’m more prepared, and I have real things to work through, you know, I haven’t done the homework that I was supposed to do. And I think that there are ways that you can also safeguard these relationships if you’re more proactive within them if that makes sense. Great.

Kayla Isabelle 
That’s great advice, Karen, you don’t need to fill space. With these, you know, calendar meetings. Absolutely. And sometimes, you know, I can empathize with that with, you know, our board of directors or advisors that we have within our network. Sometimes you also don’t have time to connect with those mentors, sometimes there are other priorities that you need to meet. And that’s great, you know, you want to be leveraging the mentor relationship where necessary. But that doesn’t have to be a structured cadence that is, you know, honored judiciously, every single second of every day. So that’s a great piece of advice. Karen, other benefits of having more than one mentor? Is that something for, you know, women entrepreneurs to consider? You know, we hear people talk about, you know, having their board of advisors or, you know, a suite of mentors coming from different industries, or geographies, or stages of their business. Paulina, do you see key benefits and having more than one mentor? Or do you think that you should be focusing on you know, a few key relationships with a mentor? mentee?

Paulina Cameron (The Forum)
Yeah, again, I think it depends on what you’re hoping to get out of the relationship. And I do, I do think a lot of folks will have several mentors. And what I will say is, that’s great, probably up to a point in time. And what happens is you kind of get deeper with each of them. But also, as you get deeper in the business and the growth pieces, there’s probably a moment, where you need to consider if it’s time to bring those groups that group together if you have the core folks in isn’t maybe an advisory or mentorship group that you’re talking about, because what can be tricky, is, you know, if you have a mentor over here and a mentor over here, and they may be giving you different advice, because not only are their experiences different, but they’re you’re not in the same conversation with them also. And so they don’t know it. But they might be agreed they might have agreed with each other. But again, nuances and context might have been a little bit different. And so you could find yourself in a moment of like, oh, but this person said this, and then this person said this, who do I listen to? And how do I navigate that? And so that’s what happens kind of once you get into that, more of the depth and the pieces and so that that moment is probably a really good moment to evaluate, actually, maybe I need to form an advisory group where we’re having all the conversations together about all of these pieces or that mentorship group. So it depends going about what stage and what depth you are us, but I have seen that progression happen to

Kayla Isabelle 
Any thoughts on that, Karen, with your experience?

Karen Danudjaja (Blume)  

Well, I’m lucky enough to have an additional mentor, and I go to them for really different things. So I think I think you’re right, that there’s a stage where, you know, topics are big enough. And there’s enough relation like there’s enough history there, where you bring it together and you like that would be the dream that I could transition these people to some sort of advisory board. But, you know, I like having like, alternative, alternative perspectives also as like, you know, a way to balance the feelings that I’m having, you know, I think one of the things I struggled with as an entrepreneur is just trusting my intuition. So having multiple sounding boards has been super helpful for me. But I do think that you know, I present the way that I try and combat you know, getting different advice on the same topic is that I go to them for very different things. So, the non is, you know, really like my vision strategy forward-looking more like a person, like, Who do I want to be as an entrepreneur, and then I have mentors in the space that are more, you know, we’re growing in like the natural, like in our distribution. And so, you know, I focus more on like the nuts and bolts of the business with that mentor. So yeah, I think if you have the opportunity to have multiple voices and you have the time to you know, dedicate space and still bring the same level of trust. respect to each of those relationships. That’s amazing. But, I can see that risk that Paulina brought up. And I’m really glad she said it because I’m just having it in the back of my mind face. And then one other thing that I, that I found helpful too, is, you know, we talk a lot about these like formal mentor relationships, but the women entrepreneur community, I have found to be one of the most generous and supportive, that I have ever been lucky enough to be part of, I, I’ll send a random message to a female founder and have a meeting with them a week later to talk about, you know, have they worked with a specific broker? Have they, you know, are they having trouble hiring, how are they attracting for this candidate, and, and I’ve always found them extremely receptive. And, and generous with their information, you know, really generous with their knowledge. So I think there are ways to build more casual mentorship relationships within your community, it doesn’t need to be somebody who’s got 20 years more experience than you and who has exited for whatever amount of money, it could be someone who’s like in the forest with you, and still have insights you don’t have. And those are some of the relationships I hold most years. So I think that I love getting, but this is also who I am as a person I love getting no different insights, gathering information, and then making, you know, a decision based on all the knowledge that I’ve collected. And I think just one thing that if I could, you know, put it out there to anyone who’s like early in there, in their career or working on a startup is it’s not, it’s not a scary competitive environment, at least that hasn’t been my experience. It’s a very supportive environment. And don’t be afraid to ask the question, don’t be afraid to reach out to people because everyone’s been in your shoes at some point or another. And we all remember it, saying it.

Kayla Isabelle 
I love that, Karen. So I’ve got a couple of final questions. You know, the forum brought both of you together, I believe, with the pitch competition last year. And Paulina at your team has built such an incredible network of mentors, such incredible programming through the forum, and has impacted so many women entrepreneurs, what was important to you when you were first building these programs? And can you tell our listeners a little bit more about the forum, how they might be able to access some of those resources? And how things have evolved over the years?

Paulina Cameron (The Forum)  

Yeah, for sure, happy to and maybe at the top, I’ll say we’ve shifted to calling the pitch the pitch program, because we have also found that for a lot of entrepreneurs, like even hearing the word competition evokes, like Dragon’s Den only style beehives. And, you know, this question is so important to me, because I think that building on those values of being deeply supportive has been so important. And hopefully, Karen would agree with this. But we try to make every program including the pitch program, not feel like it’s deep competitive space, but rather have deep support not only from us, and from the mentors and community that comes forward externally, but amongst the entrepreneurs, as well. And I think that’s been such a strong tenant of this organization, which this year, we’re celebrating 20 years, which is exciting. And I think those values have been steadfast in that, you know, through all of the programs, we have something that we call our agreements of how we show up together, which is, you know, commonly known as a code of conduct. And that is really, we make sure that that’s understood with other entrepreneurs, but also upheld throughout it. And as we’ve grown quite significantly, and made this a very large mentorship program, we’ve been thoughtful in how we utilize technology to support some of the efficiencies but to never lose the human touch behind it and to never lose those values in place of efficiency. So that has always been important. This year, we invested also in supporting the programming bilinguals, we have a French platform that supports it, which is exciting. But I think you know, the last 20 years have certainly been always rooted in those values of the deep support the community coming together and also shifting things as they need to shift. Entrepreneurs need to change the landscape around us changing and so inviting either new programs or new ways, new ways of supporting has always been important. And we’ll certainly be looking to after we celebrate these 20 years do that. Do that for the next 20 years ahead. And you know, I’ll take a second if I can to say one thing is, as we grow this mentorship program, which I think might be becoming the largest Canadian women entrepreneur mentor program this year, is that we’re going to be looking for a lot more mentors, a few 100 to support new entrepreneurs in the coming years. So if anyone who’s listening, who is previously been either an entrepreneur or someone who’s had a great corporate or business experience that is willing to step into this beautiful and fruitful relationship with an entrepreneur, please email us you can find All the information about our program, the forum.ca, our team’s emails are listed on there as well on the mentorship page, you can apply and then one of our team members reach outreaches out directly. But we’d love to hear from entrepreneurs who are looking to be supported, but also from folks who are wanting to be mentors and step into this beautiful way of supporting businesses in Canada.

Kayla Isabelle  

Incredible. There you go. There’s one action required from today’s episode. Karen, any final thoughts to leave our listeners with today?

Karen Danudjaja (Blume) 
Well, what Paulina has said about the pitch is so true, I just needed to need to validate because we’re like, for instance, like it is scary. It’s scary to present, but mostly because you’re presenting your vision, and it’s this very vulnerable thing to do. But we were all in like a WhatsApp chat, all the competitors, I’m using quotation marks. And it’s like, wow, that was amazing. Like you should win, you know, everybody is so supportive in that community. So I think to find, find yourself a community like that, whether it’s as friends, that you can speak openly to family members who you know, understand your vision, or are rooting for you. Maybe it’s other founders, maybe it’s a mentor, maybe it’s an amazing organization like the forum. But it is, you know, entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart and you can just have a community who can be there to, you know, be a sounding board pick you up on hard days, it’s so important. And the first step is just reaching out because I would be very surprised if you like what Paulina said about this graceful exit. Every time I’ve reached out for advice, people have been super receptive. So I think it’s just about getting over the fear of asking,

Kayla Isabelle  
Karen, before we sign off, is there anything that you would like to say to your mentor now on the podcast?

Karen Danudjaja (Blume)  

Thank you. Yeah, I’ve gotten over the gut-punch of the CPO. And, yeah, just thank you. And, and I’m grateful for that relationship, and just the total change in perspective on what I’m capable of. Yeah, I have already told her to, so she knows.

Paulina Cameron (The Forum)  

And I will plus one, that plus one that with a note of thank you to Nanon, for all of the support that you’ve also given to The Forum because you’ve been with the organization and supporting your organization and our entrepreneurs. For many, many, many, many of the 20 years that we have been doing this work. And I know you come from the most heart value-based place when you do so it shows in how you show up for the entrepreneurs and, and how you support the organization. So I need to give that plus one shout-out and deep gratitude to you.

 

Kayla Isabelle  

This is a gratitude podcast! That’s fabulous. Thank you so much, Karen, thank you so much, Paulina, for this great episode of the Startup Women podcast, such practical takeaways, great advice about navigating this mentorship relationship, and some incredible resources that continue to be shared through The Forum. So I’m super excited to keep promoting that to our Startup Canada network Paulina and getting more mentors and mentees and program participants your way for an exciting year ahead.

Karen Danudjaja (Blume)  

Thanks, Kayla, for having me. 

Paulina Cameron (The Forum) 

Thank you. Thank you.

Kayla Isabelle  

To learn more about The Forum, head over to www dot the forum dot ca.  If you’re looking to learn more about Blume and save on their delicious offerings, I can attest to this, I’m a big Blume fan check out www dot its Blume dot com and enter promo code Startup Women 15 to save 15% on your first order.

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