Starting up a business can be a grueling task, leaving some entrepreneurs feeling isolated and deflated.
Which is why the Women's Enterprise Centre (WEC) is launching their Peer Mentoring Group program in Whistler for new entrepreneurs. The program is open to any woman who has opened a business within the last three years.
Sara Couper, WEC's communications officer, said these groups address and help alleviate the sense of isolation that many women feel when starting businesses. The group dynamic offers multiple perspectives on what to improve on and how to deal with the challenges.
"It's very much a space for them to come and create that trust and those relationships," she said. "Most of the groups keep meeting even after the six meetings because a bond has developed between the women."
The group will meet six times, beginning in September. At each meeting, the women will identify challenges they face and discuss them with the group. The group and the facilitator work together to offer advice, support, guidance and knowledge.
This is the fourth year they have offered peer mentoring in Whistler, but the first in several years. There are six to eight spaces available - depending on the number of applicants - which will be awarded to eligible applicants on a first-come-first-serve basis.
Couper said she has received five applications so far, but if there's enough interest she said WEC will hold another group.
If not, anyone who is left out is eligible for one-on-one mentorship through WEC.
Owners of competing businesses have applied in the past and Couper said that's not a problem, as long as both parties are comfortable with the situation. If not, priority will go to whichever business owner applied first. She said trust between all group members is essential for the success of the program.
The Kelowna-based WEC offers three types of mentoring programs in communities across B.C., all of which are free.
Cathy Goddard, owner of Lighthouse Visionary Strategies - which offers a mentorship network for women as well - will be facilitating the group. During her 20 years in Whistler, she's come to know almost all business owners but as the town grows, people keep coming in and starting businesses. She said there's definitely a need for these types of programs.
"I know there's a lot of buzz abut mentoring right now but a lot of people aren't doing anything about," Goddard said.
To date, there are no mentoring programs available to men but Jehanne Burns of the Whistler Chamber of Commerce said they are looking into the possibility of offering a business mentorship program for both men and women.
To apply for WEC's mentor peer group, visit: http://www.womensenterprise.ca/mentor/signup-mentee.php