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Mentorship Programs that can Benefit Your Small Business

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Mentorship Programs that can Benefit Your Small Business

By nicoj
Published: July 21, 2011 Updated: August 18, 2015


As a small business owner, you’re frequently adjusting to changing circumstances, new business conditions, and unforeseeable challenges. Being able to consult with a mentor -- someone who knows what you’re going through – can be invaluable. A business mentor is someone who’s “been there, done that”; someone with insight into your business type and your specific challenges. Mentors can provide tailored guidance, general best practices, and an example of a successful business that the protégé can learn from.

Having a protégé can be valuable to the mentor as well. It can mean having shared goals, useful connections, and in some cases, a dependable business partner (in the case of a mentor and protégé working together on a contract, client account or other project).

This article offers several useful programs offered by federal agencies and agency partners. These programs encourage and enable mentor/protégé relationships in the private sector.


SCORE, one of SBA’s resource partners, is a national organization providing free small business advice and mentoring services to entrepreneurs. More than 13,000 SCORE volunteers counsel new entrepreneurs and existing small business owners through over 300 chapters across the U.S. Members are retired and working business professionals in a variety of fields, who collectively hold a wealth of knowledge and insight in terms of planning, starting and growing a successful enterprise.

If you’re planning a business, or you own an existing business, you are eligible to receive assistance from SCORE.

In addition to matching entrepreneurs to counselors, SCORE offers free online workshops, webinars and other events, oftentimes held at local SCORE chapter locations. SCORE’s web site also contains useful templates and tools to help with accounting, financial projections, and business planning.

Entrepreneurial Mentor Corps

Entrepreneurial Mentor Corps is a recently-launched program associated with the President’s Startup America initiative and supported by SBA, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Kauffman Foundation. This program provides mentoring for “high growth potential” companies, with an emphasis on new technology firms.  Entrepreneurial Mentor Corps utilizes resource sharing between “early-stage” companies and mentors, and facilitates business networking so that the experience is beneficial for all involved. One of the program’s goals is to support 1,000 individual early-stage businesses by connecting them with mentors and accelerator organizations.

U.S. General Services Administration Mentor-Protégé Program

GSA’s mentorship programis designed to enable existing GSA prime contractors to help small businesses perform GSA contracts and subcontracts. The program works to foster long-term relationships between prime contractors and small business contractors. Mentor firms select protégé firms, and both companies may work together on GSA contracting opportunities. Eligible protégé firms must be NAICS-classified small businesses; mentor firms must be large business prime contractors currently performing a subcontracting plan with GSA. To learn more about eligibility, see GSA’s program guide.

Other Agency-Specific Mentorship Programs

Similar to GSA’s Mentor program, many federal agencies offer programs that connect mentor and protégé firms. These programs, often offered through the agency’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, oftentimes enable large and small contractors to work together for an agency, and in the process, learn from one another.

Below are some of the many federal agency-specific mentor-protégé programs, listed by their respective agency:

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

U.S. Department of Defense

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

U.S. Department of State

U.S. Agency for International Development

U.S. Department of Transportation

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

To find mentor-protégé programs at other federal agencies, referring to this list of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization Offices across the government may be helpful.

Ready.gov Mentoring Initiative

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sponsors this program, designed to help managers and owners of both small and medium sized businesses prepare for emergencies. FEMA offers mentorship guides and other preparedness resources on the Ready.gov web site. The program also facilitates workshops and presentations so business owners can work together to be better prepared.

SBA Mentor/Protégé Program

SBA offers this program under the 8(a) Business Development program, which helps disadvantaged Americans achieve entrepreneurial success through training, counseling, and the attainment of federal contracts. Small business owners that qualify as 8(a) certified can join the Mentor-Protégé program as either a mentor or protégé. SBA approves the eligibility of both mentors and protégés, and serves as a mediator and third-party administrator of the relationship. Some of the benefits of this program include:

  • Technical and management assistance: the mentor’s resources and capabilities are available to the protégé.
  • Government contracting: mentors may enter joint-venture agreements with protégés to compete for contracts.
  • Financial Assistance: Mentors may own equity interest in a protégé firm, up to 40%.

Additional Resources

SBA Community Article explaining the GSA Mentorship Program, by Bill Gormley


Startup America Initiative

SBA Blog “5 Tips for Finding and Working with a Business Mentor"

About the Author:

Nico Janssen
My name is Nico and I'm serving as a moderator for the Community.


Hi! Back again! I've been laid off for a little over nine months now and have finally taken the plunge and started my own business. I figured if there no work to hire me, I'd just make my own. I'm building simple websites for local businesses (like this one: Bend Oregon painters) but I could use some help getting off the ground. Are there mentorship programs for those of us that have been out of work for so long, we don't have capital to really get a business off the ground?
I am currently taking a business course right now. I was tasked on to write topics regarding small scale business. This included the following topics; >tips on how to start your own small business >what to do to climb the stairs of the business ladder by starting small >and the use of technology and other assets to improve business. I am a firm believer the fact that big multimillion dollar industries can spring from small business. Like this one Boston Market Coupons
I am looking to know whether it is feasible the implementation of financial assistance to clients of small and medium businesses that require financial assistance, if any controls, and permits to play. My company is based abroad but I have intentions of placing branches there. Currently we are using motorola xoom 2 but we are looking to change in a near future so some mentoring could be nice.
It is a good move for SBA to venture into this mentor/Protege program but restricted to US citizen I think. I have read some other programs which offer their coaching service to international individual and company. Perhaps SBA can consider this as well. Credit Card for College Students
How can these mentorship programs help me boost my internet sales? Can anyone please share a live experience?
I noticed that the "Entrepreneurial Mentor Corps" suggested that it was for "high growth potential" companies with emphasis on new technology firms. I would have to do more research, but I'm guessing they would help new small businesses with high growth potential that are in the manufacturing sector? Or do different groups/organizations exist that deal specifically in that niche? After months of market research and surveys, it appears that our PooPurses, which are discount purses for dog lovers that help reduce litter, are testing extremely well, so it could get out of hand quickly if we're not prepared. Having a manufacturing mentor would be wonderful!
Mentoring, both personal and professional is such an integral part of business success. Finding someone that's already performing at the level you wish to perform at is invaluable, in any industry. Finding a company or individual that's where you want to be will definitely push you to pick up the pace to keep the wheels turning. Good post.
These are really great resources! Nico, thanks for helping many of us out. Business does require a constant updates. 500 рублей
The entrepreneurial mentor corps sounds very useful, as do all of the other outlets for small businesses. I didn't know so many programs existed, with regard to the growth and development of small business. One of my clients, providing tax audit help would benefit from a number of these. Thank you for the informative post.
I signed up for the SBA Program a couple of months back as a protege. For anyone looking for some management expertise, I highly recommend it. Just remember to get good legal advice before entering into any agreements, you'll need it. Replica Watches


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