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Significance of mentors

Why Mentors?

Sometimes I just want to scream HELP!

Not out loud, but in my head.

Asking help is something which I see as a weakness. No, my heart sees this as a sign of weakness, but my brain is telling me otherwise. Maybe it is the word ‘help’ which has an assumption in it. But to think about it, then yes, once you say ‘Help,’ this means that something has happened and that people need to act fast to help you (real emergency or a threat being the primary source).

Let me paraphrase this ‘I need to ask advice/support/guidance!’

Anyone who knows me knows that I am all for independence and self-sufficiency, but the more time has gone by, and I have realised that this is not a sustainable way. It can be acceptable for a shorter period, but in long run – we all need support. The question is, how to find sufficient support and how to devise the support needs: personal, professional, mental, physical and emotional.

Last 12 months have been very exciting for me as I have changed my business model into a commercial gallery and started conducting research to analyze the art market in Birmingham and West Midlands from the commercial gallery perspective. The offer includes tailored art consultation and offering art works for sale, all for an affordable price. The offer is targeted towards corporate venues, but also towards individuals. As a ‘memory hook’, I am using the phrase: bridging art and business. The change in the business has been happening naturally, and I see that this is the way to grow it at this point. As I am working on my own, I was constantly looking for new networks.


From the start of 2015, I received training through Creative Enterprise programme, which supported creative start-up and emerging businesses in West Midlands.

Excerpt from CE website:

Creative Enterprise (CE) provided free business support for the West Midlands’ creative sector between March 2012 and December 2015. The organisation helped people at any point in their business journey – from new enterprises to established businesses – by offering a range of free services and opportunities, including networking events, workshops, mentoring, consultancy, business advice and guidance, and shared workspaces.

The programme provided also mentoring by Helga Henry (Creative Shift), who helped me greatly with my freelance arts project management. After discussions with her, my views started to shift and soon after that I started to change my business model.

In January, I was selected to take part of Re:Present: Transforming the Diversity of Cultural Leadershipa development programme, which included training, mentoring and different lectures by influential opinion leaders. Re:Present is delivered by Creative Shift and Lara Ratnaraja, funded by Birmingham City Council and Arts Council England. The reason for applying was to gain structured and focused support for the gallery.

From the press release:

This cultural leadership development programme will encompass the wide range of skills needed to be a 21st century leader and will give will give emergent and established cultural leaders from diverse backgrounds a wide range of opportunities to develop skills and network.

The project is currently in its final stages, unfortunately, and I have only one mentoring meeting left to schedule. But the impact of this has been tremendous, and this program requires an entirely separate post.

As mentioned the programme also provided the opportunity to have a mentor. My Re:Present mentors are Nicola Shipley and Rachel Bradley. Their mentoring from this project has been very practical towards my art market research and further gallery business development.

Further on, in April, I joined BNI Alliance Chapter. BNI is a membership-based network, where the motto is Givers Gain: referral based networking event where you give business, and you get business in return. BNI activities consist of weekly meetings, trainings, one to one sessions and mentoring. My BNI mentor is Andy Perks, who is an extraordinary networker around business sector in Birmingham and West Midlands.



Image from Google.

Throughout all of these networks, I have gained great support system. Although first ones are from the creative sector and the latter from corporate, they both have something fundamental in common: mentoring.


Those people have helped me to head towards the right direction and also helped me with very practical issues. Although they are from different sectors, they do have all following elements in common:

  • They are all distinguished leaders in their field.
  • They are focused to help you to be the best you can be.
  • They offer structure to your field of work, by providing outside perspective.
  • They guide, challenge and offer constructive criticism.
  • They don’t judge you; they have a neutral position.
  • They motivate, encourage and reassure.
  • They give advice, not just saying ‘do this’ or ‘don’t do this’, but helping you to make the choice.
  • They can relate to your challenges because they have been there, they have felt similar.


Image from Google

Paul McGee talks in his book ‘Self-Confidence’ about four type of supporters: Cheerleaders, Challengers, Coaches, and Confidants. He describes that Cheerleaders are great encouragers, Challengers question your motives from a positive perspective, Coaches help you to explore the tools you need to achieve the objectives and Confidants are great listeners to whom you can offload.

I believe that mentors have all those characteristics, but they know exactly when it is the time to use one or other.

I have a couple of other people who I consider my mentors. We haven’t agreed that they are my mentors as such, but they act like ones and fulfil this function correctly, for which I am incredibly grateful to them. My mentors are my pillars and I can just hope that they will never break!

Feature image from Google.

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