Episode 35: The spirit of having entrepreneurial mentors


All Xero Gravity episodes

Hosted by Elizabeth Ü and Gene Marks

Get ready for one inspiring episode where we uncover the power of small business mentorship — going inside e-commerce giant Shopify’s nationally renowned “Build A Business” competition.

Courtney Symons, a partner marketing manager at Shopify, who helps lead the massively popular yearly event, and JD Crouse, founder and principal of Bolder Band Headbands, which won the contest a few years back, join co-hosts Elizabeth Ü and Gene Marks on the podcast.

Tune in to Xero Gravity #35 to hear Courtney and JD passionately share their interwoven stories of how mentorship can help a new small business triumph in today’s crowded marketplace. Especially when the mentoring comes from the likes of business legends including Virgin’s Richard Branson, Shark Tank’s Daymond John, Tim Ferriss and Russell Simmons.

Small Business Resources:

Episode transcript

Hosts:        Gene Marks [GM] & Elizabeth Ü [EÜ]


Guests:     Courtney Symons [CS] & JD Crouse [JC]


Xero Gravity Promo You’ve just tuned into Xero Gravity: a podcast for small business leaders and entrepreneurs across America. Now to your hosts, Gene Marks and Elizabeth U.


GM: Hey everybody and welcome to Xero Gravity. I'm really glad that you’ve joined us today. My name is Gene Marks. I'm here with my co-host and friend, Elizabeth Ü. Elizabeth, you're there, right?

EÜ: I am here, and always glad to be here.

GM: Today, Elizabeth, we're talking about mentorship, right? Mentorship is so important to small business owners. I think a lot of the people that I know — really successful business owners — always seem to have a mentor. Elizabeth, do you think mentorship is that important if you're running a business?

EÜ: I think that mentorship is super important and I also think that there is some associated habit. The people that are brave enough or humble enough to ask for mentors or to look around for that mentorship are often the people who realized that they have something to learn, that they don't have all the answers. In addition to mentors being helpful in helping pointing out your blind spots or bringing in resources or connections that the small business owner themselves might not have. I do think there is something really helpful about having that level of humility that you're asking for help.

GM: Yeah. The bottom line is this: that if you're running a business, you want to have other people that can advise you. There's no way that you know how to do everything on your own. Having a mentor, or two or three mentors for different parts of your life — both professional and personally — is just a really important thing to do.                    

In just a few minutes, we're going to be talking to two really interesting people all about mentorship. One is Courtney Symons. She's the partner marketing manager at Shopify. Shopify is an e-Commerce online retail, mobile point-of-sale company and service that provides these technologies to retailers and other small businesses.

Shopify has this competition that they run every year called “Build A Business,” and what they do is they actually collaborate and bring together entrepreneurs, shop owners and small business owners with some pretty well-known mentors that help them build their business. Courtney is going to be telling us about that program this year, and some of the big name mentors who are involved.

EÜ: Also on the show is JD Crouse. He's a principal at Bolder Band Headbands, a company that he started a few years ago with his wife. He’s also a former winner of Shopify's “Build A Business” competition. JD has relied on mentors in the past and I've got lots of questions to ask him about how he chooses his mentor and how he uses mentors in his life.

GM: Great. We're going to be talking to these two guys in just a few minutes. Stay tuned.


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EÜ: Today's topic is the spirit of having entrepreneur mentors. Our guests are Courtney Symons: Courtney is partner marketing manager with Shopify. We also have JD Crouse on the line. He is a principal at Bolder Band Headbands, which I really wanted to be a band name but, in fact, we're talking about headbands.

Courtney, I understand that Shopify every year has the “Build A Business” competition. Is that something that you build with mentorship in mind?

CS: The interesting thing was that when we started the competition, we thought the prize pack should be a monetary amount. We thought a $100,000 investment into their business would be something really compelling and motivating. The reality is that the reason these people have won is because they've just built these massively successful businesses and they've got that money coming in at the moment. What we found to be really valuable were guests that we'd brought in to the mix. For example, Tim Ferriss has been a long time friend of this competition. He showed up at one of the winner's days and we found out that the winners found way more value in talking to Tim Ferriss (and sitting down with him), than they found in the actual monetary prize. In the most recent years, we eliminated that money aspect and we focused entirely on that mentorship aspect of the competition, because it was what really resonated with our winners.

EÜ: That sounds great. I imagine that mentorship is something that you can offer to people every step of the way throughout the competition. It's not only the winners that might be able to benefit from that.

CS: Exactly. It's a really long competition period actually. It's an 8-month period where we're challenging people to start a business absolutely from scratch — so no prior sales, nothing. We hoped that along the way, we can provide some insight that will help them grow. We send leaderboard e-mails so they know where they are in the competition, and we host live Q&A sessions. They can get some insights right in the mix because the reality is that they need that insight early on. When they win the competition, they've already got a few successes under their belt, but it's those early days when they're just grappling with all these new challenges, that they really need some insight from people who've done it before.

EÜ: JD, you were one of the winners in a past “Build A Business” competition. Can you say a little bit more about your experience with that?

JC: Yeah, absolutely! Ours was an interesting path. My sister recommended Shopify and we got on there and we actually entered the competition very late, I think, in October. Courtney, forgive me for not knowing this but does it start new every year in July? I can't remember.

CS: Yeah. We have a competition guideline where you cannot have had any sales prior to the end of June of that year. Yeah, the start in October is a little later.

JC: Yeah. I think, we officially entered in October and it was like, "Oh, geez. I don't think we have any kind of chance with winning this thing. It looks like a big deal." But our little company was born in September of '13, and so we went ahead and entered. It was just a fantastic experience, getting to go New York and meet with the mentors. I've been a huge fan of Gary Vaynerchuk and Tim Ferriss and been following Daymond John, who ended up being our mentor in our category. He was really, really valuable and the experience was second to none. Shopify just did a fantastic job. Not only taking care of us and putting us up but making sure that we felt valued and so that was fun.

EÜ: JD, what were some of the things you learned from the mentors who you interacted with during the competition? What were some of the things that they gave you as far as tips that you are still using today?

JC: Sure. For us, it might be a little bit different now. I know that they developed it into a little bit different platform. There wasn't a lot of mentorship with the mentors that we ended up getting to meet with in
New York prior to winning the competition, but as Courtney said there were leaderboard e-mails and encouraging posts on the blog. Shopify just does a fantastic job on their blog, giving us resources and tips, and interviewing successful store owners, and helping us take things that are applicable to what they're doing and, hopefully, we can take action on it and apply it to our business.

I mean, we were so green; we were so wet behind the ears with business in the e-Commerce space. It was just all new to us, from the plugins and how we get the money, and just everything was so new it was like drinking out of a fire hose. We were probably consuming just about all that we could into our brains at the time.

EÜ: JD, have you been able to stay in touch with any of the mentors that you met during the process of winning this “Build A Business” competition?

JC: Sure. Our mentor in our category was Daymond John. We spend about an hour and a half dedicated time with him and his head of business development, and his head of licensing (that was amazing) in New York. He promised us a lot of follow-up and to our surprise  (pleasantly), he followed through on all of that. We had contact with his head of business development
off and on for probably about 6 or 8 months. We were trying to do some things together creatively and we ended up not pursuing any of those opportunities, so we haven't had any contact with Daymond's team in probably 6 months. But in the time that we did, both in person and then in the few months thereafter, it was great. I mean, it was way more than expected for sure.

GM: Yeah. Daymond is one of the Shark's, on the Shark Tank, right?

JC: Yeah.

GM: Yeah, and he's awesome. And he was the one that founded FUBU, the fashion company. There's a book coming out. You guys must have loved working with him. I mean, God, the amount of businesses that he started up and invested in, it's just an incredible experience, right?

JC: For sure. It was really eye opening. I mean, he had a look at our little headband business at the time and thought, "Oh, my gosh, what are these guys doing?"
It was neat. We're kind of put in a Shark Tank format right in the beginning where we had to, we really weren't pitching the mentors — but all of the mentors were there. Gary Vaynerchuk and Tim Ferriss and Selita Ebanks and, obviously, Daymond. They were all sitting in bar stool chairs in front of us and the lights were on and the cameras were rolling. We just had to talk about our business and the origin story: how we got started. There was a lot of pressure but it was also really fun. I felt like I was on the set of Shark Tank. In fact, somebody from Shopify (partway into our Q&A with Amy and I up there) was like, "Okay, this isn't Shark Tank!" because they were starting to put the heat on pretty good. It was fun. It was awesome.

EÜ: Courtney, I imagine that interaction and back and forth is something that you were really excited to see happening during the competition.

CS: Yeah, definitely! I mean, you can never tell for sure how the interactions will go, but I have distinct memories of that winner's day in New York City with JD. For example, one of our mentors that year was Lil' Jon, the performer and DJ. They were matched up with the winner in our music category called Output Sound. It's the software that allows you to make some really cool, crazy sounds and beats. Obviously, Output was asking questions to Lil' Jon about his industry contacts and his experience, but what was so cool is that Lil' Jon was then saying, "Hey, I need to be using this when I'm DJ-ing. I need to bring this around to the clubs with me, and it's going to really help my performance." It was just a perfect example of how, even though these mentors are providing all kinds of valuable insights, it's really a two-way street. They were really helping each other out which is very cool.

EÜ: Oh, I love hearing that.

GM: JD, tell me a little bit about the mentors that you're using to help you run your business, and help with advice for your personal life. I'm curious who you turn to and what value they bring to you.

JC: For sure. I've been in a Mastermind (Group) and have gotten a lot of close mentorship from a guy. He's a friend of mine now. His name is Mike Searls and he lives in Parker, Colorado. He owns a company called Success Training Systems and he's cut his teeth in the consumer products business by being a toy developer. He developed child toys. He's actually in China right now. I was messaging back and forth with him a little bit this morning. He's had a successful exit with one company. He also owns a service-related company. His breath of experience in business is vast. He's been through good times and bad, and so I really lean on Mike when it comes to just employee issues and marketing, and all the different aspects of business that, until you grown a company, you just haven't really encountered.

I don't care how many different companies you've worked for. Until you've actually run your own, you really do need mentors. I looked at Mike and, of course, I get mentorship vicariously through reading
a lot of great books like Jim Collins' “Good to Great.”
I mean I could list a ton of books. Mike's really who
I have leaned on for the last four, five years.

EÜ: JD, obviously, mentorship has been really valuable to you. Can you speak a little bit to what specifically has been so valuable and why you continued to foster these relationships with your mentors?

JC: I think the first time I heard it was from Tony Robbins, and it's like if somebody else has done something before you, why not learn what they've done and just piggyback on their experience. Why do you have to go learn it yourself? The biggest thing for me is just look at people who've been there and done that. Because they're going to be able to tell you it might not be directly applicable to the situation that I'm in at the time, but if I ask a handful of people who've been in similar situations, I can then have better bases of knowledge; experiential knowledge from them, and then I can then apply it to my business. That's one thing that Amy and I have tried to do over and over again in our business life.

GM: What do you think, Courtney? Is Tony Robbins one of your mentors as well?

CS: Actually, funny you mentioned Tony Robbins, because he's actually one of the mentors in this year's “Build A Business: competition.

GM: Is he really?

CS: Yeah, he is.

GM: Oh, nice.

CS: I know, right? It's a pretty good name to have on
the line.

GM: Yeah, but wait a second, Courtney. Is he going to make all the competitors walk across like a bed of burning coals because...

EÜ: Oh, no!

CS: You never know. You never know.

GM: That's what he does. I mean he has that whole burning coal thing where he goes for a weekend to
a resort, and the whole thing. He starts the weekend saying, "Everybody here is going to walk across the bed of burning coals." Sure enough by the end, that's what happens which is…

CS: There are some lawsuits and such...

JC: You know what, Gene? I have actually done that twice.

GM: No way!

JC: Yeah. It's a true story. Yep, I've done it and it's crazy. It's unreal.

GM: How do your feet look?

JC: Fine. That's the crazy part. You walk about, at the time when I did it, it was about 15 feet and they were glowing. I mean they were red hot, and you just get in a state, and you walk across there. And then you wipe your feet and get these coals that are stuck on to the bottom of your feet off and they hose your feet down and away you go.

GM: That's hilarious! Courtney, I have to you ask you, I mean, there's a lot of retail small business owners that are out there. Any mentors that pop up that are retail-type oriented people that you see some of the customers, you noticed customers following? Do you not think that matters?

CS: It really helps when they do that specific industry experience that JD had referenced. I mean we have had some really cool previous winners that turned into mentors in the retail space. For example, one of the winners from JD's year was MVMT Watches, which are these really cool, stylish, affordable watchbands by a pair of 23-year-olds who dropped out of college and decided to launch a business together. They grew this massive business and now after receiving mentorship winning this competition, we call them all the time.

They're actually going to be one of our guest mentors for this competition to say to people in the retail space, "Here are ways that you can deal with returns. Here are ways that you can do sales and holiday trends." They just know what to do because they've done it and, I think, that category-specific mentorship is important because it's just that applicable knowledge, that experience they have.

EÜ: Courtney, that's a really great example of the fact that clearly the benefits are going both ways. We have the mentors, who are obviously benefiting from the people that they're chatting with as well. Can you give any more specific examples of what you've heard some of the mentors say has been a great benefit from serving as mentors to the other people that are in the competition?

CS: Definitely. We've spoken a bit about Daymond John, founder of FUBU, who’s on Shark Tank. He joined us this most recent year as well as a mentor. We went to Richard Branson's private island called Necker Island for a week's vacation as the prize package this year. Yeah, it was a pretty amazing experience. It's a very cool competition to be involved with.

GM: Wait a second. Wait, I have to know if Richard Branson wasn't in a Speedo by any chance, was he, on that private island?

CS: Unfortunately not. I wouldn't have minded.

EÜ: Oh, no! Thanks for that image, Gene!

GM: Carry on. Sorry to interrupt.

CS: No problem. Daymond is on this tropical island and one of our winners of the previous year is called Leesa, L-E-E-S-A, and they're a foldable, shippable mattress — part of the trend towards not wanting to go to a warehouse and picking up an age-old mattress with old technology. They brought these guys behind Leesa and brought a mattress on to the island and they unboxed it for us, to give us the opportunity to try it out. Daymond John was really taken by this. They got some photos of him lounging on the Leesa bed on this private island. Yeah, they ended up following up and creating a business partnership when they left the island that's mutually beneficial for them. It's helping Daymond diversify his investment portfolio but, also, Leesa is getting some amazing coverage and access to a new industry that they didn't previously have, so it's very mutually beneficial. That was one of the examples I can think of.

GM: That's cool. Courtney, I was just wondering like, look, you guys are, you're getting Daymond John, you're getting Richard Branson, you're getting Gary V.
I mean, these are high-profile individuals. Let's just put it down a notch. I'm a humble business owner. I cannot afford to have Daymond John or Richard Branson to be a mentor of mine, let alone go to his island and see him in a Speedo. If I am looking for mentors and actually I am in my business, where would you, Courtney, recommend that I might want to try — some resource to try and find a good mentor? JD, I'd also love you to chime in on that as well. Courtney, you go first.

CS: To JD's point: there’s so many books out there that are written by these mentors, and they're written in a way as if they are speaking directly to you. Obviously, it's not a one-on-one conversation. You can't ask questions, but there's so many resources these days with how-to books and business development help that definitely there's a rich library of resources you can go to, but even just small business communities online. I mean I've seen amazing conversations happen on places like Reddit, where people are talking about their e-Commerce stores and things that have absolutely failed (so you don't make the same mistake again).

Similarly, on Facebook, we've launched a group called Grow and Sell, and we want people to show and tell the ways that they've been able to do so. There's a lot of spaces online that are absolutely free to access, and that you can just ask the questions (not even from necessarily established celebrity style mentors, but peers) who maybe have gone through something similar. And then you can ask for some mentorship and not, you know, pay a penny.

EÜ: I noticed a lot of the examples, Courtney, which you've mentioned, as far as the mentors who have been involved in the “Build A Business” competition, have been men. I imagine you must have female mentors as well.

CS: Totally. We want to have the most valuable mentors there and those include women entrepreneurs as well. In the year that JD was with us, we had Arianna Huffington join us as a mentor and she actually was kind enough to invite us into Huffington Post studio in New York City. We had a tour of their newsroom, of their video studio, and it was just a really interesting experience hearing more about her story. It was really incredible. Also that year, we had Selita Ebanks who was previously a Victoria Secret model, but now has her own industry: a line of cosmetics and all kinds of interesting products. We have a diverse range of people, but I definitely agree that having representatives from all ends of the board is really important in terms of getting a well-rounded perspective.

EÜ: Shopify “Build A Business” competition sounds very amazing. I'm wondering how people can get involved in this if they want to apply for the next round.

CS: Definitely. This year's competition is already in full swing but there are lots of times still to enter. All you have to do is come up with a business idea and launch an online store. In fact, it doesn't need to be an online store. It could be bricks and mortar; it could be a Facebook store alone. As long as you're using Shopify to power your sales in some way, you could be eligible for this competition. Essentially, you just got to start selling as hard as you can. We tabulate your best two months of sales and those will be tallied in the end. Whoever comes up on top will join us. This year, we're going to the Great Gatsby mansion just outside of New York City, and you'll be a part of our experience with the New York Stock Exchange where we get to ring the opening bell.

As I mentioned, this year Tony Robbins is one of our mentors, but the classics like Tim Ferriss and Daymond John are also returning. It's going to be a really, really awesome year and there's still tons of time to enter. All you got to do is think about one business idea that's been burning in the back of your brain and just get it going.

GM: We love doing a segment that we'd like to call “What I Wish I Knew.” When you look back on your life, if you were 20 years old again, all that you have learned, what did you wish you knew when you were 20 that really would have helped you now? JD, I'll start with you. What would you tell your 20-year-old self what you wish you knew, that could have avoided some of the mistakes that you made?

JC: For sure. I would tell my 20-year-old self to just make those mistakes faster. In other words, fail fast. Just get it over with because the road to success, whatever success means for you, you're going to have a lot of failure. Some of them big, some of them small but they are, knowing what I know today, the little failures, even some of the big failures, they're really inevitable on the road to success. I look at most of the successful people that I know and they just failed a lot, but they don't let that stop them. They use that as a learning opportunity and pick themselves up and go again.

When I was younger, I didn't think that I was really afraid of failing but if I'm honest with myself and I looked at some of the decisions that I made not to try something, it was because I was just scared. I'm scared of failing. When we launch something, we want to see: does it got traction or does it not? We want to give it enough energy that if it grows legs, it's going to take off, not cut if off at the knees before it's really had an opportunity to grow.

If we find that it's just a flop, if it's a "failure", we just move on to the next thing. I wish that I could just go warp speed and just fail at a 100 things because, guess what, I know that I would find those one or two winners out of there. It's because you just do a lot of little mini failures along the way. The other thing I would say that I would tell my 20-year-old self is to just really lean into what I enjoy. When I was little, some of the things that I used to enjoy, I see myself still wanting to do, still finding pleasure in when I get older and just be mindful of that. That's what I try to tell my kids: pay attention to those things that you like doing.

GM: JD, how do you get over your fear of failure? What would you recommend?

JC: I don't think I'm over it. I mean I'm still scared. We have big payroll, there's lots of people that depend upon us to help provide for their family and that's weighty. I mean, there are days that it's very heavy. I fear failure. I fear just not being here. I also know I'm not their provider so I take comfort in that. I think it's just a decision. I've read about a lot of successful athletes or musicians before they go out on stage. Adele, the other day she performed maybe in New York City. I don't know if you all watched on TV, but they interviewed her and they said, "She's scared to death before she goes out there." She fears failing. Guess what, it was like a beautiful performance. Amazing. Did any of you watch that?

GM: I actually did watch a clip of it on YouTube and it is amazing and it's funny how many entertainers, well- known celebrities, when you asked if they're performing, they're scared to death. Barbra Streisand always had a fear of going on stage. That's Barbra Streisand. I guess you have to confront these fears if you expect to move ahead, right?

JC: Yeah, I think, for me, I thank you for putting me in the league of Barbra Streisand and I kind of put myself in the league with Adele. I'm not at all either one. For me, it's making a choice to take action. Amy and I, one thing that we decided to do when we got started in this business is, we were just going to take massive action. When you have a bent toward taking massive action like radical action, you by default are going to fail a lot, so it's just, okay, I want to be an action taker. So the by-product of that is there's just going to be a lot of stuff that doesn't work. I don't even think about it like failure really. I try not to stop long enough to really face it, I guess. Maybe it's an avoidance tactic, Gene. I don't know.

GM: Yeah, I mean, it's tough. What about you, Courtney? 

If I can ask, how long have you been in the world of marketing?

CS: I actually was previously a journalist so I don't have any marketing schooling or anything. I guess that fear of failure is always in the back of your mind when you're jumping into an industry that you don't have any traditional schooling, training, but you just learned to go with your gut. I've used a lot of the skill I learned as a journalist and Shopify is a really cool culture of accepting that you are allowed to fail as long as you fail gracefully. As long as you learn from it, you can share those mistakes and just say, "Yeah, I really f’d up there. I'm just going to learn from that and I'm going to move on."

I found that, for me, a fear more than failing is learning to, that it's okay to ask for help. I think that everyone wants to be seen as this super human that can handle every obstacle that's thrown at us in every task. I'm a big yes person, as I know a lot of us are. You just want to say yes to every opportunity that comes up. Actually, that's why I'm involved in the “Build A Business” competition. My job is entirely separate from this competition but, of course, I said yes to being a part of it. There are aspects in your life where you do have to learn to say ‘no’ and to calculate when it makes sense to do so, so you can maintain your sanity, but also your skill level.

GM: Do you think that it has changed as you've just gotten older and more experienced? In other words, could you have been that way when you were 20 years old?

CS: I don't think so. I think I was trying so hard to prove myself. It's, I guess that’s just how everybody starts their career. You feel so — to use JD's term — green. You feel like you don't know anything. The reality is that if you get a job, there's something in you that they found valuable. You just have to keep proving that value, not always being that super human that I mentioned, but just proving your worth and all the ways that you can and knowing that you can't do it all, and do it all well. You got to be focused on the things you can add the most value to and leave the rest to the experts in those fields.

EÜ: Courtney, how do you prioritize when you say yes and when you say no? Especially if we're talking about failing quickly or learning where your strengths are? 

It seems like you might make some mistakes around the yes’s and the no’s.

CS: Definitely, and I think you're bound to. But someone told me a golden rule that they have in terms of prioritizing, and they said they ask a very simple question for everything they're asked. They said, "Will this be a cool project? Am I excited about it?" That sounds so superficial and juvenile and immature but when you really take a step back, obviously, there are some things that might not be considered fun, and you're still going to have to do those anyway. When you're presented with a certain opportunity, just ask yourself, would that be fun? Would I want to tell people about it? Would I be up for dinner later and want to chat about this experience I had? If that's yes then it makes it a really easy decision. You're more apt to make time for it and feel passionate about it if you're excited about it and you think it's a good opportunity that way.

EÜ: Courtney, clearly this “Build A Business” competition is something that is very cool and something that you'd probably want to stay up late talking to your friends about.

CS: Oh, yeah, definitely. And I do all the time. If they hear me talk about Necker Island one more time, I'm going to get the boot, I think.

EÜ: You're right. You are the weakest link. You'll get voted off the island.

GM: Courtney, out of all the big names you've mentioned so far in this conversation, I mean, from Tony Robbins and Daymond John and Tim Ferriss and, geez, I mean, Arianna Huffington, Courtney, if you had to pick one of those guys to be your mentor for a year, who would it be?

CS: You know what, I would say before the trip last year;
I would have said Richard Branson because he's such an icon and I am so honored to have met him. He's a really interesting person and so intelligent. Based on my experiences so far, I would choose Tim Ferriss hands down. He spent a week with us on Necker Island and he taught us how to slack line. He put up a slack line across and he was showing us how to move our bodies and stay on the top of the line. He was coming up with personalized fitness regimes for each of the winners based on their various needs. He's just so hands on. It doesn't matter what the topic is, it doesn't have to be business. He's got productivity hacks and lifestyle tricks. He's just so interesting and endlessly learning, that I think he would always have something valuable to provide.

GM: That's awesome! Hey, guys, you were awesome! This was a great conversation. We really appreciate the time that you've taken talking about mentorship and what you guys have learned over the years. Thank you very much for joining us.

EÜ: I just wanted to say that here we were doing a podcast about the spirit of having entrepreneurial mentors, and I feel I bought in to a lot of mentorship over the course of this, so thank you.

CS: That's so great. This is so much fun.

JC: Thank you, guys. Yeah, it was great. Thank you.


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GM: If you have any questions you’d like answered on the show…

EÜ:               ...tweet us at Xero using the hashtag #XeroGravity. Or, text us your questions, to 415-813-9878. We’ll answer them on next week’s show!


EÜ:   Welcome back to the show. We just had a great conversation with Courtney Symons, who's partner marketing manager with Shopify, and JD Crouse, principal at Bolder Band Headbands, and former winner of the “Build A Business” competition that Shopify runs every year.

Gene, that was quite inspiring. I always love hearing how people learn what they know now.

GM: I want to have Richard Branson as my mentor as well as Daymond John or Gary V. I mean these guys are icons: Tony Robbins, Arianna Huffington. Anyway, Shopify's “Build A Business” competition sounds awesome. Look, I mean, not all of us can win competitions like that or even have the ability to get some high-profile mentors. I think, these guys gave us some good advice as to where to go. I mean, Courtney, she seems like she's a person that likes to do a lot of reading and get some advice from some big name celebrities. I think that's an interesting take on that. Some people talk about mentors like you have to have somebody live and in person. She seemed pretty content to me to talk to celebrities or people, or just read their stuff online, or their books, and get her information that way.

EÜ:   It's so funny that you mentioned that because this whole time I was thinking to myself like, wow, great— big names. I'm not sure that that's as valuable to me. I think I'd rather read the book on my own time and then, as far as the mentor that I would be working with on a day-to-day basis or monthly or however often, you're lucky enough to have your mentors. I would really rather be speaking to people that had, as JD mentioned, expertise in the field that I was working in, or they have gone through exactly what I'm going through now a few months ago or a few years ago, so they can give me much more tailored advice. I think to me that would be a lot more valuable.

GM: Yeah, I mean, you’ve got to find a mentor that works best for you.

EÜ:   One of the things that I also think is so crucial is that if you're open to mentorship, you're open to that learning wherever and whenever it comes. I think it's really an amazing luxury to be able to have a mentor that you can have an ongoing relationship with. If you're listening and if you're open to these insights, they can be coming from anyone at anytime. Even just a short conversation with somebody on the bus, if you're willing to open that conversation can provide a world of insight.

GM: Actually, Elizabeth, there are a couple sites I know that I just want to give a shout out to as well. A great mentorship place that a lot of small businesses know about: score.org. They're an organization that's, some of it is partially; it's privately funded. There's some government involved because they're a part of the SBA, the Small Business Administration, but they provide really good mentors, people that have experience in business and entrepreneurship. Their services are completely free.

EÜ:   Another resource that I wanted to mention is the Mentor Capital Network. I first learned about this through their sustainable business plan competition.
I believe it's called the William James Foundation Sustainable Business Plan competition. I served as a mentor there for a couple of years. This is another business plan competition specifically designed for companies that are solving social and environmental problems, and similar to the “Build A Business” competition that Shopify does. They have found that the mentorship provided is far more valuable than any prize kitty, although they do have money that they give away as well. So do check out the Mentor Capital Network and the William James Foundation Sustainable Business Plan competition.

GM: Oh, yeah. Everyone, don't forget you can check out the links to all the things that we talked about today in today's show notes.

EÜ:   Thanks so much for tuning in and make sure you listen to next week's show. You can catch a brand new episode of Xero Gravity on iTunes and SoundCloud, every Wednesday.

Until next time, I'm Elizabeth Ü.

GM: And I'm Gene Marks.

EÜ:   And you're listening to Xero Gravity.


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