Taneka Cole credits her mentor’s motivation and advice with opening the doors to her body-positive bridal shop. Research from the Small Business Administration proves a link between mentoring and small business success. This week, in our third installment of our series on building business relationships, we turn to Taneka’s mentorship story.
Taneka Cole wanted a more body-positive experience while shopping for her wedding dress and knew she could create an environment to make that happen for other brides. Five months after meeting her Pathway WBC mentor Ashlee Ammons, she opened the doors to Eleven Bridal Curvy Couture, Nashville’s first body-positive, body-inclusive bridal salon dedicated to styling curvy brides, sizes 12 to 32.
“Working with a mentor was vital for me and the growth of my business”, explained Taneka. “Simply put, Ashlee was the driving force that kept me moving to the next step. During our mentoring sessions, she challenged me to think outside of my realm of thinking. She implored me to think like an entrepreneur, a consumer and an investor. What I absolutely loved was that she assigned me very clear goals after each session. Those goals were important because I knew that in four short weeks, she’d be expecting me to have those goals completed. It was the motivation that helped me open my business in just five months after our last session.”
Ashlee knows all too well how important having a mentor can be, especially for women. Ashlee and her mother are the founders of Mixtroz, an award-winning app that connects people in real time at events while collecting data. “Women empowering women is incredibly important. We must have women at the top opening the doors for other women to rise,” said Ashlee. “As women entrepreneurs, it’s not a nice-to-have, it’s a must. Without mentorship, we won’t move forward.”
Upon meeting, both Taneka and Ashlee felt a mutual spark of energy. They followed the structure of the mentoring program provided by Pathway WBC and used online meetings, email, texting and voice notes in between formal meetings in order to accommodate their busy schedules.
When thinking about the decision to become a mentor, Ashlee was reminded that no one is an expert at being an entrepreneur.
“I remembered the struggle and uncertainty that’s a normal part of a start-up. Part of being an effective mentor is encouraging the entrepreneur to figure it out themselves. Respect the entrepreneur. Be ready to listen.”
Research from the Small Business Administration proves a link between mentoring and small business success — owners that meet with a mentor for three hours or more see a boost to revenues and growth. With ten to 12 percent of employee-based firms closing in a given year and a five-year small business survival rate of 50 percent, small business owners should make finding a mentor a top priority for their relationship-building efforts.
Ashlee also connected Taneka with two women-initiative groups that have been amazing networking platforms to meet some important influencers in the industry.
“I would urge anyone who’s looking for a mentor to consider going through a mediator such as Pathway WBC. There’s a difference between having a mentor and having the right mentor. I feel that Pathway really took my specific needs into consideration when they matched me with Ashlee. She was perfect for me because she was far enough in her own business to have the knowledge and expertise to feed me the information that I needed, yet she was still new enough to remember what it was like to be in those early, scary stages of entrepreneurship. She was the encouragement I needed to feel confident enough to keep moving forward. I really don’t think I could have found that type of guidance on my own.”
Want to experience Eleven Bridal Curvy Couture for your big day? They have sample sizes of up to 32, in-store for our brides to try on and purchase and are located in the beautiful Lenox Regent building at 6901 Lenox Village Drive #102, Nashville, TN 37211. Make an appointment at www.elevenbridal.com.
Read more in our building business relationships series:
If you’re like Taneka and can benefit from a mentor who’s experienced a similar business journey, considering joining our Ignite 360 program. You’ll be matched with a mentor based on your unique business needs.