In London, one company takes mentoring very seriously indeed. Recently founded Rockstar Youth aims to fast-track young entrepreneurs to success by providing targeted and results-driven mentoring to make their businesses attractive to investors. Co-founders Jonathan Pfahl and Sean Hamilton recently talked to inspiresme.co.uk about the company, and why mentoring schemes are so important.
In 2007 Jonathan Pfahl set up Rockstar Group, a business aimed at providing mentoring services at the SME level. The concept for a youth mentoring scheme was later developed by Sean Hamilton. Jonathan, who had always been looking for new and innovative ways to target the youth market, was impressed with Sean’s idea and confidence. He agreed to back Sean, who was also licensed to use the Rockstar name. Rockstar Youth was born.
Sean explains how the idea came about, from his own perspective:
"The idea really came after I couldn't get backing or support from well-known organisations. I then pitched the Rockstar Youth concept at the Business Start-Up Show's Midas Touch event, the youngest to do so at 19. I then put an offer to Jonathan to create a youth subsidiary of Rockstar, and here we are today."
What exactly does Rockstar Youth do? It’s a comprehensive mentoring scheme for 16-25 year olds that helps turn great ideas into viable businesses by helping young entrepreneurs improve their business plan, knowledge, acumen and confidence. The company also helps them prepare for pitches and maximise their chances of gaining investment.
Mentoring is by far the fastest route to achieve success in business by learning from someone who’s already been through it
Jonathan is a huge believer in the power of mentoring and its ability to help everyone, including youngsters, achieve at the highest level.
“Mentoring is by far the fastest route to achieve success in business by learning from someone who’s already been through it. Mentoring allows the young person to learn so quickly about real business from entrepreneurs who have actually done it and achieved success.”
Sean agrees: "Mentoring is important because not only do you learn from someone who has been there, done it and got the t-shirt but you get to learn from their mistakes without having to make them as well, Plus, mentors help you to open the right doors, and also act as an honest sounding board for you to bounce ideas off."
And for youths especially, mentoring is a growing market as the number of budding entrepreneurs increases.
“Mentoring is important now because you have a great number of very bright young entrepreneurs coming out of colleges, schools, universities, who have got great ideas, but really lack the business experience to get it off the ground and the funding to make it happen.”
At Rockstar Youth, mentoring is a structured programme with one-to-one, face-to-face mentoring sessions for a minimum of six months. In the first meeting, the mentor and the mentee talk about where the mentee is at the moment and where they want to be in six months. That goal is agreed and committed to by both parties. The mentor then provides a wealth of support to the mentee across the six month period.
“Every month the mentor gives the mentee different tasks and objectives and contacts to help them achieve their goal,” explains Jonathan.
For entrepreneurs of all ages, the ultimate goal is investment that can fuel growth. Mentoring is particularly important in this regard because, as Jonathan says, “it gives investors the confidence to invest because they know there is a wealth of business experience behind the company.”
And for youths especially, there is often little personal money available to put into the business. Sean explains:
“The biggest challenge has to be the cash problem. Most kids don’t have the cash to run a business. They might have the passion and the enthusiasm and that’s great, but cash is essential. That’s why we’re looking to increase corporate sponsorship of our programme.”
Rockstar Youth aims to change perceptions of mentoring from a ‘nice to have’ to an essential part of the entrepreneurial journey
As for Rockstar Youth’s future, Jonathan succinctly summarises the end goal:
“Rockstar Youth aims to change perceptions of mentoring from a ‘nice to have’ to an essential part of the entrepreneurial journey.”
Sean says: "The future for Rockstar Youth is scaling up through sponsored programmes and joint ventures."
The company will continue to help high-potential businesses gain the knowledge needed to make successful pitches to investors, and ramp up number of successful young people and get them in front of investors, and have the mentors support their businesses.
JONATHAN’S TOP TIPS FOR SETTING UP A BUSINESS DURING THE ECONOMIC DOWNTURN:
- SOLVE A PROBLEM – People buy something to solve a problem, fill a need or to feel good, in that order. The last two are a hard sell when money is tight. Focus on solving a problem if you want your company to thrive.
- MARGINS – no investor will back a business if the margins aren’t significant enough. It’s also hard to grow an early stage business if you’re walking away with a small margin. Jonathan says new businesses should aim for at least a 40 – 50 percent margin.
- STICK TO YOUR STRENGTHS – it’s hard to run a business unless you have experience in your industry. Not only will you find it hard to be confident in front of investors, stakeholders and potential customers, but experience allows you to make the right decisions at the right times.